Albuquerque, New Mexico is often referred to as the Land of Enchantment. Enchanting may be the last word that Bronco fans choose to describe the outcome of Saturday's bout with the Lobos. It truly was the tale of two halves that ended in the Broncos narrowly escaping what could have been one of the biggest upsets in school history.
Join me now after the jump as we discuss the three stars and one goat of Boise State's win over New Mexico.
Naming Three Stars is a hockey tradition that over the past few years has become a Bronco tradition. More info here if you are interested.
Bronco fans throughout the universe can agree that Saturday truly was the tale of two halves. We saw a dynamic offense that has been noticeably missing this season, and the defense we have grown accustomed to. With a first half score of 25-0, the Broncos would assuredly leave the Land of Enchantment breaking 50 or more, right? Wrong. The Broncos went on to score only one more time in the second half of the match. Regardless of the score, we came away with the win, which is the only important thing, right? That's at least what I keep telling myself. Even with a poor second half, the game was not short of a few stars and a big, ugly goat. On to the stars!
Star No. 3: Jay Ajayi
Many called this game to be the breakout game of Ajayi's career with the Broncos. Any who made that call would be right. With D.J. Harper running like the energizer bunny, Ajayi had sunk down to the fourth back on the chart at the beginning of the season. My football intuition tells me that Ajayi must have been performing well in practice, as he made it to number two on the depth chart that was released in conjunction with Saturday's game. For any who watch players on the sidelines during the games, you would have seen the same sight as I did: Ajayi literally chomping at the bit, as eager as I've ever seen a boy want to get into a game. To the dismay of Ajayi, true freshman running back Jack Fields saw more playing time before Ajayi did. However, once Jay got his chance, he most certainly made the best of it.
6 ATT., 118 YDS., 19.7 AVG., 71 LNG., 1 TD.
Ajayi ran like the recruit many of us thought and hoped he would be. His 71 yard run was spectacular to say the least. Announcers even compared him to Le'Veon Bell at one point. Those announcers were also named Tom Scott and Mark Johnson, so take that with a grain of salt. Though Ajayi has a long way to go until he reaches Bell-Status, there is no doubt that he showed glimpses of greatness, and in my opinion, is the future of the Boise State ground game. Congratulations, Jay, on being Star No.3 of Boise State's win over New Mexico.
Star No. 2: Joe Southwick
For the first time all season, I saw more of what I liked in Joe Southwick than what I didn't like. Was he perfect? No. Will he ever be? I doubt it. But Joe showed heart and poise as he led the Bronco offense to an absolutely dominating first half performance. One of the things I love about Joe is how he wears his heart on his sleeve. This same love is also something that scares me about Joe, especially if he doesn't contain those emotions. On a failed pass to Dan Paul in the redzone, all of us witnessed Joe's frustration and anger with turning the ball over. I like that. I like his heart. Heart is what takes good players and makes them great. Joe is going to be a great quarterback.
Joe made his reads and on multiple occasions was progressing through his options like an experienced pro. He finished the night as follows:
24 CMP., 34 ATT., 311 YDS., 70.6 CMP%., 9.15 YPA., 50 LNG., 3 TD., 0 INT., 176 RAT.
By far the best performance of Joe Southwick and the Bronco offense all year. Yes, I understand that the second half was a dumpster fire, but much of that weighs on the shoulders of the defense. Joe once again showed his arm strength on a 50 yard deep bomb to Dallas Burroughs (yes, he is still on the team). Joe has learned the hard way that stars are earned, and you don't get warm fuzzies unless you work for 'em. Congratulations, Joe, on being Star No. 2 of Boise State's win over New Mexico (here's to hoping you can do this again but get like even way better at it).
Star No. 1: Tommy Smith
If my memory serves me correctly, this is Tommy Smith's first ever appearance on the Three Stars post. But really, how could we not mention Smith after Saturday's performance? Boise State has a long tradition of top-tier linebackers. Tommy Smith is no different. The senior finally had his chance to shine coming into the 2012 season. Tommy has been an absolute wrecking ball on the defense through four games. He has a nose for the run and is equally impressive at reading the pass.
Saturday was no different, as Smith had arguably the biggest presence of all defenders on New Mexico's final drive of the game. On third down and three, Smith sacked New Mexico running-quarterback Cole Gautsch for a loss of one. This stop forced New Mexico to bring in their "throwing" quarterback on fourth down, with the game on the line. An interesting call considering our defense basically went to sleep on the option in the second half. Regardless of the call, Smith answered with a nearly picked pass that forced a turnover in Bronco territory.
When it seemed that the rest of the defense was taking the half off, Tommy continued to sniff out the ball and keep our
top 25 ranking intact. Congratulations, Tommy, on being Star No. 1 of Boise State's win over New Mexico.
The Goat: The Second Half
The Broncos led the Lobos 25-0 going into halftime. A stark contrast from the week prior against the BYU Cougars. Granted this is New Mexico we're talking about, but an impressive offensive feat nonetheless (especially considering the offensive drought we've had post-KM). The Broncos were winning the turnover battle which is
always, sometimes the key to victory. Our defense was playing well, and the offense was scoring for the first time in 13 days.
With fumbles from Dallas Burroughs and Shane Williams-Rhodes, the defense was again on the field, and getting tired courtesy of Cole Gautsch. The 6'4" triple option quarterback was shredding the Bronco defense. We simply had no answer for covering the option. Flashbacks of Air Force and Nevada began to creep into my increasingly fragile consciousness.
We again showed no faith in our kicking game by attempting the two point conversion on every trip into the endzone. If Matt Miller senses any iota success, the offense will attempt the two pointer. If he doesn't like what he sees, he calls off the attempt and we put our "faith" in the kicking game.
As I took my weekly post-game Twitter poll, many Bronco fans called for the kicking to be the goat of the game. I figured I would just lump them in with the second half as kicker Michael Frisina missed a FG attempt and punter Trevor Harman was equally underwhelming.
If the Broncos could simply put together a full game of offense and defense, we may just have a chance at beating a bottom-feeder by more than a field goal. Here's to hoping.
Who were your stars, and who was your goat? Did I get them right? Did anyone else get the shivers when WIlliams-Rhodes broke the ankles of that poor Lobo defender? Sound off in the comments, Bronco Nation!