Key players have missed time, but through four games the play of the Boise State Broncos defense has been pretty close to outstanding.
Offenses get the attention, especially when clicking — and games aren’t 45-42 — and it’s easy to overlook the play of a team’s defense. We try not to do it. Sometimes, with Brett Rypien tossing darts and receivers making highlight-reel plays, the defense of the Boise State Broncos can be an afterthought.
Time to put those thoughts to rest.
The spring and summer months brought comparisons of the 2018 defensive players to great units of Bronco past. A defensive line that could rotate in and out four players at a time. A seasoned secondary plus talented linebackers and greatness was expected.
Four games in and, while not exactly evoking images of the past, this unit has been an above average mesh of swagger, speed, and little regard for opposing team’s quarterbacks.
Led by the defensive line, the Broncos have 14 sacks through four games. Outside of the game against Oklahoma State (t44 points), Boise State has allowed only 41 points (13.6 per game). Even in the 44-point game, special teams played a part in the score.
Six turnovers have been forced by Boise State, but the turnover throne has been relatively player-free as of late. Four of those turnovers came in the opener against Troy. The Broncos did collect one in their victory over Wyoming, on a muffed punt.
Defensive coordinator Andy Avalos and the Broncos take special pride in a strong run defense. It’s back again this season, with the Broncos holding opponents to 125.8 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. These stats are very similar to last season’s final numbers of 120.2 yards and 3.4 yards per carry.
Even Wyoming managed only 295 yards of offense (147 of which that came on two plays).
This and they haven’t played with all their starters together yet.
The whole squad
One of the great things Boise State has built for 2018 is great depth on the defensive side. A good thing, considering some of the top players who have missed time in the early going.
Standout defensive tackle David Moa has only seen action in the Oklahoma State game. And senior cornerback Tyler Horton has missed the last two games.
Both are all-conference players, notable absences who are missed. However, their absences have allowed others to step up.
Jabril Frazier, who has three sacks, was seen in street clothes on the sideline during the second half of the Wyoming game.
Players like Durrant Miles (3 sacks) and Curtis Weaver, along with Sonatane Liu and Matt Locher have continued to solidify the wall that is the run defense. DeAndre Pierce and Kekoa Nawahine both lend excellent support in this aspect, leading the team in tackles with 23 and 21.
Jalen Walker has filled in for Horton. And Avery Williams has continued to play with an injured elbow he hurt in the opening game.
Linebacker Tyson Maeva also missed a game, with players like Benton Wickersham and Tony Lashley filling in for him.
Getting these players back on the field, coupled with the experience others have gained, will help this defense get even better. They’ll face a run-heavy offense this week against San Diego State. The Aztecs will be missing their top runner. Much like the Broncos, the Aztecs always seem to have the next-great-runner already in place.
If the Broncos continue to allow less than 15 points per game, this defense will have earned the right to be mentioned as one of the all-time greats at Boise State.
We’ll be waiting.