The way that the media was ranting about the Broncos’ BCS chances, one would have thought that beating San Diego State was a given. Games are played on the field, and a team such as San Diego State, which is in the hunt to win the Mountain West Conference title, do not roll over because of hype.
If anything, it fuels the fire.
In the end, it was the ineptness of the Bronco offense in the second half that helped seal the Aztec win, 21-19. Is ineptness too harsh a word? Consider that the Broncos had only six yards rushing in the second half and 91 yards passing.
The Bronco defense held San Diego State well under its offense average for a game. Even after the game, the Aztecs are averaging 406.1 yards of total offense per game. Boise State held San Diego State to just 269 total yards for the game.
But San Diego, trailing 13-7 at the half, scored twice in the second half, capitalized on a blocked punt to score a touchdown, then snuffed out a Bronco two-point conversion late in the fourth that might have tied the game. The Broncos were forced to try for two after failing a two-point conversion after their first touchdown in the opening quarter.
Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it does not.
The loss dropped Boise State from No. 19 in the AP poll to No. 34.
Redshirt junior quarterback Joe Southwick is an average college quarterback who has the extreme misfortune of being the successor to a great college quarterback. Those circumstances would have been hard under any conditions, but the Broncos lost key players on offense and Southwick simply cannot seem to play from behind, nor make the long, downfield touch passes. He has a better arm than Kellen Moore did in terms of strength, but his accuracy is lacking.
His stats for the game do not look terrible, but then, that has been the case all year. Southwick was 20-of-31 for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His interception came on the opening play from scrimmage in the third quarter. If not for a diving grab by fullback Dan Paul, the touchdown pass might not have happened.
Overall, he was overthrowing receivers on many occasions and on the final two-point conversion, flushed from the pocket, he soft-tossed the ball to a San Diego State defender.
He was sacked twice and was under pressure on many occasions. Hang that pressure on the offensive line. Where this affects Southwick’s grade, though, is that when he is pressured he does not always make the best decisions. On two occasions this year, against Michigan State and San Diego State, when playing from behind, he has failed to drive the team down the field or sustained drives.
The Broncos may have been 3-for-3 on fourth-down conversions, but they were also 4-for-12 on third-down conversions.
That simply won’t get the job done.
Grade for Joe Southwick: D
Starter: Running back—D.J. Harper
Much has been said about the way redshirt freshman Jay Ajayi pops in, gets some great yards and then disappears for the rest of the game. Forced to come from behind, Harper was a forgotten piece of the Bronco offense in the second half Saturday night. The sixth-year senior had 78 yards on 15 carries in the first half and finished the game with 81 yards on 20 carries
He also did not figure into the passing attack.
Though he did have two rushing touchdowns in the first half on a couple of nifty runs, the offense just seems to flounder when Harper is not deep in the mix.
Grade for D.J. Harper: C+
Starters: X receiver—Matt Miller, Z receiver—Chris Potter, H receiver—Kirby Moore, tight end—Chandler Koch.
Matt Miller made a great jumping catch late in the game and held onto the ball when he got tattooed by the San Diego State defensive secondary. Sure, there was a flag on the play, but it was still a great catch in a tough circumstance for the redshirt sophomore.
The first failed two-point conversion on Boise State’s first touchdown was a Miller passing attempt that was short of the target by several yards. Give Miller a bit of credit, though; he may have tossed some passes in high school. Tracking down a high snap, rolling out under pressure and trying to throw the ball on the run is generally not in the job description of a wide receiver.
Miller finished the game as the Broncos’ top receiver, with six snags for 72 yards. Kirby Moore turned in a decent game with four grabs for 23 yards, and Chris Potter has three catches for 28 yards.
The Bronco passing game averaged 8.2 yards a catch. Southwick’s longest pass of the night went to Miller for 20 yards.
Chandler Koch didn’t have a reception.
Grade for Matt Miller: B-
Grade for Kirby Moore: B-
Grade for Chris Potter: B-
Grade for Chandler Koch: C-
Starters: Left tackle—Charles Leno, Jr., left guard—Joe Kellogg, center—Matt Paradis, right guard—Michael Ames, right tackle—Brenel Myers.
San Diego State’s defensive front stunted, and that seemed to cause some confusion in the Bronco blocking schemes. The Aztecs recorded five tackles for loss for a total of negative-12 yards. A solid first-half performance was negated by the lackluster second-half outing.
The Broncos, to their credit, only had one recorded penalty for the night, and it was on the defensive side. While the offensive line may have been disciplined in one regard, the blocking was simply not there when it counted the most.
Overall Grade: C-
Grade for Michael Ames: C-
Grade for Matt Paradis: C-
Grade for Charles Leno, Jr.: C-
Grade for Joe Kellogg: C-
Grade for Brenel Myers: C-
Starters: End—Demarcus Lawrence, tackle—Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, nose—Mike Atkinson, SE—Sam Ukwuachu.
Demarcus Lawrence was a terror on many occasions during the game. The redshirt sophomore end had one sack and 2.5 total tackles for loss on the night for negative-10 yards. Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and Michael Atkinson also recorded tackles for loss, with Atkinson posting a sack. The front four were tough up the middle and combined for 14 total tackles.
The only starter that didn’t get a tackle for the night was Sam Ukwuachu.
The job of the defensive front is to stop the offensive line from opening holes for the run game while pushing the offensive line back to collapse the pocket and pressure the quarterback. It is a job that is aided by the linebacker corps. Boise State’s defense combined to keep San Diego State’s offense more than 50 yards under its rushing per game average.
Consider that San Diego State’s average offensive starting position was its own 43, and that makes the job harder for the Bronco defense.
Overall, though, the defense did its job. The Aztecs, in spite of only being allowed 21 points against the Broncos, are still averaging 35.1 points per game.
Grade for Mike Atkinson: B+
Grade for Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe: B+
Grade for Demarcus Lawrence: B+
Grade for Sam Ukwuachu: B
Starters: Tommy Smith, J.C. Percy.
Senior linebacker J.C. Percy had eight solo tackles and 10 total tackles, including one for loss. Tommy Smith only had three total tackles, but was strong on the field.
Figure the linebackers into the mix when it comes to the way the Broncos handled the Aztecs’ rushing attack. San Diego State was also held well under its average aerial output per game. Credit for that goes to the linebackers and defensive secondary.
Grade for J.C. Percy: B+
Grade for Tommy Smith: B
Starters: Safety—Jeremy Ioane, safety—Darian Thompson, nickel—Corey Bell, corner—Jamar Taylor, corner—Jerrell Gavins.
Darian Thompson dropped back, and when San Diego State quarterback Adam Dingwell threw into triple coverage, Thompson obliged the Aztec passer by picking off the pass. It was the lone takeaway of the game for the Broncos.
Boise State almost came up big defensively when, after being flagged for a seemingly uncharacteristic personal foul that put the ball inside the Bronco 10-yard line, Ioane used his pads to knock the ball out of Aztec running back Walter Kazee’s hands. The scramble on the goal line was eventually recovered by San Diego State, but it was almost a nice atonement for the lone Bronco penalty on the game.
Overall, Ioane had a good game. He was tied for the Bronco team lead in total tackles with 10. He did get beat down the sideline by tight end Gavin Escobar on a 3rd-and-13 play on the Aztecs’ game-ending drive to run out the clock. Escobar goes 6’6” and 255 lbs. while Ioane is 5’10” and 197 lbs.
Bell, playing the nickel, had six total tackles, Darien Thompson and Jerrell Gavins had one tackle apiece, and Jamar Taylor did have a pass breakup but didn’t have a recorded tackle.
Coverage by the Bronco secondary, though, was generally very good throughout the game.
Grade for Jeremy Ioane: B+
Grade for Darian Thompson: B+
Grade for Corey Bell: B+
Grade for Jerrell Gavins: B
Grade for Jamar Taylor: B-