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Boise State Broncos get past UC Davis Aggies, 34-16

Kellen Moore threw three TD passes, Austin Pettis had 129 yards and two scores, and the Broncos got past the UC Davis Aggies, 34-16.

Share your thoughts on the game in the comments, and I'll be back in a bit with analysis and perspective. Thought the margin should have been bigger? Disappointed at all? Let's talk about it.

Was Boise State playing poorly or was UC Davis playing well?

For that matter, was I dreaming for the past three-and-a-half hours or was I trapped in a personal hell where my favorite college team is having it taken to them by a Division I-AA school?

When in doubt, make excuses:

  • The weather was poor. This could have played a factor in the play-calling and the performance of some of the players. Then again, we're talking about football, not baseball.
  • Boise State didn't want to show too much for the games still on the schedule. The Broncos could have been playing conservatively at times in order to not give away any secrets or new plays to future opponents. For instance, they may have decided to forego "covering receivers" in order to really screw with Tulsa.
  • Coach Pete owed UC Davis head coach Bob Biggs. I'm talking like extortion or something, because this game was really ugly. This dallied in "wife and children locked in a saferoom" territory rather than "thanks for getting me a scholarship back in the 80's."
  • Kyle Wilson and Kevin Sapien are more important than anyone had thought. Wilson's absence in pass defense was noticeable. Sapien's absence in the run offense was obvious. Put those two guys back in and I might not be so confused right now.

Bottom line: No excuses. UC Davis came to play, and Boise State had all it could handle. The Broncos still won by 18 points and dominated the Aggies statistically, but they will have to live with the consequences of not blowing out a cupcake - both in the polls and in how it relates to their performance for the rest of the season.

Jeron Johnson reminded everyone why they liked Jeron Johnson

The biggest hits of the night came from Johnson, as he delivered at least three or four crushing blows to Aggie recievers and running backs. Johnson's collisions were a rare moment of physicality for the Bronco D against UCD, and it reminded me of the attitude and swagger that he provided the defense last year alongside Ellis Powers. Was I getting sentimental? Yeah, a little bit. But it was nothing a pass interference penalty didn't stop.

Kellen Moore makes a case for his not being awful on deep passes

But first, Moore made a case for being awful on deep passes. His fluttering boquet toss in the general direction of Austin Pettis on the Broncos' first second-half drive was just begging to be picked off. And so it was. Watching Moore throw it, he never set his feet and stepped into the throw, despite having no pressure around him.

And just when I was getting ready to write my "Why can't Kellen throw deep?" thesis, he dropped a bomb onto the hands of Titus Young for six. Moore's second throw was fundamentally perfect, and it showed in the finished product.

Kellen Moore can throw deep. When he wants to. Which isn't necessarily all the time.

Austin Pettis' turn in the Bronco offense spotlight

Overshadowed in recent weeks by Jeremy Avery, Titus Young, and Doug Martin, Pettis was the man for the Broncos tonight, generally making all the plays the Broncos needed on offense. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Pettis took the step into Jeremy Childs territory tonight. Childs had the ability to enforce his will on a game by simply refusing to be covered. Childs found a way to get open, which kickstarted sluggish Bronco offenses.

Pettis did the same thing tonight. He was the answer early and often for Kellen Moore, on deep crossing routes, hitches, screens. Pettis was everywhere, and his sure hands saved at least one near-INT.

And can we talk for a minute about the end zone fade passes to Pettis? I'm starting to think that the Bronco coaches read the blogs because we've been asking for that play to be a part of the red zone offense since we first saw Pettis Go-Go-Gadget Jump against San Jose State last season. It works, and the only way to defend it is to interfere with the man and hope you don't get caught. (Note: It was well defended once tonight.)

All is not well with the Bronco red zone offense

On Boise State's first drive of the game, they were stuffed multiple times in short yardage on the goalline. On Boise State's third drive of the game, they moved the ball inside the 20 and then moved back outside of it with two penalties before stalling again and settling for a field goal. On Pettis' fade catch in the end zone, it was almost a third stumper as Pettis drew a pass interference penalty on third down and then waited until the next third down before nabbing his TD.

So what is eating the Broncos inside the 20? Here are just a few factors that could play into it:

  • Penalties. False starts, holding, even the rare illegal snap have all played into red zone troubles this season. Make it stop, Bronco coaches. Make it stop.
  • Bad blocking. UC Davis middle linebacker Mike Morales was everywhere, probably because no one bothered blocking him. I'm no expert, but I bet you'll fail 90 percent of the time you try inside running plays and not block the MLB.
  • Playcalling. Honestly, I don't ever want to question the playcalling, so I don't think this is the issue. However, I can see people getting upset about the constant running plays, play action passes to the tight end in the flat, and jump balls to Pettis. The creativity between the 20s gets cut back in goal-to-go.
  • Fumbles. Well, those don't really help anywhere you are, red zone or not.
  • The shotgun. This one I think might have some legs. Boise State operates out of the shotgun fairly often in its normal offense, but it doesn't when the team gets inside the 10. It could be that the Broncos are not built to be a smashmouth running football team and that the spread shotgun attacks fit them better. Either way, they seem more effective in the shotgun and less effective when the big, scary end zone gets close.

I believe the pass rush got confused and thought the bye week was this week

What happened to the dominant defensive line of the first four weeks? QB pressure was negligible for long stretches of the game, which is one of the biggest reasons why UCD quarterback Greg Denham could be so effective. It's not just the fault of the D-line, either. The blitz didn't work, and the schemes never got there. Why didn't we see the 3-3-5? It's times like these I wish I had a press pass.

Is Brandyn Thompson a capable cornerback?

I want to hear what you all think of this. Do you trust Thompson in coverage? He was vulnerable against Fresno, and he was picked on nearly exclusively by UC Davis. I know he's not better than Kyle Wilson, but tonight he was supposed to be the best cornerback on the field. He didn't look like it.

Running game? What running game?

The thrill of the Doug Martin Era lost a little luster this week as Mad Doug was held to only 39 yards on 16 carries. Jeremy Avery did a little better with over 70 yards on 15. But the Bronco running game did not look good tonight.

The issue seemed to be with the offensive line and blocking up front as there were free defenders on the RBs all night. It could have been that UC Davis sold out to shut down the run, choosing to take that part of the Bronco offense away. And that would make sense since Kellen Moore had so much room to throw.

However, the line did not open holes or put away defenders the same way it had done in weeks past. To be perfectly honest, UC Davis looked like the third best team the Broncos have played this year - better than Bowling Green and Miami (OH). I doubt that a national audience will recognize that, but it's true.

Brenel Myers did not make it the entire game

Though line play is tough to watch, I could see Myers struggling throughout the game to pick up the right guy on running plays and handle the man in front of him. And sure enough, come the fourth quarter, Joe Kellogg was in for Myers. The question, then, is where this puts the Broncos going forward. If Sapien's injury is severe enough to keep him out for several games, will Myers or Kellogg be the answer at guard? It's a question that I'm not sure the Broncos have the answer to just yet.

What will happen in the polls?

Thanks for putting up with this recap even though this part is probably the only part you care about. With the Broncos squeezing by an FCS team, how will that impact their standing when polls are released tomorrow?

Well, here's what happened to the teams behind the Broncos today.

  • No. 6 Virginia Tech win at Duke, 34-26
  • No. 7 USC win at Cal, 30-3
  • No. 8 Oklahoma lost at No. 17 Miami, 21-20
  • No. 9 Ohio State win at Indiana, 33-14
  • No. 10 Cincinnati win at Miami (OH), 37-13
  • No. 11 TCU win vs. SMU, 39-14
  • No. 12 Houston at UTEP in progress (but Houston's losing)
  • No. 13 Iowa win vs. Arkansas St., 24-21

Best case scenario: Boise State stays at No. 5 since Virginia Tech's win was not convincing and a 34-16 score won't look terrible for East Coast voters who didn't follow the game at all.

Worst case scenario: Boise State falls to No. 10, falling behind Virginia Tech, USC, Ohio State, Cincinnati, and Iowa.

Somewhere in between: Boise State at No. 6? No. 8? Where do you guys think they'll land?

If voters were looking for a reason to move VaTech past the Broncos (and there's nothing to say that they were, other than rumors and speculation from paranoid BCS-conference fans), they would have it. The Broncos struggled to put away an FCS team. Behind the Hokies, USC had perhaps the most impressive win from a Top Ten team, which could vault the Trojans ahead of Boise State and Virginia Tech come Sunday morning. With Cincinnati and Iowa staying undefeated, you might see them climb higher in the polls. Honestly, there's no reason to put Iowa very high (they've squeaked by Northern Iowa and Arkansas State), but voters do strange things.

At the very least, Boise State's final TD, making the score 34-16 rather than 27-16, provided a huge edge. The win looks a lot better than it probably should, so the impact might not be as severe as we all think.

We'll see tomorrow.

Other observations

  • Brad Elkin got first-quarter punting duties. So take that, everyone who thougt Brad Elkin graduated last year.
  • Michael Atkinson saw significant playing time, not that anyone could have noticed. He did nothing.
  • The Kirby Moore breakout game may have to wait until Utah State.
  • Hunter White really seems to be enjoying this special teams thing.
  • Winston Venable continues to amaze me. He had some great plays in the first half.
  • I'm pretty sure that UC Davis could play in the WAC today (except at Fresno).

What about you? What stood out to you about the game? Who played well? Who played poorly? Where do you think BSU will be tomorrow? Share your thoughts in the comments.