Bronco defense feels loss of departed seniors

Boise State's defense hasn't played quite to the Broncos' standard the first two weeks. Mental errors plagued the Broncos against Georgia and sloppy tackling was the biggest issue against Toledo. In both cases, the Broncos dominated much of the game but allowed a couple too-easy touchdown drives.

"The defense, they did a decent job for the most part," coach Chris Petersen said after the Toledo game. "As coaches, we care about the score but once the game is over we don't care about the score. We look at the tape and say, 'Are we playing as well as we can?' I think there was a clear consensus that we can play better."

The Broncos lost four starters to the NFL off a defense that ranked second nationally in yards allowed last year. This year, they are allowing 361 yards per game (64th) and 18 points per game (38th).

Toledo's spread offense contributed to the missed tackles last week. Tulsa brings another spread attack to Saturday's game in Boise.

"That's a little bit the nature of those spread offenses," Petersen said. "We have to play harder. We have to play with better energy. That's going to help our tackling. We can't put it on one guy's shoulder to tackle these really good athletes in space and expect that to happen all the time."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Boise State will be one of the last teams to play a home game for the second straight year. The September schedule has been the same both years - a neutral-site game on the East Coast, a bye week, a road game and a home game.

--Through two games, seven different players have made at least six catches and four have caught touchdown passes.

--Boise State has scored touchdowns on all nine of its red-zone possessions this season (a 10th possession was simply a kneel down at the end of the Georgia game) and allowed one touchdown on four opponent possessions. The opponent touchdown came with several backups on the field late in the Toledo game.

SERIES HISTORY: Boise State leads Tulsa 5-0 (last meeting, 2009, 28-21 Boise State)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Broncos' offensive efficiency isn't quite where they'd like, but they are producing. They rank 15th in the nation at 500 yards per game and sixth with 363 passing yards per game and haven't failed in the red zone yet. Still, they only rank 29th in scoring - at 37.5 points per game - because of missed opportunities between midfield and the red zone. Quarterback Kellen Moore is fourth in pass efficiency and sixth in total offense.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Toledo defused the Broncos' dominant defensive line with screens and quick throws that didn't allow the linemen to pressure the quarterback. Others likely will copy that approach, particularly since the Rockets were able to move the ball and score a couple touchdowns. Cornerback Jamar Taylor leads the team with 13 tackles.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I like their offense. They're creative. They can run the ball. They spread you out. They can do it all. Always near and dear to our hearts is somebody who can really run the ball." -- Boise State coach Chris Petersen, on Tulsa

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Tulsa at Boise State, Sept. 24, Bronco Stadium (Boise) -- The Hurricane nearly stunned the Broncos in 2009 in Tulsa, where the Broncos escaped with a 28-21 win. They'll be hard-pressed to repeat that performance on the blue turf after enduring a grueling three-week stretch. The Hurricane already have faced Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and their game with the Cowboys last week didn't kick off until after midnight. Plus, Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne is questionable with a knee injury.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Tulsa, which is 112th in total defense at 480.3 yards per game, will have to find a way to slow down quarterback Kellen Moore and the Broncos' dynamic passing attack. Moore, who hurt opponents with the deep ball last year, has adjusted to short and intermediate throws because that's the strength of his receiving corps.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

RB Doug Martin -- He hasn't put up big numbers in the run game -- he has 127 yards -- but he also has a team-high 147 receiving yards and averages 26 yards per kickoff return.

WR Tyler Shoemaker -- He has four of the Broncos' eight touchdown catches, including three last week. He is the favored target in the red zone.

DE's Shea McClellin and Tyrone Crawford -- They are tied for the team lead with 2.5 sacks each. They are also tied for second in overall tackles with 10 each.

ROSTER REPORT

--Sophomore Spencer Gerke is listed as the starter at left guard but Joe Kellogg is expected to play. Kellogg missed last week's game with an injury.

--Fullback Dan Paul remains week to week with a groin injury and backup Chandler Koch is getting closer to a return, but the coaches are looking at other options. Defensive players Mike Atkinson, Tyrone Crawford and Tommy Smith have appeared on offense at times this year.

--Senior Cedric Febis is back in the starter's role this week. He didn't start last week because he was working with the second team while his eligibility was reviewed.




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