Boise State Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. UNLV
Crank up the AC/DC because the Boise State Broncos are "Back in Black"
Homecoming and new uniforms—two reasons why the Boise State Broncos should be keyed up for Saturday’s game against the UNLV Rebels. The Rebels are 1-1 in Mountain West Conference play and 1-6 overall. Boise State is 2-0 in the MWC and 5-1 on the season.
Saturday’s home game will be the first time that Boise State has appeared in black uniforms, and the Homecoming event is touted as a “Blackout” across Bronco Nation. But there is a lot more here than merely the fashion sported on the gridiron.
There is a football game that needs to be played.
While UNLV does not have the best of records coming into the matchup, the Rebels do have some weapons and even gave Nevada a run for its money in a MWC tussle before losing 42-37 last Saturday. The Broncos have things to work on offensively while the defense will be called upon for another strong performance.
Here are a few of the keys to Saturday’s game on the blue at Bronco Stadium.
More Overall Offensive Production
The Boise State defense has been the starchild of the program through the first six weeks. If not scoring points, the Bronco D has held other teams in check to alleviate the burden on a somewhat anemic showing by the offense.
This has to change.
The offense needs to get the ball and hold on to it. That is one of the more glaring holes in the Bronco's play in 2012—holding on to the football. It’s not that Boise State gives it away via interceptions and turnovers, though quarterback Joe Southwick has four interceptions and the Broncos also have fumbled six times, losing four.
It's also the time of possession: Boise State averages 28:57 per game while surrendering 31:02 to its opposition.
It can’t be argued, as in years past, that Boise State swarms the opposition’s end zone with quick scoring strikes. The Broncos are only averaging 25.2 points per game. And Boise State's third-down efficiency is 41 percent.
Boise State ranks No. 88 in the nation in total offense, No. 62 in third-down efficiency and No. 80 in the nation in scoring offense. In spite of having a corps of talented receivers, the Broncos also are 85th in the nation in passing offense.
The defense has been good, but the offense has to get better. The Wolf Pack of Nevada has been an offensive machine this season and is No. 14 in the nation in scoring. The Boise State offense needs to step up and relieve the defense by controlling the ball and the scoreboard.
Improvement at the QB Position
Coach Chris Petersen has said time and again that redshirt junior quarterback Joe Southwick is improving. Everyone knows that Southwick won’t be, and shouldn’t be expected to be, another Kellen Moore. But Southwick, despite seemingly good completion numbers, simply isn’t inspiring a threatening aerial attack.
His overall passing efficiency rating is 136.8, he has completed 62 percent of his passes (107-for-170) for 1,237 yards, with nine touchdowns against four interceptions. But in looking at the last game against Fresno State, Southwick was underthrowing receivers, and at the start he was trying to squeeze the ball into covered receivers.
He is tied for the bottom position in the nation (No. 100) in points responsible for with an average of nine points a game. And yes, that means touchdown passes or running touchdowns or successful two-point conversions.
Numbers can be bantered about all day, but the bottom line is that Boise State struggles through the air, averaging only 206.2 yards passing per outing, struggles to sustain drives and struggles to score.
Boise State is 5-1 on the season, but if not for the performance of the defense, the Broncos could just as easily be 3-3 or even 2-4 at this point.
This is a weekly mantra for the Boise State defense. The defense is currently ranked at No. 27 in the nation in total defense and is No. 2 in the nation in turnovers gained. TCU leads the nation in turnovers gained with 20 to Boise State’s 19.
Boise State has nine interceptions on the season and 10 fumbles.
UNLV’s quarterback, redshirt freshman Nick Sherry (6’5”, 235 .lbs), has thrown eight interceptions on the season and the Rebels have lost one fumble. The Rebels are averaging 253 yards passing per game and 160.6 yards rushing.
Apply the Pressure
Generating turnovers is only one part of the equation.
While Sherry has not been as pass-happy in conference matchups, the Bronco secondary can expect him to try to light them up Saturday. The Rebels have 11 touchdown passes and 12 rushing touchdowns on the season.
His favorite targets are Marcus Sullivan and Devante Davis. Sullivan is a 5’9”, 195-pound sophomore wideout while Davis is a 6’3”, 200 .lbs sophomore. They have combined for 69 receptions, 964 yards (a 13.97 yards per-catch average) and six touchdowns.
Boise State has to get to the quarterback, apply the pressure and hurry his passes. Boise State’s defense has 14 sacks on the season, led by Demarcus Lawrence with 5.5 sacks. The Broncos have recorded a total of 31 tackles for 130 yards in losses.
Tim Cornett, a 6’0", 210-pound junior running back, leads the Rebels, averaging 106.7 yards per game. He averages 5.1 yards per carry, has broken a long run of 76 yards and has five rushing touchdowns.
Fresno State, on the first possession of this past Saturday’s game, found out what Boise State fans bring to the game—a lot of noise. Bulldogs Derek Carr was flagged for delay of game simply because his teammates couldn’t hear him trying to change the play at the line of scrimmage.
Boise State’s special teams pinned the Bulldogs back deep in their own end for most of the game, and that allowed the crowd in the end zones to get a bit closer and create some havoc.
Since 2000, the Broncos are also 72-2 when playing on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium. One of those loses was in 2011 to TCU, which beat the Broncos, 36-35.
One other interesting note: Since a loss to Rice on Oct. 6, 2001, Boise State has gone 45-0 in the month of October.