Righting Some Wrongs

Boise State and Southern Mississippi, two of the most successful programs outside of the top-hyped six conferences over the last ten yeaers, will tangle tonight on the Blue. Each is looking to build momentum after an early-season disappointment.

Two teams with high hopes for 2007 have both experienced disappointment—Boise State was upset by Washington in the second game of the season while Southern Mississippi fell to Tennessee.

Tonight's game provides the victor a chance to elevate their season outlook with a 3-1 record. The loser will drop to an even 2-2. To say the game is a key to how their season will go is an understatement.

Southern Mississippi coach Jeff Bower is 114-78-1 in 17 years at the helm of the Golden Eagles.

The two teams are nearly even in offensive production, with Boise State averaging an even 30 points a game and Southern Mississippi 27.3. The Broncos have generated 420 yards of total offense in three games thus far; Southern Miss 389.7. Rushing and passing numbers are also close.

Boise State hopes their defensive prowess extends into the game this evening. The Broncos are allowing just 80.7 rushing yards a game (14th in the nation), 249.7 total yards (10th in the nation) and 169 passing yards (20th in the country). The Boise State "D" is allowing just 15 points a game, good for 15th in Division I-A. The Golden Eagles are allowing 120.7 yards on the ground, 221.3 in the air and a total of 342 yards per game. Southern Mississippi has given up an average of 24.3 points over three games to rank 57th in that category.

Both teams feature senior quarterbacks; Taylor Tharpe leads the Bronco attack (58-96 for 651 yards and three touchdowns) while Jeremy Young (48-90 for 606 and three touchdowns) goes for the Golden Eagles. While Tharpe has a slight edge in passing, Young has the upper hand in running, accounting for 123 yards and three TD's.

Although Ian Johnson has been productive in three games (62 rushes for 292 yards and three touchdowns), he is far off the pace set in the 2006 season. Jeremy Avery's 8.1 yards per carry leads all Bronco running backs, while D.J. Harper (The Texas Tornado) has been impressive as well. Sophomore Damion Fletcher (5-10, 175) is the workhorse in the backfield for the Golden Eagles with 304 yards and a nice 5.3 ypc average.

Jeremy Childs has been the only star among the Bronco receivers thus far with 18 catches for 242 yards. It is crucial for other wideouts such as Vinny Perretta, Austin Pettis, Titus Young, Tanyon Bissell and Toshi Franklin to get untracked. Chris Johnson (116 catches for 224 yards and two TD's) is Young's favorite target, although freshman Torris Magee (6-2, 204) and tight end Shawn Nelson (6-5, 240, Jr.) will also figure prominently. Magee has nine grabs for 117 yards while Nelson has eight catches for 122 and a touchdown.

Middle linebacker Gerald McRath (6-3, 220, So.) has exploded for 39 tackles, 3.5 for loss in the three games for Coach Bower. He was named to several Freshman All-America teams last year after being credited with 104 tackles and 11 for loss in just nine starts. Free Safety Eddie Hicks (6-2, 185, So.) has two interceptions to go with 23 tackles. Other stars for the Golden Eagles on defense include rover LeVance Richmond (5-11, 197, Sr.) with 23 tackles, cornerback Brandon Sumrall (5-11, 195, Sr.) with 20 stops and linebacker Tokumbo Abanikanda (6-0, 217, Jr.) with 16 tackles including 2.5 behind the line.

Many, many teams would like to be in the Broncos' position where they feel disappointed with just one loss, but that's the way it is in Broncoland. High expectations come with the territory. The Boise State players know they didn't play well in Seattle, and not much better against Wyoming. How they play tonight could very well carry them the rest of the way.

The noise factor will be huge tonight. Wyoming coach Joe Glenn incorrectly assumed that the deafening noise last week was the result of "piped-in crowd noise". The noise was in fact real and in fact was from actual people, 30,000-plus. It won't get any easier for Southern Mississippi tonight with the game sold-out weeks in advance.

Tonight's game is slated for 5:46 and is nationally televised on ESPN. Chris Fowler, Craig James and Doug Flutie will announce the game.

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