Boise State Football

Boise State hopes offseason work against the option pays off Friday

Sam McCaskill pre-New Mexico

DL Sam McCaskill discuses the Lobos on Oct. 5
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DL Sam McCaskill discuses the Lobos on Oct. 5

Everyone knows, inside and outside the Boise State football program, that the Broncos have been struggling with option-based teams in recent seasons.

It’s a question the coaching staff has heard several times since the offseason began: How do you stop the option?

Boise State will try to solve that mystery once again Friday night at New Mexico, one of the best triple-option threats in all of college football.

The Broncos practiced against the option more than usual in the spring, and into fall camp. Week-to-week during the season, the focus is always on the next opponent, but Boise State hopes working on a strategy early has a trickle-down effect.

“We have hit some of it in spring, hit some of it in fall camp. You’re able to recall that a little bit faster going into a short week,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.

Boise State has played the Mountain West’s option teams, New Mexico and Air Force, seven times the past four seasons. The Broncos are 4-3 in those games, but all have been closer than most expected. They are 0-7 against the point spread.

In the Lobos, who are No. 2 nationally in rush offense at 347 yards per game this season, their option attack differs from what Air Force brings. The Falcons use a fullback as a dive option, while the Lobos tend to work out of the pistol or shotgun, using two halfbacks. It also lets them spread the defense out more, which they will try to take advantage of when they throw after lulling a defense with run after run.

Last season in their 31-24 win in Boise, the Lobos completed only nine passes, but averaged 24.2 yards per completion.

“You could go out there as a defensive player and get 50 snaps in the game, 49 of them be perfect, but on that one you messed up, they can punch it for 80 yards,” senior defensive end Sam McCaskill said.

The Broncos, who are fifth nationally in rush defense at 72.0 yards per game, worked on the option plenty in practice this week, with defensive coordinator Andy Avalos serving as a scout quarterback on occasion.

“We spent some time on it. Hopefully we’re further along than we have been in years past. I don’t know, we’ll find out here soon,” Avalos said.

MISSING MOXEY? HARSIN WISHES FOR APPEAL

Senior cornerback Jonathan Moxey was ejected, per NCAA rules, in the final 79 seconds of Saturday’s win over Utah State after a targeting penalty was upheld following replay.

On the play, Moxey was attempting to tackle Utah State running back Tonny Lindsey low, but Lindsey dropped his head late after dropping the pass, creating the helmet-to-helmet hit.

Because it happened in the second half, it means Moxey is suspended for the first half of the New Mexico game. Harsin said he “made a lot of phone calls this week and sent a lot of emails” looking for clarification, but understood after the review, the call is final. He’d like to see a change in the review policy, with officials looking at the film a day or two following the game to give it a longer look.

“There’s got to be an appeal in there. ... Even in the booth, there’s still that tensity and urgency to keep the game going,” Harsin said.

In Albuquerque, Harsin said Moxey will remain in the locker room during the first half and “just sit there in his pads,” but said he’ll “probably be the most fired up guy at halftime when everybody else comes in there.”

Moxey has started 29 of the past 31 games. Senior Raymond Ford and freshman DeAndre Pierce will see increased roles in the first half, and cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose said if the defense is playing well, the Broncos won’t need to immediately put a cold Moxey into the game.

“That was probably one of Moxey’s best games he’s played (last week),” Avalos said. “And in that certain situation right there, we don’t know, what do you tell him? He needs to tackle the receiver who is attempting to catch the ball, so he tackles him in the legs, and the wide receiver at the same time ducks. ... There’s not much more you can tell him there.”

DSG’S SUSPENSION OVER, BUT NO GUARANTEES

Sophomore safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner’s four-game suspension for academic reasons has ended, but he won’t be handed anything once he gets back on the field. In fact, it’s no lock he will play right away.

“We’re still week-to-week. There’s still things in this program we consider to be very important for these guys. We’re trying to teach certain things through football, and there’s still things that have to be done,” Harsin said.

In Sumner-Gardner’s absence, junior Cameron Hartsfield has been strong. He’s third on the team with 26 tackles and has two pass breakups.

QUICK HITS

Boise State has averaged 586 yards of offense in its two visits to New Mexico as a Mountain West member. ... The team players of the week were junior running back Jeremy McNichols (offense), Moxey (defense), senior guard/center Steven Baggett (offensive line), McCaskill/sophomore nose tackle David Moa (defensive line) and junior running back Ryan Wolpin (hard hat/special teams). ... Moa, who has 5.5 sacks this season, was named to the Polynesian College Football Player Of The Year watch list this week. Moa was born in Tonga. The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame will announce five finalists Nov. 17, and the winner will be announced Dec. 7. ... The Broncos are 26-7 all-time in regular-season Friday games. ... Harsin’s policy is to not comment on injuries that aren’t long-term, but said after Saturday’s win: “They should be back in the next game” when speaking about senior linebacker Tanner Vallejo and junior center Mason Hampton, who did not play against Utah State.

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_BroncoBeat

No. 19 BSU at New Mexico

  • When: 7 p.m. MT Friday
  • Where: University Stadium (39,224, FieldTurf); Albuquerque, N.M.
  • TV: CBS Sports Network (Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor, Jenny Dell)
  • Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
  • Records: Boise State 4-0, 1-0 Mountain West; New Mexico 2-2, 1-0
  • Kickoff weather: Low 60s and partly cloudy, light winds, 50 percent chance of rain
  • Vegas line: Boise State by 17
  • Series: Boise State leads 6-1 (Lobos won last meeting 31-24 in Boise, 2015)
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