No. 19 Boise St. adjusts to losses on defense
For the second straight year, Boise State has to adjust to the
loss of key players in the secondary of its highly ranked
But this year, the No. 19 Broncos (7-1, 4-0 Mountain West) are
confident they have enough senior leaders and seasoned
underclassman to avoid the kind of meltdown that contributed to a
late-season loss to TCU last year that spoiled an undefeated season
and any lofty postseason plans.
Coach Chris Petersen said Bryan Douglas, who started the first
three games and the No. 3 cornerback, will miss the rest of the
season after tearing an ACL in last week’s 45-14 rout at Wyoming.
Petersen also said starting safety Lee Hightower’s suspension for
violating team rules will remain in place at least through
Saturday’s matchup with San Diego State (6-3, 4-1).
Hightower, who has 31 tackles and one interception, was
disciplined last week and didn’t travel with the team to Wyoming.
Petersen declined to share any details of the decision and was
clearly irritated when quizzed about the status of the redshirt
”I haven’t talked to Lee,” said Petersen, offering no
timetable for Hightower’s return. ”He is not back this week.”
Petersen also said Dextrell Simmons, who plays a hybrid
linebacker/defensive back position, is day-to-day after leaving the
Wyoming game early with an undisclosed injury.
For now, Hightower will be replaced by redshirt freshman Darian
Thompson, who has played in all eight games, mostly in nickel and
dime packages. Thompson has 24 tackles, two interceptions and the
confidence of coaches to step into a starting role.
”At this part of the season, I think everybody’s role
increases,” said Petersen. ”If you don’t have enough guys with
four games left in the season, that’s how it goes.”
With the win in Laramie, Wyo., Boise State won its seventh
straight and sits alone atop the conference standings, one game
ahead of Fresno State, San Diego State and Air Force. The Broncos
also edged up to No. 19 in the BCS Standings, and if they can go
undefeated the rest of the way, elbow into the top 16 and beat out
a champion from one of the automatic qualifying conferences, they
would earn an invitation bid to one of the prestigious postseason
But the setbacks in the secondary at this point in the season
are eerily reminiscent of last year when the Broncos suffered a
rash of injuries to key players that left the backfield reliant on
Hightower and other young, inexperienced defenders down the
Starting cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins, along with
backup cornerback Ebo Makinde, were rehabbing from season-ending
injuries when the Broncos – undefeated and ranked No. 5 at the time
– met the Horned Frogs on Nov. 12 with the conference title on the
TCU and quarterback Casey Pachall wasted little time exploiting
the Boise State’s youth. Pachall threw for 473 yards and five
touchdowns, including scores of 75, 74 and 69 yards in the first
half. The Broncos rallied in the second half, but the comeback fell
short when kicker Dan Goodale’s last-second field goal sailed wide
of the uprights, ending Boise State’s BCS and conference title
The good news is the Broncos still have three of its four
starters in the secondary. Taylor and Gavins are healthy and
anchoring a pass defense that has forced 23 turnovers and ranks in
the top ten nationally in scoring, passing yards allowed and
passing efficiency defense.
Taylor ranks second on the team with 40 tackles and has two
interceptions, while Gavins has one pick and a fumble return for a
TD. The duo is also a big reason the Broncos are allowing an
average of 165 yards per game through the air.
Taylor says he and Gavins are ready to assume a leadership role
with their younger teammates, whether it’s extra communication
before the snap to spending more time with them during film
”I think it just makes us better, to get the young guys in
there to learn a little more,” Taylor said. ”Obviously we want
our guys, but we’ve got to have guys to carry the flag and keep the
Still, Petersen and his staff are considering filling the void
created by Douglas’ injury with a freshman pegged to take a
redshirt this season. In the past, Petersen has resisted the urge
to pull a redshirt late season, but acknowledged the need to add
some depth in the backfield.
”We’ll keep our fingers crossed that we stay relatively healthy
from here on out,” Petersen said.