Boise State's Five Strikes: Things We Learned From the 59-0 Shellacking of NMSU
New Mexico State didn't put up nearly as much of a fight as Chris Petersen had hoped, or maybe the Broncos are just that good, definitely the best team to ever put on the orange and blue. Either way, Kellen and Co. rolled to another victory, Boise's 18th consecutive win, and their fourth on the season.
And it couldn't have come at a better time for the Broncos, who days prior lost halfway starter D.J. Harper to a torn ACL for the second time in as many years. Poor D.J—but lucky Chris Petersen, who was able to plug in senior Jeremy Avery and watch as he galloped for 69 yards and one TD on only nine carries.
And Avery wasn't the only former benchwarmer to get in on the act.
Seldom used Jarvis Hodge saw action, running for 69 yards and a TD of his own. Local product Matt Kaiserman got nine touches for 31 yards. And on-again/off-again punt returner Chris Potter caught a 78-yard score from co-backup QB Joe Southwick.
And while his mere five incompletion, three touchdown game further aided junior Kellen Moore's Heisman hopes, he wasn't even the first Bronco QB to score on Saturday. That honor belonged to senior Mike Coughlin, who backs up Moore after filling the same role for Moore's predecessor Taylor Tharp.
All in all, it was another ho-hum dominating performance for the Broncos, and yet shutting out their opponent, scoring nearly 60 points, allowing only 90 yards through the air, holding New Mexico State to 2.9 yards per carry, and forcing three turnovers wasn't enough to hold the Oregon Ducks at bay.
Oregon, yes, the same Oregon squad that Boise downed last season, jumped the boys in blue, pushing the Broncos back to the number four ranking for the first time all season.
How will the Broncos respond to their drop in the rankings? And will the Ducks be the only team to jump them, or just the first ripple? Let's find out in "Five Strikes."
Strike ONE: The Name Of The Game Is Pure Domination
The Broncos were firing on all cylinders Saturday night, in a game that was easily the least important of any team ranked within—heck, the top 75.
Junior signal-caller Kellen Moore padded his already gaudy stats with three more touchdown passes in one-half's worth of work. His backups, Joe Southwick and Mike Coughlin provided more than enough off the bench, combining for 113 yards and a score through the air, and four carries for 41 yards and another score on the ground.
The running game, in their first game without junior leader D.J. Harper, accounted for 299 yards on only 39 carries, good for nearly eight yards per touch. They also accounted for four touchdowns.
The steady Broncos receiving corp was led by an unsung star, 2010 Fiesta Bowl MVP Kyle Efaw, who caught two touchdowns. Stars Titus Young and Austin Pettis accounted for ten catches for 99 yards, despite playing a little more than one half. In all, nine different players caught a pass for the Broncos.
On defense, the Broncos were rock-solid. Despite the glory that comes from shutting out a Division I opponent, which I assure you naysayers, New Mexico State is, the Broncos forced three turnovers, all in the first quarter, which allowed them to build a 31-0 lead eight second into the second quarter.
Heralded defensive end Ryan Winterswyk intercepted a pass, star-in-the-making Shea McClellin and defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe each recovered a fumble, and Michael Atkinson recorded a hat trick—one sack, one forced fumble, and a fumble recovery, although his recovery was later credited to Tjong-A-Tjoe.
The Broncos seven-deep linebacking corp got into the action as well, notching two tackles-for-loss, and combining with the improving secondary to hold the Aggies to 8-for-22 passing.
On special teams, Boise State got a 43-yard punt return from Chris Potter, who also caught a 78-yard TD pass, and a 35-yard field goal and two impressive punts from kicker/punter Kyle Brotzman.
Strike TWO: Domination Doesn't Win Trophies
Kellen Moore departed one series into the second half, after guiding the Broncos to a 45-0 lead. From their co-backups Coughlin and Southwick took the reigns of the Broncos machine.
Featured back Doug Martin got ten carries, and touched the ball for the last time with less than 4:30 left in the first-half. The backups got the other 29 carries.
Pettis and Young were long gone by the time the fourth quarter started.
And the deep defense saw 31 different players take the field and record either a tackle or a pass-breakup.
Simply put, this offense, and defense for that matter, may be so dominating that any shot any of these players may have had at winning any individual honors (other than WAC Player of the Week) are out of the window.
Moore is on pace for the lowest passing yards number of his career. Martin is the only runner on pace for over 400 yards, and Pettis and Young are looking at a projected number of receptions in the 50-60 range.
On defense, the Broncos substitute so much that no one has a shot at triple-digit tackles, much less double-digit sacks. I'd be terribly surprised if any one defensive back finished the year with more than three interceptions.
And heck, they've even started splitting duties on kickoffs and extra points.
Sorry Kyle Brotzman, looks like that Lou Groza Award will have to wait.
Strike THREE: The Ducks Might Not Be The Only Team That Jumps The Broncos
There's no doubt that if the Broncos aren't the most explosive team in the country, then that honor belongs to the Oregon Ducks, who came back to wallop Stanford 52-31, and overtake the Broncos in the polls.
But, the way this season is unfolding, they might not be the only ones. Right now, there are 12 undefeated teams behind Boise in the AP poll. And while some of them will eventually weed themselves out by playing each other, each of these teams could jump the Broncos at some point:
- No. 6 Oklahoma: The Sooners play at No. 24 Missouri the week after next, and still have to play Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Wins over all three could push the Sooners ahead of Boise and into serious title contention.
- No. 7 Nebraska: The Cornhuskers get a tough test in Kansas State this weekend, and get Texas the next weekend, before facing Missouri and Oklahoma State back-to-back. It's a brutal tough stretch, but winning those games would bump up their SOS and could result in a catapult of the Broncos.
- No. 8 Auburn: The Tigers have looked fantastic so far this season, winning games in a multitude of ways. They have two tough games upcoming, October 16 against Arkansas, and the next weekend against LSU. Luckily both games are at home, and wins in both could have Auburn sniffing a top five ranking before their season-ending tilt with Alabama.
- No. 9 Arizona: It seems like a long-shot, especially after their ugly 10-9 victory over Cal this past weekend, but Zona still faces Stanford and Oregon, which means they could end up in the top five as well.
- No. 18 Michigan: The Wolverines look unstoppable with a healthy Denard Robinson at the helm. They have tough tests back-to-back the next two weeks against Michigan State and Iowa, but don't face another top-25 team until their last two games, against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Strike FOUR: Best-Case Scenario, Broncos Play For Fiesta?
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There is a scenario that could see all the "Boise for a National Championship" stuff go away.
There is currently at least one team from each major conference (not counting you ACC or Big East) that has a spotless record.
Say one from each stays undefeated the entire year. Alabama wins out, and wins the SEC. Ohio State goes undefeated, and so does Oklahoma and Oregon.
Try sorting that out.
Toss in perfect Boise State and TCU squads and it just gets uglier.
Presumably, Alabama and Ohio State would tangle for the trophy. That would leave two very impressive contests that BCS voters would obviously feel compelled to try to arrange. And two teams, in TCU and Boise that they would be trying to avoid.
They wouldn't want to pair TCU and Boise again, for the fourth time in eight or nine years, but splitting them up would pair Boise off, most likely in the Fiesta Bowl, against Oklahoma, who they beat in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and could have potentially played last season, or the Broncos against Oregon, who jump-started last seasons undefeated campaign for the Broncos, and the mudslide that was Oregon's 2009 season.
Either way, you end up with a game that's fresh in your memory.
And you know the voters won't have the guts to put someone other than the Crimson Tide or the Buckeyes in the title game.
Strike FIVE: Undefeated Has Its Road Blocks
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For all this talk about Boise competing for a spot in the National Championship game, the Broncos still have some tough games left on their schedule.
No, there's not Florida, or even an Auburn to pair up against, but tell me this, who in their right mind wants to take on the steamroller that is Nevada right now?
Almost 45 points per contest and 303.8 rushing yards per game. Come on, did you watch their shellacking of Cal? The same Cal team that held a top-10 Arizona team to 10 points?
Besides Nevada, the Broncos also have to tangle with a hardened Utah State squad, one week after going toe-to-toe with the Wolfpack in Reno. Utah State beat BYU last week by a greater margin than Nevada did, and took Oklahoma to the wire in their season opener. This team might be the most impressive 2-3 squad in the country.
And this upcoming week, they have to host Toledo, who struck fear into Purdue fans everywhere with their upset victory two weeks ago.
It might not be a SEC worthy schedule, but you know the Broncos will have to be on their game to make it through Idaho (away), Fresno State (home), Nevada (away), and Utah State (home) with their perfect record intact.
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Toledo may have put a scare into Purdue a few weeks back, but on the blue turf, the Broncos will continue their steamroll towards an undefeated season.
Moore will toss for four scores, and the running game will take a back-seat—at least until the Broncos are up by 20 points in the second-half.
Martin will score twice, and Austin Pettis will catch two scores.
Broncos roll 51-10.