WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Rad red zone: Boise State is among the nation’s best inside the 20 yard line, scoring on 90.9 percent of its trips in the red zone, getting touchdowns on 78.8 percent, which is No. 4 in the FBS. Hawaii has allowed scores on 84.4 percent of opponent trips, 71st nationally. Look for the Broncos to run plenty against Hawaii’s struggling rush defense, and try to use it to get six points instead of three.
“You’ve got to run to win,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Not just in the open field, but you’ve got to be able to do that in the red zone. You’ve got to have some type of run game where you can punch it in.”
Make money downs: The Broncos spend most of one practice a week working on third-down situations. It has paid off, as they are No. 10 in the FBS, converting 49.1 percent. Hawaii is among the worst in stopping third-down conversions, allowing 48.6 pecent, 122nd nationally. Boise State was 7-of-13 on third downs against San Jose State, just two longer than third-and-5.
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“It makes it a lot easier when we’ve done a good job on first and second down to get us in a manageable third down,” said co-offensive coordinator Zak Hill, the primary third-down playcaller.
WHEN THE WARRIORS HAVE THE BALL
Move Dru: Sophomore quarterback Dru Brown has been a spark for Hawaii, averaging 33 points a game when he started before last week’s 55-0 loss to the freight train that is San Diego State.
A mobile QB, Brown is similar to the last two passers Boise State has faced in Josh Allen (Wyoming) and Kenny Potter (San Jose State), who have given the Broncos problems.
“We’ve gotten caught up between that a little bit, so that’s been another point of emphasis on the defensive side is coverage when they do scramble,” Harsin said. “We’ve got to get to them at the D-line, that way you don’t let the guy out of the pocket.”
Control up front: Hawaii’s offensive line features five starters weighing at least 290 pounds. The Broncos average 260, but have handled challenges from much bigger lines, namely BYU. The Warriors will no doubt attempt to establish its strength up front, be it keeping Boise State from getting to Brown (they have one sack the last two games) or using their brawn to establish the run game.
Ready to spring one?: Boise State has not been good in the return game this season, fumbling multiple punts and not having a kickoff return longer than 37 yards. Hawaii is 102nd nationally in punt return defense (11.1 yards per return) but 37th in kick return defense (19.0). The Broncos feel they might be due for a solid return, and have focused on their blocking schemes on returns lately.
“We think those guys can make something happen, but we’ve had too many free hitters,” Harsin said.
Doing it all: Hawaii senior Rigoberto Sanchez is a rarity in college football, serving as the Warrior’s punter, kicker and kickoff specialist. He is No. 18 nationally in punting average (44.5 yards), is 8-of-8 on field goals and 34-of-34 on extra points.