D.J. Harper had a career day with 183 offensive yards and four touchdowns and Joe Southwick recorded his first 300-yard passing game to lead Boise State to a 39-12 win over Miami (OH) in the Broncos’ home opener Saturday afternoon.
Two weeks after the Broncos failed to get their offense moving, recording just 206 yards of total offense and failing to score an offensive touchdown for the first time in fifteen years, Boise State piled up 599 yards of offense and broke open a tight game with four straight touchdowns over the 2nd and 3rd quarters.
Harper did most of the damage early on as he made a diving catch in the back of the end zone for Boise State’s first offensive touchdown of the season and then took a direct snap for the two-point conversion. He would add a rushing touchdown late in the first half to give the Broncos a lead they would not relinquish. Two more scores in the 3rd quarter put the game out of reach.
The Bronco defense that played valiantly in the season opener against Michigan State, yet allowed Spartans’ star Le’Veon Bell to rack up over 200 yards rushing, was brilliant in this one. The RedHawks managed only 227 yards of total offense and the only touchdown the Broncos allowed came on the heels of a turnover forced by Miami deep in Boise State’s own territory.
The pass rush consistently harassed RedHawks’ quarterback Zac Dysert and never allowed the running game to get going, holding Miami to 49 yards rushing and only 2.1 yards per attempt. DeMarcus Lawrence showed why he is such an exciting young prospect as he racked up 2.5 sacks and kept pressure on Dysert throughout the game.
The Bronco secondary allowed only one play that went longer than 18 yards and cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Bryan Douglas tackled well on the outside. The defense did not force a turnover but they played aggressively and kept Dysert from getting into a rhythm.
It was not a perfect performance by any estimation, however, as the Broncos failed to capitalize on some early opportunities and made some untimely mistakes. Senior linebacker J.C. Percy dropped a would-be interception on Miami’s first play and the Broncos had two turnovers and a missed field goal among their first four offensive possessions.
Harper took it upon himself to pick the team up and Southwick got more confident and showed promise as the game wore on. He looked like the composed fourth-year quarterback many expected him to be, yet had not seen throughout the opening game and the 1st quarter on Saturday. Along with a solid defensive performance, the veteran running back and quarterback were able to turn it on and ultimately blow the RedHawks away.
Miami got the ball first and moved the ball out near midfield before being forced to punt. The Broncos responded with an 11-play drive that moved the ball from their own 20-yard line inside the RedHawks’ 10-yard line. After connecting on his first four passes of the drive, Southwick missed a wide-open Holden Huff with an overthrow in the end zone before forcing a pass in to Matt Miller that was intercepted by Miami linebacker Pat Hinkel.
The RedHawks went three plays and out and a poor punt set the Broncos up at their 45-yard line. Harper dashed for 20 yards on the first play of the drive and Southwick found freshman tight end Hayden Plinke for 14 more yards. Harper snuck out of the backfield and Southwick connected with him on a nice throw and catch for a 21-yard score to put the Broncos on the board. Seeing something on Miami’s previous game film, the Broncos lined up in a spread formation on the extra-point attempt and Harper took a direct snap, following his blockers in for two more points to make the score 8-0.
Miami responded with a nice drive, converting a pair of 3rd downs and ultimately setting themselves up for a 45-yard field goal from Kaleb Patterson to cut the lead to 8-3 in the first minute of the 2nd quarter. Boise State moved the ball well on the ensuing drive but came away empty as senior kicker Michael Frisina could not connect from 35-yards out.
After allowing Miami to convert a pair of 1st downs, the Broncos stiffened as Lawrence came up with the sack on 3rd down near midfield, forcing another RedHawks punt. Dysert’s quick kick on 4th down rolled down the field and out of bounds at the 8-yard line.
On Boise State’s first play of the next drive, freshman Jack Fields coughed up the ball on a hit by Jaytee Swanson and Hinkle recovered at the 9-yard line, giving Miami their best field position of the afternoon. On 3rd down, Miami took a page out of Boise State’s playbook as they ran a halfback pass and Spencer Treadwell found a wide-open Andy Cruse for a 2-yard touchdown reception. The two-point attempt failed, leaving the score 9-8 with under five minutes to play in the half.
Southwick took over and found Miller for 13 yards on the first play of the next drive. It looked like the drive might stall as the Broncos took a personal foul penalty when fullback Dan Paul was flagged for finishing his block well after the whistle. Instead, Southwick threw a beautiful pass that found a streaking Aaron Burks downfield and the 53-yard connection set the Broncos up at the Miami 9-yard line. Miller caught a ball over the middle and stretched for the end zone but was marked down at the 1-yard line. Harper took a pitch and went in untouched on the next play to give the Broncos a 15-9 lead.
After moving the ball well in the first half, the Broncos were frustrated to only put two scores on the board. The two turnovers and missed field goal added up to a potential 17-point swing. Knowing they would have to clean things up in the 2nd half, the Broncos took the ball first after halftime and methodically moved down the field.
Harper ran four times for 33 yards and Southwick completed all three of his passes on the efficient drive. It culminated in Harper taking a pitch from Chris Potter and scoring from 14-yards out to push Boise State’s lead to 22-9.
Boise State’s defense again stiffened up near midfield and a nice open-field tackle by Douglas set up Miami with a 4th and one at the 50-yard line. In an ultra-conservative move, the RedHawks chose to punt, downing the Broncos inside their own 10-yard line but failing to capitalize on one of their only remaining scoring chances of the afternoon.
Seizing the momentum and sensing they had the RedHawks on the ropes, the Broncos began their drive from their own 8-yard line. Southwick converted a 3rd down pass to Huff and Harper broke off a 21-yard run on the next play. Senior tailback Drew Wright gave Harper a breather and picked up 17 yards on two carries before Harper returned and dashed up the middle for a 43-yard score to put the game out of reach at 29-9.
Miami went three plays and out again on their next drive as Meridian’s Tyler Horn came up with a 3rd down sack. True freshman Shane Williams-Rhodes picked up 12 yards on an end-around and two Harper carries set the Broncos up with a 3rd down. Southwick connected with Mitch Burroughs for 19 yards and Burks for eight more before Chris Potter took a pass in the flat, eluded a tackler and scampered in to the end zone for the score. Nearing the end of the 3rd quarter and now leading 36-9, the Broncos were able to coast the rest of the way.
Dysert did find David Frazier on a 53-yard catch and run to move Miami into scoring position on the next drive but they were again thwarted by a 3rd down sack, forcing a 42-yard field goal attempt which Patterson knocked through. Boise State’s next possession netted them only three points but may have been their most impressive of the night.
Harper gave way to Fields and the freshman tried to atone for his earlier fumble by carrying the load on Boise State’s next possession. Southwick hit all four of his passes and Fields ran six times. The 18-play drive that covered 69 yards took over 10 minutes off the clock, ending in a 26-yard Frisina field goal for the final margin of 39-12.
The 2nd half showed how explosive the Broncos can be and with a short week preceding their Thursday night matchup with BYU, they will need to clean up the mistakes they made in the 1st half and play consistently for four quarters if they want to knock off the Cougars.
Improved play by the offensive line was a big key to the near-600 yard outburst as the balanced Broncos kept Southwick protected and opened up several big holes for their trio of tailbacks to run through. One week after they struggled to run the ball against Michigan State, the Broncos piled up 295 yards on 45 carries. It was a dominant offensive performance that should have yielded more points but showed what the post-Kellen Moore Broncos are capable of when they are hitting on all cylinders.
The Broncos now prepare to face a wounded BYU team that lost their Holy War matchup to Utah 24-21 after their 4th quarter comeback attempt fell just short. Complicating matters is that the game falls on a Thursday night, giving both teams just three practice days. The team that can make the quicker adjustments should come out on top but it cannot hurt the Broncos to come into the game with some positive momentum after being frustrated for the past two weeks.
Southwick getting his first win as a starter under his belt is huge and a healthy D.J. Harper proved that he can be one of the most dynamic running backs in the country. If the pair can continue to play well and the defense, which has been solid in the opening two games, can keep up their pass rush and force turnovers, Boise State should be in good shape this week and going forward.