Boise State Football

Boise State readies for BYU, which is still shaking ‘dirty’ reputation

Bryan Harsin talks BYU, part 1

Harsin discusses the Cougars on Oct. 17
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Harsin discusses the Cougars on Oct. 17

During Boise State’s 35-24 loss at BYU on Sept. 12, 2015, the days after the game, and of course many times this week, one photo/video/meme was seen more than any other.

No, it wasn’t Mitchell Juergens pulling down Tanner Mangum’s desperate fourth-down heave in the final minute for a TD to take the lead.

It was BYU offensive lineman Ului Lapuaho punching Boise State safety Chanceller James below the belt in a scrum for a fumble.

Harsin talks about the Cougars

That was not the only incident for BYU in a year’s span, including a brawl to end the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl and linebacker Harvey Langi punching Utah State running back LaJuan Hunt. The extracurriculars even extended to basketball, where guard Nick Emery punched Utah guard Brandon Taylor. It all drew criticism far and near.

“BYU, y’all are a good team,” Utah defensive tackle Viliseni Fauonuku said to BYU at an event before the Las Vegas Bowl in December. “But you’re a dirty team. Don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’.”

This year, for the most part, the Cougars have started nothin’. Coach Kalani Sitake, in his first season, told his team “to be respectful and represent BYU,” defensive end Sae Tautu said earlier this month, adding “we’ve made an effort” to do so.

Boise State co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Scott Huff discusses the Cougars on Oct. 17, 2016.

Three Cougars have been ejected for targeting, two against Utah on Sept. 10 on back-to-back plays that weren’t terribly egregious but close enough to warrant a flag. Sitake said after Tautu was ejected following another one Sept. 30 that it was the right call.

“I don’t think by any means this team is doing anything extra that’s uncalled for after the snap from what I’ve seen on film this year,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said.

Sitake said there was never a big push to clean up that image, but said “I don’t believe in playing the game in anger, or with hate,” and some players have readily helped up an opponent who gets knocked down.

“That’s their team mentality, however they want to play, but also, different coach, too,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “This team is different. They play hard. If there’s something extracurricular after a play, don’t worry about it. We’re not getting involved in those things. Move on. We see it in college football, stupid things happen.”


Five Gem State natives are on the Cougars’ roster, and four have played this season. Senior quarterback Taysom Hill (Highland High) is BYU’s starter, while sophomore Tanner Mangum (Eagle High) is the backup. Senior Colby Pearson (Blackfoot) is a key receiver, and redshirt freshman safety Sam Baldwin (Madison) has three tackles in five games. Freshman quarterback Hayden Livingston (Rigby) is redshirting.

Hill has completed 136-of-226 passes for 1,420 yards with nine TDs and seven interceptions, adding 324 rushing yards. Mangum, the hero of last year’s win over the Broncos, has appeared in just one game and has not thrown a pass. Pearson is second on the team with 22 receptions for 221 yards and two TDs. He took a page out of former Boise State running back Ian Johnson’s playbook and proposed to his girlfriend after last Friday’s double-overtime win over Mississippi State.

Video clips of Boise State's football practice Oct. 17, 2016 at Albertsons Stadium. The Broncos host BYU on Oct. 20.


The Cougars play in plenty of stadiums larger than Albertsons Stadium, including the 90,000 people on hand for their win last year to open the season at Nebraska. But good on Boise, because it has the reputation of seeming far bigger than it is.

“Mitchell Juergens told me it is the loudest place he has ever played,” sophomore receiver Moroni Laulu-Pututau said. “I asked him if it was louder than Nebraska, and he said yes. He said he doesn’t know how, but they have got some great fans up there and that far down on the field, you can’t hear anything. But we are preparing for that.”


Early in the second quarter of Boise State’s 28-23 win over Colorado State on Saturday, an outlet pass from quarterback Brett Rypien to running back Jeremy McNichols was tipped and went into the hands of senior guard Steven Baggett.

The 6-foot-3, 288-pounder then “waterbugged it,” as co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Scott Huff said, falling to the ground for a 4-yard gain.

Boise State running backs coach Lee Marks discusses junior Jeremy McNichols' excellent performances this season and looks ahead to BYU on Oct. 18, 2016.

“Very disappointed in Steven not taking that thing to the house,” Huff said with a smile. “That was pretty fun. ... A real athlete like myself would’ve taken it to the house.”

The last Boise State offensive lineman to catch a pass was center Jadon Dailey in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, when under pressure, Jared Zabransky tossed a pass right at Dailey. He took a loss of 6 yards and was ineligible on the play, but Oklahoma declined the penalty, giving him a spot in the box score.


BYU backup running back and first-team All-Name All-Star Squally Canada (24 carries for 124 yards) committed to Boise State in June 2013 but flipped to Washington State six months later. He transferred to BYU in December 2014. ... Dating to last season, Boise State has won eight straight games, tied with Ohio State for the fourth-longest in FBS. Only Alabama (19), Washington (nine) and Western Michigan (nine) have longer streaks. ... Harsin said while the team thrives on pace, whenever it has a large lead in the future, he hopes to “chew some clock” and snap the ball later in the play clock, saying “I think everybody’s going to be a lot more on point.”

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_southorn

BYU at No. 14 Boise State

  • When: 8:15 p.m. MT Thursday
  • Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
  • TV: ESPN (Jason Benetti, Kelly Stauffer, Paul Carcaterra)
  • Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
  • Records: BYU 4-3 overall (independent); Boise State 6-0, 3-0 Mountain West
  • Kickoff weather: Mid-50s, with light winds and no chance of precipitation.
  • Vegas line: Boise State is favored by 7 points
  • Series: Boise State leads 4-2 (BYU won last season 35-24 in Provo)
  • Tickets: Boise State reported about 3,600 remain as of Tuesday. Tickets are available at the Boise State ticket office, at broncosports .com/tickets or 208-426-4737.