Boise State Football: 3 Things the Broncos Must Improve During the Bye Week
Boise State (3-2, 1-1 MWC) finds itself in a bye week. However, it probably couldn't have come at a better time.
With Utah State (3-2, 2-0 MWC) looming, the Broncos have an extra week to prepare for what is probably the biggest game of the season so far for Chris Petersen and his team.
If Boise State wins this game on Oct. 12, the Broncos will be in the driver's seat of the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference with a chance to face the Western Division winner in December for the outright MWC championship.
However, if the Broncos lose to the Aggies, they will be playing a game of catch-up all season that will probably be impossible to overcome.
In this bye week, there are several things the Broncos will be focusing on.
One of those things will be getting people healthy. However, there are three other glaring issues facing the Broncos as they prepare for the powerful offense of Utah State.
Let's break down all three of those issues in an effort to see what Boise State might be facing next week.
Stop the Costly Turnovers
Fans of the Broncos watched their team turn the ball over twice in the red zone against Air Force. However, those mistakes didn't cost them the game against the Falcons.
Fast forward one week from Sept. 13 to Sept. 20, and oh how the story changes.
Against Fresno State, the Broncos were driving midway through the second quarter. Joe Southwick had just completed a great pass to Geraldo Boldewijn for 16 yards and landed Boise State 1st-and-goal at the Bulldogs 29-yard line.
The very next play, Southwick threw an ill-advised pass that was quickly taken out of the air by Derron Smith of the Bulldogs.
Derek Carr and Co. then took that turnover and marched 71 yards in 11 plays for a Fresno State touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 24-16 lead. Had the Broncos converted instead of the interception, the game could have been either 19-17 or 23-17 in favor of the Broncos.
Midway through the third quarter, Boise State was trailing 31-19 when another costly cough-up made its appearance.
On a fourth down with just one yard to go, Jay Ajayi took the handoff, but something happened on the way to a first down. Ajayi lost the ball, and Fresno State took possession at its own 13-yard line.
Derek Carr then led his team on another 11-play drive, this time resulting in a field goal. The score was now 34-19 in favor of the home team.
Those two turnovers cost the Broncos six points at the very least and at the most 14. It also gave Fresno State a total of 10 points. That is quite a swing.
Against Southern Miss last week, backup quarterback Grant Hedrick lost the ball early in the second quarter. Southern Miss took over at its own eight, and two plays later the Golden Eagles scored their only points of the day on a touchdown pass by quarterback Allan Bridgford.
No, it wasn't costly because of the opponent, but it was still a turnover at the absolute worst time.
The Broncos must improve in this area before heading to Logan. Utah State is a good team, and just like Fresno State, the team that makes the fewest mistakes probably wins the game.
Better and More Aggressive Pass Defense
Derek Carr wasn't perfect against the Broncos, but he was good enough to carve up the Boise State secondary, which looked like it was playing timid.
To be fair, the Broncos' defensive backfield is young, and when a quarterback like Carr is on, it's hard to shut him down. Still, the Broncos couldn't have been happy with the 460 yards passing and four touchdowns that the senior from Fresno State had against them.
It had to be frustrating for Boise State fans to see the amount of space defensive backs were giving Fresno State wide receivers that night. As a result, Derek Carr was able to pick and choose his targets nearly all game long.
Against Southern Miss the defense played far more aggressive and didn't give the space it did against the Bulldogs. The entire defense, not just the secondary, looked much better and was flying around the field making plays with confidence.
To beat Utah State, Boise State will have to continue the trend of improvement. Coverage will have to be great, but containing Chuckie Keeton when he runs will be crucial as well.
It is certainly a huge task, and it will take another key component to shut him and the Aggies' powerful offense down.
More Pressure and Containment of Opposing Quarterbacks
One of the biggest issues so far has been the lack of pressure the defense has been able to get on opposing quarterbacks and containing mobile quarterbacks when they leave the pocket.
Since the Aggies' starting quarterback is Chuckie Keeton, a dual threat all by himself, the Broncos have to step it up in a big way.
So far this season, Keeton has thrown for 1,362 yards and 17 touchdowns with a 71-percent completion rate and only one interception. He has also rushed for 224 yards with two additional scores on the ground.
The defensive line was better against an outmatched Southern Miss team, but against Fresno State, pressure on the quarterback was nearly nonexistent.
Also, against Air Force, the Broncos allowed quarterback Jaleel Awini to rush for over 100 yards and score two touchdowns.
To shut down or contain Keeton it will take a complete effort by the Boise State defense. The Broncos must be in his face all game to help slow down his passing attack, and when he does scramble, they have to contain him. He is going to get some yardage, but the Boise State defense will have to limit it as much as possible.
If the pass rush and containment isn't better next week, the Broncos could be missing the MWC Championship Game in December.