Boise State Football

Utah State vs. Boise State game breakdown

Jeremy McNichols’ average conference start: 27.3 touches from scrimmage (22.6 carries, 4.7 catches) for 173.6 yards (138.7 rushing, 34.9 receiving) and 1.9 touchdowns. His average nonconference effort this year: 23 touches (19.7 carries, 3.3 catches) for 171.7 yards (124 rushing, 47.7 receiving) and three scores. Tonight is his first start against Utah State.
Jeremy McNichols’ average conference start: 27.3 touches from scrimmage (22.6 carries, 4.7 catches) for 173.6 yards (138.7 rushing, 34.9 receiving) and 1.9 touchdowns. His average nonconference effort this year: 23 touches (19.7 carries, 3.3 catches) for 171.7 yards (124 rushing, 47.7 receiving) and three scores. Tonight is his first start against Utah State. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL

▪ Feed the beast: He’s scored a touchdown in all 15 games he’s started, and he has at least 100 rushing yards in nine of the Broncos’ last 11 games. Junior running back Jeremy McNichols only seems to get better, and his 208-yard, four-TD performance last Saturday at Oregon State proves it.

“He’s a great player,” Boise State guard Travis Averill said. “He can run the ball, catch the ball. He could have made a definite impact.”

▪ No giveaways: In perhaps the understatement of the year, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said “the big key’’ to last year’s 52-26 loss at Utah State “was turnovers.’’ The Broncos lost five fumbles and threw three interceptions. The Aggies have forced five turnovers this season, and the Broncos have given away five.

“We have to cancel out those turnovers, and when we don’t turn the ball over, we win the game,” senior receiver Chaz Anderson said.

WHEN THE AGGIES HAVE THE BALL

▪ Myers on the move: Junior quarterback Kent Myers is at his best when he’s mobile, be it moving around the pocket to extend the play, rolling outside of it or while scrambling. In his 20 career games, he’s rushed for 775 yards. Boise State did a good job of bottling up a mobile QB in Louisiana’s Anthony Jennings earlier this season, but Myers is a higher-caliber passer.

“I know some guys don’t like getting labeled as dual threats ... because people think they can’t throw the ball. That’s not even kind of the case with the quarterback we’re going to face this week,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said.

▪ Make most of money downs: Boise State’s defense has been strong in tough spots, especially on fourth down (allowing 2-of-8 fourth-down conversions). The Broncos are 93rd nationally, allowing 42.1 percent of third-down conversions. Utah State is 25th offensively on third down, converting 48.4 percent. With top running back Devante Mays likely out, it will be a focus.

“We were really good in third-and-7-plus, but not as good in third-and-short situations,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said about the Aggies’ loss last Saturday to Air Force.

45.5The Aggies have averaged just 45.5 rushing yards per game in their two losses. In their two wins, they’ve rushed for 626 yards combined, against Weber State and Arkansas State.

SPECIAL TEAMS

▪ A-level A-Rod: Utah State senior Andrew Rodriguez is one of the top punt returners in the Mountain West, averaging 9.2 yards per return this season, with a long of 22. The speedy 5-foot-9 Houston native averaged 9.9 yards per return last season, No. 30 in the nation, including an 88-yard touchdown.

“If I hit a clean ball with decent hang time, and it gives the guys a chance to get down there and hopefully it’s a fair catch ... if we have those all game, it’s a good thing and takes the fun out of it for (them),” Boise State senior punter Sean Wale said.

▪ Punting problems: The Broncos have the reigning Mountain West special teams player of the week in Wale. For the Aggies, punting has been an issue. Sophomore Aaron Dalton is averaging 36.6 yards, 101st nationally, and has had one blocked.

Also, of the two punt returns allowed so far, opponents have returned them for 77 (a touchdown) and 44 yards.

Dave Southorn

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