In his first play in a Boise State uniform, Avery Williams gave fans a taste of what’s to come from the redshirt freshman and former walk-on.
After the BSU defense held Troy to a three-and-out on its first possession of the game, Williams returned the ensuing punt 81 yards for a touchdown. He used a wicked stiff-arm to elude a Troy defender.
“It felt like a dream,” Williams said.
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It was Boise State’s first punt return for a TD since Donte Deayon scored on a 75-yard punt return against Wyoming on Nov. 22, 2014.
It also ranks as the fifth-longest punt return in Boise State history. Williams finished the game with five punt returns for 124 yards, the sixth-best single-game total by a Bronco.
Senior Cedrick Wilson followed Williams’ lead on a kickoff return, breaking free for a 55-yard return to put the Broncos on the Trojans’ 45-yard line.
Last season, ESPN ranked Boise State 116th in special teams efficiency. On Saturday, Williams made ESPN’s top plays on social media and the Web for the 81-yard showstopper.
Williams kept the wheels turning with a 48-yard kickoff return on the Broncos’ final possession of the first half. His return set up a 41-yard field goal by redshirt junior Haden Hoggarth for a 17-10 halftime lead.
Williams totaled a game-leading 172 all-purpose yards.
“One thing I always said when I got my scholarship was it wasn’t going to change my personality, my effort, my work ethic,” he said.
Cozart leads two TD drives
Montell Cozart transferred from Kansas over the summer and had limited time to learn the Broncos’ offense, but the senior quarterback looked comfortable at the helm in his first game as a Bronco.
Cozart led a six-play, 77-yard scoring drive midway through the second quarter, topped off by sophomore Alexander Mattison’s 49-yard run for a TD and a 14-3 lead. It was the Broncos’ first offensive touchdown of the 2017 season.
Cozart gave the Broncos some breathing room on the ground by completing his only pass of the drive, a 17-yarder to Cedrick Wilson.
He stayed in for a second drive that ended on a fourth down. Starter Brett Rypien returned for the next possession and threw a pick six. Rypien also started the second half.
Cozart returned to direct another touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. He connected with redshirt senior tight end Jake Roh on a 7-yard TD pass with 2:12 to play, sealing the Broncos’ 24-13 win.
Rypien finished 13-for-23 passing for 160 yards, one interception and no touchdowns. He had a QB rating of 106.3 and also was sacked four times.
Meanwhile, Cozart was 6-for-9 for 50 yards, one score and a rating of 150. He also had eight carries for 36 yards.
Kicker comes out of nowhere
Haden Hoggarth had been absent from college football for two seasons before he made his debut at kicker in the Broncos’ season opener.
There was no evidence of the layoff, however, as Hoggarth went 3-for-3 on PATs and made his only field-goal attempt of the game — a 41-yarder with 27 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
“He’s been very reliable. He’s done an awesome job,” Boise State special teams coordinator Kent Riddle said. “What he did today, he’s done all fall camp.”
Hoggarth, a redshirt junior, played his freshman season at Bethune Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla. He was out of football the past two years and enrolled at Boise State without the guarantee of even a walk-on roster spot. He tried out in spring ball.
Hoggarth was listed as the backup kicker behind redshirt freshman Joel Velazquez ahead of Saturday’s game.
Velazquez, who was projected to start at kicker and punter this season, handled kickoff duties, while redshirt junior Quinn Skillin got the start at punter. Velazquez came in for one punt at the start of the fourth quarter.
Boise State cornerback Reid Harrison-Ducros bobbled and lost a near interception and the football fell into the hands of Troy receiver Deondre Douglas, who ran it in for what was initially ruled a touchdown with 1:01 on the clock in the third quarter.
But the call was overturned after a review that showed Boise State linebacker Desmond Williams knocked the ball from Douglas’ hands before he crossed the goal line, resulting in a touchback.
Had the original call stood, Troy would have pulled within 17-16. Instead, the Broncos maintained a 17-10 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Rocky Mountain grad nabs interception
Boundary safety Kekoa Nawahine grabbed his first career interception with the Broncos in the fourth quarter.
The 2014 Rocky Mountain High graduate intercepted Troy senior quarterback Brandon Silvers on the Trojans’ 49-yard line with 7:23 left in the game.
“We all got to be ready to step up and make plays when the time comes,” Nawahine said. “It feels good being able to capitalize on opportunities.”
Attendance low for season opener
The announced attendance of 31,581 was the smallest crowd for a Boise State home opener since 2007, when the Broncos kicked off their home schedule against Weber State with 30,278 fans at Albertsons Stadium.
It also was the lowest-attended home game overall since the Broncos’ home finale loss vs. Air Force in 2015. At the time, Boise State was coming off a loss.