Defensive dynamos to square off in Boise State-Colorado State football game

Lawrence and Barrett create havoc for opposing offenses.

ccripe@idahostatesman.com © 2013 Idaho StatesmanOctober 31, 2013 

The first word Colorado State football coach Jim McElwain uttered at the mention of Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence:

“Ugh.”

That’s how much dread players like Lawrence and Colorado State defensive end Shaquil Barrett — arguably the two best pass rushers in the Mountain West — cause for opposing coaches.

They’ll be on the same field Saturday, when the Broncos and Rams meet at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo., (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network) with control of the Mountain West Mountain Division on the line.

“I have a great offensive staff,” McElwain said, “but I just go in and laugh at them saying, ‘How are you going to handle this guy?’ ”

The Rams should have some idea. They see a player like Lawrence in practice every day.

Barrett has 7.5 sacks and a Mountain West-leading 13.5 tackles for loss in eight games this season.

Lawrence has 7.5 sacks — first in the Mountain West by per-game average, as he was last season — and 11 tackles for loss.

Lawrence also leads all defensive ends with 6.4 tackles per game (45 total). Barrett is second with 5.8 (46).

And they’re the only two players in the country to block two kicks in one game this season. Barrett stuffed two field goals Sept. 14 against Cal Poly; Lawrence matched him Sept. 28 against Southern Miss.

Boise State redshirt freshman Travis Averill, who is expected to make his first start at right tackle, has studied Barrett this week. He faced Lawrence every day on the scout team last year.

“They’re just great with their hands. They’re fast,” Averill said. “They keep moving. They’re never settled with being blocked. They have different moves for everything.”

Both players have been on the move in their college careers, too.

Lawrence is from Aiken, S.C. His path to Boise included a stop at Butler Community College in Kansas.

Barrett is from Baltimore. His path to Fort Collins included a stop at Nebraska-Omaha, which disbanded its football program after his freshman season. Barrett was committed to Miami at one time but landed with the Rams, where he began his career as an inside linebacker in 2011. He moved to defensive end last year.

“It gives me more opportunities to get after the quarterback,” he said.

Barrett got off to a fantastic start with 39 tackles and 6.5 sacks in the first five games, including a three-sack game. He has seven tackles, one sack and an interception in the past three games — a dip in production, McElwain said, due to injury.

“He’s a little banged up right now, kind of a shadow of where he was earlier,” McElwain said. “When it is snapped, he goes at a high intensity.”

Barrett made nine tackles against the Broncos as a linebacker two years ago but just one as an end last year. Still, he has offensive coordinator Robert Prince’s attention.

“When he rushes off the edge, he causes havoc,” Prince said. “When he’s got 1-on-1 with the tackle, it’s not good for the tackle. We’re going to have to do some things, whether we’re going to have the back help or the tight end or maybe another lineman. He’s very hard to block 1-on-1.”

The Rams likely will take a similar approach to Lawrence, who has 6.5 sacks in the past four games. He became the nation’s only player with a 3.5-sack game this season two weeks ago against Nevada.

“That guy is the real deal,” McElwain said. “You better know where No. 8 is. … You’ll never shut him out, but don’t let him have the big one. He really looks the part. Shaq might not, when you just see him standing there, but when it’s game time, he can take over.”

Lawrence also can be deceptive, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said.

“He has really good natural strength,” Petersen said. “He’s not that big — in the weight room, his numbers won’t be that good — but he plays pretty strong.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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