By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Boise State football coach Chris Petersen on Monday expressed confidence in his offensive leaders — first-year coordinator Robert Prince and first-year starting quarterback Joe Southwick — and resolve to fix the issues that have plagued that group this season.
The Broncos are coming off a 7-6 win over BYU on Thursday, the second time in three games that they haven’t scored an offensive touchdown.
“I know everybody wants us to fire guys and get new players and coaches and all that stuff,” Petersen said. “That’s not what this is about. It’s about getting better, about gaining confidence and supporting each other and sticking to the process. As we’re doing that, learning and tweaking and trying to do the best we can with where we’re at.
“But I’m very convinced that everybody wants to panic and everybody wants us to yell and scream at one side of the ball, and that’s the last thing that’s going to happen around here.”
Petersen said the biggest issue is a lack of execution and that it’s up to the coaches to correct the problems, but also to make sure the players don’t lose confidence.
“Human nature is to be down on them, and I get it,” Petersen said. “Everybody else can be down on them. But as coaches, we’ve got to coach them better. We’ve got to put that on our shoulders and love these guys up and get them to believe that it will come around, it will start clicking sooner or later as long as we keep being smart coaches in terms of, ‘Maybe that’s not the best thing for him.’ We’ve got good guys, we’ve got good players. It may just take some time.”
Players said after the BYU game that the offense was close to clicking. Petersen said what they need is to hit a key play or two — like the Broncos did against Miami (Ohio), when they trailed 9-8 late in the first half and reeled off four straight touchdowns.
“If we hit a field goal and if we score the touchdown on fourth-and-1, this conversation is different,” he said. “Then you get the momentum we’re talking about. It’s just different. That’s how it goes. Many times during games we’d be struggling a little bit in the past four years until we would get a play or two that somebody would make and then you’d feel like you could breathe a little easier. We just haven’t been there yet.”
Senior tight end Chandler Koch said he thinks the Broncos have strayed from their “bread-and-butter” plays in favor of trying to trick defenses.
“I just feel like we’ve been trying to get a little too cute,” he said.
“We were running bread-and-butter plays,” he said. “We just need to get better at them. It’s just details. It’s red-zone football. It’s goal-line football. Obviously those two things jump out.”
Petersen said there are always some bad plays in a game that are the play caller’s fault — a lesson he learned during his time as a coordinator. He said the Broncos are running primarily the same offense as they have for years with some tweaks to keep defenses off-balance.
“I’ve never gone a game where I didn’t say, ‘Oh, man, I wish I had that back,’ ” he said. “There’s probably seven plays that you go, ‘I don’t like that.’ The guys who called plays for Kellen (Moore), it was the same thing. We’d go, ‘That wasn’t very good. Good thing he made a play happen.’ ”
He took responsibility for the failed fourth-and-goal sneak. Petersen, not Prince, called that play.
“It’s not any one thing,” Petersen said. “It isn’t any one person. On the goal line, that was me on the sneak. We didn’t have that in the game plan. We shouldn’t have called that. Everybody goes, ‘If we can’t get an inch we don’t want it bad enough.’ That’s not true. Maybe they’re bigger and stronger and we should do something different. … If it was just me, we could fix me. If it was this guy here or this guy there, we could fix it. But offensive football is very delicate and some times it doesn’t look like that. We’ve just got to tighten things up — make more accurate throws and not get penalties and make a tougher catch, and then all of a sudden things will start to change a little bit.”
Petersen’s role in the play selection is the same as it was with Bryan Harsin and Brent Pease as coordinators, he said.
“Now and again I chime in — and sometimes I shouldn’t,” he said.
As for Southwick, Petersen hasn’t wavered on that decision.
“I really believe Joe can do it,” he said. “We wouldn’t put him in there if he we didn’t think that. We’d go with someone else. But we think he can do it. We’ve seen him do it. We’ve seen it in practice. It’s all about consistency.”
More notes from Petersen:
— Petersen began his press conference with two statements focused on the positives of the BYU game: “One, I appreciate the crowd and really thought it would be a factor early on in the week and it was, and it was awesome. … Second, how proud I am of really our team for getting this win. I know what everybody wants to talk about — one side of the football — I don’t want that to overshadow how special the other side was. It was unbelievable. I don’t think any of us, including myself, thought in a million years we’d win a game if we didn’t score an offensive point.”
— On the defense: “This game is just so much about confidence. That can just lead to tremendous productivity.”
— Petersen said at one point several defensive players ran onto the field not realizing it was only third down for the offense. “They were ready to roll,” he said. “It was kind of that spirit and that attitude. We had a tremendous night before (game) meeting, a team meeting, just in terms of persevering and just keep playing hard and keep fighting. It just really came to fruition there in that game. It was just amazing to watch them play that hard.”
— On whether he plays conservative when the defense plays like it did Thursday: “We’re trying to win. We’re trying to score points. We’re only up seven points. They can score at any point, and they do. … I laugh and chuckle, this fake punt. People say, ‘Why would they put their defense in that situation?’ Because we’re trying to win the game. We’re going to fake more things. We’re not going to back off. I don’t get that mentality. I heard people talk about (BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall) going for two. They had the guy open.”
— Petersen said former Boise State coach Dirk Koetter (1998 to 2000) put the Broncos’ win in perspective. “Utah from the Pac-12 beats BYU and they storm the field. We beat them by one point and the sky is falling. He said, ‘When I was here as a coach,’ he wouldn’t have been able to get into that office because everybody would have been packed in there so excited to beat them. That’s just how it is.”
— Petersen said he should have tried a field goal of about 37 yards at one point in the BYU game rather than going for it on fourth down and that he still trusts kicker Michael Frisina. “We can still make field goals,” Petersen said. “… I probably got a little bit stubborn. I don’t want to kick field goals, regardless — I don’t care if we have the greatest field-goal kicker in the world, I don’t want to do that. … I told (Frisina) that — that had nothing to do with you, that had to do with me probably being too hard-headed. … I watched college football (last weekend) and everybody is missing field goals, but it’s a big deal around here because we have bad history with field goals around here. But he can make field goals. The situations we’re putting him in, he’ll make them.”
Listen to Petersen’s press conference here.
On the depth chart, starting left guard Joe Kellogg is not listed — an indication that he is unlikely to return from the injury that forced him to miss the BYU game. Brenel Myers is listed as the starting right tackle with Jake Broyles as the backup. Broyles has missed two straight games. Wide receiver Dallas Burroughs (backup outside receiver) and tailback Jay Ajayi (backup to D.J. Harper) make their first appearances of the season.
The Boise State-Southern Miss game will begin at 10 a.m. MDT (11 a.m. in Hattiesburg) Oct. 6, Fox announced Monday.
The game will air on Fox Sports Net. Those games air on Root Sports in the Boise market. Root is channel 27 on Cable One, 426 on Dish Network and 687 on DirecTV.