There was a LOT to unpack from the UCF loss, but I’m going to attempt to do so so we can move on to UTEP. Well, so I can anyway. I’ve broken things down into a “good” pile and a “bad” pile for your reference.
- Boise State seemed to have developed good depth at key positions, but showed on Thursday that that might not be the case. With George Holani AGAIN out of the lineup, the Broncos struggled mightily to run the ball...to the tune of 1.6 yards per carry on the evening and a frankly embarrassing 20 rushing yards. Khalil Shakir was again incredible...but was on a limited snap count as he recovers from a minor injury and when he wasn’t in the game...crickets. Furthermore, OG Jake Stetz left the game in the 2nd quarter and the O-line visibly struggled after his departure. I’m glad we’ve got these awesome players, but the drop-off is MASSIVE when they can’t go. That’s puzzling.
- Boise State was outrushed (remember those 20 yards) by 230 yards on Thursday, as UCF rolled up 250 yards on the ground, with 170 of those yards coming from Northwestern transfer Isaiah Bowser. This poured a LOT of cold water on the idea that a defensive-minded coach was going to have our defense tighter than a snare drum.
- 3rd quarter play calling was some of the most baffling I’ve ever seen, as Boise State ran time after time after time when they a) needed to generate some offense to keep the defense off the field, and b) score some points to keep a buffer between themselves and the Knights. Tim Plough admitted yesterday that he “regretted” the play calling in the 3rd quarter, but it certainly begs the question of “why” the deviation was made when the early game play calling was so solid. Plough was billed as running a wide open, frenetic offense. We saw flashes...but saw the familiar brake-pumping and conservative stretches that we got a bit TOO accustomed to the last few seasons.
- The D-line was probably the most hyped up unit through spring and fall camps, but failed to get a consistent push on the admittedly big and experienced UCF front. Some guys like Scale Igiehon were somewhat limited, but again...that was supposed to be a really solid and very deep unit...let’s hope that was some first game rust.
- Linebacker play just isn’t good enough...yet. I’m going to go with a growth-mindset here and state that the LBs CAN get where they need to be, but right now...the tackling and discipline probably aren’t where anyone would like them to be. We’ve got some good depth finally at the positions, but it’s very inexperienced. They’ll need time to come along, so in the meantime the seniors will need to make more stops.
- Hank. Sweet Hank. Bronco Nation wants SO badly for him to take the next step and at times he looks like he has, but it’s time for the junior to put on the cape. His game wasn’t terrible—263 yards, 2 TDs and a 64% completion rate...but the late game INT effectively sealed the game for the Knights and unfortunately will be what many remember from the evening. No one expects perfection from Hank, but he’ll need a 300 yarder now and again when the run game is exposed. Here’s hoping.
- JL Skinner looks like he’s really improved and set to become the enforcer everyone thought he could be. He had a couple of misses early, but rebounded nicely and led the team with 13 tackles, a PBU, and a highlight reel hit on Dillon Gabriel...ouch.
- Khalil Shakir is ridiculous. Guy was limited to 20 snaps, but had 91 receiving yards and 2 TDs. He also added a 7 yard rush, which ended up being one of the longer of the game. Give him another 5 receptions and that might have been a different ending.
- Joel Velazquez was booming. JV has had a stunning turnaround from early in his career when shanks were more common that bombs, but he was great on Thursday...flipping the field for the Broncos when they kept finding themselves too deep in their own territory. He had a 50.7 average with a long of 62.
- We talked about the bad/strange part of Tim Plough’s first game, and 283 yards is definitely NOT going to cut it...but early on, the Ploughfense showed signs it might work. 10 different receivers caught a ball on Thursday evening and the tempo definitely looked like it was confusing the UCF defense—until it didn’t.
- Isaiah Bagnah might just be the pass rusher we’ve been looking for. The RS sophomore racked up two sacks in the contest and would obviously be very welcome if he decides to keep doing that.
- Hank took zero sacks on Thursday night. I wish he’d taken no hits as well, but we’ll take small victories. Broncos “outsacked” UCF 3-0.
- Stef Cobbs looks like he’s ready to do some work. He had 63 yards on just 4 receptions and definitely looked dangerous with the ball in his hands (the good kind of dangerous). Now, let’s just rediscover that deep ball.
- This won’t seem like a good one, but the Broncos played far from their best game and got murdered in a few key categories but still had opportunities to win the game. That hasn’t necessarily been the case in the past. Clean up the mistakes, keep the foot on the pedal, and things should go our way more often than not.
- The Broncos didn’t quit. Salting away a 21 point lead is never fun, but the team kept swinging and the overall vibe of the team is still one that cares deeply about one another, believes in one another, and know they can still accomplish their goals.
- Tyric LeBeauf now accounts for about 1/6th of all the interceptions that Dillion Gabriel has thrown in his entire career. He and Reed will get better as the season goes on.
- 2-0 UTEP coming to town on Friday. Broncos have another opportunity to get right before Oklahoma State comes to town.