The date August 31, 2013 will not be remembered fondly by Boise State football fans.
In addition to being thrashed 38-6 by the Washington Huskies in Seattle, the Broncos almost surely played their way out of the AP Top 25 heading into Week 2 of the season. The Huskies were unranked in the preseason poll, and despite being a three-and-a-half-point favorite according to Odds Shark, it was a great surprise to most fans that the Broncos struggled so mightily against Steve Sarkisian’s squad.
Lastly, the loss means that Boise State’s shot at busting the BCS party one final time before college football switches to a playoff format has been made exponentially more difficult.
However, fans of the Broncos must not sulk too much over the defeat. There is still a lot more football to be played, and it would be nice to figure out where the Broncos can improve in order to make this season worth watching.
At this point, most people have their opinions of the game and of the individual performances. But just in case you don’t, we’re going hand out grades to the Broncos’ offensive leader, senior quarterback Joe Southwick. In this segment, we’ll rate Southwick on all facets of his game from this past Saturday: passing, rushing and an overall grade as well as some keys to improvement against Tennessee-Martin.
Expectations were high for Southwick heading into the 2013 season, so it was both confusing and disappointing to see the senior operating such a vanilla offense on Saturday evening. Despite completing 25 of 40 passes, Southwick managed to throw for only 152 yards, well short of his 210 yards-per-game average from last season.
There were a couple of other alarming statistics that did not compare well to the 2012 marks. One is the 3.8 yards-per-pass mark (the 2012 average was 7.3), while the other is the 62.5 percent completion rate (compared with 66.7 percent last season).
Both will likely even out as the season progresses, but the low yards-per-pass mark may have been affected by the fact that the Broncos did not appear to want to go deep against the Huskies very often. The completion percentage rate wasn’t bad, but the hope was that Southwick would continue to improve in that area, as that was one of the things he was doing well near the end of last season.
One nice thing Southwick did in this game is spread the ball to a lot of his receivers. Seven players caught at least a pass from Southwick in this game, and it will be important that he continues to distribute to several targets to keep defenses honest.
Other than his first pass of the game, Washington quarterback Keith Price clearly outplayed Southwick on Saturday. Some of the success (and struggles, in Southwick’s case) can be attributed to both teams' defensive efforts.
There isn’t reason to believe that Coach Petersen has lost faith in Southwick. However, it would be nice to see the senior air it out a little more this coming Saturday against Tennessee-Martin to re-instill some confidence in the fans.
Despite the passing game looking stale against the Huskies, the Broncos' run game looked pretty good in the absence of now-departed tailback D.J. Harper. Jay Ajayi rushed for nearly 100 yards on 23 carries, but getting stuffed on a crucial 4th-and-1 at the Washington 35-yard line near the end of the third quarter with the Broncos down 17-6 may be the unfortunate takeaway from his performance.
Freshman Aaron Baltazar also came in to rush for 49 yards on 10 carries, which is a good sign from such a promising young player.
More specifically to Southwick, the senior was able to avoid getting sacked in this game and managed to rush for 22 yards on five attempts. On one hand, this is a good thing, as Southwick has the speed to be somewhat of a dual threat for the Broncos.
On the other hand, hopefully he does not rely too much on his feet in other big games this season. Rushing only five times does not suggest this is going to be an issue, however.
Although it is not the main reason he is in the game, Southwick appeared to manage the run game fairly well for the Broncos on Saturday. Boise State rushed for a total of 171 yards, which was just four yards shy of their 175 total passing yards for the game.
Frankly, the run game did not appear to have all that many glaring weaknesses compared to some other areas of Boise State’s overall performance.
Joe Southwick would have had to have a very good game to overcome the 38 points the Huskies were able to post on Boise State’s defense. However, there are some areas where the senior could have looked better.
Clearly, Southwick will need to take some more chances in order to get his team into the end zone. It was a bit confusing that the Broncos looked so conservative on offense at times, especially because Southwick should be comfortable enough with the offense for the coaches to open up the playbook.
Washington’s secondary did a nice job containing the Broncos’ wide receivers, and for a team that ranked second in the Pac-12 in pass defense last year, it isn’t all that surprising. But less than 200 passing yards and no touchdown passes thrown can’t completely be chalked up to a strong pass defense.
Thankfully, Southwick and the Broncos will get a chance to regroup and perhaps try some new things against FCS opponent Tennessee-Martin this coming Saturday. A couple of touchdowns and 250 passing yards and shouldn’t be out of the question for Southwick, who now must rally his team so as not to ruin what should be a solid senior year.
At least, those should be the stats to use as a baseline goal if he wants to raise his overall grade.
Overall Grade Against Washington: C+
Although the Broncos may not struggle too much against Tennessee-Martin on September 7, here are a few keys to success for Southwick:
1. Look to receivers downfield more often.
2. More complexity in plays
3. Use emerging run game to open up passing lanes.
4. Use talent and physical advantages of wide receivers to exploit Tennessee-Martin secondary.