Preface: So I took a read through last week’s Purdue reviews, and probably had the same response as many of you. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. So I’m trying to shake it up a little, trying to find a few tidbits that may be more interesting versus a player-by-player summary.
Part 1 of 2: BoiseState on Defense
I’ll mostly skip past the homecoming story about BSU head coach Chris Petersen (Oregon assistant 1995 to 2000) and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox (Oregon safety and cornerback 1995-99). But I will ask this: When the time finally comes for Coach Belotti to retire after leading the Ducks to a couple national titles, would anyone be surprised if these two guys didn’t head the list of potential replacements?
Back to BSU’s defense…
Many pundits are saying this is a tough group, ranked seventh nationally in scoring defense (7.0 a game) and primed with big-time upset potential. On the heals of last week’s near total Pac-10 meltdown, it’s only human to look at this Boise State program – regarded as a BCS dragon slayer and still a darling in many eyes after the ’07 Fiesta Bowl surprise versus OU – in this game, against a highly ranked BCS opponent, with an eye on Oregon’s QB situation and say, “maybe”, “just maybe they could do it again”.
Here’s what the Broncos D has achieved so far. They held IdahoState to 7 points, just as any self-respecting team should. The Bengals stink. ‘Nuf said.
The Broncos also held a decent – or are they, it’s still early – Bowling Green team to 7 points. The effort against Bowling Green’s spread offense was good, but not necessarily dominating. The Falcons had 22 first downs and a total of 307 yards on offense, nearly matching the offensive output by BoiseState.
Either Bowling Green couldn’t finish, or BoiseState wouldn’t break. Two of the first three Falcon drives ended in field goal misses of 41 and 34 yards. Fire the kicker! Bowling Green then had five drives in the second half with the game still in reach. On three of those they turned the ball over inside the Boise State 30 – two fumbles and an interception.
Props to BSU for the takeaways, I suppose. Last week I highlighted Purdue’s focus on clawing at the ball when tackling. Sure enough, the Ducks coughed a couple up. It’s a sure bet BoiseState took notice. Equally sure bet that Duck coaches have been in people’s faces about protecting the rock. The turnover battle will be key and the Ducks need to win it.
No profile of the entire starting line up this week. But here’s a quick look at the guys who matter on BoiseState’s D.
Like Oregon, the Broncos feature a big hitter at safety. Ellis Powers (#18, 5-10, 200 lbs., Sr, CA) was a one-man wrecking machine against Bowling Green, with 11 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. One of the guys singing Powers’ praises after the BG game was linebacker Tim Brady (#24, 6-1, 204 lbs., Sr., ID) who isn’t bad himself. Brady has nine tackles in two games including four for a loss
The other high-impact players for Boise State are safety Jeron Johnson (#23, 5-11, 191 lbs., So., CA) and linebacker Derrell Acrey (#52, 6-1, 233 lbs., So., CA). Johnson leads the Broncos with 18 tackles and two fumble recoveries. He was named WAC defensive player of the week after his performance against Bowling Green. Acrey has 17 tackles on the season and will be a critical player if BSU hopes to slow down Oregon’s running game. The Ducks will also be on the watch for linebacker Aaron Tevis (#36, 6-3, 214 lbs., Fr., AZ) who is listed as a backup on the 2-deep, but has two of BSU’s six sacks this season. Boise’s best player inside is probably tackle Joe Bozikovich (#67, 6-0, 273 lbs., Sr., OR). The big fella from Wilson High in Portland has eight tackles, half a sack and has knocked a pass down in two games. He gets some ink time in this article at BroncoSports.com.
So it’s a combination of senior experience and youthful talent. And so far, they’re saying all the right things…looking forward to experiencing Autzen, will have to play even better, Oregon will be a big test, etc., etc. This is a Boise State program known for explosive offense and is unaccustomed to leaning on their defense. But it worked pretty well last week when their offense bogged down in a scoreless second half.
Will it work against Oregon?
We’ll find out Saturday just how BoiseState’s new-found defense handles an offense that wants to snap the ball every 22 seconds. If they’re suckin’ wind late in the game, it’s advantage Oregon, big time. We’ll also see if Boise defenders can tackle great speed one-on-one in the open field, because Chip Kelly isn’t likely to let the ball sit in the pocket for very long. If they can’t, we could see Jaison Williams, Terence Scott, Jeff Maehl and maybe, just maybe, Jamere Holland have a field day.
A few quick facts:
● This is the first time Oregon and BoiseState have played football.
● As a head coach Mike Belotti is 17-0 versus WAC opponents.
● BoiseState is 3-9 against ranked opponents.
● Ducks rose to #12 in the coaches poll. Extending the poll beyond the top 25, BoiseState is #29.
● BCS killers? BSU is 4-17 versus BCS teams. Two of those wins were against OregonState.
● BoiseState has never beaten a Pac-10 team on the road.