Boise State kept Heisman Trophy candidate Rashaad Penny in check like no defense had done this season.
Through six games, the San Diego State running back ranked second in the nation 993 yards on 143 carries. He also has two receiving touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown.
But against the Broncos, Penny was limited to 53 yards and one touchdown on 21 touches — an average of 2.5 yards per carry. The Broncos have not allowed an opposing player to rush for 100 yards in a game this season.
“Hats off to them,” San Diego State quarterback Christian Chapman said. “They were able to stop our best guy on offense, and that helped them a lot.”
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On the Aztecs’ second series, Penny had a 21-yard run and scored on an 11-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Besides that, he was stuffed for just 1.1 yards per carry, or 4 feet per attempt.
“I don’t think you’re going to shut the guy down, I thought we did a good job up front on the D-line, creating some penetration,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We just contained him. When you play a guy like that, everybody’s got a part in tackling him.”
Boise State’s defense was particularly stout in the first half, collecting all four of its sacks and 10 of its 12 tackles for loss. Jabril Frazier accounted for two sacks and two tackles for loss, and Curtis Weaver and Durrant Miles each registered one sack.
Miles’ forced fumble in the first quarter that led to Kekaula Kaniho’s 34-yard fumble return for a TD was the Broncos’ 11th takeaway this season.
Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch led the Broncos with 11 tackles (nine solo), including one tackle for loss.
In all, 10 different Boise State players had at least one tackle for loss against SDSU, which was 5-of-16 on third downs.
“It was a big emphasis for us to get them behind on first down so it was harder for them on second and third,” said cornerback Avery Williams, who had six tackles.
Cozart steps up late at quarterback
Senior quarterback Montell Cozart led the offense on the Broncos’ final three drives, stepping into the game with a 21-7 lead. Starter Brett Rypien had thrown three straight incompletions on his last drive late in the third quarter.
The Broncos rushed for 117 of their 186 yards on those drives. Cozart finished the game 3-for-4 passing for 53 yards and 1 yard on two rushes. He also had a 9-yard reception from Rypien on a third down in the red zone that set up a second quarter touchdown pass from Rypien to tight end Jake Roh.
“He did a good job,” Harsin said. “We were moving it, thought the flow of what we were doing, started running the ball at the end. ... We felt like what was going on at that point, let’s go ahead and stick with it.”
Rypien was 11-of-19 passing for a career-low 72 yards and had a career-long run of 31 yards. Harsin said after the game there was no plans to alter the offense, saying “we know we’re utilizing both guys.”
A long way back home
A San Diego noise ordinance prevents any flights from taking off between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. So, Boise State’s charter flight was unable to leave from the city after the game. The team had to bus to Ontario, about a two-hour drive away, and fly home from there.
Since the team wasn’t expected to arrive in Boise until about 5 a.m. Sunday, Harsin said it altered the team’s schedule a bit upon return.
BSU’s Thomas takes nasty hit
Freshman backup receiver CT Thomas was tackled hard on a 5-yard reception on the Broncos’ second possession of the first quarter and struggled to stand.
When he did, Thomas was wobbly on his feet. The 5-foot-8, 152-pounder went to the sideline and sat on the bench without his helmet. He did not return to the game.
Redshirt freshman running back Robert Mahone, who got the start at BYU, did not make the trip with an undisclosed injury. Junior tight end Chase Blakley and senior defensive tackle Daniel Auelua also did not travel. ... Sophomore safety DeAndre Pierce was an honorary captain, joining season-long captains Brett Rypien, Cedrick Wilson and Leighton Vander Esch. … Sophomore safety Kekoa Nawahine carried the Hammer and senior offensive tackle Archie Lewis carried the “Bleed Blue” flag before the game. ... The Aztecs were shut out in the first half for the first time since Sept. 7, 2013 at then-No. 3 Ohio State.