Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said last week his team had not quite proven it can salt games away with its rushing attack.
The Broncos had rushed for 39 and 67 yards the second half of the two games before facing San Jose State on Friday. Against the Spartans, Boise State had 152 yards in the final two quarters of their 45-31 win. The 54 rushing attempts and 298 yards in the game were a season-high.
“Huge,” junior running back Jeremy McNichols called it. “We want to be physical on offense and defense, that’s by running the ball. When you can run the ball effectively 5-6 yards a carry, it opens up everything. We can stay on the field and give the defense some rest. Our play action game worked really well, and Brett (Rypien) was really efficient.”
Rypien was 16-of-21 for 219 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was one of the most efficient games for the sophomore quarterback in his young career.
“That was one thing we talked about all week, we wanted to run the ball, we wanted to establish the run,” Rypien said.
Expect that to be a focus again for Boise State this week. Hawaii is 124th nationally against the run, yielding 259.2 yards per game. Even the guys catching passes know it will be vital in the final stretch of the season.
“Everything came together that (San Jose State) game,” junior receiver Cedrick Wilson said. “Coach just said we had to get back to our identity, which is running the ball ... it was actually fun to get it accomplished for the first time.”
As the team hopes it finds more balance, it also will aim to avoid some of the lulls it has experienced at times. When the offense is clicking, it has been strong in many aspects: the Broncos are No. 8 in passing efficiency (167.97), No. 10 in third-down conversion percentage (49.1) and No. 4 in red zone touchdown percentage (78.8).
It is often a topic that comes up when the Broncos head to Hawaii, about balancing the long travel, the beach right nearby and having to play a football game. Naturally, the old cliche “business trip” has come up plenty, but senior linebacker Ben Weaver said the team has learned from its rough showing in the 2013 Hawaii Bowl not to lose focus. The beach can wait.
“Like coach (Bryan) Harsin said, it’s a business trip, so I guess I’ll go back for vacation later in life ... I hope get to at least take a picture of it for my mom or something,” Wilson said.
Fellow Boise State beat reporter Michael Katz and I will host a live chat at 11 a.m. Thursday at IdahoStatesman.com.