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September 24, 2010

No. 3 Broncos defense faces challenge in Oregon St

BOISE, Idaho (AP) Ryan Winterswyk understands why Boise State's offense gets all the attention.

Maybe it's time for the defense to get some, too.

"I think we're pretty good," said Winterswyk, the Broncos' star defensive end. "I'm not usually one to brag, but I think our defense has the right mentality right now that we're doing things right and if we keep that mentality we can be a pretty good defense."

After getting challenged by Virginia Tech and quarterback Tyrod Taylor in their thrilling, season-opening win, the third-ranked Broncos get another significant test this week in the form of No. 24 Oregon State and the dynamic duo of Jacquizz and James Rodgers.

Jacquizz Rodgers had 132 yards rushing in Oregon State's 35-28 win over Louisville last week.

"He probably has best agility out of any back that I've seen that I can remember for sure," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "He's really, really powerful. I don't think it's a thing that he hides behind his offensive linemen he just uses his blockers to set it up. ... He just starts and stops on a dime."

The responsibility for trying to slow down the Rodgers brothers and the rest of the Oregon State offense falls to defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, in his first year calling the defense. Kwiatkowski stepped in to replace Justin Wilcox, who became defensive coordinator at Tennessee following four seasons at Boise State.

But while Wilcox left, very little changed with the system. It remains a hybrid scheme usually with four linemen, two linebacker and five defensive backs. Having more speed on the field is one way the Broncos try to make up for a lack of size in the past.

"Our defense has been a little bit of what they did before, a little bit of what I brought, a little bit of what Justin brought and it was definitely a group effort and he was just the guy that was in charge of it all," Kwiatkowski said. "The responsibility and roles change, but what we've been doing is working and there is no reason to fix it."

The Broncos defense started getting recognition a year ago when they ranked in the top 15 in the country in yards and scoring. Those numbers continued an upward trend that started a year earlier when facing a weaker schedule, Boise State allowed 12.6 points per game.

But it wasn't until their Fiesta Bowl victory over TCU that Boise State's defense gained respect. A year earlier when the teams met in the Poinsettia Bowl, the Horned Frogs continually pounded Boise State on the ground, wearing down the Broncos and handing them their only loss in the past two seasons.

The Fiesta Bowl was the complete opposite of a year earlier. While Andy Dalton threw for 272 yards, he was intercepted three times, and Boise State held TCU to 20 yards rushing and 1 of 12 on third downs.

"They were very good. We knew we were going to have to play our absolute best, (and) on defense we played our very best," Petersen said.

After giving up 30 points and 314 yards to Virginia Tech in its opener, Boise State rebounded with a suffocating effort at Wyoming last weekend. The Cowboys finished with minus-21 yards rushing and 135 total yards. Defensive lineman Shea McClellin recovered a fumble for a touchdown and the Broncos finished with four sacks.

They'll need to be even better against the Beavers.

Boise linebackers coach Bob Gregory was previously the defensive coordinator at California the past eight seasons. He's seen the Rodgers brothers up close and enjoyed moderate success, even though the Golden Bears dropped both games against Oregon State the last two seasons. Last year, Cal held Jacquizz to 67 yards rushing and 30 receiving, while James finished with 111 yards rushing and receiving combined.

Petersen said even with Gregory's background scheming against Oregon State he's not being asked to develop any more of the game plan this week.

"I don't think our formula is any different, depending on who is on any side of the ball," Petersen said. "Guys have pieces of the game plan. Bob is just a tremendous football coach ... and those guys are doing a great job on defense."




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