Printed on: November 19, 2013

Ajayi the latest 1K rusher for Broncos


ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOISE -- Jay Ajayi hasn't wasted any time in joining the ranks of elite running backs that have played at Boise State.

Two weeks ago, the redshirt sophomore from Plano, Texas, became the latest Broncos running back to top the 1,000-yard mark and made it five consecutive seasons a Boise State ball carrier has eclipsed that milestone.

His three touchdowns against Wyoming give him 15 on the season, putting him in a tie for sixth most in school history for a season and fourth nationally this season. One more TD in the next two games bumps him into a tie for third with former Broncos standouts like Ian Johnson and Doug Martin, now in the NFL with Tampa Bay.

At 6-2, 200 pounds, Ajayi is a deceiving runner. His size and bulk enable him to punish tacklers, but he also brings a surprising blend of quickness and burst in the open field, an ability he put on full display Nov. 16 when he faked an end run and outran Wyoming defenders around the edge and raced 22 yards untouched for his first touchdown of the game.

Ajayi attributes his success this season to coaches and the offensive line that has opened holes all season. But he also credits the mindset he brings to every touch of the ball.

"It's taking advantage of every opportunity," said Ajayi, who has rushed for 1,078 yards and is averaging 5.9 yards per carry. "You never know if you're going to get another carry that game or not, so it's just trying to make the best out of each play."

For the most part this year, he's been doing just that.

He has four 100-yard games this season and against Nevada on Oct. 19, he rolled up 222 yards on 24 carries, the fifth-highest single-game total in school history. He is averaging 107.8 yards rushing per game, 19th best among running backs nationally.

He also reached the 1,000-yard mark in nine games, a rate topped in school history only by Ian Johnson, who accomplished it in eight games in 2006.

But at times, Ajayi has found himself in coach Chris Petersen's dog house.

Early in the season, Ajayi fumbled three times in consecutive games, including a critical drop against Mountain West Conference rival Fresno State in the red zone. He also fumbled once in a loss at BYU in late October.

At one point, Ajayi lost his starting job to Aaron Baltazar before the freshman suffered a season-ending knee injury.

The demotion was frustrating, especially since two of those fumbles came as Ajayi was dragging defenders, trying to eke out a few more yards.

Since then, Ajayi has done a better job protecting the ball and being more careful when he's exerting a second effort.

"I haven't changed my running style," Ajayi said Monday. "But it was a thing of second effort, ball security.

"It's tough, but at the same time I've got great teammates and coaches that continually make sure that I stay focused and put it behind me and work through it."

The Broncos (7-3, 5-1) find themselves in first place in the Mountain Division, up by a half game over Utah State. But the schedule doesn't offer any favors this weekend as the Broncos travel to San Diego State (6-4, 5-1), a team that upset then-No. 19 Boise State at home last year and spoiled any hopes of playing in a BCS game.

The Aztecs defense is also poised to give Ajayi and his teammates all the challenge they can handle Saturday. Coming into the game, the Aztecs allow 136.9 yards rushing per game, second best in the conference.

"He'll need to play hard this week for sure," Petersen said of Ajayi. "This is going to be a very physical, tough game, so we'll need his style."

Around the NCAA

Griz up to 5th, Bobcats 13th going into Cat-Griz: Five Big Sky Conference teams are ranked in the Top 25 of this week's Sports Network and FCS coaches' polls.

Eastern Washington remains third in both polls, behind two-time defending champion North Dakota State and Eastern Illinois.

Montana moved up two spots to fifth in The Sports Network poll and sixth in the coaches' poll after its 42-6 win over Weber State. Northern Arizona is ranked 10th in the media poll and 12th in the coaches' poll, while Montana State fell to 13th in both polls after its 22-14 loss to Southern Utah. Southern Utah moved into the Top 25 of both polls -- at 20th in the media poll and 22nd in the coaches' poll.

The 113th Cat-Griz game is Saturday in Bozeman.

Utah QB Wilson out for season after concussion: Utah quarterback Travis Wilson will miss the rest of the season after the team discovered a pre-existing medical condition during a concussion diagnosis last week, Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday.

Wilson did not play in the team's 44-21 loss to Oregon on Saturday. He had suffered a concussion in a 20-19 loss to Arizona State a week earlier.

An initial scan for the concussion turned up evidence of a preexisting head trauma and a follow-up angiogram confirmed it. Whittingham did not give further details about the condition, but said it was not life-threatening.

It is not known whether the condition will cut short Wilson's career. The team will not have a definitive answer for several months on whether Wilson can return.

This is the fourth straight season Utah has lost a starting quarterback to a season-ending injury. The Utes have not had the same quarterback start and finish a season since current assistant coach Brian Johnson led the team to the Sugar Bowl in the 2008 season.

Adam Schulz will take over as Utah's starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. Schulz, a former walk-on, made his first start against Oregon last weekend. The sophomore threw for 181 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 13-of-30 passing against the Ducks.