Boise State Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Wyoming
The Boise State Broncos will be out to buck a few Cowboys Saturday when they travel to Laramie to face the 1-6 Wyoming Cowboys. Boise State sits atop the current Mountain West Conference standings with a 3-0 mark while Wyoming dwells in the cellar with Colorado State and Hawaii at 0-3.
But those that watched the 2011 game know that Wyoming will certainly not roll over for the Broncos. Against Kellen Moore’s Broncos, and on the blue turf at Bronco Stadium, Wyoming jumped out to a 7-0 lead after the first quarter. Boise State edged out to a 13-7 halftime lead before running away with the win in the second half. Offensively, in 2012, Boise State has been anything but a second-half offensive team.
In three of their four previous wins, the Broncos have scored a touchdown or less in the second half. Against New Mexico, the Broncos were outscored 29-7. Fresno State outscored the Broncos 10-3 in the second half, and in its latest outing, at home against UNLV, Boise State and the Rebels exchanged lone touchdowns.
The lone exception during this run was in Hattiesberg where the Broncos outscored Southern Miss in the second half 17-14.
True, Boise State won each game, but with Nevada looming—which is No. 16 in the nation in scoring offense—the Broncos need to show consistency through both halves of play.
Here, then, are some of the keys to Boise State’s road trip to Wyoming Saturday…
Second-Half Offensive Production
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For the reasons already mentioned, this is a key. In their recent outing against UNLV, the Broncos took the second-half kickoff and produced a steady, time-consuming march down the field. The drive ate more than five-and-a-half minutes from the game clock. In the end, Boise State had to settle for a 43-yard field goal try that was hit at the line of scrimmage and came up well short.
Four of Wyoming’s six losses have been by less than a touchdown, and three of those have been by less than a field goal.
Boise State is still averaging only 26.1 points per game, with the majority of those points scored in the first half. If the games were dependent on the second half alone, the Broncos would not be sitting at 6-1 on the season.
Coach Chris Petersen has often said in halftime interviews that there are two halves to the game. The defense is taking that to heart, but the offense needs to power up and dominated the second half like the game’s outcome depended on it.
Stop the Cowboys’ Passing Attack
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The Cowboys’ string of quarterbacks have tossed eight interceptions. In spite of nine total fumbles, Wyoming has only lost three of those.
Wyoming is also a pass-happy offense. The Cowboys average 240.4 yards a game through the air and only 135.4 yards on the ground per outing. With the way the front seven of Boise State plays, expect Wyoming to try to test the Bronco secondary.
If the defensive front can get through and hurry the passes, even get a few sacks, that will speed up the game for the Wyoming quarterbacks. Hurried and harassed quarterbacks can makes mistakes. Boise State’s secondary is veteran rich, at this point, and having a great season.
This matchup could be a lot of fun to watch.
Offensive Line Must Serve and Protect
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The Rebels of UNLV got through to quarterback Grant Hedrick on several occasions in the last game and actually knocked him around pretty good. That goes with the job of being a quarterback. You stand in the pocket, deliver the ball and expect to get knocked around a bit.
Surprisingly, Southwick was not sacked though the pressure was there. The offensive line needs to stop unnecessary hits on the quarterback (and the blocking backs need to be part of this), as well as open better holes at the game’s onset for the running game.
This was not always the case against UNLV. The Bronco running attack was hard-pressed to produce, and that forced Boise State’s wide-open offense into a more one-dimensional attack—namely, throwing the ball.
Running and passing attacks feed off each other. Establish one and the other opens up. Get both in the groove and defenses are in big trouble.
Take Care of the Football
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The Broncos had three turnovers in the win over UNLV. The turnover margin still favors the Broncos, who are No. 9 in the nation in that category. Boise State has surrendered six fumbles and given up five interceptions.
Quarterback Joe Southwick has tossed those five interceptions and only has nine touchdown passes to counter that. The turnovers against UNLV were just sloppy play. Boise State needs to take better care of the pigskin.
The Broncos still trail in the average time of possession per game, though the game has narrowed, by 30:57 to 29:02. As highly touted as the Boise State defense is, it needs to get a break. The defense is ranked No. 20 in the nation but needs to have the offense hold onto the ball more to allow it to rest. A weary defense makes mistakes.
Mistakes lead to points on the scoreboard, and that can make a first-half runaway into a down-to-the-wire scoring battle. With Boise State struggling to score in the second half of ballgames, that might not be a happy scenario for the Broncos.
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Boise State platoons a lot of players in and out. If the Broncos get up big on the Cowboys, players like backup quarterback Grant Hedrick may see more time on the field. As was evidenced in the UNLV game, backups need work to gain the experience. The playbook, offensively, can’t suddenly be cut in half for a backup to understand.
Hedrick was responsible for two fumbles against UNLV, one of those returned for the lone Rebel touchdown.
Boise State wants to season second- and third-string players. Some backups, like Jay Ajayi, provide a spark; some need more work.
Regardless of who is on the field, though, Boise State needs to be able to count on those players to get the job done.