5 – Three-and-outs by the USU offense
Utah State had 13 offensive drives in this game. In order to beat Boise State offensively, the Aggies would have needed a touchdown and extra point on six of those drives. Instead, they had five drives result in a three-and-out, and two result in what I’ll call a four-and-out (picking up a first down on the first play then following it with a three-and-out). On the five drives in which the Aggies were able to play more than four offensive snaps, the average drive length was 45.4 yards. It’s very clear that one of the most important things in David Yost’s fast-paced, methodical offense is rhythm, and once the Aggies get into a rhythm things click beautifully. This makes the first three or four plays on every drive so much more important than many people realize. But hey! At least Aaron Dalton got some practice in!
7.3 – Average distance-to-go on third down
The Aggies played 17 third down snaps against Boise State, and if you were to average it out, the distance-to-go that the they faced on third down was 7.3 yards. When you break this down and take away the two biggest outliers (a 34 yard first down play and a 57 yard second down play), the Aggies average first down pickup was 3.64 yards, while their average 2nd down pickup was 1.9 yards. My initial reaction to this was that the Aggie must be somewhat predictable on offense. However, I’m really not sure that’s the case. On first down, they ran the ball 15 times and passed 11. On second down, they passed 11 times and ran eight. There really is a pretty even, unpredictable distribution of the ball. Whether it is discipline, focus, or play calling, first and second down execution needs to improve in order to win games.
2.8 – Yards per carry for Boise State
Here’s your one positive for this column, Aggie fans. To be entirely honest though, it’s not THAT much of a positive, it’s just the best that I could find. After giving up 300 rushing yards in the first half of the UNLV game, the USU run defense seems to be at least somewhat figuring things out as of late. They held the Rebels to just 75 second-half rushing yards in that game, and allowed Boise State to gain just 2.8 yards per carry. Boise State averages 3.65 yards per carry on the season, and just about any team in college football would tell you that their goal is to average four or better. BUT, as Matt Wells will gladly tell you (as he quite adamantly told the media this week), stopping the run and stopping the pass are not separate things, they’re both just part of defense. And in that regard, the USU defense was atrocious. The Broncos picked up 370 passing yards, averaging 10.9 yards per attempt and 15.4 yards per completion. Let that sink in for a second. Their average pickup per ATTEMPT was a first down. On top of that, they completed 71 percent of their passes. If nothing else, it should be interesting to see how a run defense that is coming together at least a little bit handles the triple-option attacks of New Mexico and Air Force.
72 – Penalty yards by Utah State
The Aggies gave away 72 yards on seven penalties against Boise State. This isn’t a number that is overly excessive, and it’s not a stat that would jump out as a huge difference maker to someone who is just looking over the box score. But it was a very impactful number in this game. Let’s take a look at just a few of these:
- Utah State has their first offensive drive of the game, already down 7-0. They pick up a first down, Love has completed a couple of nice looking passes. After a loss of one on first down, they’re slapped with a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, turning it from 2nd-and-11 to 2nd-and-26. They pick up five yards and punt.
- Beginning of the second quarter, Utah State is trailing 14-7. The USU defense is trying to force a three-and-out to get the offense back on the field for a chance to tie it up. It’s 3rd-and-4 and Cozart checks in at QB. Cozart overthrows his receiver, but pass interference is called on the Aggies to give Boise State 15 yards and a first down. They go on to score a touchdown and go up 21-7.
- Next drive – Utah State gets the ball back, a touchdown can still certainly keep them in the game. Kent Myers is in at quarterback and marches the offense 31 yards down the field into Bronco territory. It’s 4th-and-1 on the Boise State 44-yard line, and Wells, confident in what he was seeing from the offense, elects to go for it. The Aggies line up for what will be the biggest play of the game to that point, and an offensive lineman flinches. Offsides. Now it’s 4th-and-6 and USU punts it away.