WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
▪ Hurry it up: Eastern Washington used an up-tempo approach to keep Washington State on its heels in a 45-42 upset last week, running 66 plays in 27:43 of possession time. Boise State ran 73 plays in 29:14 at Louisiana, and will again try to keep an aggressive approach.
“The tempo was big for them, getting on those guys,” Boise State co-offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.
▪ Grind house: The Broncos will try to establish the run off the bat, and they will use their stable of backs from junior Jeremy McNichols to senior Devan Demas and freshman Alexander Mattison. They ran for 158 yards at Louisiana — a decent amount, but room for improvement. Washington State was 95th in the nation against the run last season, giving up 193.3 yards per game. Getting the run game going also will help keep the high-powered WSU offense off the field.
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“There’s always really room for improvement. We didn’t really reach our standard,” Boise State junior center Mason Hampton said.
WHEN THE COUGARS HAVE THE BALL
▪ Mine your options: The Cougars had 10 players with at least two receptions against Eastern Washington, and 10 players caught more than 20 passes last season. Their four- and five-receiver sets will spread out and test the relatively unproven BSU secondary.
“We have to be on our toes. ... They rotate from the 1s to the 2s, and there’s no dropoff, so we just have to be ready, no matter who has the ball,” BSU cornerback Jonathan Moxey said.
▪ Stay patient: It’s death by a thousand cuts often for the Cougars, throwing short pass after short pass, then springing a long one on an unsuspecting defense or letting receivers take a quick pass, break a tackle and break a big gain. Of the 27 teams that threw for 300 yards or more, Washington State’s 10.2 yards per completion was second fewest.
“We’re a team that can do some explosive things, but we’re also a team that needs to be consistent,” Leach said.
▪ A step up? The Cougars were among the worst special teams units early in Leach’s tenure, but they had some positive moments last season, making 20-of-26 field goals. However, they also allowed two kick return and two punt return touchdowns. WSU’s two punters, Zach Charme (Timberline High) and Kyle Sweet, averaged 44.8 yards per punt against Eastern Washington.
“What we saw in this last game, went back and watched the film from last year, a very good special teams unit,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Because it’s early in the year, we still have to plan for the unexpected.”
▪ Chance to rebound: Boise State senior Tyler Rausa, who made 25-of-30 field goals last season, missed his first kick of 2016, a 42-yarder. He made a 30-yarder later in the game against Louisiana. Cougar kicker Erik Powell also is hoping to have a better day after he missed a 38-yarder in the fourth quarter of their 45-42 loss.
“Rausa’s a competitor, so when that happens, he’s certainly going to come back and compete,” Harsin said.