Van Buren

Van Buren

Boise State running back Andrew Van Buren reaches the ball across the goal line for a touchdown against Wyoming on Saturday at Albertsons Stadium.

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BOISE — The Boise State football team ranks No. 9 nationally in red zone scoring percentage at 93.6 percent. On 47 trips into the red zone the Broncos have come away with points on 44 of them.

Pretty good, right? Definitely.

But a deeper look inside the numbers show Boise State’s overall red zone success is not nearly as good. On the 47 trips inside the 20 yard line, the Broncos have scored touchdowns just 26 times — a rate of just 55.3 percent which ranks No. 93 of 130 FBS teams.

The Broncos (6-4, 4-2 MW) have had to settle for field goals 18 times in the red zone (38.3 percent), which is the sixth-highest field goal rate of any team in the country.

“It hasn’t been good enough,” Boise State offensive coordinator Tim Plough said Monday of their play in the red zone. “Especially the last two weeks for sure. You look at our red zone trips, we’re at (47) on the season so obviously we are moving the ball the way we want to but obviously we’re not finishing those drives.”

The Broncos have scored touchdowns on 50 percent or less of red zone trips in four of the past five games. That includes just two touchdowns on four trips to the red zone last week against Wyoming, and four touchdowns on eight trips into the red zone two weeks ago at Fresno State.

“It starts on first down and getting behind the sticks too much which is putting us in second and long and third and long,” Plough said. “Third and long from the 10 (yard line) is even more difficult. We have to do a better job on early downs when we get down there of just being efficient.

“We had some things set up this past week, some screens that look promising, but we just didn’t finish them correctly. They could have been touchdowns.”

Field goals are better than no points at all in the red zone, so the Broncos are at least to be commended for that. To be 10 games into the season and for the Broncos to have come away with nothing just three times in the red zone is rather remarkable.

And none of the three came due to turnovers.

Boise State got stopped on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line against UTEP, had a potential game-winning 36-yard field goal blocked against Oklahoma State and couldn’t score on 4th-and-goal from the two against Air Force when they mistakenly only had 10 players on the field for the play.

Boise State coach Andy Avalos said Monday the coaching staff spent extra time over the weekend focusing on the red zone struggles thanks to the Broncos playing Wyoming last Friday night. He said ‘confidence and mentality’ are the two biggest keys he sees to success in the red zone.

“We have to keep the rhythm as we move,” Avalos said. “Last week early on in the game we were able to get the offense in rhythm and get going down the field pretty quickly with the run game and pass game. And then we get in there (in the red zone) and we as coaches have to keep the offense in rhythm.”

Avalos said the last two weeks Fresno State and Wyoming used different defensive schemes in the red zone against the Broncos than they had in the previous games.

“We have to be able to adjust to those things on fly,” Avalos said.

Boise State’s lack of success in the red zone has cost them multiple games this season. The Broncos scored just one touchdown on three trips to the red zone against Oklahoma State in a 21-20 loss. They also had just two touchdowns in four chances against Air Force in a close 24-17 loss.

The Broncos rank 59th nationally in scoring offense at 29.7 points per game. But a little more success in the red zone would have that number much higher – and might have them another win or two on the season.

“It’s definitely an area we have to improve on here as we finish the season,” Plough said.

LOBOS UP NEXT FOR SENIOR NIGHT

Boise State will host New Mexico (3-7) on Saturday at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 for Senior Night. The Broncos will honor 24 seniors prior to the game, although some of them likely will return as ‘super seniors’ in 2022. Boise State has won 20 of its last 21 games on Senior Night. The Broncos then finish the regular season at San Diego State on Black Friday (Nov. 26) at 10 a.m.

B.J. Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013 and is a three-time winner of the NSMA Idaho Sportswriter of the Year Award. He appears on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket every Friday at 4 p.m. for the Blue Turf Sports report.

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