During its 31-14 win Saturday at then-No. 19 San Diego State, the Boise State football team turned the Aztecs’ recipe for success against them.
The Broncos used a solid rushing attack to control the ball on offense, used an aggressive defense to put their opponent on their heels and got a huge spark from the return unit.
“We knew we had to keep a physical mentality coming into this game in order to win,” sophomore running back Alexander Mattison said.
Boise State came out of a tough two-game road stretch at San Diego State and BYU with a pair of wins, allowing 21 total points. The Broncos host Wyoming at 8:15 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2. The Cowboys own the same 4-2 overall, 2-0 Mountain West mark as Boise State and have won three in a row.
“Our coaches, our players, they earned it. Proud of those guys,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “It’s a big win for us, we’re going to enjoy it and being at home, back into conference play next week.”
The gameplan may change a bit week to week, but Boise State seems to have found its blueprint for success offensively. And it’s not the high-flying, high-scoring ways of the past.
On Saturday, the Broncos had 311 yards. They’re currently 113th nationally with 336 yards per game. It was the fourth time in their last nine games they failed to throw for more than 150 yards. But Mattison put up his second straight 100-yard game, and Harsin is 24-3 when he has a back go over the century mark.
“For us, it was just keep chipping away at the stuff we’ve been working on, getting back to the basics in our run game,” said senior tight end Jake Roh, who had his sixth touchdown of the year in the win.
There were no turnovers by the offense, and the line played well again, allowing just two tackles for loss with no sacks for a second consecutive game. It wasn’t asked to do much, but the offense stepped up at key moments. There was the touchdown pass to Roh late in the first half for a 21-0 lead, and a response to both San Diego State scores with scoring drives, including a nine-play, 70-yarder that sealed it with less than 5 minutes to go.
“I thought we responded really well,” Harsin said. “... That’s the maturity, that’s the growth in your football team when you’re able to go back and answer.”
Once again, a stellar performance by coordinator Andy Avalos’ crew. The Aztecs’ 83 rushing yards were their fewest in 49 games dating back to Nov. 23, 2013, when they had 61 against ... Boise State. Senior Rashaad Penny was bottled up, picking up a season-low 53 yards.
San Diego State had been successful the first half of the season with big plays, and had two of them in the pass game Saturday on an 89-yard touchdown pass from Christian Chapman to Fred Trevillion, and a 39-yarder between the duo. But other than that, no play went for more than 21 yards.
“I think it all started in practice this week, we knew we had a big job to do in stopping the run,” junior STUD end Jabril Frazier said. “That’s their offense, running the ball down people’s throats. Our main goal was to stop the run. This was probably the best week of practice we had on defense.”
Boise State’s defense was tenacious, creating 12 tackles for loss (including four sacks), and picking up a head-scratching fumble by Chapman for a 34-yard touchdown return. After getting down early, Chapman was forced to throw, and he finished 12-of-27 (44.4 percent) for 240 yards, his most since the 2016 opener.
The Aztecs were 5-of-16 on third downs and 1-of-3 on fourth down as the Broncos routinely put them behind pace on early downs.
“If we won first and second down, it was going to put us in a good position ... for the most part, we executed pretty well,” junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Avery Williams’ 53-yard punt return for a touchdown gave Boise State a much-needed early edge in the first quarter. He has two return scores through six games. Boise State, as a team, had two in 106 games from 2009 to 2016.
The Broncos’ return defense was great, allowing just 49 yards on three kickoff returns. The Aztecs had come into the game with two kickoff returns on just 11 attempts. Six of Boise State’s punts were inside the 20, and kicker Haden Hoggarth made his short putt of a field goal from 19 yards out.
“To this point we’d been pretty good on special teams. Tonight we were terrible,” San Diego State coach Rocky Long said.