There's some power in those golden locks.
Inspired by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, Boise State redshirt freshman defensive end Mat Boesen has grown out his blonde hair so it peeks out of the back of his helmet. Like Matthews, Boesen has thus far proven to be a pass-rushing demon in his short career.
Boesen has a team-high three sacks in the Broncos' first three games, getting his first Sept. 13 against Colorado State and two Saturday against UConn.
"I knew I had it in me I'm pretty good at speed rushing, so I just use that to my ability, just came off the edge and was able to make a couple good plays," Boesen said.
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Boesen spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since he arrived on campus in the summer of 2013. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Boesen has primarily been used this season in passing situations from the Broncos' stud end position. It's a spot that stresses an ability to rush the passer while being versatile enough to stand up and drop back in coverage. He said a new package was installed before that UConn game — four defensive ends on the field together — that helped enable him to have his breakout game.
It's a good fit for Boesen, who was recruited as a nickel but made the change to the line while redshirting last season. He set a West Torrance (Calif.) High record with 17 sacks as a senior in 2012.
"My favorite thing is coming after the quarterback it's just in my comfort zone," Boesen said.
His teammates have seen that over the past year.
"He just plays with tremendous speed," sophomore defensive tackle Sam McCaskill said. "He comes off the ball hard and he always seems to find a way to the quarterback."
Though his size is hardly prototypical for a defensive end, Boesen credits his background as a standout wrestler for enabling him to use leverage to take on bigger players. Coach Bryan Harsin said "he can get bigger and be even more of a force."
"He's a guy that goes hard every day," defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said. " He's not the biggest guy, but you know, he's got the biggest heart, I think."
Boesen is part of a deep and talented defensive line, used to battling for playing time as he plays the same position as other young talents in Gabe Perez and Kamalei Correa. He kept working in spring and in fall camp, and Yates said Boesen "had to play for us." Making an early impact wasn't even expected from the man himself.
"I didn't at first — I always knew I could come in and make a difference but I was like third on the depth chart, always knew that there was that chance to come in, so once it finally happened, it was cool," Boesen said.
One of Boesen's sacks against UConn forced a punt, and his other two sacks have come on second down, forcing a third-and-long. Both times, the opponent failed to convert.
"Every time I yell at him to make a play, he makes one on the field," Harsin said. "I need to do that more often. He's come up big in critical situations."
Boesen is making a name for himself on the field after his name was brought up for something far less positive. He was arrested July 10 and charged with two misdemeanors — resisting or obstructing officers and inattentive or careless driving. The case is still pending in the courts, and he was disciplined internally by Harsin.
"He's remorseful," Harsin said. "He's embarrassed. He's not that guy. He doesn't want to be that guy. He's probably (ticked) at himself for being in that situation."
The next step on the field for Boesen is to be more than a situational pass rusher and get onto the field more consistently. He said he doesn't tend to hear Harsin's shouts, either.
"They know I can pass rush, obviously, but I can run stop, too, so I just want to keep showing them what I can do," Boesen said.
The way he plays on Saturdays is a microcosm of what he brings during the week, which Boesen and the staff think will help him continue to be a force.
"I've got a motor, so I'm always going," he said.
Tough matchup for D-line: Louisiana returned four starters on the offensive line this season from last, and have allowed only one sack in three games. Only seven teams that have played three games have allowed one or zero sacks. The Ragin' Cajuns are also averaging more than 200 rushing yards per game.
"I think the whole D-line is excited about the challenge," Boesen said. "Coaches told us it's going to be the toughest offensive line we're going to go up against all year."