BOISE, Idaho — Boise State safety Darian Thompson insists he and his teammates aren’t dwelling on the latest defeat, and instead are focused on the most fundamental of goals — the Mountain West Conference crown.
Despite last Friday’s 37-20 loss at BYU, Boise State (5-3, 3-1) is still perched atop the Mountain Division and in position to solidify its grip on the standings with a visit to third place Colorado State (4-4, 2-1) on Saturday.
Yet the road hasn’t been kind to the Broncos this season, with all three losses coming away from Bronco Stadium. In the opener, then-No. 19 Boise State suffered its worst defeat during the eight-year tenure of head coach Chris Petersen. Three weeks later the Broncos lost a heartbreaker at Fresno State, and against BYU, the Broncos were simply outclassed, the victim of too many self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities.
The three losses are the most since the 2007 season, and Thompson acknowledged the mood of the team has been down. At the same time, Thompson said everyone knows the BYU loss was out of conference and not a factor when it comes to crowning a league champion.
Morale “is kind of down, but we’re trying to pick it up,” Thompson said. “We don’t lose very often, when we do we take it to heart. So we’re trying to look past it and get ready to go. It wasn’t really a conference game and our goal is still manageable.”
So is fixing the mistakes that proved so costly Friday night, Petersen said.
The BYU offense took full advantage of Boise State’s poor tackling and miscues in the secondary. On offense, the missed red zone opportunities and turnovers ended promising scoring drives. The Broncos coughed up the ball three times and quarterback Grant Hedrick threw an interception in his first career start.
In recent years, the Broncos have taken full advantage of other team’s problems with ball security. This year, the tables have turned, in part Petersen suggested Monday due to younger players trying to do too much. Through eight games, the Broncos have put the ball on the ground seven times, tossed eight interceptions, while on defense failing to force the other team into mistakes. Boise State’s turnover margin this week is -0.1, 76th worst in the nation.
Running back Jay Ajayi, a sophomore averaging 114 yards per game, had his third lost fumble of the season. And receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes, also a sophomore and key contributor in the passing game, ended a drive with a fumble. In both cases, Petersen said the ball popped loose in an effort to eke out a few more yards at the end of the play.
The message in practice this week will be emphasizing no turnover is worth a few extra yards.
“I don’t think guys should be reaching for one more yard,” Petersen said. “Bad things happen. I think you should find a crease and hit it. And that always starts with us as coaches.”
Petersen also said starting safety Dillon Lukeheart, tied for fifth on the defense with 35 tackles, will miss the first half of the Colorado State game after being ejected against BYU for targeting a ball carrier.