Boise St.-Fresno St. Preview
Boise State coach Chris Petersen wasn't concerned about Kellen Moore's uncharacteristic performance in his team's most recent game. Instead, he was pleased to see an improved rushing attack.
After dropping a spot in the latest AP Poll, the fifth-ranked Broncos will try to get Moore back on track while hoping for another strong effort from running back Doug Martin on Friday night at Fresno State.
By completing 68.8 percent of his throws, Moore has been one of the nation's most accurate passers during his four seasons in Boise. But he connected on only 57.6 percent of his attempts (19 of 33) and threw a rare pair of first-half interceptions during last week's 30-10 victory over Nevada.
The senior finished with a career-low 142 yards and threw multiple picks for only the third time in 44 collegiate games. Yet, Moore also threw a pair of first-half touchdown passes, helping guide the Broncos (4-0) to a 20-0 lead at the break.
Martin also scored twice, finishing with 126 yards after failing to top 75 in the first three games. Martin gained 6.0 yards per carry Saturday, nearly double his 3.2-yard average in September.
"Fortunately our run game came to life a little bit," Petersen said. "I care more about that than the pass game, because I know we'll get that figured out, so I think we made a step there."
They should have an excellent chance to perfect their passing game against Fresno State (2-3) with the return of receiver Geraldo Boldewijn. The sophomore was one of three Broncos with Dutch ties who were suspended by the university as the NCAA investigated their eligibility, but the 6-foot-4 target returned to practice this week and is expected to play Friday.
That isn't good news for the Bulldogs, who were hurt by big plays in a 38-28 loss to Mississippi on Saturday. Fresno State gave up a 69-yard touchdown run to Rebels tailback Jeff Scott and an average of 26.8 yards per pass play.
Those breakdowns were an all-too-familiar theme. The Bulldogs had a chance to upset then-No. 10 Nebraska on Sept. 10, but after pulling within two points allowed a 100-yard kickoff return and a 46-yard TD run in a 42-29 defeat.
"You can't give up the big play," coach Pat Hill said. "In the end, Mississippi made the plays in the fourth quarter just like Nebraska did to us."
Hill's team had plenty of trouble stopping the Broncos last season on Boise's blue turf despite forcing Moore to fumble on one possession and throw an interception on another in the first quarter.
Moore shook off those miscues to finish with 333 yards and four TDs in a 51-0 rout. He's thrown for 727 yards, nine touchdowns and one pick in three games against the Bulldogs, who will soon play again in the same conference as their former WAC rival.
Fresno State will join Boise State in the Mountain West before next season. For now, the Broncos' visit will make them the highest-ranked opponent to play at Bulldog Stadium.
"I think Boise State is the best team we will play and I think it will be a great challenge to our football team," Hill said.
Getting another strong rushing performance from Robbie Rouse would boost the Bulldogs' chances for an upset. The junior has topped 100 yards in four straight games and ranks 12th in FBS with 120.0 per contest.
Rouse had 70 yards on 17 carries in last season's game.
Even if Rouse can't get going, quarterback Derek Carr and Fresno State's passing attack may be able to move the ball. Starting Broncos cornerback Jerrell Gavins, who has a team-high three interceptions, is expected to miss the rest of the season after hurting his knee in practice.
Boise State has won five in a row over the Bulldogs since a 27-7 loss at Fresno in 2005, and leads the series 9-4.