Southern Miss is now 0-5 on the season. Boise State moved up to 4-1 and jumped back into the rankings in the AP poll while climbing spots in the USA Today poll. On the surface, the score looked like it was a pretty dominating performance. The Broncos won by a final of 40-14.
However, the Broncos were basically outperformed offensively, and while some Boise State players jumped up, the Broncos will have to really work hard this week to prepare for Saturday’s matchup on the blue turf against Fresno State, a team that is averaging 39.5 points per game to Boise State’s 26.2.
It is said that a football team, from the start of the season to the end, is a work in progress. If that is true, then Saturday’s win in Mississippi certainly gave coaches some areas to look at in preparing for the next game.
That being said, let’s grade the Broncos’ performance in broader strokes against Southern Miss..
Joe Southwick had a decent day. The redshirt junior quarterback was 18-for-27 for 195 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Southwick was sacked once.
D.J. Harper was Boise State’s leading ground gainer with 56 yards on 13 carries. Boise State had only 109 yards rushing and 310 yards of total offense.
On the plus side, the offensive line only allowed one sack, though Bronco running backs were tackled for losses of -21 yards. And the Broncos were able to capitalize and turn takeaways into points on the scoreboard most of the time.
The most disconcerting number, though, is that the Broncos were 2-for-11 on third-down conversions. The total offense production numbers simply won’t get it done against a good team.
The Bronco defense generated five turnovers—two interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Boise State also had the opportunity for a couple more interceptions.
Jamar Taylor had another big game for Boise State. The redshirt senior corner was officially credited with four tackles and a pass break-up, but he is a force in the secondary. Jerrell Gavins, though, struggled at times and took a pair of costly penalties in the third quarter to sustain the Southern Miss scoring drive. Boise State needs to eliminate drive-sustaining penalties.
The Bronco defense started to break down a bit when Anthony Alford took over under center for the Golden Eagles.
Tommy Smith, a redshirt senior linebacker, turned in another strong performance for Boise State. And nose tackle Mike Atkinson was in the offensive backfield so much, he might have lined up there for Southern Miss.
Still, the Boise State defense allowed 424 yards of total offense. And while Southern Miss sported a spread option offense, it was the aerial attack that did the most damage, gaining 243 yards of the offensive total.
Freshman linebacker Tyler Gray had a stellar day. Gray had four tackles on the day but his interception in the first quarter led to the Broncos’ first score of the day. Darren Koontz, a redshirt defensive tackle, spelled starter Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and tied with Corey Bell with six total tackles. Koontz was also credited with a pair of sacks. Bell, a sophomore nickel back, was in to relieve Dextrell Simmons.
Second team players saw a lot of action. Jay Ajayi, a redshirt freshman, had 45 yards rushing on nine carries.
Overall, the non-starters contributed significantly to the Broncos’ win.
Michael Frisina had one point-after attempt blocked, but was 2-for-2 in field goals—though both were short kicks. Trevor Harman averaged 40.2 yards per punt and the Broncos used quarterback Joe Southwick for a 33-yard pooch punt, bringing the Bronco punting average for the game down to 39.1 yards per punt. That is not a great number.
Harman also struggled on kickoffs, averaging only 58.8 yards on his eight kicks. However, Southern Miss had an average starting field position at its own 22-yard line. Give the Broncos punt- and kickoff-coverage teams credit.
On the other side of the ball, Boise State averaged 41.5 yards per kickoff return.
Southern Miss won the time of possession battle, although barely. The Golden Eagles held onto the ball for 30:35 minutes while Boise State had the pigskin for 29:25 minutes. At the half, Southern Miss had an almost three minute edge in time of possession.
If the Golden Eagles had put freshman quarterback Anthony Alford into the game sooner, the complexion of the game may have turned. Alford was inserted late in the third quarter and immediately marched Southern Miss down the field for back-to-back touchdowns.
Boise State’s containment of Alford, and control of the ball, was a bit lacking.