BOISE – Boise State’s inability to stop the run on defense and run the ball on offense was both somewhat surprising and downright frustrating for the Broncos in three games.
But what is the biggest concern?
“Probably both,” said coach Andy Avalos. “It’s not about being frustrated, it’s about applying attention and urgency to who we are and where we can grow.”
Boise State’s offense ranks 126th out of 130 FBS teams in rushing attacking with just 67.3 yards per game rushing. Defense isn’t much better, ranking 115th in rushing defense with a whopping 201.7 yards against per game.
We will look at the defense first. Twice in three games, opponents have rushed for at least 245 yards on the Broncos. Previously, this had only happened twice in the previous 10 seasons by teams with no options against the Broncos since 2011.
“Our fundamentals just need to be cleaner,” said defensive line coach Frank Maile. “When we do it well, it’s good and we stop the race. When we don’t, that’s the result, over 200 meters running, which is unacceptable. This is a bad deal. We can’t play that way and we can’t function as a defense.
“We’re six points away from a 3-0 record in our season and a lot of that has to do with the running game. “
Maile said tackling needs to improve, but also where players watch as the game unfolds.
“Take your eyes out of the backfield,” Maile said. “We have to identify the blocks that bring us to the ball.”
UCF’s Isaiah Bowswer had 33 carries for 172 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos in Game 1 of the season. It was, at the time, the most yards allowed by the Broncos to a single player since New Mexico’s Teriyon Gipson had 205 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries in 2014.
But last Saturday, Oklahoma state backer Jaylen Warren did so, rushing for 218 yards on 32 carries. It’s now the most rushing yards allowed a player by a Boise State defense since Fresno State’s Ryan Mathews ran for 234 yards and three touchdowns in 19 carries in a 51-34 victory for the Broncos at Fresno September 18, 2009.
“It’s frustrating and it’s definitely not the standard we want to play with and it’s something we’re excited to sort out,” said defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson. “Giving up the yards we have isn’t something we’re proud of, but we have the answers, I believe, and we not only have the players, but we have the coaches to do it. “
Boise State’s struggles with running were surprising given the roster staff as well as the coaches. The Broncos were one of the best defenses in the country in 2017 and 2018 with Avalos as the defensive coordinator and again in 2019, even after he left.
Avalos said less could be more on defense this week.
“In fact, it really simplifies what we talk about in meetings, what we work on in individual drills and how that relates to group times and team times,” Avalos said. “And being able to create habits, so when we let go of them on game night, those are our habits and we don’t go back to other things.”
Boise State’s offensive coaches face their own issues this week as they try to figure out why it has been so difficult to manage the ball. Boise State ranks 127th out of 130 teams with an average of just 2.06 yards per carry.
Main Broncos forward, Oregon transfer Cyrus Habibi-Likio, has just 61 rushing yards in three games.
“We’re just lacking consistency right now to keep getting enough explosive runs and enough consistency to get positive runs,” said Boise State offensive coordinator Tim Plow. “And that is up to all of us, but I’ll be the first to always say if we have a tough game, don’t look anywhere behind me. I have to be better and do a better job getting our guys ready to ride.
“It just didn’t get off to a good start and we know that and we’re not going to run with it. It’s just not consistent enough.
Boise State had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the past 11 seasons leading up to the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. At the current rate, the Broncos won’t even have a rusher with 400 yards.
“I understand the legacy here and the handling of football and the 1,000-yard losses,” Plow said. “Nobody gets it more than me and nobody wants it more than me. We’re looking for ways to help our guys up front be more successful and we’re looking for ways to make it consistent and we’re just going to keep going. to work there.
George Holani, who ran for 1,014 yards in the freshman in 2019, missed the UCF game with injury but had just 50 yards on 17 carries in the last two games. Andrew Van Buren has 18 carries for just 37 yards.
Avalos and Plow both saw encouraging signs in the first half as they had nearly 70 rushing yards not counting yards lost by a Hank Bachmeier sack. But things took a turn for the worse in the second half when the Broncos finished with -2 rushing yards in 10 attempts.
For the game, the Broncos had just 61 rushing yards on 35 attempts in the loss to Oklahoma State. Crazy enough, it was even better than the Broncos’ 20 rushing yards on 26 attempts in Game 1 against UCF.
“We actually did some things well there in the first half of the race game,” said Avalos. “Construction sites don’t always do it. Part of that is an RPO (run-pass option) being kicked off, but there were some things done upstream where we performed much better.
“It always starts with establishing the racing game. It’s football. Who wins the line of scrimmage… it’s always a huge accent.
Plow admitted the lack of success in the racing game is “definitely disappointing,” but expressed optimism that he will turn around soon.
“I think it’s going to come,” Plow said. ” I believe it. Hopefully not everyone jumps off the ship. I believe the racing game will come. We have talent and I believe in guys, what we do and people. We just have to stick to it. It will come. I know it’s going to explode.
The Broncos would benefit greatly from making big improvements this week. Utah State ranks 29th in attacking rushing with 206.3 yards per game, while the Aggies defense allowed just 107.0 rushing yards per game in two games against non-optioned teams heading into the game. last week against Air Force.
Boise State is a disappointing 1-2 on the year heading into the conference on Saturday at Logan. Stopping the run and running football could both help fuel a turnaround.
“It’s not the norm,” Avalos said. “You know it, I know it. But having the answers, understanding and knowing what we need to do to move forward is very encouraging. “