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October 26, 2010

Boise State seeks 9th straight over La. Tech

BOISE, Idaho (AP) Kellen Moore and the other starters on No. 2 Boise State's high-flying offense have gone a month now without playing a single down in the fourth quarter.

Because the Broncos have been jumping out to big, early leads the last three games, Moore has routinely traded his helmet in for a headset and joined the other starters on the sidelines before breaking a second-half sweat.

"You always want to play," said Moore, the leader of an offense that has outscored the last three opponents 164-14 and averages 47.5 points per game. "But fortunately we've been able to get up on people early and not had to deal with" playing late.

"We'll have fourth quarter battles here and there coming up. We'll be ready when we do," he said.

Undefeated Boise State (6-0, 2-0 Western Athletic Conference) was idle Saturday as the schedule makers offered a little extra rest before Tuesday night's matchup with Louisiana Tech (3-4, 2-1) at Bronco Stadium.

Having the time off didn't cost the Broncos any ground in the latest polls, but it didn't produce any gains either during a weekend that saw Oklahoma lose to Missouri and drop from its perch atop the BCS rankings. Boise State is ranked No. 3 in the BCS behind Auburn and Oregon.

Another convincing win and early exit by Moore & Co. could help fend off surges from undefeated teams like Michigan State, Missouri and TCU.

But for first-year Bulldog coach Sonny Dykes, his first trip to Boise may also be the last chance - at least for a while - to end Louisiana Tech's eight-game losing streak against the Broncos, who are destined for the Mountain West Conference next year.

"I've never had the chance to prepare for these guys or really see what they do, anywhere I've been," said Dykes, a former offensive coordinator at Arizona and Texas Tech. "But one thing I know about them now, there are just not a lot of weaknesses to be found when you put on the tape."

So Dykes and his staff used the extra days in the schedule to focus on ball security, avoiding mental errors and penalties and responding positively even if Boise State rolls out to another early lead.

"The way they've been starting football games this year is remarkable," Dykes said. "So if they get that momentum, we've got to figure out a way to keep our heads in the game, make some plays and get it back."

In recent weeks, the Bulldogs have shown the kind of firepower to keep pace with Boise State's explosive offense.

It's taken a few games, but the Bulldogs appear to be hitting their stride in Dykes' spread offense. The Bulldogs have scored 72 points in their last two games, including a season-high 48 in an Oct. 16 win over Idaho.

After struggling early with the change in systems, quarterback Ross Jenkins has settled into his role. Dykes credits Jenkins for making better decisions and getting rid of the ball faster. Jenkins started the opener, a 20-6 victory over Grambling State, but gave way as Dykes experimented with several other quarterbacks during a run of three straight losses.

Jenkins returned in the second half in a loss against Hawaii on Oct. 2 and went 19 of 26 for 215 yards and two TDs. The job's been his ever since. Last week he was named WAC player of the week on offense after throwing three touchdowns and a career-high 422 yards.

"I think everyone is playing better together on the offense," Dykes said. "I like what I see him doing, and how the offense in general is just starting to gel. But it'll be a different challenge against Boise State on Tuesday."

The performance of the Bronco defense so far this season leaves little doubt about that.

Boise State has the nation's top-ranked defense, allowing a measly 59 yards rushing per game and 210 total yards per game. The secondary is smart and experienced, and the front seven excels at making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. In six games, the Broncos have 20 sacks and six interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

Still, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said his defense will be tested in stopping an offense built on speed and a version of the spread unlike any the Broncos have seen before.

"We haven't really seen this style ourselves," said Petersen, whose team owns the nation's longest winning streak at 20. "We've seen bits and pieces of what they do. You can see they are really starting to hit their stride."

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