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Bronco D riles Nelson, BYU: Broncos win 7-6 in defensive standoff

Robby Milo / The Arbiter

It was an uncanny kind of night for the Boise State Broncos (2-1, 0-0 in MW) as they held on for a 7-6 win against the BYU Cougars (2-2) Thursday night in front of a record-breaking crowd of 36,864.

The Bronco defense held down the fort on the Blue, forcing five turnovers and scoring the lone touchdown, a 36-yard interception return by senior defensive tackle Mike Atkinson.

“How ‘bout that defense? Unbelievable.” Head Football Coach Chris Petersen said about the defense. “This is the weirdest feeling ever. I’m so ecstatic for that one side and we’ve definitely got to back to the drawing board on the other side.”

The smoky air from the Boise wildfires created a diversion for the Bronco offense in their disappearance act, recording only 261 offensives yard and zero touchdowns, a  current trend this season. Joking aside, the credit rightfully goes to the Cougar defense, suffocating redshirt junior quarterback Joe Southwick on scoring drives, specifically on the 4th and one scramble in the third quarter.

“Their (BYU) defense is good, let’s start there. I think we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times,” Southwick said. “I wouldn’t say it felt like a struggle we were moving the ball pretty good. We just shot ourselves in the foot.”

The wounding was also done on BYU quarterback Riley Nelson, as the senior only completed four passes on the night, throwing three interceptions and fumbling once, ending his night in the 3rd quarter.

Capitalizing on Nelson’s throwing miscues was Atkinson, the 312-lb lineman who read Nelson’s pass and instead of creating pressure on the line, dropped back into coverage for the pick six, a score the Broncos held onto for dear life.

“Well I wasn’t really supposed to drop, I’m supposed to wrap all the way around but I saw his hand go up,” Atkinson said on the play. “It was a great feeling. We always talk about it happening but it rarely does.”

Pocatello native and Nelson’s replacement at quarterback, Taysom Hill, created the most trouble for the Broncos, tantalizing the defense with his scrambling efforts. Hill helped BYU in playing catch up on the Cougar’s final 95 yard drive that led to a two-yard Hill touchdown.

The question of the night came from BYU Head Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall and his decision to go for two, which came unsuccessful and let the Broncos wind down the clock for the win.

“There were two entities out there that I was so excited and impressed about: one was our defense and two was Bronco Nation. They answered and I guarantee that helped us win no doubt about,” Petersen said about the boisterous crowd, who answered to his call of action earlier in the week.

All hope is not lost on the offense, as everyone from Petersen to Southwick agreed there needs to be a few things tweaked to improve
the corps.

“We’re pretty close to where we need to be. I felt a lot of times in the game (there were) one or two plays where we got to make that play. We’re really close. We’re going to come back net week and we’ll get it ironed out,” redshirt sophomore receiver Matt
Miller said.

The Broncos next take their talents to Albuquerque, N.M. to face the New Mexico Lobos (1-2) on Sept. 29.

About John Garretson (0 Articles)
John Garretson enters his first year as The Arbiter's Sports Editor. A junior Communication student pursuing a Certificate of Public Relations, Garretson is also Boise State PRSSA's Director of Publicity. Check him out on Twitter at @John_Garretson and stay tuned for this season's Arbiter Sports Talk.