In many ways, Boise State’s 24-7 win Friday at BYU was a methodical one.
An offense devoid of big plays, but one that moved the ball in important situations.
A defense that slowly squeezed the Cougars until there was no breathing room.
Special teams play wasn’t spectacular, but field position was the Broncos’ friend.
“(The players) executed better, I thought our coaches did a very good job with their planning, the way they called the game ... wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We’re going to build from this.”
The Broncos responded after a slow start, and also responded from their last showing, a 42-23 loss to Virginia on Sept. 22. Next up, the Broncos (3-2 overall, 1-0 Mountain West) will travel to face two-time defending league champion San Diego State (8:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS Sports Network).
“It definitely feels a lot better than the Virginia game, because we won,” junior quarterback Brett Rypien said. “It’s really nice, going (back) into conference play. We have a really good opponent next week.”
Here’s how we graded the Broncos’ win over the Cougars.
It wasn’t exactly pretty, but it was one of the Broncos’ better showings this season. Credit must be given to an offensive line that included sophomore Garrett Larson in his first start at center. Boise State, which had allowed 13 sacks the first four games, gave up none. The line helped pave the way for running back Alexander Mattison’s career-high 118 yards after he had 21 the two previous games.
“It’s something I pride myself on a lot, we prepare that way, we preach it,” Mattison said. “It’s all about showing what you practice ... the offensive line hit it fast and physical, I followed their blocks. I trusted the process. I knew that (Friday) was the night we were going to hit it.”
Boise State threw for just 142 yards, though Rypien had his first touchdown pass, settling down after an interception on his first attempt of the game. The offense’s longest play was his 24-yard strike to Sean Modster in the second quarter.
Twice in the fourth quarter, the Broncos got the ball inside BYU territory but didn’t score. They settled for a field goal after starting at the BYU 22 after an interception.
“Overall, it was a good game for us,” Rypien said. “... I thought we did a pretty good job responding.”
BYU’s offense is pretty awful, and Boise State made sure it stayed that way. Outside of a touchdown allowed on the first drive (which started near midfield), the Broncos blanked the Cougars. Even then, it sure looked like safety Kekoa Nawahine recovered a fumble on that scoring drive, but tight end Matt Bushman was ruled down after a replay review.
The Cougars started junior quarterback Tanner Mangum, an Eagle High graduate, who had missed the team’s two previous games with an ankle injury.
“I thought our defense, against a really good quarterback, played really well,” Harsin said. “A couple turnovers in there, maybe another one that was questionable ... I don’t get it, I don’t see all the views.”
The Cougars averaged just 4.6 yards per pass attempt and 2.9 per rush, plus they were 5-of-14 on third downs and 1-of-4 on fourth downs. Boise State got interceptions from Nawahine and junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who combined for 87 yards in returns. The Broncos now have 10 takeaways after having nine all of last season.
“Kekoa’s interception was a major momentum-changer; Leighton’s interception ... he looked good with it,” Harsin said.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
With the lack of scoring and a handful of turnovers and fourth-down attempts, the kicking game wasn’t terribly active Friday. However, Boise State did its job, as kicker Haden Hoggarth made his only field goal attempt (he’s now 5-of-5). Punters Quinn Skillin and Joel Velazquez averaged 50 yards per punt, two of them downed inside the 20. BYU came close to blocking one of those with 6-foot-9 defensive end Corbin Kaufusi.