PSU brought its A-game against the Boise State Broncos on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough. Despite running back Joe Rubin’s 151 yards, the Vikings were picked apart by a Boise State offense that gained 469 total yards.
Broncos quarterback Jared Zabranksky, who was 21-28 for 256 yards, led Boise State to the 21-14 win over the Vikings. In contrast to Zabranksky’s excellent numbers, PSU quarterback Sawyer Smith once again struggled to find consistency. Smith, while going 16-30 on the day, averaged a woeful 3.5 yards per completion. As a result, Boise State’s defense was able to stack the line following the first quarter, limiting Rubin, the Vikings sole offensive threat, to only 41 yards in the final three quarters of the game.
Zabransky exploited PSU’s defensive secondary throughout the contest, completing passes to 12 different receivers. Drisan James, who had 100 yards on seven receptions, led the Broncos’ wide-outs.
The Vikings run defense did not fare any better. The Broncos used seven different rushers in gaining 213 yards on the ground and were led by Ian Johnson’s 16 carries for 78 yards.
The loss to Boise State may have finally driven home the point that so many Vikings fans have known since the season began: even the great Joe Rubin can’t guarantee a win.
The Vikings, who have now lost two straight as their season record has evened out at 3-3, have been unable to ignite even a single spark in their passing game. Opponents have begun to use this fact to their advantage. And the loss to the Broncos could not have provided a better example.
Despite Rubin’s 110 yards in the first quarter and a 7-0 lead, PSU’s limited offensive options eventually did the Vikings in. At a loss in getting anything going in the passing game, PSU was only 2 out of 13 on third-down conversions. This allowed the Boise State defense to concentrate solely on Rubin throughout the game.
Two interceptions by the Vikings’ defense kept PSU in the game. But in the second half, the Vikings went scoreless while the Broncos added 14, sealing the win.
While PSU put forth an admirable effort, the loss to Boise State only makes the questions that have surrounded the Vikings since the season began that much harder to ignore.
When will PSU find an answer to its completely lackluster passing game? When will Sawyer Smith be allowed to step up and take command of the offense? If Smith isn’t going to be allowed to, should he be starting? And when, if ever, will the Vikings’ offensive coaches utilize their talent at the wide-out and fullback positions?
At the moment, the Vikings are on the verge of letting the momentum they built early on in the season slip away. A 3-1 record has quickly become 3-3. PSU now appears to be a team that is full of talent, yet one that is coming up short in the things that really matter – namely, the utilization of that talent.
Point blank: it doesn’t matter if Joe Rubin runs for 2,000 yards this season. If the Vikings can’t find a way to pass the ball, if they can’t find a way to, very quickly, play like a team – both on offense and defense – all of the rushing yards in the world won’t count for anything when held up in comparison to a 5-6 season.