Boise State Football

No. 24 Boise State vs. San Jose State game breakdown

Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols, left, had 18 carries against Wyoming last week, his fewest since the season opener (nine at Louisiana). He only needed 20 against San Jose State last year to gain 192 yards and score two touchdowns, and he added six catches for 40 yards and a score.
Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols, left, had 18 carries against Wyoming last week, his fewest since the season opener (nine at Louisiana). He only needed 20 against San Jose State last year to gain 192 yards and score two touchdowns, and he added six catches for 40 yards and a score. jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL

Grind them down: There has been some debate on whether the Broncos should run the ball more late in games, and they should get the opportunity Friday. San Jose State is 115th nationally in rush defense, allowing 234 yards per game. Junior running back Jeremy McNichols should get plenty of work.

“They’re going to stack the box. Like most of the teams we see, they’re there to stop the run,” co-offensive coordinator Scott Huff said. “... They do a good job of dropping safeties into the box, try to overload you.”

Take what you get: Short fields have been rare for the Broncos, with just five drives starting inside opponents’ territory. They scored a touchdown off the lone turnover the defense created Saturday. But with the continued focus on winning the turnover battle, when the Broncos get a prime opportunity, they must take advantage to put the Spartans away.

“It’s momentum. That’s why we got so disappointed like we did in the game when we turned it over. ... On offense, there’s nothing better than being set up,” Huff said.

WHEN THE SPARTANS HAVE THE BALL

Cash in money downs: San Jose State is 72nd in third-down offense with a 39 percent conversion rate, and it has only one game better than 44 percent. Quarterback Kenny Potter can keep drives alive with his legs (he ran for 46 yards last season against Boise State). The Broncos allowed Wyoming to convert 10-of-18 third downs last week.

“That’s a big emphasis this week, because Potter can fly. ... We had trouble with him last year,” Boise State defensive line coach Steve Caldwell said. “We’ve got to keep him in the pocket, not letting them out so we can get off the field on third down.”

Protect possessions: Opposing offenses have kept themselves in the game against Boise State, thanks to the Broncos forcing only four turnovers all season. San Jose State has not had one in three straight games, its first such stretch since 1998. Boise State said it has worked more in recent weeks than ever on creating turnovers, so it will take its chances.

“That’s encouraging; we want to continue that,” San Jose State coach Ron Caragher said. “... Also, making good decisions at the quarterback position, not forcing things.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kickoff king: San Jose State’s Michael Carrizosa has been one of the more powerful kickoff artists this season, allowing opponents to return nine kickoffs. When they’ve been returned, they haven’t had a ton of room, averaging 18.1 yards. The Broncos average 20.5 yards per return (74th in FBS), with a long of 37.

People getting pinned: Both teams’ punters have been great this season. Boise State’s Sean Wale is 15th in the FBS in punting average (45.0), and Carrizosa is just ahead at 13th (45.2). The Spartans hope to unleash Carrizosa against the Broncos, who have struggled to return punts and had five drives start at or inside their own 10 Saturday at Wyoming.

“We know he’s a weapon. ... He’s having another really good, consistent year,” Caragher said.

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_BroncoBeat

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