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What we learned from Boise State's loss to Michigan State

Aug 31, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Boise State Broncos quarterback Joe Southwick (16) warms up prior to the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire
Aug 31, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Boise State Broncos quarterback Joe Southwick (16) warms up prior to the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire

We learned about Joe Southwick - the good, the bad, and the otherwise.

Going into a game with a quarterback none of us knew very much about (except for the incredibly strong feelings about him that we hold in our hearts), we were sure to find out things, like how he did under pressure, how he did in the clutch, how he did on third down, etc. We found out all those things and more, and the final result was best described by Chris Petersen in his postgame press conference:

I thought he played OK.

OK encompasses a lot of elements from Friday night. Southwick was poised, for the most part, in the pocket. He audibled, and never into disaster. He took bold shots down the field. His bold shots were mostly incomplete. Coaches trusted him enough to be aggressive at the end of the first half when they could have just as easily been uber-conservative.

He was accurate enough in short yardage. He was hit-and-miss in the screen game. He forced a pass every now and then, with one of the "nows" being a very inopportune time.

He was not clutch.

Bronco fans will likely remember this last part about Southwick - how he failed to make a play when the Broncos needed a play to be made. Would Kellen Moore have made a play to win the game on Friday night? Yeah, probably. But would Taylor Tharp? Would Jared Zabransky? Boise State has had less-than-Moores before, and somehow we survived. Southwick, for all his hits and all his misses, was just OK. But you can win a lot of games with OK.

We learned that Bronco fans have a one-track mind.

Let me be as clear as I can about this: Nick Patti is not the answer for Boise State. Please, please get behind Joe Southwick or get behind D.J. Harper or get behind the defense. Calling for Nick Patti every time the offense hiccups is not helping anyone.

We learned that the Bronco defense will be the strength of this team.

Going into the season, we thought maybe the offensive line or the wide receivers were the backbone of the Broncos, but it appears that the backbone is going to be the defense - tough, aggressive, opportunistic, and defiant. If Boise State can withstand an onslaught of Michigan State caliber and only allow 17 points, then the rest of the BSU schedule is going to seem like scrimmage. I'm one for getting my bold predictions really wrong, but here's one anyway: Boise State will not lose a game this year if it scores 24 points or more.

We learned the new guys in the secondary are pretty good.

Corner Bryan Douglas and safety Darian Thompson combined for 11 tackles and a forced-fumble-fumble-recovery. The correct response to this is, "Who?"

We learned less about the Bronco offense than we thought.

At first blush, the running game is terrible, the tight ends are non-existent, Matt Miller is only useful on deep throws, there is no red zone presence, and the screen game was so last season.

Just kidding, though. None of those things may turn out to be true once Boise State's offense steps down from Big Ten Defense Purgatory and resumes life amid the non-BCS fluff. It is easy to look at the stats and see the sky falling (really? 24 carries for 37 yards?). But the sky's not falling. It's just one week of hellfire and brimstone before sunny skies the rest of the way.

We learned that Shane Williams-Rhodes will be involved in the offense if it's the last thing Robert Prince does.

The Broncos were eager for a big play on Friday night, and they turned to the true freshman jitterbug for the solution. His closest big play was his first touch - a reverse that he ran for 10 yards into the red zone (and almost broke it for a touchdown). The rest of the Williams-Rhodes package was less efficient, but there was very clearly a Williams-Rhodes package. It will be around all year, I'd imagine.

We learned that Boise State likes Jack Fields.

Fields got one carry on the night, which is one more than backup Drew Wright. Is Fields No. 2 and Wright No. 3? However the depth chart shakes out, Fields should be seeing the ball more in upcoming games.

We learned Boise State's strategy on kickoffs.

The new kickoff rule brings touchbacks out to the 25, so the Broncos had kickeroffer Trevor Harman boot the ball as close to the goalline as he could get it. There were mixed results (same goes for Harman's punting), but the strategy seemed apparent.

We learned the Broncos can still get a pass rush

In particular, Demarcus Lawrence and Sam Ukwuachu will be disruptive players this year. The stats may not bear it out, but the eyeballs will.

Your turn

What did you learn from Boise State's loss to Michigan State? Share your thoughts in the comments.