The Boise State Broncos continued their season long pattern of losing one game and then winning the next in a 31 – 41 loss to Nevada on The Blue last Saturday. Three second half turnovers and continued troubles with defending the run turned a competitive first half into a nightmare third quarter that prevented a Boise State conference win. The Broncos find themselves with a disappointing 2 – 3 record and are set to battle a top 10 BYU team in Provo on Saturday afternoon. If Boise State hopes to improve to .500 on the season, they must answer these three burning questions.
THREE BURING QUESTIONS
Can the Boise State offense play a full four quarters?
It is no secret to Boise State fans that the Bronco offense has gotten off to quick starts in their five games this season. It is also no secret to Boise State fans that the offense has been mostly disastrous in the second half of their five games this season. For all the warts that the 2021 Broncos have, second half offensive woes are the biggest factor in the three losses this season:
- Boise State vs UCF: Boise State held a 10-point halftime lead and were outscored 22 to 8 in the second half and lost by 5
- Boise State vs Oklahoma State: Boise State was behind by a single point at halftime and failed to score in the second half resulting in a one-point loss
- Boise State vs Nevada: Boise State held a one-point lead at halftime and were outscored 21 to 10 in the second half resulting in a 10-point loss
In total, the Boise State offense has scored just 18 points (6 points per game) in the second half of the three losses. Overall, the Bronco offense is averaging 23.2 points per game in the first half and just 9.4 points per game in the second half. If Boise State would have duplicated their first half success in the second half of all their games, they would have the third best scoring offense in the country. If they played the first half in the same manner as the second, they would have the 115th worst scoring offense in the country. That divide is massive, and the Broncos must correct it if they want a win in Provo.
Can the Boise State defense get off the field on third downs?
The Broncos are allowing opposing offenses to convert 45% of their 3rd downs on the season. That number rises to 50% in their three losses. Worse still, offenses have been able to convert on 3rd downs even when the defense gets opponents off schedule and forces a third and long. The result is a defense that is on the field too long and an offense that is forced to sit idly by on the sideline watching.
The effect that giving up 3rd downs has on the Boise State offense can’t be overstated. At their best, the Bronco offense operates at a breakneck pace and relies on rhythm and timing. At times this season, particularly in losses, Boise State has chosen to slow down on offense to give the defense rest. This partially explains some of the second half scoring drought. To beat a top-10 team, the Broncos must get off the field, especially when they’ve done their job on 1st and 2nd down and forced BYU to try to convert on 3rd and long.
Can the offensive line hold up, even a little?
The Boise State offensive line has been an issue for several years. Players, coaches, and offensive schemes have come and gone, but the problem remains. The Broncos are essentially unable to run the ball and quarterback Hank Bachmeier continues to take hit after hit in the passing game. Now the line will face what could be the best defensive front they will see all season.
The problems with the line are varied. For starters, Boise State is thin on playable depth at the position, and injuries continue to mount at a position where continuity is key. The Broncos haven’t been able to use the same five players on the offensive line in any game this season.
Whatever the reason for the struggles, it is clearly a huge problem without a lot of readily available answers. The biggest issue on the offensive line is at center. Starter Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez has been out with an injury all year, and bad snaps by players further down the depth chart have cost the Broncos yards and points in key moments throughout the season. Ultimately, Boise State must hold up, even a little bit, if they have any chance of pulling off the upset at BYU.
For all the doom-and-gloom throughout Bronco Nation (and in this preview), Boise State is still a good football team. They have among the best wide receiver rooms in the country, have a stellar secondary, and talent dispersed up and down the roster. Unfortunately, their deficiencies have shown up at inopportune times against good teams in crucial moments. Making small progress in those areas will be the key to a Bronco win on Saturday.
Boise State doesn’t have to smother the BYU run game on Saturday, they just need to show improvement. The Broncos don’t need to harass the BYU quarterback (whoever that will be) on every drop back, they just need to be more consistent with their pressures. Boise State doesn’t need 200 yards rushing on Saturday, they just need some production in the run game. The offensive line doesn’t need to be the 1990’s Dallas Cowboys, they just need to take a step towards consistent competency.
Ultimately, the Broncos should take the steps they need to compete against the tenth ranked Cougars on Saturday afternoon. A blowout loss would be a surprise. However, asking a team that is struggling in key areas to pull off an upset on the road against a highly ranked opponent is a tall order. Boise State keeps it close but falls to 2 – 4 on the season. Boise State 31 BYU 34