Here’s what to watch in each phase of the football game when Boise State and Northern Illinois square off in the Poinsettia Bowl on Wednesday in San Diego:
When the Broncos have the ball
Layoff could linger: Boise State hasn’t played a football game in 26 days, which could hamper an offense that relies on timing and momentum. Offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz also is a bit concerned about ball security because the team hasn’t faced live tackling since the season ended. “I want to see execution and build off what we did last time we played,” he said. “We scored on a lot of drives and were able to put long drives together.”
Under center again? Drinkwitz put quarterback Brett Rypien under center more in the regular-season finale to help tailback Jeremy McNichols run downhill and take some run/pass decisions away from Rypien. The Broncos might try that tactic again in the bowl.
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When the Huskies have the ball
QB carousel: The Huskies have lost four quarterbacks to injury this season. One of them — redshirt freshman Ryan Graham — is expected to return to start in the Poinsettia Bowl. Graham came off the bench to lead the Huskies’ upset of Toledo. He won his first two starts but lost the third, a game he didn’t finish because of a leg injury. He missed the MAC championship loss. “I’m really excited to get back in,” Graham told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I love playing this game, and I’m super competitive.”
Golladay impresses: Several Broncos singled out Northern Illinois wide receiver Kenny Golladay for praise. The 6-foot-4 junior leads the team with 71 catches, a 15.8-yard average per catch and 10 touchdown grabs. But that’s not all he can do. “He’s probably one of the better receivers I’ve seen as far as blocking,” Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said.
Broncos trending up: Boise State special teams coach Kent Riddle said the Broncos’ best attribute in the kicking game this year is how they’ve improved. “We started out rough and I think we’ve finished to this point on a good note,” he said, “but all we’re going to remember is this game.”
Kick returns should be fun: Northern Illinois junior kickoff returner Aregeros Turner was named the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year with a 25.2-yard average. Meanwhile, opponents have generated just 16.8 yards per return against the Huskies. “(Turner) has great speed and agility and can run away from you,” Riddle said. “Their kickoff coverage unit is exceptional. ... We’ll have to battle.”
Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois
▪ When: 2:30 p.m. Wednesday
▪ Where: Qualcomm Stadium (71,500, grass), San Diego
▪ TV: ESPN, Beth Mowins, David Diaz-Infante, Shelley Smith
▪ Radio: KBOI (670 AM) and KTIK (93.1 FM), Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
▪ Records: Boise State (8-4, 5-3 Mountain West); Northern Illinois (8-5, 6-2 Mid-American)
▪ Coaches: Boise State, Bryan Harsin (20-6, second year; 27-11, third year overall); Northern Illinois, Rod Carey (31-11, third year)
▪ Series: First meeting
▪ Vegas line: Boise State favored by 9 points; over/under is 56
▪ Kickoff weather: Low 60s and mostly cloudy, with 7 mph winds and a 10 percent chance of rain.