Wyoming at Boise State: Today’s game breakdown

A quick look at tonight’s Mountain West contest.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comNovember 16, 2013 

Brett Smith has just 340 yards in two starts vs. BSU.

MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ — The Associated Press

  • Today's fan facts

    COLOR SCHEME

    Blue and Orange Out — fans are asked to wear blue in the upper deck and orange in the lower deck (lower sections 20, 21 and 22 are blue).

    • Map at broncosports.com/colorschemes

    TICKETS

    A limited number of $25 tickets are available at broncosports.com/tickets, by calling the ticket office at 426-4737 or by visiting the Bronco Stadium box office.

    TAILGATING

    For the first time, fans are allowed to legally drink alcohol in designated areas. The hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and all drinks must be in opaque cups (think red Solo cups, or blue and orange).

    PROHIBITED ITEMS

    Noisemakers, large bags, outside food and weapons are not allowed in Bronco Stadium. Signs should fit in the area of your seat.

    GIVEAWAYS/ACTIVITIES

    • The first 2,000 fans at the Bronco Fan Table in the Ford Fan Zone will take home a Geraldo Boldewijn schedule poster (collector series 5 of 6).

    • Meet Boise State cheerleaders and Buster Bronco.

    • Stop by the Ford Fan Zone for a chance to win $5,000 in carpet from Nampa Floors and Interiors.

    • Get autographs and pictures with the Boise State wrestling team.

    PARKING

    • Parking lots will open to the public and Bronco Athletic Association (BAA) permit holders at 8 a.m.

    • Spaces are available in lots and garages for $10: Administration visitor lot, Brady Street garage, Lincoln Avenue garage.

    • Pay-by-the-hour parking for students will be available in the Brady Street garage and Administration visitor lot until 6 p.m.

    • The Public Affairs and Arts West lots will have hourly metered parking throughout the day.

    • The URS Parking garage at 720 Park Boulevard will open at 5:15 p.m. The cost is $5 and includes free shuttle service to and from Bronco Stadium.

Boise State with the ball

Crank it up: Boise State’s new fast-paced offense has sparked significant improvement this season. And it should be on display against Wyoming, which admittedly isn’t built to handle an onslaught of quick snaps. “We don’t have enough depth to play 95 plays and play at a high level,” coach Dave Christensen said. “The offense has to be executing, putting points on the board and not giving the defense poor field position.”

Watch for Yarbrough: Wyoming sophomore defensive end Eddie Yarbrough is one of the Mountain West’s most productive linemen. He has 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss and leads all Mountain West linemen with 7.8 tackles per game. Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence is second with 6.1.

Wyoming with the ball

Balanced approach: The Cowboys’ fast-paced attack features a potent, three-pronged approach. Quarterback Brett Smith averages 5.2 yards per carry, tailback Shaun Wick averages 6.5 yards per carry, and leading receivers Dominic Rufran (11.9 yards per catch) and Robert Herron (14.9) provide punch in the passing game. So whether Smith keeps, hands off or throws, big plays are common. “Dominic and Robert, they’ve really stepped up and helped me,” Smith said.

Who will play? The Broncos’ two starting safeties, top two middle linebackers, starting weak-side linebacker and top defensive tackle have missed time recently. With the bye last week, it’s unclear who will be ready to play Saturday.

Special teams

No. 1 in the land: Boise State leads the nation in punt returns with a 19.4-yard average. Shane Williams-Rhodes averages 18.5 yards and that number has been increased by his backups, who have delivered returns of 48 (Donte Deayon) and 21 (Bryan Douglas) yards.

Booming punts: The Broncos have climbed to 10th in the nation in net punting. Co-starters Trevor Harman (67 yards) and Sean Wale (63) each have drilled a 60-yarder this season.

Field-goal failures: Wyoming’s opponents are 5-for-12 on field goals this season. The Cowboys have blocked two kicks. Meanwhile, Wyoming has hit just three field goals in five attempts. Boise State’s Dan Goodale is 10-for-11.

Key matchup

WYOMING’S DEFENSIVE BACKS VS. BOISE STATE’S WIDE RECEIVERS

Boise State’s wide receivers had not lived up to their advance billing until the Nov. 2 game at Colorado State, when they repeatedly made difficult catches and generated long gains after the catch. They combined for 17 catches for 296 yards (17.4 yards per catch) and five touchdowns.

Now the group, which could get Kirby Moore back this week if his troublesome foot cooperates, gets a shot at a Wyoming defense that ranks 93rd in passing yards allowed (244.9 per game) and 107th in pass-efficiency defense (153.84).

The catches the Broncos made against Colorado State could have a lasting effect. Backup quarterback Grant Hedrick took a few chances and they rewarded him.

“A lot of it is giving Grant confidence to give us those balls to go make those plays,” said Matt Miller, who made two tough catches in the end zone.

The Cowboys have allowed 14 touchdown passes in the past four games, including nine in the past two.

“All good defenses bounce back,” Wyoming safety Marqueston Huff said. “We’ve got to go execute our game plan. … I’ve been proud of the effort we’ve given. You can’t take that away. We’re not always in the right position, but we’re going to give 100 percent.”

Boise State players to watch

MATT MILLER, WR

Miller, who tied for the team lead with 62 catches in 2011 and was first with 66 in 2012, is second with 53 catches this year.

He made six catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns in the Broncos’ last game, Nov. 2 at Colorado State. That followed an October in which he caught 12 passes for 116 yards and no touchdowns in three games and prompted a pledge from coach Chris Petersen to get him the ball more.

“You can move guys around (the formation) to where the percentages probably go up where he has a better chance to get it,” Petersen said. “At the end of the day, that’ll help.”

Said quarterback Grant Hedrick: “We’re just putting him in different spots to go make plays. He needs to get more touches.”

Miller did not say one word to the coaches about his lack of action, Petersen said. Still, the unassuming junior noticed his dwindling stats.

“I was kind of getting a little frustrated for a while,” he said. “The ball wasn’t bouncing my way. A lot of it is on my shoulders, just getting open and making sure Grant has enough time and sees me being open.”

TROY WARE, WR AND ROBERT ASH, DT

Ware and Ash, both sophomores, are among the players who have emerged from oblivion to fill injury voids this season.

Ware has seven catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. “I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” he said. “I’m starting to get more playing time. They see what I can do on the field. They’re getting more trust in me, really.”

Ash, who has moved to the offensive line and back this year, made two of his five tackles this season against Colorado State, when he took 40 snaps. “Hopefully I can stay in the rotation,” he said. “I’m going to try my best.”

Wyoming players to watch

BRETT SMITH, QB

The junior needs 208 yards this week to break the school record for career total offense. He has 9,368 yards rushing and passing, and has accounted for at least one touchdown in a Mountain West-record 32 straight games — every game of his career.

He has helped the Cowboys generate 491.8 yards per game, within reach of the school record for a season (498.9).

Smith has struggled in two starts against the Broncos — 115 yards, one TD as a freshman and 225 yards, two TDs as a sophomore — but he’s got their attention.

“He’s as troublesome as anybody that’s out there,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s one of those guys who sometimes when it’s all not just right is at his best. Those guys are extremely scary for coaches.”

Smith ranks 13th in the nation in total offense this season but is 57th in pass efficiency.

“I base my performance off wins,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed we’ve struggled the last few weeks.”

SHAUN WICK, RB

Wick ranks fifth in the Mountain West with 823 yards, and his 6.5-yard average is second-best among the running backs in the league’s rushing top 10. The sophomore has helped transform Wyoming from one of the Mountain West’s worst rushing teams into one of its best.

“It’s huge having him back there,” Smith said. “He’s such a special player. He works so hard. He’s such a tough, physical runner.”

JORDAN STANTON, LB

The junior middle linebacker ranks third in the nation with 12.2 tackles per game in his first season at this level, after beginning his career at Los Angeles Pierce Community College. He has reached double digits in tackles six times, including 17 last week against Fresno State.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398; Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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