By Chadd Cripe
© 2010 Idaho Statesman
Boise State’s defensive linemen are dominating more than just their opponents.
They’re also cleaning up on the stat sheet and in team awards.
The linemen have collected 10 of the team’s 12 sacks, all three fumble recoveries and the only defensive touchdown. End Ryan Winterswyk is tied for the team lead in interceptions — with one. The linemen also have won three of the four weekly team awards for defensive player of the game.
“That’s a pretty tough group to compete with in terms of gaining some honors because they’re playing so well,” coach Chris Petersen said. “Everybody’s good with those guys being as good as they are.”
Senior safety Jeron Johnson, whose goal is to crack the century mark in tackles this season, leads the team with 25 — which puts him on pace for 81.
“The D-line is playing ridiculous right now and our linebackers are doing a good job,” Johnson said. “… I’m leading the team in tackles but not by far. It’s going to be a close race to the end. I’m not getting many opportunities this year.”
Boise State might not see an empty seat in the final month of the season.
Idaho announced this week that it has sold out the Nov. 12 game against Boise State. Nevada already had sold out its Nov. 26 date with the Broncos.
Boise State has three home games in the final month — Nov. 6 against Hawaii, Nov. 19 against Fresno State and Dec. 4 against Utah State. There’s a good chance those games will sell out, too.
The Broncos have had sellout crowds for three of their first four games. The exception was last week at New Mexico State.
Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore is second in the ESPN.com Heisman Watch this week. He received two of the 15 first-place votes, with the rest going to Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
Moore is third this week in the HeismanPundit.com Heisman poll. Robinson was the unanimous choice among 13 voters. Oregon running back LaMichael James was second.
Here’s a look at Toledo, which is 3-2 overall and 3-0 on the road this season. The Rockets beat Purdue, Ohio and Western Michigan but lost to Wyoming and Arizona at home.
The Rockets operate a varied attack with a lot of shifts and formations, somewhat like the Broncos. They use the shotgun extensively.
The group hasn’t had a good year. The Rockets average 21 points and 283 yards per game — ranking 114th in the nation in total offense.
The offensive star is sophomore wide receiver Eric Page, who was a Freshman All-American last year. He has 29 catches for 351 yards and two touchdowns. No one else on the team has more than 11 catches.
Page also is a dynamic kickoff returner and punt returner.
“He’s kind of like their Titus Young, their James Rodgers,” Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor said. “They like to get the ball in that dude’s hands.”
Sophomore quarterback Austin Dantin is a dual threat. He’s second on the team in rushing and leads the team with four touchdowns. He also has completed 64.5 percent of his passes but sacks (10 this year), turnovers (nine this year), dropped passes (seven last week) and penalties (10 last week) have been a problem for the Rockets. Redshirt freshman quarterback Terrance Owens provided a spark off the bench last week and will compete with Dantin for the starting job in practice this week.
The offense has been improving — the Rockets have averaged 376 yards in their past two games.
“We’ve just got to learn to play consistently for four quarters,” senior center Kevin Kowalski said. “We haven’t done that yet this year.”
This should be an interesting matchup. The Rockets defense creates problems for opponents. They have 14 sacks, 10 interceptions and 16 total takeaways this season.
The Broncos have allowed one sack and committed five turnovers.
“It comes down to attitude and belief in the system,” Toledo coach Tim Beckman said. “I think our players are doing that and they’re playing extremely hard.”
The Rockets rank 13th in the nation in rushing defense at 95.4 yards per game. They’re 57th in pass-efficiency defense, allowing Arizona and Western Michigan to throw for more than 400 yards.
Sophomore linebacker Dan Molls has had a great year. He has 2.5 sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble.
The Broncos’ inconsistent kickoff coverage will get another test from Page, who ranks 10th in the nation with a 31.7-yard average.
“A lot of times, he’s doing those things on his own,” Boise State special teams coach Jeff Choate said. “A lot of times those are the scariest guys to defend.”
The Rockets have done a good job covering kicks, although their punters are averaging just 38.0 yards. They have a significant problem on scoring kicks — two kickers have combined to go 2-for-8 on field goals, including 0-for-5 outside 40 yards. They’ve missed a PAT, too.