Some leftover notes and quotes from this week, leading into tonight’s Boise State-BYU football game at Albertsons Stadium (7:01 p.m., ESPN):
— Watch the way BYU moves its defensive backs at the snap and how Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick handles that. The Broncos have struggled mightily on offense the last two years against BYU’s funky defense. They didn’t score on offense — not even a field goal — in 2012 and didn’t score a touchdown until late in the third quarter last year. Hedrick was 25-for-42 for 232 yards and a touchdown with one interception and two sacks last year. He rushed for 24 yards and a TD. “It’s hard to get a bead on them, as much as they do,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We’ve got to do a great job preparing our quarterbacks and wide receivers to see a lot of different looks in the back end. And then we’ve got to get our O-line prepared. We’re going to see pressure against some very good players. There are some 1-on-1 matchups we’re going to have to win.” Harsin remembers BYU back in 2003-04 lining up five defensive backs in a straight line across the field, leaving the Broncos to guess who was going where. “The rotation in the back end is different,” he said. “And when they do it and how they do it is better than what we’ve seen and that’s just their style. It gives you problems. If you’re trying to key one guy, you can’t. The back end is more of an issue than we’ve seen in previous games.” BYU is 58th in pass efficiency defense. Boise State is 41st in pass efficiency.
— Hedrick is 47-for-61 for 536 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in two games since the Air Force debacle. He also has rushed for 96 yards and a TD. “As coaches and fans, we can hang onto the negative that happened, but the player’s got to go perform the next game,” Harsin said. “That’s the most impressive thing Grant has done. We had a negative thing happen and he was able to shake that off.”
— The Broncos likely will try some other kickoff returners but senior Dallas Burroughs, who fumbled last week, still will be involved. “He will be back there,” Harsin said.
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— The Broncos generally will return a kickoff that comes down in the front half of the end zone. Sometimes, they extend that. And occasionally, since they have not returned kickoffs well, they will just take a knee. “We want to always have a mindset of coming out,” Harsin said. The Broncos are 91st in kickoff returns at 19.3 yards.
— When the Broncos ran the Thomas Sperbeck-to-Hedrick pass play in practice, Sperbeck pulled up and threw the pass. Harsin intervened and told him he’d probably have a defender in his face — just like wide receiver Austin Pettis did when throwing to Kellen Moore several years ago. Harsin had a defender come in unblocked to simulate it. “Here’s what’s going to happen,” Harsin told Sperbeck. “Grant is going to be wide open and you’re going to get smoked.” Said Harsin: “I didn’t know if that was true or not, but I wanted to make sure he had the intensity.” And that’s exactly what happened in the game.
— Worth remembering this quote from my Donte Deayon feature (link below): “I’ve been wanting to play (BYU) for a while now,” Deayon said. “BYU last year was probably my worst game, and it felt like it. I just want to play them really bad.”
— Boise State linebacker Tanner Vallejo on BYU’s offense: “They have a lot of plays where the quarterback has the option to run it or pass it. There are quite a few where he'll be running right at you, but still might pass it.”
— Vallejo on BYU: “I like playing them because it's a physical game. I know more about our defense this year than I did last year, so we're better prepared for that sort of game. It's two teams that pride themselves on being physical.”
— Wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes on Hedrick’s TD pass to him on a post route last week: “He’s gaining trust with us. If we could do that play 10 more times, I don’t know if he would have thrown that ball. He just anticipated the pass.”
— Williams-Rhodes on tailback Jay Ajayi: “It always goes back to Jay. They’re stacking the box to try to get to Jay. Like I said at the beginning of the year, if Jay is rolling, we’re all good.”
— Offensive line coach Scott Huff on his group: “You see flashes of something really good and then you feel like, ‘Oh, man, we took a step back.’ That’s a lot of young players. When you have a group of young guys trying to play as one, all it takes is one guy to do something wrong and the whole thing looks bad.”
— BYU continues a trend that Huff has noticed: “I feel like we’re playing against better D-linemen than it seems we’ve played in a long time.”
— Huff remains optimistic about freshman tackle Eli McCullough, who struggled against Air Force. McCullough might be the best athlete in the group, he said, and can dunk a basketball. “He battles the confidence of trusting his technique or just trying to get the job done,” Huff said. “ ‘Am I big enough and strong enough to just use my technique?’ He has as bright of a future as anyone.”
— Junior center Marcus Henry on left guard Travis Averill taking the ball from Ajayi as he reached it across the goal line last week (it was an Ajayi TD): “We have a group text, the whole O-line, and everyone was going crazy over that. It was awesome — he's an O-line legend now.”
— Boise State special teams coach Kent Riddle said he can’t remember ever winning a game with a fumbled kickoff return before last week. “You just can’t have that,” he said.
— About 6 minutes into the video above, Riddle discusses the St. Louis Rams’ trick punt return last week against the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams fooled the Seahawks’ return team into thinking the ball was on a different side of the field than it was. Riddle said when a team has two returners deep — the Rams had one and the other guy ran back from the line of scrimmage to make an over-the-shoulder catch — he coaches his guys to watch the back judge official. “He’s looking at where the ball is going,” Riddle said. “That’s his assignment. He should tell you where the ball is. If he was in on it, you’d be in trouble.” The Rams’ trick would be more difficult to pull in college, Riddle said, because it’s more difficult to predict where the ball will be kicked.
BYU at Boise State
When: 7:01 p.m. Friday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN (Dave Flemming, David Diaz-Infante, Allison Williams)
Radio: KBOI (670AM), KKGL (96.9 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
Records: Boise State is 5-2 overall, 3-1 Mountain West; BYU is 4-3.
Series: Boise State leads 3-1 (BYU won 37-20 last year in Provo, Utah)
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