The Boise State Broncos (4-2, 2-1 MWC) took down the Keeton-less Utah State Aggies (3-4, 2-1 MWC) Saturday in Logan, Utah.
It was obvious that injured quarterback Chuckie Keeton was missed as Utah State struggled on offense. However, the Aggies didn't just roll over in his absence either, and they refused to give up when the game was getting out of hand.
Boise State looked very good at times in this game, but youthful mistakes and questionable decisions were also present. Head coach Chris Petersen will certainly make sure to address those next week in practice.
Let's look at the 10 things that we learned as the Broncos took on the Aggies Saturday.
The Broncos, who have had some issues on defense this season, continue to improve on that side of the ball.
Demarcus Lawrence got into the action quite a bit against Utah State, and he looked much more like the Lawrence fans watched last season.
The young players on the defense continue to make contributions as well, and the secondary continues to make big strides.
The Broncos forced three turnovers against the Aggies and frustrated a pair of inexperienced quarterbacks all game long.
They had some letdown in the fourth quarter, but turnovers on offense caused some of that.
Overall, the defense is looking much better.
At 5'6", and 157 pounds, Shane Williams-Rhodes was the smallest player on the field Saturday. However, he also had the biggest impact.
On the night, SWR caught 13 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. He also carried once for 12 yards.
He made big plays when the Broncos needed them, and with some of the other wide receivers struggling, Williams-Rhodes stepped in to save the day.
As mentioned in the opening, it was obvious to everyone who watched this game that Chuckie Keeton made a huge difference for his team.
In fact, he probably is more valuable to his team than any other single player in the Mountain West.
This game would have been much different with Keeton in there, and you have to feel for the entire Utah State family and Keeton himself.
Boise State misses true freshman running back Aaron Baltazar.
Starting running back Jay Ajayi carried 22 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. However, backups Derrick Thomas and Jack Fields didn't fill the shoes of Baltazar.
JUCO transfer Derrick Thomas carried five times for just 13 yards. Sophomore Jack Fields had just two carries, but it was for negative-two yards.
Boise State will have to solve this as it goes forward. Someone will have to step up.
Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick has never had a game where he's thrown two interceptions. Well, that is until Saturday night.
Southwick uncharacteristically threw some passes up for grabs. One of them he tried to throw across the field and his body, but the result was a wounded duck that was easy to pick off.
He did something similar late in the game as well.
Going forward, Southwick will no doubt learn from this effort. The Broncos can't afford those kinds of plays in a close game.
Still, the Broncos quarterback did finish the game 30-of-44 for 335 yards, two touchdowns and his two interceptions.
One of the things that stood out during this game was the number of dropped passes by normally reliable Boise State wide receivers.
If Shane Williams-Rhodes would have had a case of the drops, it might have been disastrous.
Matt Miller is usually very reliable, but he dropped a couple of passes that should have easily been handled. Geraldo Boldewijn did some of the same.
Maybe the rust of the bye week hadn't fallen off, but no matter what the reason, they will need to get it fixed going forward.
The Boise State special teams had some ups and downs on Saturday.
First, there was the blocked punt they allowed just before the half. It gave Utah State great field position, and it looked like an easy score for the Aggies.
However, then Charles Leno Jr. blocked the Aggies' field-goal attempt, giving the special teams a small victory just before the half.
There were a couple of really good punts by Boise State punters as well, but then they struggled at times getting distance. That gave the Aggies way too good of field position on at least two occasions.
Dallas Burroughs didn't really do much on kick returns, and Shane Williams-Rhodes didn't get much done in the way of punt returns.
On the other hand, field-goal kicker Dan Goodale went 2-of-2 with his longest kick being 39 yards. He was also 4-of-4 on extra points.
Boise State kept the tricks coming this week.
In the second half, freshman wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck got the toss and tried to connect down the field with fellow wideout Matt Miller.
However, it was underthrown and picked off.
Still, it is always fun to see what Boise State has up its sleeve. It does these things at the perfect times, if for nothing else, just to keep teams guessing.
Boise State has struggled at times this season, but the team seems to be getting better every week.
Some of that has to be because many of the true and redshirt freshmen who have found playing time this season are maturing. Not only that, but the team is also playing much better as a unit.
Going forward, that should bode well for a Boise State team in contention for a Mountain West Championship.
However, in this game against Utah State there were still some youthful mistakes, and the Broncos let the Aggies back in the game late after a bit of a letdown.
They will need to improve that if they want to take the MWC title.
The top goal for Boise State every season is a conference title.
Well, the Broncos took one step closer to a possible rematch with Fresno State in December for the MWC title.
Of course, the Bulldogs will have to win the West Division and the Broncos still face Colorado State, Wyoming and New Mexico in the Mountain Division. However, for now the Broncos have put themselves in the driver's seat.
It will be interesting to watch all of this transpire, and a rematch between the Bulldogs and Broncos would be quite the sight to see.