It didn’t take a football expert to see that something was off with Boise State’s running backs last Thursday against New Mexico.
The trio of sophomore Alexander Mattison, senior Ryan Wolpin and redshirt freshman Robert Mahone combined for 56 yards on 19 carries. They’re combining for 3.9 yards per carry this season.
Sure, a raw offensive line deserves part of the blame, but Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said the backs didn’t always find the right spots.
“We’ve said it for three games, and it needs to be fixed,” Harsin said. “Yes, we hesitated. Yes, we did not hit or create the running lanes I believe we’re capable of doing.
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“It’s just got to be better.”
Harsin lamented the inability to convert on third down with short yardage against the Lobos, and also to make second downs more manageable. Boise State was 4-for-11 on third down in the game. The Broncos’ rushing offense is 88th in the Football Bowl Subdivision (146 yards per game), and senior quarterback Montell Cozart is the team’s leading rusher with 179 yards.
“We did not run the ball very well. We had our opportunities,” Harsin said. “We need to be more physical. Every single guy, all 11 guys, quarterbacks are included in this ... we all need to do a much better job.”
To get the run game reinvigorated, the Broncos are planning to mix up personnel. Mahone, who had the first two carries against New Mexico for 7 yards but didn’t see another attempt, will get more playing time.
“That shouldn’t have happened. He needed to carry the ball more,” Harsin said. “He’s going to carry the ball more this week.”
Said offensive coordinator Zak Hill: “He’s been doing a good job hitting it downhill and finding those holes, so we’re going to use him a little bit more.”
But don’t expect the offense to throw in too much of a wrench.
True freshman Drake Beasley, who was impressive in fall camp with his ability to see the field and find holes, has worked with the trio of backs and was on the edge of being used through the first three weeks. However, barring an injury, he appears ticketed for a redshirt season.
“Drake has been there, but right now we have three guys that are healthy that we’ve got to get in there and rotate, get those guys going,” Harsin said. “This next game is really kind of that point if we’re going to do something with him (or not).”
QB RYPIEN READY TO RETURN
Boise State junior quarterback Brett Rypien is expected to play Friday night against Virginia, Harsin said Wednesday. Cozart also will play.
“Brett’s been practicing this week, he’s cleared, he’s good,” Harsin said. “He’s been back in the mix and there’s no issues there.”
Rypien, who had started 25 straight games, missed last week’s game against New Mexico with an undisclosed injury sustained on a hard hit in the Washington State game Sept. 9. Cozart played about half of the season opener and played the rest of the game against the Cougars after Rypien went out late in the first quarter.
AFTER LOW TURNOUT, BIG CROWD?
The announced crowd of 28,385 for the New Mexico game was the second-lowest in the last 69 regular-season games at Albertsons Stadium. But expect quite a few more people in the stands Friday. On Wednesday, Boise State announced that it had sold more than 31,000 tickets, including nearly 4,600 student tickets that had been picked up.
BRONCOS NAB FIRST TIGHT END COMMIT
Cole Ramseyer, a 6-foot-4, 230-pounder from Coeur d’Alene High, committed to Boise State on Tuesday night.
Ramseyer, ranked as the No. 59 tight end in the nation by Scout.com, also reported offers from Air Force, Idaho, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State and Weber State. He is the second known in-state commit, joining Rocky Mountain defensive tackle Keeghan Freeborn.
In Friday’s win for the Vikings, Ramseyer had 111 yards on eight receptions and scored a pair of touchdowns. He also has a 94-yard game this season. His quarterback, Colton Yankoff, is committed to Washington.
“Cole has all the physical tools to play at the next level,” coach Shawn Amos said. “He has great ball skills. He has the size and athletic ability so you can move him around and be a real matchup problem. He is a great kid and good student. He will be a fantastic addition to the BSU program on and off the field.”
QUEVEDO RELISHES HIS OPPORTUNITY
A redshirt in 2015, Eric Quevedo didn’t appear in a game last season. So after nearly three years without playing, Quevedo savored the chance to step in Sept. 2 against Troy. Harsin said Quevedo “was one of our better players” in the opener. The 6-foot-4, 304-pounder played well enough to earn starts the last two games at right guard.
“I made up my mind once I came here that I wasn’t going anywhere else and I was going to work through everything, no matter how long it took,” Quevedo said. “... It feels good getting back on the field, knowing what it feels like to be sore after a game again.”
NONCONFERENCE MATCHUPS MATTER, TOO
Boise State’s goals are simple: Win the Mountain West and then a bowl game. But there are four other games not included in that mission statement.
Virginia’s visit Friday will be the first time a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference has come to face Boise State in a regular-season matchup.
“Playing against a Power Five team, when people think we don’t play any good competition, that’s a good chance to show that Boise State is and always will be a dominant program,” senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson said.
The Broncos are 14-7 against the Power Five since the start of the 2006 season. It has, as Wilson said, established them as a top-flight program in college football. But wins in those games also are important to the perception of the Mountain West.
San Diego State has both of the Mountain West’s wins over the Power Five this year (Arizona State and Stanford). In 2015-16, the Mountain West had six of them in the regular season — four by Boise State, one by San Diego State and one by Hawaii.
“I think perception, that’s a big part of college football ... it does matter when you get to play those teams,” Harsin said.
Virginia at Boise State
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf); fans are asked to wear blue
TV: ESPN2 (Adam Amin, Dusty Dvoracek, Molly McGrath)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 2-1 (beat New Mexico 28-14); Virginia 2-1 (beat UConn 38-18)
Series: Boise State leads 1-0 (beat Cavaliers 56-14 in Charlottesville in 2015)
Vegas line: Boise State by 12
Kickoff weather: Mid-50s, cloudy