Boise State Football

Boise State vs. Utah State: Who gets the edge, players to watch as Broncos hit the road

Boise State RB Alexander Mattison looks for room against San Diego State.
Boise State RB Alexander Mattison looks for room against San Diego State. AP

WHO GETS THE EDGE?

When the Broncos run the ball ...

During Boise State’s three-game win streak, the Broncos have averaged 170 yards rushing — after 117 per game during their 2-2 start. Sophomore running back Alexander Mattison has rushed for at least 91 yards in those three victories.

Utah State is allowing 204 rushing yards per game, and yielded 375 (300 in the first half) last Saturday at UNLV. Opponents have rushed for at least 210 yards five times this season.

“We adjusted well in the UNLV game, but we can’t let that happen again,” Utah State safety Dallin Leavitt said. “Boise State’s offense seemed like it got off to a rough start, but now you can see they’re explosive and give you a lot of looks that make it tough.”

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

When the Broncos pass the ball ...

The Broncos are in line for their least productive passing season since joining the FBS in 1996 (197.3 yards per game). Boise State is averaging just 158 yards per game in its five wins and does not have a play longer than 50 yards.

Utah State’s experienced defensive backfield should provide a tough test for Boise State’s two-quarterback system. The Aggies are 32nd nationally in pass defense and are tied for ninth with 10 interceptions this season.

“We’ll have to do a great job with our plan on third down with the different fronts, keep them off-balance with some of the protections we’re using, too,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.

ADVANTAGE: Utah State

When the Aggies run the ball ...

Four Aggies have at least 110 rushing yards, led by senior running back LaJuan Hunt’s 404. Quarterbacks Kent Myers and Jordan Love run the zone read well, which will test the discipline of the Broncos’ ends. USU rushed for 265 yards at UNLV.

Boise State is one of the best in the nation against the run, entering this weekend ranked 10th in the FBS allowing 103.3 yards per game on the ground. The Broncos have allowed 260 yards rushing total the last three games.

“Well, they have good players up front,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said. “... They haven’t been gashed in the run game. It doesn’t matter who they’ve played, they’ve stopped the run. That’s why they’re top-(10) in run defense.”

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

When the Aggies pass the ball ...

Love, a redshirt freshman, threw for 316 yards at UNLV in his first start, taking advantage of overeager defenders to connect on two long touchdown passes. Six players have at least 11 receptions, led by senior Ron’quavion Tarver’s 29. Dax Raymond’s 326 yards are No. 1.

The Broncos clamped down on Wyoming junior Josh Allen last week and should provide a much tougher task for Love. Boise State is 34th nationally in pass defense efficiency (115.58) and has allowed teams to complete 44 of 91 passes in October.

“They try to get you out of position before the play happens and they try to use that to their advantage,” Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said of the Aggies’ up-tempo style.

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

Special teams ...

Both teams have excelled in different areas of special teams in pretty impressive fashion. Boise State is one of six FBS teams to run back at least two punts for touchdowns, while Utah State has blocked four punts. No other team has more than two.

“They have two of the best returners in the league,” Wells said. “This will be a major special teams battle ... I don’t know if it’ll be fun for us trying to defend those two returners, they are really good.”

The Aggies are No. 5 nationally in kick return defense (14.9 yards per return) and have a punt return touchdown of their own, averaging 15.6 yards per return. According to CFBAnalytics.com, Boise State and Utah State are 10th and 11th nationally in average field position.

ADVANTAGE: Push

Utah St UNLV Football (1)
UNLV wide receiver Kendal Keys (84) has a pass deflected away and is interfered with by Utah State safety Gaje Ferguson (23) during an NCAA college football game Oct. 21 in Las Vegas. L.E. Baskow AP

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BOISE STATE

Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker

One of the most productive linebackers in the nation, the Salmon River High graduate has 74 tackles (sixth nationally with 10.6 per game), three sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Vander Esch has double-digit tackles in five of the last six games. He had 11 against Wyoming while dealing with strep throat.

“You can see the stat line and all that stuff, that speaks for itself, but he does so much more,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said, praising his ability to lead.

Alexander Mattison, running back

Somehow, the 5-foot-11, 214-pound sophomore is back on track to be the Broncos’ latest 1,000-yard rusher. He has 503 yards this season, 337 coming this month. Against Wyoming, he hurdled a defender on a 22-yard catch. Running confident and a focal point of the offense, he faces a USU defense that’s struggled to stop the run at times.

“Seeing him run over somebody is pretty nice, or jump over somebody like you guys saw, it makes you more excited to block somebody for him,” Boise State center Mason Hampton said.

Curtis Weaver, STUD end

The redshirt freshman has been put onto the field in pass-rushing situations, and has delivered in his role. Weaver leads the Broncos with six sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. He dropped more than 30 pounds since last season after arriving as a 287-pound defensive tackle. He may have some opportunities Saturday, as Utah State has allowed 24 sacks.

“He’s very athletic. He just has a knack for getting to the quarterback,” junior STUD end Jabril Frazier said.

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Boise State’s Curtis Weaver, left, and John Bates chase a deflected Virginia punt. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

UTAH STATE

Jordan Love, quarterback

The redshirt freshman has pushed senior Kent Myers for playing time and impressed enough to start last Saturday at UNLV. He earned Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week honors after he was 19-of-27 passing for 316 yards with two TDs, plus he ran for 42 yards and another score in a 52-28 win.

“He’s an excellent athlete, a great passer. Against UNLV he probably threw a 50-yard post on a dime, had three or four deep balls,” Boise State safety DeAndre Pierce said. “We’ve got to do a great job staying with our man.”

Dallin Leavitt, safety

A BYU transfer, Leavitt started eight games last season as a junior, but missed playing Boise State because of a broken ankle. He had 57 tackles and three interceptions last season, and through eight games this season has similar numbers: 49 tackles and three interceptions.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to getting to play them this year,” Leavitt said. “Hopefully they give me some chances to make some plays.”

BYU Utah St Football (1)
Utah State safety Dallin Leavitt (2) returns an interception against BYU. Eli Lucero/Herald Journal AP

Jalen Davis, cornerback

One of the best cornerbacks in the West, Davis has five interceptions, tied for No. 1 in the FBS. He’s run three back for touchdowns, one shy of matching the national single-season high. His 11 career interceptions are tied for sixth-best among active players. The senior was a first-team midseason AP All-American.

“He’s a very good player, going through some of the notes from last year, he definitely showed up,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.

BOISE STATE

DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

4 Brett Rypien

6-2

208

Jr.

3 Montell Cozart

6-1

205

Sr.

Tailback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

22 Alexander Mattison

5-11

214

So.

21 Ryan Wolpin

5-8

195

Sr.

34 Robert Mahone

5-10

211

RFr.

Wide receiver (X)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

1 Cedrick Wilson

6-3

188

Sr.

9 Bryan Jefferson

5-11

193

So.

Wide receiver (H)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

7 A.J. Richardson

6-0

209

Jr

6 CT Thomas

5-8

152

Fr.

Wide receiver (Z)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

8 Sean Modster

5-11

196

Jr.

82 Octavius Evans

6-1

195

Fr.

Tight end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

88 Jake Roh

6-3

227

Sr.

87 Alec Dhaenens

6-3

246

Sr.

Left tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

76 Ezra Cleveland

6-6

296

RFr.

66 Isiah Moore

6-4

275

Jr.

Left guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

77 John Molchon

6-5

313

So.

67 Garrett Larson

6-4

295

So.

Center

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

59 Mason Hampton

6-3

295

Sr.

67 Garrett Larson

6-4

295

So.

Right guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

79 Eric Quevedo

6-4

304

So.

52 Andrew Tercek

6-1

278

Sr.

Right tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

74 Archie Lewis

6-3

299

Sr.

78 Andres Preciado

6-6

292

Jr.

DEFENSE

Defensive end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

91 Durrant Miles

6-5

253

Jr.

93 Chase Hatada OR

6-3

267

So.

45 Kayode Rufai

6-4

254

RFr.

Nose tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

98 Sonatane Lui

6-1

305

So.

57 Emmanuel Fesili

6-2

302

So.

Defensive tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

55 David Moa

6-3

271

Jr.

90 Daniel Auelua

6-2

298

Sr.

STUD end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

53 Sam Whitney OR

6-2

231

So.

8 Jabril Frazier OR

6-4

243

Jr.

99 Curtis Weaver

6-3

252

RFr.

Weakside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

38 Leighton Vander Esch

6-4

240

Jr.

44 Riley Whimpey

6-1

212

Fr.

Middle linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

58 Tyson Maeva

6-0

214

So.

25 Benton Wickersham

6-2

231

RFr.

Strongside linebacker/nickel

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

33 Gabe Perez

6-4

246

Sr.

28 Kekaula Kaniho

5-10

175

Fr.

Boundary cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

14 Tyler Horton

5-11

188

Jr.

15 Jalen Walker

6-0

172

RFr.

Field cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

26 Avery Williams

5-9

194

RFr.

27 Reid Harrison-Ducros

5-10

180

So.

Field safety

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

4 DeAndre Pierce

5-11

174

So.

32 Jordan Happle

5-11

198

RFr.

Boundary safety

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

10 Kekoa Nawahine

6-2

199

So.

37 Cameron Hartsfield

5-10

197

Sr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

41 Haden Hoggarth

6-0

198

Jr.

46 Joel Velazquez

6-0

228

RFr.

Punter

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

46 Joel Velazquez OR

6-0

228

RFr.

49 Quinn Skillin

6-4

185

Jr.

Snappers

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

89 Brock Barr

6-3

204

Sr.

50 Nicholai Pitman

5-11

230

So.

Holder

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

49 Quinn Skillin

6-4

185

Jr.

Kick returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

1 Cedrick Wilson OR

6-3

188

Sr.

26 Avery Williams

5-9

194

RFr.

Punt returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

26 Avery Williams OR

5-9

194

RFr.

1 Cedrick Wilson

6-3

188

Sr.

SCHEDULE

Date

Opponent

Time/Result

Saturday, Sept. 2

Troy

W, 24-13

Saturday, Sept. 9

at Washington State

L, 47-44 (3OT)

Thursday, Sept. 14

New Mexico

W, 28-14

Friday, Sept. 22

Virginia

L, 42-23

Friday, Oct. 6

at BYU

W, 24-7

Saturday, Oct. 14

at San Diego State

W, 31-14

Saturday, Oct. 21

Wyoming

W, 24-14

Saturday, Oct. 28

at Utah State

8 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Saturday, Nov. 4

Nevada

5 p.m. (ESPNU)

Saturday, Nov. 11

at Colorado State

8:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Saturday, Nov. 18

Air Force

TBA (ESPN Networks)

Saturday, Nov. 25

at Fresno State

1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

UTAH STATE

DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

2 Kent Myers OR

6-0

205

Sr.

10 Jordan Love

6-3

215

RFr.

Tailback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

22 LaJuan Hunt

5-8

195

Sr.

21 Eltoro Allen

5-9

180

Jr.

Wide receiver (X)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

1 Ron’quavion Tarver

6-3

215

Jr.

17 Zach Van Leeuwen OR

6-0

185

Jr.

88 Braelon Roberts

6-3

200

Sr.

Wide receiver (H)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

16 Jordan Nathan

5-9

175

RFr.

25 Gerold Bright

5-9

190

So.

Wide receiver (Z)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

5 Jaren Colston-Green

6-1

185

Sr.

7 Alex Byers OR

6-2

185

Sr.

81 Savon Scarver

6-0

190

Fr.

Tight end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

87 Dax Raymond

6-5

245

So.

11 Damion Hobbs

6-2

245

Sr.

Left tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

76 Roman Andrus

6-4

300

Jr.

77 Viliamu McMoore

6-5

305

RFr.

Left guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

68 Moroni Iniguez

6-2

330

So.

75 Ty Shaw

6-4

300

RFr.

Center

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

51 Quin Ficklin

6-2

290

Jr.

69 Jake Templeton

6-2

280

Jr.

Right guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

70 Rob Castaneda

6-4

300

Jr.

58 Demytrick Ali’ifua

6-3

310

RFr.

Right tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

52 Sean Taylor

6-5

305

Jr.

73 Preston Brooksby

6-5

290

Sr.

DEFENSE

Defensive end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

19 Ian Togiai

6-2

280

Sr.

55 Adewale Adeoye

6-3

270

Jr.

Nose guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

56 Gasetoto Schuster

6-0

295

Jr.

96 Christopher ‘Unga

6-0

300

So.

Defensive end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

93 Jacoby Wildman

6-2

265

So.

99 Mohelika Uasike

6-1

300

So.

Outside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

44 Louy Compton

6-3

230

Jr.

49 Derek Larsen

6-3

240

Jr.

Inside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

42 Suli Tamaivena

6-0

230

Jr.

33 Kevin Meitzenheimer

5-11

225

RFr.

Inside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

48 Chase Christiansen

6-1

230

Jr.

40 Ofa Latu

6-1

220

Jr.

Outside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

51 Justus Te’i

6-3

240

So.

24 Dalton Baker

6-4

255

So.

Cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

13 Jalen Davis

5-10

185

Sr.

6 Cameron Haney

5-11

180

So.

Cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

36 Ja’Marcus Ingram

6-1

185

RFr.

27 Deante Fortenberry OR

5-11

195

Jr.

8 Wesley Bailey

6-1

200

Sr.

Field safety

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

28 Aaron Wade

6-1

210

Jr.

3 Jontrell Rocquemore

6-1

210

Jr.

Boundary safety

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

2 Dallin Leavitt

5-10

205

Sr.

23 Gaje Ferguson

6-0

205

Jr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

62 Dominik Eberle

6-2

180

So.

60 Michael Smith

5-10

190

So.

Punter

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

89 Aaron Dalton

6-4

225

Jr.

92 Zach Lee

5-11

195

So.

Snappers

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

50 Emmitt Odegard

6-1

220

Sr.

57 Brandon Pada

5-10

205

RFr.

Holder

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

18 DJ Nelson

5-9

200

Jr.

89 Aaron Dalton

6-4

225

Jr.

Kick returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

21 LaJuan Hunt

5-8

195

Sr.

81 Savon Scarver

6-0

190

Fr.

Punt returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

17 Zach Van Leeuwen

6-0

185

Jr.

16 Jordan Nathan

5-9

175

RFr.

SCHEDULE

Date

Opponent

Time/Result

Friday, Sept. 1

at Wisconsin

L, 59-10

Thursday, Sept. 7

Idaho State

W, 51-13

Saturday, Sept. 16

at Wake Forest

L 46-10

Saturday, Sept. 23

at San Jose State

W, 61-10

Friday, Sept. 29

BYU

W, 40-24

Saturday, Oct. 7

Colorado State

L, 27-14

Saturday, Oct. 14

Wyoming

L, 28-23

Saturday, Oct. 21

at UNLV

W, 52-28

Saturday, Oct. 28

Boise State

8 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Saturday, Nov. 4

at New Mexico

3:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 18

Hawaii

1 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 25

at Air Force

TBA (ESPN Networks)

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @davesouthorn

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