Boise State vs. Washington: Game breakdown

ccripe@idahostatesman.comAugust 31, 2013 

Kharyee Marshall has the second-most appearances by a Boise State defensive lineman (26), and the fastest 40-yard-dash time (4.58). He's expected to be a factor at stud end, a defensive end/linebacker hybrid spot, for the Broncos.

JOE JASZEWSKI — Statesman file

BRONCOS WITH THE BALL

Loaded offense: Boise State surrounds senior quarterback Joe Southwick with seven receivers who have caught at least 17 passes in a season — and six of them are at least 6-foot-3. Plus, sophomore tailback Jay Ajayi averaged 6.7 yards per carry last season. “Just firepower, really,” senior tight end Gabe Linehan said of the offense. “We have experience where we need it. We have guys that are going to break out. We just have options for Joe to play with and Joe’s the commander now.”

Loaded defense: The Huskies return eight starters on defense, including six of their front seven. “It’s a little scary,” Southwick said, “that’s a whole other offseason for that group to work together.”

HUSKIES WITH THE BALL

Discipline strikes: Washington star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been suspended for the opener, The Seattle Times reported Thursday night. Seferian-Jenkins pleaded guilty to DUI earlier this year. Top wide receiver Kasen Williams also was involved in an alcohol-related infraction but he is expected to play, the Times reported.

Oregon-esque attack: The Huskies have switched to an Oregon-style, up-tempo offense. That’s one reason Boise State coach Chris Petersen worried about his defense’s conditioning in fall camp. “As a D-lineman, it sucks going no-huddle, but you get used to it,” senior defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe said.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Starting over: Boise State junior kicker Dan Goodale earned a second shot at the starting job (he lost it in 2011), the punting job remains competitive, the punt returners are new and the special teams units will feature a host of new faces, like safety Taylor Loffler, linebacker Darren Lee and cornerback Mercy Maston.

Return engagement: This might be one of the best kick-return showdowns this season. Boise State has Shane Williams-Rhodes, a sophomore from Texas whose high school kick returns were enough to convince coaches to recruit him despite his 5-foot-6 frame. Washington counters with John Ross, a true freshman from Long Beach, Calif., who reportedly returned at least 20 kickoffs for TDs in high school.

Key matchup

BOISE STATE’S OFFENSIVE TACKLES VS. WASHINGTON’S PASS RUSH

Washington recorded 27 sacks last season. Players who have left the program accounted for just two of them.

The Huskies will chase Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick with the likes of defensive linemen Andrew Hudson (6.5 sacks) and Josh Shirley (6.5) and linebackers Travis Feeney (4) and Shaq Thompson (2). And they’ll do it with the benefit of ear-rattling crowd noise that will make it impossible at times for offensive tackles Charles Leno Jr. and Rees Odhiambo to hear the snap count.

Drive-killing false starts also could be a problem.

“They’ve got some guys up front who will probably cause us some trouble,” Boise State offensive coordinator Robert Prince said.

Leno, the left tackle, is a senior with a team-high 26 career starts. Odhiambo, the right tackle, will make his first start.

“We have to be really poised,” Leno said.

History favors the Broncos in this matchup. The past two years in openers against Georgia in the Georgia Dome and at Michigan State, the Broncos committed three false starts and didn’t allow a sack. Their opponents, who had the crowd on their side, committed seven false starts and allowed six sacks.

BOISE STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH

MARCUS HENRY, right guard

Henry lived 7 minutes from Husky Stadium in Bellevue, Wash. He is expected to make his first college start in that stadium.

He was the coaches’ first choice to fill the opening at guard and never lost his grip on the spot through spring ball and fall camp.

“It definitely meant a little bit more that we were going back to Washington to play our first game,” he said. “I worked my butt off, and it’s paying off. … There’s a lot on me, but it’s nothing I’m not ready to pick up.”

The Huskies offered Henry a scholarship out of Bellevue High, but not until after he committed to Boise State.

“It’s always been a West Coast guy’s dream (to play in the Pac-12), but as soon as I came to Boise State and visited, I knew this is where I wanted to be,” he said.

KHARYEE MARSHALL, stud end

Marshall, a senior, also is slated to make his first start Saturday. He has played 26 games, but has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. He missed three spring camps, including this year.

“It was hard, but at the same time, you have to stay positive about those things because if that gets you down, you’re going to stay down,” he said. “So staying positive and being around my teammates helped me get through all this. And it was pretty hard, but I got through it.”

Marshall is the fastest defensive lineman on the team. The stud position is an end/linebacker hybrid — and a spot that tends to produce playmakers.

DEMARCUS LAWRENCE, defensive end

Lawrence didn’t play in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas against Washington because of a team rules violation. Since then, he has improved his focus on the field and made enough changes off the field that he’s talked about as a leader. He led the Mountain West with 9.5 sacks last season and was a force throughout fall camp.

“He practices with a purpose and practices to get better, and usually that shows up on game day,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “With him, it’s about all the little things in his life, the little things in his game, the little things in the weight room. All those things that are really important to taking that next step to being an elite player.”

WASHINGTON PLAYERS TO WATCH

KEITH PRICE, quarterback

The senior quarterback was a breakout star in 2011, his first season as the starter. He ranked seventh in the nation in pass efficiency (161.09, a school record). He also set school records for touchdown passes (33) and completion percentage (66.9) and ranked second with 3,063 passing yards.

But after receiving some buzz as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate in 2012, his numbers plummeted — 60.9 percent completions, 19 TDs, 2,726 yards and an efficiency rating of 122.4. He also threw 13 interceptions.

“I know where I’m expected to play,” he said. “I expect a lot out of myself. I don’t need other people telling me I need to play better. I expect a lot out of myself, so hopefully I can get back to that.”

SHAQ THOMPSON, linebacker

Thompson was ranked as one of the top five recruits in the country in 2012. He earned All-Pac-12 honorable-mention honors as a true freshman with 74 tackles, three interceptions, 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, playing the nickel position Justin Wilcox originally installed at Boise State.

“He’s the best player on their team, probably,” Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick said. “He’s only a true sophomore. He’s played one year of football at the college level, but he stands out on film.”

Boise State offensive coordinator Robert Prince said Thompson — an 18th-round pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft — probably could start at any position but quarterback or offensive line. He made eight tackles in the bowl game.

“He’s a great player,” Prince said. “We have a plan for him, but I don’t think we’re going to shut him out.”

JOHN TIMU, linebacker

Timu made a career-high 15 tackles in the MAACO Bowl, so the Broncos are well acquainted with him.

“He’s smart,” Southwick said. “You could just tell.”

Timu, a high school quarterback, has started 21 of the Huskies’ 26 games since he arrived.

“He’s a physical guy,” Washington safety Sean Parker said. “He’s a leader out there as well. When he messes up, he beats himself up a little bit because he wants to be great.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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