Last weekend the Bronco defense gave up 476 yards against Ball State including 318 yards in the air. Dante Ridgeway personally torched the Broncos for 217 yards on 9 catches. Three weekends ago the Broncos were lit up by Virginia Tech for 63 points and gave up 487 yards with 332 coming through the air.
The Broncos have had almost as much trouble stopping the run as they have the pass. The Broncos allowed 155 rushing yards to Virginia Tech and another 158 yards to Ball State. Surprisingly this is an improvement of last season when the Broncos gave up 179.7 yards per game on the ground last season.
The Bronco defense started out well in the first quarter of the Ball State game allowing only 3 points to the Cardinals on 3 drives. "I thought we came out the first two series and really played well," said defensive coordinator J.C. Harper. "Three and out the first two series and we really felt good about what we were doing and our game plan."
The floodgates opened when Brady Hoke replaced starting quarterback Joey Lynch with true freshman Cole Stinson after the first two drives. Stinson finished the game with 294 of the teams passing yards and three touchdown passes to Ridgeway. "Stinson really came in and ignited their group," said Harper. "Coach Hoke said earlier in the week they were going to learn how to protect [the quarterback]… They did that.
"I'm disappointed. I thought we would have played better. I think the effort was there and they wanted to do well. I think that Stinson and Ridgeway connected and that's what happened."
Harper doesn't feel the Broncos were caught off guard with how well the Cardinal offense played after only scoring a single touchdown previously in the season. "Ridgeway was doing what he's been doing and doing it even better," said Harper. "I don't think there was anything that was new or a surprise."
The Broncos are using this well-timed week off to get back to basics, rest and get to where the team needs to be in order to compete in the MAC. "We have some bumps and bruises that you would normally have at this time of the year," said Harper. "We will make the corrections that we need to make."
Harper doesn't think there is a need for a change in what is practiced before taking on Toledo. "One week's no different the another week and we need to go out there and continue doing the things we do well and continue to work on the things we don't," added Harper. "We're going to work and find the right combination [of people] that will do the things we need to do to win."
Harper did concede that there is one area that will have to play better to start winning games again. "The secondary, our safeties and our corners, we need to really improve there. I think after the Virginia Tech game we made some real improvements and after the Illinois game. You have to get better at what you're doing… You line them up and the players have got to make plays."
The team won't be doing anything drastically different in order to effect the improvements necessary to compete but will simply keep working. "I'm the same," said Harper, "and those guys expect me to be the same. We're going to go out there practicing and to keep doing what we have been doing." There won't be any different work ethic but rather a focus on just playing better football.
Defense, A Work in Progress
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