Blue-Orange Game recap: Boise State defense edges offense on two-point tiebreaker

Boise State wrapped up spring practice with an entertaining, down-to-the-wire spring game that was high on defensive big plays, Joe Southwick big throws, and big-time drama.

After the jump, find out what players spent time with the first teams, see who stood out, and share your thoughts on the players and positions that made the biggest move on Saturday.

Defense ends Southwick comeback in overtime with two-point stop

Joe Southwick led second-half drives for two touchdowns, two 2-point conversions, and two field goals to pull the Bronco offense even with the defense at the end of regulation. Overtime came down to a sudden death 2-point conversion (nobody tell Troy Oppie!), and Southwick's slant pass to Aaron Burks was broken up by Antwon Murray in the end zone.

Southwick's comeback included two 40-plus-yard passes to Burks, one of which went for a 48-yard touchdown. Other stars of the Blue-Orange game included Jarrell Root who registered 3.5 sacks and Ebo Makinde, Winston Venable, and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe who had turnovers (Makinde and Venable registered picks of Kellen Moore).

Key stats, courtesy of Chadd Cripe:

Southwick 10-of-15, 191 yds.; Mike Coughlin 5-of-12, 54 yds.; Moore 9-of-19, 128 yds.; Burks 5 rec., 113 yds.; Mitch Burroughs 3 car., 46 yds., TD.

Play-by-play of the Blue-Orange Game

First series

Second series

  • Michael Coughlin incomplete pass.
  • Jarvis Hodge run.
  • Michael Coughlin incomplete pass to Chandler Koch. (+1 defense for 3-and-out)

Third series

  • Jeremy Avery run.
  • Kellen Moore pass to Titus Young.
  • Kellen Moore pass INTERCEPTED by Winston Venable. (+4 defense for turnover)

Fourth series

  • Joe Southwick pass to Chris Potter for a first down.
  • Joe Southwick pass to Jarvis Hodge.
  • Jarvis Hodge run.
  • Jarvis Hodge run.
  • Joe Southwick scramble for first down.
  • Joe Southwick incomplete deep pass to Geraldo Hiwat (dropped). Defensive pass interference. First down.
  • Joe Southwick incomplete pass to Mitch Burroughs. Ebo Makinde PBU.
  • Joe Southwick pass to Aaron Burks.
  • Drew Wright run for a first down.
  • Drew Wright run.
  • Jeremy Avery run.
  • Defensive pass interference. First down.
  • Jarvis Hodge run.
  • Malcolm Johnson run.
  • Joe Southwick incomplete pass to Chris Potter. Brandyn Thompson PBU.
  • Jimmy Pavel FG. (+3 offense)

Fifth series

  • Kellen Moore pass to Titus Young for a first down.
  • Kellen Moore pass to Kyle Efaw for a first down.
  • Kellen Moore incomplete pass to Kyle Efaw.
  • Kellen Moore pass to Jeremy Avery for a first down.
  • Jeremy Avery run.
  • Jeremy Avery run. Ryan Winsterswyk TFL.
  • Kellen Moore pass to Tyler Shoemaker.
  • Trevor Harman FG. (+3 offense)

Sixth series

  • Michael Coughlin pass to Drew Wright for a first down.
  • Michael Coughlin incomplete pass to Drew Wright (drop).
  • Michael Coughlin incomplete pass.
  • Michael Coughlin incomplete pass.

Seventh series

  • Kellen Moore pass to Preston Minter for a first down.
  • Kellen Moore incomplete pass to Preston Minter.
  • Kellen Moore incomplete pass to Tyler Shoemaker.
  • Kellen Moore pass to Chris Potter for a first down.
  • Kellen Moore pass INTERCEPTED by Ebo Makinde. (+4 defense for turnover)

Eighth series

  • Joe Southwick scramble.
  • Joe Southwick scramble, FUMBLE, recovered by Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe. (+4 defense for turnover)

Ninth series

  • Kellen Moore incomplete pass to Malcolm Johnson.
  • Kellen Moore pass to Malcolm Johnson.
  • Kellen Moore incomplete deep pass to Tyler Shoemaker (drop). (+1 defense for 3-and-out)

Tenth series

Halftime

Eleventh series

  • Mitch Burroughs run for a first down.
  • Malcolm Johnson run.
  • Joe Southwick pass to Geraldo Hiwat for a first down.
  • Joe Southwick incomplete pass to Kyle Efaw.
  • Malcolm Johnson run.
  • Joe Southwick incomplete pass to Preston Minter.
  • Jimmy Pavel FG. (+3 offense)

Twelfth series

Thirteenth series

  • Carlo Audagnotti run.
  • Joe Southwick pass to Chris Potter.
  • Raphiel Lambert run for a first down.
  • Joe Southwick deep pass to Aaron Burks for a first down.
  • Mitch Burroughs run for a TOUCHDOWN. (+6 offense)
  • Joe Southwick pass to Malcolm Johnson for CONVERSION. (+2 offense)

Fourteenth series

  • Michael Coughlin incomplete pass to Raphiel Lambert.
  • Mitch Burroughs run for a first down.
  • Michael Coughlin SACKED by Jarrell Root. (+2 defense for sack)
  • Michael Coughlin pass to Aaron Burks.
  • Michael Coughli pass to Chris Potter.
  • Raphiel Lambert run. (+4 defense for fourth down stop)

Fifteenth series

  • Geraldo Hiwat run.
  • Joe Southwick deep pass to Aaron Burks for a TOUCHDOWN. (+6 offense)
  • Joe Southwick pass to Chandler Koch for CONVERSION. (+2 offense)

Sixteenth series

  • Michael Coughlin incomplete pass.
  • Michael Coughlin incomplete pass to Chris Potter.
  • Michael Coughlin pass to Aaron Burks. (+1 defense for 3-and-out)

Seventeenth series

  • Joe Southwick pass to Geraldo Hiwat for a first down.
  • Joe Southwick pass to Geraldo Hiwat for a first down.
  • Joe Southwick SACKED by Jarrell Root. (+2 defense for sack)
  • Joe Southwick pass to Preston Minter.
  • Joe Southwick spiked ball.
  • Trevor Harman 41-yard FG. (+3 offense)

Overtime

  • Joe Southwick incomplete pass to Aaron Burks. Antwon Murray PBU. (+2 defense for overtime stop)

Bronco position analysis

Though the scrimmage was billed as the ones versus the ones and the twos versus the twos, the Broncos spent much of the Blue-Orange game mixing up different positions in a variety of interesting ways. More on that in a bit. For now, here is how the first-team groups looked on the field.

Quarterback

Kellen Moore was your starter. Michael Coughlin was the second quarterback to see the field, which may be an indication of depth chart superiority or plain, old age seniority. He and Southwick alternated series once Moore left the game in the second half.

Joe Southwick's first series was the fourth of the game as Moore got to go twice before Southwick saw the field.

Running backs

No Doug Martin on Saturday, so Jeremy Avery was the one getting the bulk of the first-team reps (and Avery did not last much past the first few series). Jarvis Hodge was the second back off the bench, and Drew Wright was not far behind him.

Malcolm Johnson, who did not appear in the first scrimmage, took carries before Raphiel Lambert. Carlo Audagnotti was the last one in.

Wide receivers

Austin Pettis dressed down for the scrimmage, but he was resigned to holding duties for the majority of the game. Titus Young and Tyler Shoemaker were with the first team, as were Chris Potter and Mitch Burroughs. The Broncos cycle through receivers very quickly and ask for different players in different packages and plays, so it is hard to tell how much to read into the inclusion of the first-teamers.

Hiwat, Burks, and Minter were solid as the second group, and they had their moments lined up against some of the first-team secondary. Tyler Jackson had one catch. 

Tight ends

As to be expected, Tommy Gallarda and Kyle Efaw were out with the first team, and Efaw made noise with some diving attempts at Kellen Moore passes on a first half drive. The tight end backups appear to be Chandler Koch and Sean King.

Offensive line

The position you've been waiting for. Here is how the first-team offensive line shook out on Saturday. From LT to RT:

And the second team, again from right to left:

After the first- and second-teams, there were a handful of players who saw spot duty at random times. The most common: OT Jake Broyles and OT Zach Waller, who came in for Ames and Leno on occasion.

Defensive line

The Broncos, for the most part, stuck with their defensive line groups and did not do the mass tackle subsitution that we are used to. Here is the group that took the field first (listed DEs first, then DTs):

The second group:

  • Jarrell Root | Kharyee Marshall | Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe | David Cushing

After the first and second teams, no new faces entered until DE Nicholas Alexander on the eighth series and DT Justin Jungblut on the tenth series. Jungblut and Alexander got more play in the second half once the starters left.

Linebackers

The starting duo was Derrell Acrey and Aaron Tevis, but the pairings were constantly shuffled all game long. Second off the bench were J.C. Percy and Tommy Smith, and the third series had Byron Hout and Aaron Tevis. Dustin Kamper got in at the fourth series, and he was the only other linebacker to see time.

Nickelback

Winston Venable was the starter, and the real mystery came with the second-team. Hunter White got the call there, and White's main competition, Jonathan Brown, started playing at the fifth series. Billy Derome got in late in the second half.

Cornerback

Brandyn Thompson and Jamar Taylor started the game, and Jerrell Gavins replaced Taylor when the first-team defense came back out for the third series. In between, Antwon Murray and Ebo Makinde started on team two. Quaylon Ewing and Josh Borgman were the third-team corners.

Safety

Jeron Johnson and George Iloka were the clear No. 1s. Travis Stanaway and Hazen Moss were the second-teamers, and Jamar Taylor and Dane Turner took turns subbing in after the starters had left.

Impressions

Blue-Orange game drama more like Boise State vs. Tulsa than Boise State vs. TCU

Even though the offense made a late push to tie the score, the defense reigned supreme at the Blue-Orange. There was never a moment in the first half (the half that involved players you would recognize) when it felt like the offense was in control. Sure, the final score was close, but the game had the feel of a BSU-Tulsa matchup where Boise State was by far the better team in every way than it did a classic BSU-TCU tussle between equals. No offense to the offense; the Boise State defense is just that good.

I have good news and I have bad news

Looking a little deeper into the offense-defense matchup, you could split the performance into passing versus rushing. The Bronco offense seemed to handle defensive pressure much better than it did in the first scrimmage. QBs had more time to throw, and free rushers weren't sailing into the backfield at a dizzying pace.

Part of it might have had to do with the protection schemes. Malcolm Johnson stuffed an oncoming blitzer and Sean King did a good job holding the edge on a play. The rest could probably be credited to the ongoing progression of one of Boise State's best O-lines since the Fiesta Bowl season. Myers and Wright did a fine job corraling McClellin and Winterswyk, and the interior trio of Kellogg, Potter, and Lawrence were stout.

On the flip side, though, the Boise State run defense was downright unstoppable. Not once did a rusher break free into anything close to daylight. Most of the time, holes were stuffed, thanks to the manpower of DTs like Winn and Tjong-A-Tjoe and the LB play of Tommy Smith and Byron Hout, each of whom were attacking the line of scrimmage on a regular basis.

The offense can consider pass protection a win, but the defense gets the run and everything else.

Make room on the Joe Southwick bandwagon

I would not be surprised if Bronco Nation called off the Southwick-Coughlin QB competition right now. The redshirt freshman QB looked stellar at times on Saturday, and the coverage of his spring feats is sure to ring throughout the long offseason. It's Michael Atkinson spring hype, times ten.

(In related news, Atkinson was nowhere to be found on the sidelines with other injured Bronco defensive players. I have nothing really to add to that; I just thought you should know.)

The one characteristic about Southwick that will last the longest for me is that when the game went into the late stages, something seemed to turn on with Southwick. His competitiveness and desire were apparent in the way he moved the team up and down the field. Southwick showed a will to win, which is something I have yet to see from Coughlin. If that fact alone is the only thing separating the two QBs at this point, then I think it sways the vote to Southwick's side.

And one final note on Southwick for all you Coughlin lovers out there, the majority of Southwick's late drives came against third-team CBs Quaylong Ewing and Josh Borgman. Take that for what it's worth.

WAC offensive players are not safe with Byron Hout at linebacker

The Hout was a man possessed on Saturday, flying into the backfield with abandon, crunching wide receivers who had the audacity to come over the middle, and wreaking the type of havoc I imagine coaches expected to wreak by putting a grown man defensive end at a stand-up linebacker position. Hout's blitz timing was impeccable, as he rushed the line of scrimmage just as the ball was snapped. His dominating presence in the middle of the field, complete with intimidating cowboy collar, turned screen passes into a gauntlet. For the first time since the 2008 season, it looked like Byron Hout was having fun. Which, of course, meant that no one on offense was having any.

Miscellaneous

  • The Broncos' new go-to play seems to be the end around to Mitch Burroughs, which the team ran at least five times on Saturday. I hope they got it out of their system.
  • Root looked like a different DE on Saturday, bulling his way into the backfield on multiple occasions. If this is a sign of things to come in 2010, then the Broncos' depth at DE is in good shape.
  • Kharyee Marshall got in deep on a Brad Elkin punt and appeared to deflect it. Considering that Marshall wears Ian Johnson's No. 41, I had serious flashbacks to 2008.
  • Speaking of Marshall, his sack to end the first half was a straight-up speed move that left his man grasping at air. Awesome on so many levels.
  • Speaking of Elkin, he had a handful of booming punts that elicited oohs and aahs from the crowd. The only problem - and it's a biggie - is that he intersperses those punts with 20-yard shanks. I fear the only way to trust Elkin in a real game situation is to outfit him with a giant mood ring so that you know for sure what type of punt you are getting.
  • More than 12,000 people turned out for the Broncos' spring game, which is a Boise State record and significantly more than the Bronco basketball team averaged at home games.
  • Mitch Burroughs returned a punt for a TD in the pregame special teams activities, which is exactly what he did in the first scrimmage, too. Someone please hurry to the comments to remind me that they don't go full speed on special teams coverage in practice. Please. Hurry.
  • David Cushing, my new favorite walk-on, had a first-half sack that was nullified because of penalty.
  • There were a lot more holes in the second- and third-team secondaries than there were in the first-team secondary. Kind of makes you appreciate what Iloka, Johnson, and Co. do.
  • There will be much, much more spring coverage next week as we recap all sorts of stories from the past several weeks. If I don't have carpal tunnel by Friday, I have failed you.

Your turn

What did you think of Boise State's Blue-Orange Game? Excited about Joe Southwick? Think the defense sounds like it's in midseason form? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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