WEEK 5: Boise State Broncos vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
WHEN: Saturday, September 28, 8:15 PM MT
WHERE: Bronco Stadium, Boise, ID (37,000)
CONFERENCES: Mountain West Conference (Mountain Division) vs. Conference USA (EastDivision)
2013 SEASON: Boise State, 2-2, 1-1 MWC; Southern Miss, 0-3, 0-0 CUSA
COACHES: Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, 86-10; Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken, 0-3 (first year).
WEB STREAMING: WatchESPN
RADIO: KBOI (670 AM) and KKGL (96.9 FM)
SERIES RECORD: 4th meeting. Boise State is 3-0 against Southern Miss
LAST MEETING: October 6, 2012, M.M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, MS, Boise State 40, Southern Miss 14.
First year Golden Eagles head coach Todd Monken has certainly had his hands full at Southern Miss. The former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator went down to Hattiesburg, MS this past December to take over an ailing program that went 0-12 in 2012. The program was in so much disarray last year that the former head coach and the athletic director both lost their jobs. This year they are 0-3, giving the Golden Eagles 15 straight losses and the distinction of having the longest losing streak in the country. Those three losses have been their home opener to Texas State, 22-15, a bruising loss at #22 Nebraska, 56-13, and a loss two weeks ago to Arkansas in Razorback Stadium, 24-3. They come into Boise off a bye week where they have had time to prepare.
The Broncos are back on their familiar blue turf after a hard-fought loss last Saturday to the #25 Fresno State Bulldogs, 41-40. This game could be a chance for the Broncos to work on some of their lingering problems this season. The Broncos have outscored their opponents 151-113 in just four games this year, but have shown poor performances on both sides of the scrimmage line. With the exception of last week’s game at Fresno, the offense has struggled with consistency and a lack of polish, although there are signs that things may be improving. Of greater concern is that Boise State's young defense has continued to struggle with cohesion and ability.
What to expect when Southern Miss has the ball: Turnovers have been a curse for Southern Miss this season and they need to control the ball much better if they go to the air. QB Allan Bridgford, 6-3, 210 lbs, has thrown seven interceptions this season. In his last outing, Bridgford completed 17-of-33 passing for 133 yards against the Razorbacks, which included 2 INTs. If he can correct his passing game, he has a few good WRs such as senior Rickey Bradley, 6-2, 204 lbs, and freshman Tyre'oune Holmes, 5-11, 170 lbs, to make catches. He also has RBs Jalen Richard, 5-8, 208 lbs, and Kendrick Hardy, 6-0, 228 lbs, who can keep the Broncos D-line honest with a solid ground game.
The Southern Miss offense might be struggling, but it is doubtful they will be intimidated by the Boise State defense. Broncos defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has a D-squad this year that is giving up a whopping 440 yards and 28 points on average per game. That is astounding when you consider that last season the Broncos had the 12th-best defense in the country. Look for Boise to use this game to work on some defensive problems, like tackling, zone coverage, and pressuring the QB. Last week the Bronco defense held Fresno State to 62 yards on the ground, but that didn’t help when they also got burned through the air for 460 yards and 4 TD’s.
What to expect when Boise State has the ball: QB Joe Southwick, 6-1, 202 lbs, is starting to show some of the improvement that was hyped coming into the season. Last week against Fresno State, Southwick was 31 of 45 for 313 yards but was intercepted once. The O-line allowed him to get sacked 4 times, injuring his shoulder. It should come as no surprise if he retires early and sits out much of the game. Were that to happen it will allow junior QB Grant Hedrick, 6-0, 200 lbs, to get more experience. Hedrick saw some action last week and didn’t look too shabby under center. He is 9 of 13 in passing for 69 yards and a TD in limited play this season. The starting receivers and RBs for Boise State are also expected to see limited action and retire by end of the third quarter to allow the backups some game time. But perhaps the rotation might not be in the cards for much of the Broncos defense. They have a lot of issues to work on and this might be the only opportunity left in the season to get it done.
Just don’t expect the Southern Miss defense to roll over and play dead. They are rested and coming off a bye after holding Arkansas to 327 total yards the week before. The Golden Eagles also have senior LB Alan Howze, 6-3 227 lbs, as an anchor. He leads the team in tackles with 34, and 12 of those have been solo. There is also sophomore DB Debarriaus Miller, 5-10, 183 lbs, to reckon with and who has 31 tackles of this own with 16 being solo. Defensively, the Golden Eagles are capable of making a statement although as Jeremy Mauss pointed out they are a 26.5 point underdog.
Boise State needs to find their mojo, and quick, if they want to stay relevant. They did not get one single vote in either the Associated Press Top 25 or the USA Today Coaches Poll this week for the first time since October 2005, setting off alarm bells in all corners of Bronco Nation.
And that has to be especially disconcerting for head coach Chris Petersen and his coaching staff as they prepare for Saturday night's late game on ESPNU.