When the Broncos have the ball
Mendenhall takes over: BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall took direct oversight of the defense and play-calling duties for this season in hopes of rebuilding a once-outstanding defense. He was in charge of the 2012 defense that held Boise State scoreless. He also made a one-game cameo last year as the play-caller for the Boise State game, when the Broncos scored 55 points. His scheme is known for a variety of blitzes that can be difficult to diagnose. “Those guys play extremely hard for him,” Boise State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said. “He’s aggressive. He does a good job keeping people off-balance.”
Second take for Finley: Boise State sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley relied heavily on short, safe throws around the line of scrimmage in his first start. If the Broncos’ run game struggles like it did in the second half against Washington, he likely will need to be more aggressive in his first road start.
When the Cougars have the ball
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Two-way loss: The season-ending injury to quarterback Taysom Hill (Highland High of Pocatello) also cost the Cougars their best running back. Hill rushed for 72 yards against Nebraska. Actual running backs combined for 11 carries for 27 yards. Coaches likely will try to run the ball to take pressure off freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum (Eagle High), but that will be difficult with an unproven backfield and Boise State’s stingy run defense.
Expanded rotation? The Broncos only played 57 defensive snaps in last week’s opener against Washington, which allowed both cornerbacks and both safeties to play the entire game. They likely will use some backups in this game, including true freshman cornerback Tyler Horton. They also could get some help on the defensive line if tackle Tutulupeatau Mataele and end Gabe Perez are healthy.
Quick fix: The Broncos need a fast turnaround on special teams, where they nearly squandered the Washington game. Two punt returns (one for a TD) and a blocked punt accounted for all of the Huskies’ 13 points and a blocked PAT left the Broncos vulnerable to a game-tying field goal.
A good day, mate: BYU punter Jonny Linehan averaged 51 yards in his college football debut at Nebraska. The former rugby player booted a 77-yarder and only allowed one 5-yard return in five kicks. His performance highlighted an outstanding BYU special teams outing.
Watch for No. 44: Boise State junior linebacker Darren Lee is a former LDS missionary with friends on the BYU campus. His eagerness to play the Cougars was evident in the way he hit on special teams in last year’s game. He is a captain for this year’s game. “A chance to make a lot of friends mad,” he said.