BOISE - The No. 3 Boise State Broncos' daunting offense ground to a halt Saturday night, stymied by a developing, dynamic defense.
The only scoring drives the offense managed in its final fall scrimmage were in Red-Zone situations, started at the 25-yard line. Even those drives had to be finished with quarterback runs on the goalline, by Michael Coughlin and Joe Southwick.
"For whatever reason, we weren't playing our best football," Kellen Moore said. "It will look a lot cleaner in two weeks. It's a missed block, a missed throw by me, it's just little things you clean up and it looks a lot prettier."
Junior defensive end Shea McClellin made four sacks in the game to lead a depleted defense (five starters did not play).
"Shea's a nightmare," Michael Coughlin joked. McClellin grounded Coughlin twice; he got Joe Southwick twice also.
"That guy's like Clark Kent," Chris Petersen said. "You don't even see him, he's got his head down in a corner, but when he's on the field, that cape comes on and he's a good player."
All-WAC defender Ryan Winterswyk didn't play at end in the scrimmage, but should be ready for the season, along with almost all of the Broncos out Saturday. Petersen said almost all were day-to-day.
Petersen said the offensive struggles were partially to blame on the massive workload unleashed upon his squad during camp.
"There's just so much there," Petersen said. "We've got guys who've been around here for awhile, but it's still just a lot. Now we have to get more detailed. It's splits for wide receivers, hand placement for O-linemen, that's the next step we gotta take."
The next few weeks will see the offense load up its game plan for Virginia Tech, but for now, the offense is just slammed by it own playbook. It doesn't game plan against its own defense. The offense is just running its own plays, to see how they function on the field. The scrimmage is little more than an experiment, with results to be culled from film.
A massive dust and lightning storm blew through Boise Saturday night, casting a shroud over Bronco Stadium, effectively dimming the stadium lights. The swirling winds made aerial aspects of the game a challenge. Some passes went awry and only one field goal scored true. All kicks were attempted by walk-on true freshman Dan Goodale from Timberline High in Boise. All the other placekickers (3) have minor injuries.
For being the No. 3 team in the nation, the Broncos sure stumbled through another scrimmage. The bizarre thing? The offense ran like clockwork. There were few procedure calls and turnovers. The motion and mind tricks looked like they'd work, but you can only mindtrick a defense so many times before it catches on. The BSU defense simply caught up to the phantasmagoric schema of its offense. Frankly, the defense achieves its goals, with emotion and an eager competition on the 2-deep roster.
The defensive, offensive line, receivers, safeties and backs rotated throughout, as expected, but gamers broke loose.
Travis Stanaway is a wonder, starting the scrimmage at strong safety in place of Jeron Johnson, who also is day-to-day. Stanaway came up three times Saturday to make tackles, missed one to Doug Martin's slashing stride.
There is a clear reason why sports clichés consistently pop up. They are simply, consistently true.
"Some days offense beats up on us and some days we beat up on them," sophomore linebacker J.C. Percy said. "Winston [Venable] always preaches, 'what are you going to do today to get better?' That attitude we bring to practice, that's going to help us."
Large goals are built upon small ones.
"We're just trying to be dominant and take steps toward that in every practice," McClellin (6-3, 254) said. "The coaches expect us to be just as good as the starters are."
It will be hard to keep the Marsing native out of that starting slot, especially after four sacks in the scrimmage. Yet, still, there are eight linemen who can (and probably will) start for this defense.
McClellin also hems a hybrid yawp. He slips back to linebacker to make a 3-2-6. Linebacker is native to Shea, his role for Marsing High. He's humble, quiet, kind and willing to split his winnings.
"It's not just for me, but the entire defense," McClellin said. "If any guy can get a sack or force a turnover, it's good for all of us; it picks us up."
Geraldo Hiwat made two catches today in the wind that were completely up for grabs. His hands hauled in an 11-yarder with a circus spin, three touches and a first down. His second gem got caught in the wind, so he stopt and leapt high to bring it down.
Tyler Shoemaker caught an 8-yard pass along the sideline at full speed a-leap, but stamped his foot down perfectly in bounds, then out to stop the clock. The play took 4 seconds.
"We've seen flashes, but it's gotta be more than flashes," Petersen said. "Those guys have to be able to really play. We gotta get those guys dialed in on the splits and catching passes."
Titus Young missed the scrimmage, but Petersen implied Young was not injured, just held out. Dynamo. A handful of Broncos are homerun threats, but Young can score in his sleep.
Miller sits with heel
Matt Miller, a true freshman receiver from Helena, Mont., touted as the best to ever come down from the Big Sky, tore his Achilles tendon in practice this week and will miss the entire 2010 season. He is questionable for spring practices. He tore the tendon on an innocuous play, untouched by another player.
"The good thing about Matt, now, is that he's seen everything, he's heard everything," Petersen said. "Even if he's not full-speed, we'll have him involved. He will progress through spring football."
A practice dedicated mostly to special teams will be held this week.
"When it's windy, everything changes," Petersen said. "We gotta get some experience in that."
Mitch Burroughs returned a punt for a touchdown and dropped a surefire score from Southwick; it hit him square in the chest.
Chase Baker blocked 40-yard field goal try by Goodale
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