Fresno St.-Boise St. Preview

Boise State and Fresno State each rank among the nation’s

leaders when it comes to forcing turnovers. However, it’s been the

Bulldogs’ inability to hang on to the ball that has been the

problem during their recent struggles against the Broncos.

Two of the country’s most opportunistic defensive teams meet

Saturday when the No. 24 Broncos try for a seventh consecutive

victory over the Bulldogs in this Mountain West Conference matchup

in Boise.

Boise State (4-1, 1-0) recovered three fumbles and intercepted

two passes in last Saturday’s 40-14 win at Southern Mississippi,

its fourth consecutive victory following a 17-13 season-opening

loss at then-No. 13 Michigan State.

The Broncos are back in the Top 25 after a one-week hiatus that

followed a less-than impressive 32-29 win at New Mexico on Sept.

29.

They’ve forced 13 of their 17 turnovers in the last three

games.

“I’m not sure why we’re getting them – whether we’re just in the

right place at the right time or what,” coach Chris Petersen said.

“As long as they are coming like (last Saturday), we’re going to be

in every game and we have a chance to win most of them.”

The only school that’s forced more turnovers than Boise is

Fresno State (4-2, 2-0) with 18. Safety Phillip Thomas forced a

fumble and recorded his NCAA-leading sixth interception in the

Bulldogs’ 28-7 win at Colorado State last Saturday.

Fresno State also leads the country with 12 picks.

“We’re fast, physical and fanatical,” Thomas told the school’s

official website. “We’re out there to force turnovers and make big

plays. That’s what this defense is all about and that’s the type of

players we have on this team.”

It’s essential the Bulldogs’ defense continues that play while

their offense finds a way to hang on to the ball. Fresno, which

last beat the Broncos 27-7 at home in 2005, has committed 12

turnovers during a five-game skid at Boise.

The Bulldogs have been outscored 112-10 in their last two on the

blue turf.

“It’s going to be huge,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “We know we’re

going against a team that has won a lot games, especially on their

own turf.”

Fresno State did not have a turnover at Colorado State after

committing eight in the previous three contests, but it’s given the

ball away 11 times while being outscored 220-51 in its last four

games overall in this series.

The Bulldogs committed four in last season’s 57-7 home loss to

the Broncos.

Even if they’re able to reverse that turnover trend, the defense

must remain opportunistic against a Boise squad that’s turned the

ball over twice in two home games this year

Broncos quarterback Joe Southwick has thrown six touchdowns and

one interception in the last two games after throwing two of each

in the first three. Running back D.J. Harper was held to 47 yards

on 13 carries but scored twice at Southern Miss.

Harper, who has rushed for 274 yards with three TDs at home in

2012, has topped the 100-yard mark twice in four career contests

versus Fresno State.

Senior Mitch Burroughs caught four passes for 43 yards and

scored on a 25-yard run against the Bulldogs last season, but

Boise’s third-leading receiver and key return man will miss this

contest with a wrist injury.

“We just miss him as an all-around player,” Petersen said.

Though the Broncos have dominated this series of late, Fresno

State could present a challenge with an offense that leads the

Mountain West with 315.5 passing yards per game and has not scored

fewer than 25 points in any 2012 contest.

Derek Carr has thrown half of his 18 touchdowns in the last two

games but was 17 of 30 for 126 yards and an interception against

Boise State in 2011. Teammate Robbie Rouse ranks among the nation’s

leaders on the ground, averaging 118.5 yards with eight

touchdowns.

He’s gained 195 yards on 34 carries without a TD in three games

against the Broncos.

Fresno State has lost 16 straight games against Top 25 opponents

since a 37-34 overtime win over No. 18 Virginia in the 2004 Champs

Sports Bowl.