BOISE — Faced with an offense that has failed to score a touchdown in two of its first three games, Boise State coach Chris Petersen vows he’s not about to panic and make any wholesale changes.
Instead, Petersen is preaching patience for a unit that failed to get in the end zone in the opener against Michigan State then again last Thursday in a 7-6 victory over Brigham Young.
Putting up points in bunches has hardly been a problem since Petersen took over seven years ago, and since 2000 Boise State has been the nation’s top scoring team, averaging 41.75 points per game during that span. But so far this season, No. 24 Boise State is averaging just 19.7 points per game.
So it’s no wonder Broncos fans are getting antsy, nervous and impatient.
“I know people want us to fire guys, get new players and new coaches, but that’s not what this is about,” a feisty Petersen said Monday. “I’m convinced everyone wants to panic, wants us to yell and scream at one side of the ball. That’s the last thing that’s going to happen around here.”
For now, Petersen is confident the offense under redshirt junior Joe Southwick will turn things around.
As the Broncos (2-1) prepare for their Mountain West Conference opener Saturday at New Mexico, coaches will look for ways to simplify the playbook and focus on details. Practices will have a greater emphasis on execution, specifically inside the red zone, where Boise State has scored just three touchdowns in 12 trips.
Petersen also defended Southwick and new offensive coordinator Robert Prince, the Broncos’ third new coordinator in the last three years.
Through three games, Southwick has posted decent statistics. He’s 54 of 87 for 618 yards, two touchdowns and his passer efficiency rating is 124.7.
He’s run the offense effectively at times, engineered scoring drives and minimized the kind of mistakes common among first-year starters.
Against BYU, the Boise State offense had five chances inside the red zone, but each one faltered amid a series of miscues, penalties or assignment breakdowns.
A missed 33-yard field goal dashed an opportunity in the first half, and four other times the Broncos turned the ball over on downs.
The biggest disappointment for the offense may have been the inability to punch it in after the Broncos defense recovered a BYU fumble on the Cougar 1-yard line late in the second half. The BYU defense, which came into the game ranked among the nation’s best, stuffed the Broncos on four straight tries, including a fourth-down quarterback sneak, a play Petersen took responsibility for calling.
Boise State’s only points came when nose tackle Mike Atkinson dropped back into pass coverage, stepped in front of a short pass from Cougar quarterback Riley Nelson and ran 36-yards for a score.
“Offensive football is very delicate,” Petersen said. “Sometimes it doesn’t look like that, but we’ve got to tighten things up, make more accurate throws, avoid penalties, make a tougher catch than we should have to. Then all of a sudden, things will start to change a little bit.”
Tight end Chandler Koch also suggested his teammates may be pressing too much inside the red zone, thinking too much instead of reacting.
“I feel like we’re not playing loose enough, or fast, that we tend to tense up a little bit,” said Koch. “It’s almost like our mindset is we’re getting tensed up, thinking, ‘Oh, we’re inside the red zone.’”