Defense leads Boise St. to 24-7 win over S. Miss
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP)—Ian Johnson and his buddies on No. 15 Boise State’s dynamic offense usually get all the attention.
Saturday night it was the Broncos’ overlooked defenders who muscled into the action, stifling Southern Miss in a 24-7 win that gave Boise State its 14th victory in its last 15 regular-season games.
“I really think it’s awesome the way the defense stepped up and made plays,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said.
If the Broncos are going to stay undefeated and reach the BCS for the second time in three seasons out of the Western Athletic Conference, they’ll need to play more D like this.
Southern Miss (2-4) came in as the nation’s No. 17 offense, averaging 457 yards a game. Boise State (5-0) stymied first-year coach Larry Fedora’s no-huddle spread offense, holding the Golden Eagles to 278 total yards and coming up with a handful of stops that helped an offense that only scored in a furious second quarter.
The biggest stop came on fourth-and-1 at midfield with about 11 minutes left in the second quarter and the Broncos up 7-0. Austin Davis tried a quarterback sneak, but Boise State stuffed it and went up 14-0 on one of Kellen Moore’s three touchdown passes.
The Broncos also stopped the Golden Eagles on fourth down twice in Boise State territory in the fourth quarter to halt potential rallies. George Iloka batted down one pass to end a drive and Jeron Johnson ended another with an interception.
“We came out there with the mind-set of not taking them for granted,” Iloka said. “Fourth down, that’s our down. We are making sure we aren’t giving nothing away. The one they got, we gave that to them.”
Petersen was disappointed with the way his offense started and finished, but its second quarter was something to behold.
After a scoreless first quarter, Moore hit Jeremy Childs on a screen pass early in the second. Childs took the pass, one of seven in the first half and 10 for 92 yards in the game, down the right sideline, stiff-armed a defender at the 5 and outran two others for a 28-yard touchdown.
A few plays after the Broncos held Davis on that crucial fourth-and-1, Johnson ripped off a 23-yard run to the Southern Miss 11. Moore then found Pettis on a 5-yard pass at the back of the end zone to make it 14-0.
Boise State went up 17-0 on Kyle Brotzman’s 32-yard field goal after Southern Miss’ Cameron O’Neal fumbled the kickoff. Johnson, playing on special teams, recovered the fumble.
“We decided to sky kick and I tried to get down there as fast as I could,” Johnson said. “I saw the guy fair catch it, but I knew it was a good chance that he wasn’t going to catch the ball. I saw him bobble it and I got my body in there, and it was a fight for the ball.”
Southern Miss got in the game on its next series on Damion Fletcher’s 17-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 17-7.
Moore wasn’t done, though. He took the ball at his own 34 and quickly drove the Broncos down the field in the hurry-up offense, starting with about 3 minutes to go. He found Johnson with a dump pass over the middle for 26 yards.
Then he hit Childs for 18 yards before finding Pettis with a 4-yard touchdown with 39 seconds left in the half. Moore finished 21-for-30 for 170 yards.
From there, Boise State’s defense took over. The Broncos ended Davis’ school freshman record for games over 200 yards passing at five. Davis finished 15 of 34 passing for 160 yards and an interception, while Fletcher rushed for just 69 yards a week after going for a career-high 260 against UTEP.
Southern Miss has lost three straight games for the first time since 2004. The Golden Eagles had not lost three consecutive home games since 1977 when they dropped four.
The Golden Eagles are in danger of snapping a streak of 14 straight winning seasons in their first year under former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Fedora, who took over after 17-year coach Jeff Bower was forced to resign last year.
“We’re going to find out about each and every man in the room, including myself,” Fedora said. “How we deal with this adversity is going to determine what kind of team we are.”