BOISE — By normal standards, Boise State’s offense is performing at an average level.
By the Broncos’ standards, these are dark times.
With a yardage output per game that ranks 88th, a scoring average that is 66th and a passing attack on pace for its lowest total since the Clinton administration, the numbers don’t seem to lie.
Always one to stamp down talk of statistics, there is one that concerns coach Chris Petersen.
“I thought we’d score more points,” Petersen said. “That’s the really the only stat we should care about. Should we score more points? Yeah.”
Boise State is averaging 27.4 points per game, which if it continues, would be the lowest — by a touchdown — since Petersen arrived in Boise as offensive coordinator in 2001.
There is a litany of reasons why the Broncos have been unable to rack up points like in years past, one being tougher defenses on the slate (BYU, Michigan State and Fresno State are in the top 25 in total defense).
“We’re going into week 16 of the season if you include fall camp and all that, we’re a long way into this to be waiting to take that next step … but I know we have the capability,” offensive line coach Chris Strausser said. “We’ve had some games against some really good defenses where we haven’t played to the level that is expected around here, what we’ve done in the past.”
The Broncos have scored on 76 percent of their red-zone visits, tied for 89th nationally, and are averaging 5.6 yards per play, tied for 49th. Over the previous six seasons, the Broncos had averaged 6.5 yards per play, never finishing worse than 17th in the nation in that metric.
“It’s obviously frustrating when you’ve got to send the punt team out there quite a few times, and we haven’t had to do that a lot in the past,” junior receiver Kirby Moore said.
Perhaps the most notable difference this season is the fact that Moore’s older brother, Kellen, is not behind center. Junior Joe Southwick, who Petersen said “at times, he’s played really well,” has thrown for 1,842 yards, is completing 65.5 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Broncos are on pace for 2,736 yards passing, including a bowl game, which would be the worst since 1998, when they threw for 2,711 yards in 11 games.
The Broncos also lost their top receiver in Tyler Shoemaker, lineman Nate Potter was taken by the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL draft, and running back Doug Martin went in the first round to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We haven’t had what we had in the past — I think it’s fair to say we don’t have the same team, not that we’re not as good as what we were in the past, it’s just a different set of guys,” receiver Chris Potter said.
Still, the Broncos are happy. They’re 7-2, no doubt buoyed by a defense that has created 24 turnovers and is giving up only 14.4 points per game.
Boise State’s final three games could give the Broncos a chance to look like the blue and orange of old. Hawaii, Colorado State and Nevada are all giving up 31.9 points per game or more. Three times this season, the Broncos have gained more than 400 yards, and are averaging nearly 39 points in those games.
Petersen said the play calls are solid, and “it isn’t just any one thing.” The word “details” comes up in every conversation. The Broncos feel with a better block here, a cleaner route there, one big play here and a tighter pass there, the offense will start clicking.
“We’re right there, and I think it’s going to be good once we finally hit it,” Potter said. “We’ve had glimpses of it.”