Tom Smart, Deseret News
PROVO — Without much time to lick its wounds from a brutal loss to Utah, BYU travels to the hostile environs of Bronco Stadium to take on an always-tough Boise State football team. Although the Broncos lost a lot of contributors from a year ago, they still look to present a formidable challenge for the Cougars.
So how does BYU matchup with Boise State and what should happen come Thursday night? We interviewed players and coaches along with looking at what Boise State has presented so far this season.
BYU rushing attack vs. Boise State
BYU rushed for 106 yards last week against Utah with no one averaging more than four yards per carry. The running game hasn’t been all that spectacular so far this season, although both Michael Alisa and Jamaal Williams have shown some flashes.
Boise State allows 131 yards rushing per game, but that number is skewed somewhat by Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell, who is one of the best running backs in the country, running for 210 yards against the Broncos in week 1.
The Broncos present a 4-2-5 base defense that features two experienced senior linebackers and a senior Rover back, who plays similar to the katback in coach Bronco Mendenhall’s old 3-3-5 system. Boise’s best defensive player, however, is sophomore defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (6-3, 242), who leads the team in tackles this season.
“They’re good and they’re aggressive from what I’ve seen,” said quarterback Riley Nelson. “They have some athletes, and we’re going to have to be on top of our game to compete against them and they’ll have a hostile crowd to help them out.”
Cougar question marks
The big question mark surrounds the Cougars' interior offense line and their ability to provide a consistent running attack up the middle. Even against Weber State, BYU struggled to mount much production up the middle and all but abandoned any attempt to do so last week against Utah.
Boise State presents two good interior linemen in Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe (6-3, 296) and Mike Atkinson (6-0, 306), but both won’t present quite the challenge that Utah’s interior did last week.
“They’re very disciplined and they’re very athletic too,” said Nelson about Boise’s defense. “They don’t get too cut with their base scheme. They play a very assignment-sound defense, so it will be our execution versus theirs.”
BYU should struggle again in mounting an effective ground game against Boise State, but look for the rushing attack to be a bit more productive than it was last week against the Utes. BYU has seen good success running off-tackle with Alisa and look for that to continue along with more reps for Williams.
BYU passing attack vs. Boise State
BYU averaged just 5.9 yards per pass attempt and 206 yards last week against Utah. Both Cody Hoffman and Kaneakua Friel provided good play, but the rest of the receiving options were largely ignored — particularly Ross Apo on the outside.
Boise State allows 236.5 yards per game through the air and presents an experienced starting secondary with three seniors, including its two cornerbacks Jamar Taylor (5-11, 196) and Jerrell Gavins (5-9, 165.) Taylor is considered to be the Bronco’s best corner, while Gavins has split time with backup Bryan Douglas (5-9, 166.)
“They like to mix it up with man and zone (coverages), but in crucial situations they go man,” said Nelson. “They have a lot of confidence in their pass defenders and in their pass rush.”
Cougar question marks
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