WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Red zone relevance: Boise State was 2-of-6 in the red zone against New Mexico last year, with the four failed drives ending at the 15-yard line or closer. The drives ended with a missed field goal, an interception, a fumble and a turnover on downs. The Broncos have been good in that aspect this season, scoring on 92.3 percent of trips inside the 20, and if they can punch it in this time around, it should equal a win.
“It’s always an emphasis for us,” junior tight end Jake Roh said. “(Last year) was just not our standard of how we want to perform in the red zone. It’s something we worked on, we’ve been working on. It’s something we’re emphasizing this week and have all year.”
Use your options: The Broncos don’t run the option, but they have plenty of options. In their last two visits to New Mexico, they’ve averaged nearly 600 yards a game. From junior receiver Cedrick Wilson’s ability to throw, to junior running back Jeremy McNichols’ ability to catch, the Broncos could open up the playbook.
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“We aren’t firing on all cylinders yet, but I definitely see it coming and we’ve got a lot of different pieces that we can use,” sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien said.
WHEN THE LOBOS HAVE THE BALL
Go big or go home: Surprisingly, the Lobos threw for more yards (218) than they ran (195) in their 31-24 win over the Broncos last year. They used their run tendencies to draw in the Boise State defense, and when they would throw, they’d go deep. Some passes involved an option play that could turn into a pass with a receiver running downfield. They averaged 29 yards per completion, so why not try it again?
“Their offense does a really good job of executing. Their coaches have a great idea if you’re playing them a certain way, they know the adjustments. ... They get their explosive players the ball in the right situations,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said.
4.3Boise State ranks No. 1 in the nation with 4.3 sacks per game (17 in four games). Though New Mexico has thrown just 74 times, the Lobos have allowed seven sacks.
Make it count early: New Mexico isn’t built to overcome big deficits or have much success on third-and-long with its run-first approach. The Lobos will want to get ahead early, just as they did last year in Boise, and stay out of tough spots trying to get first downs. They were 0-for-10 on third downs in the last meeting. They’re 96th nationally this season, converting 35.8 percent.
Solid footing: Boise State senior kicker Tyler Rausa has hit 3-of-4 field goals, making his last three after missing a 42-yarder in the opener at Louisiana. During fall practices, Rausa said he was motivated by a 20-yard miss he had last year against the Lobos.
“It’s stuck with me, kind of motivated me, and I’m going out for a little redemption,” Rausa said in August.
Punt problems, kickoffs crushing: The Lobos have been a mixed bag in the kicking game, as punter Corey Bojorquez is 102nd nationally in punting average, and the Lobos are dead last nationally in net punting (28.8 yards), allowing 10.7 yards per return. Opponents have returned only 3-of-27 kickoffs against kicker Jason Sanders, who is 5-of-6 on field goals.
“They have a left-footed punter, so a little different there, and most of the kickoffs have been touchbacks at their place,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.