WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Look long: Boise State is tied for No. 3 nationally with 33 pass plays of 30 yards or more, nine more than the Broncos had all of last season. UNLV is tied for 118th nationally, having allowed 21 such plays on defense.
Expect the Broncos to take some shots deep.
“It’s not just your quarterback throwing it, it’s your guys catching it, too,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “... It’s something they’ve done every practice since last season. It’s become part of the game (for us).”
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Ground and pound: The benefactors of UNLV’s football facility are former co-owners of the UFC. Boise State hopes to use some of those MMA-style tactics when it attacks the Rebels’ defense.
The Broncos have run for 544 yards the past two games, and not surprisingly, that has led to an efficient passing game and 97 points combined.
“We got our one-on-one opportunities on the edges because we’ve been having so much success running the ball, and it makes my job so much easier,” quarterback Brett Rypien said.
WHEN THE REBELS HAVE THE BALL
Revel in the red: UNLV is one of the better teams in turning prime scoring opportunities into points. The Rebels are No. 13 in the Football Bowl Subdivision, scoring on 92.1 percent of red zone trips with 24 touchdowns and 11 field goals.
If they want any shot at winning, they’ll need to get six points more often than three.
“They’ve been very efficient that way,” Harsin said. “We have to do a great job when they do get in the red zone. They’re going to move the ball.”
Crafty Kurt: Boise State has had some struggles against mobile quarterbacks in Wyoming’s Josh Allen, San Jose State’s Kenny Potter and Hawaii’s Dru Brown.
In UNLV’s Kurt Palandech, the junior has perhaps the best wheels and will certainly use them with top receiver Devonte Boyd out with a broken arm. Palandech had 157 rushing yards Saturday against Wyoming, including a 76-yard touchdown run.
“He’s pretty fast,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “... He split the defense and was out. That’s pretty impressive in itself, and that’s not the only (play) where you see it.”
Return struggles: Neither team has found much going in the return game, as UNLV is 127th in punt return average (minus-.08) and 80th in kickoff return average (20.22). Boise State is 118th and 71st, respectively.
Are they due, or is this just how it will go this year? Probably the latter.
Kicker carousel: Senior Nicolai Bornand has served as the backup punter and kicker for UNLV, but came up huge in the win over Wyoming. He averaged 46.7 yards on three punts and also kicked the game-winning 40-yard field goal on his only attempt this season.
Starter Evan Pantels should play Friday, but he knows he has a reliable option behind him.