BOISE — With hopes of a Mountain West championship greatly diminished following Saturday’s 34-31 overtime loss at San Diego State, the Boise State football team hopes to honor the senior class by finishing the regular season with a win at Bronco Stadium vs. New Mexico.
The Broncos also hope to figure out what went wrong with the offense.
Coming off one of their best offensive performances of the season in a 48-7 win Nov. 16 against Wyoming, the Broncos had a first half to forget in the loss to San Diego State.
Boise State had 49 yards of offense and four first downs in a first half that saw their five drives end with four punts and an interception. The only points in the first half came from Bryan Douglas, who had a 100-yard kick return that kept the Broncos in the game at 14-7 at the break.
“We never really got into a rhythm there until the fourth quarter when things finally started clicking a little bit,” Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick said. “It would have been nice to do that from the beginning.”
Hedrick had one of his worst statistical games since taking over for injured quarterback Joe Southwick on the Broncos’ second play from scrimmage on Oct. 19 vs. Nevada.
The junior was 5-for-11 for 39 yards and an interception in the first half. He didn’t complete his first pass until 10 minutes remained in the second quarter, two plays before the Boise State offense picked up its first first down of the game.
Hedrick finished 21-of-35 for 202 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Hedrick’s second interception was the most costly, a third-down pass near Boise State’s goal line that was returned 18 yards by San Diego State’s J.J. Whittaker to tie the game at 21-21 with 10:37 left in the fourth quarter.
“It was three and out, three and out, three and out,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “It was very, very painful, but once we started getting first downs, we really settled in a little bit. San Diego State’s got that good, awkward defense, and kind of creates some of those things. We just needed to start and play two halves.”
Boise State also failed to convert in several key short-yardage situations. The Broncos were 2-for-15 on third down attempts and were stopped on a key fourth-and-one situation late in the fourth quarter.
After San Diego State tied the game at 28 on a punt return for a touchdown with 4:04 left, the Broncos drove across midfield and had a third-and-one from the Aztecs’ 38-yard line. But Hedrick was stuffed on a keeper and Ajayi lost two yards on the fourth-down attempt, giving the ball back to San Diego State with 1:42 left to play.
“We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make,” running back Jay Ajayi said. “Maybe it was a block, maybe it was me not getting my pads lower but we just didn’t make those plays and San Diego State has a great defense. We really needed to perform tonight but we didn’t.
“It’s tough. It’s kind of heartbreaking because we had a lot of excitement about this year, but we know we still have to finish this season off strong and we still have two more games left. So, we’re just going to go back to the film room and look at what we have to improve on and finish this year off strong.”
Ajayi was one of the few bright spots for the Boise State offense, rushing for 103 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. It was his 16th rushing touchdown of the season, tying him for third on the Broncos’ single-season touchdown list.
It wasn’t enough.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how we bounce back,” Hedrick said. “I have all the faith in our guys that we’re going to come back ready to work and get ready for this next game. All we can do is control what we can and right now that’s New Mexico and we’ll get ready for that game and go from there.”