Boise State Football

Boise State vs. Nevada: Who gets the edge, players to watch as Broncos go for five in a row

Boise State's Jabril Frazier (8), Avery Williams (26) and Matt Locher (54) lead the team onto the field before Oct. 21’s game against Wyoming at Albertsons Stadium.
Boise State's Jabril Frazier (8), Avery Williams (26) and Matt Locher (54) lead the team onto the field before Oct. 21’s game against Wyoming at Albertsons Stadium. AP

WHO GETS THE EDGE?

When the Broncos run the ball ...

It is not a coincidence the Broncos have won four straight and averaged 168.3 rushing yards per game. That has enabled the offense to find balance and control the ball (no turnovers in the last 237:56). Sophomore Alexander Mattison has 447 yards in that span.

“Alex has really turned it up through the season,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “... He’s developed into a real consistent back for us. (We’re) feeling like we can lean on him in those situations where we know we need to run the football, especially late in the game.”

Nevada, on the other hand, is among the worst rush defenses in the country, ranked 113th (216.6 yards per game). Air Force’s 550 yards inflates the numbers, but the Wolf Pack have allowed 1,022 rushing yards the last three games.

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

When the Broncos pass the ball ...

A long-awaited aerial attack showed up last Saturday at Utah State as Brett Rypien and Montell Cozart combined to complete 24 of 34 passes for 370 yards and five touchdowns. Seven players caught at least two passes, a variety coach Bryan Harsin said was “necessary.”

Nevada has allowed at least 229 passing yards to every team this season that isn’t Air Force, including four 300-yard games. The Wolf Pack also have only five interceptions to 20 TDs allowed. Their pass efficiency defense (166.62) is 125th in the FBS.

“They’re all over the place ... they give you a lot of different looks up front,” Harsin said. “They’ve got safeties and DBs all over the place. It looks like you’ve got 14 guys on the field. It’s difficult to figure out where your windows are.”

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

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Boise State wide receiver Cedrick Wilson smiles after running the football into the end zone after a reception Oct. 21 against Wyoming at Albertsons Stadium in Boise. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

When the Wolf Pack run the ball ...

During the last three games, when Nevada has a win and two losses by a total of five points, the Wolf Pack have rushed for 481 yards, providing some balance to a system normally pass-heavy. Boise State’s athletic defense will be tested as Nevada will look to exploit it by being spread out.

“Every running back has a good O-line,” Boise State linebacker Tyson Maeva said. “They know what they’re doing, and they have a running back that can put his pads down and shake you at the same time.”

Boise State continues to impress against the run, having entered the week No. 7 in the FBS (102 ypg). Five of the Broncos’ eight opponents have been held under 100 yards. The Broncos’ depth in the front seven has been tested with some injuries, but the group hasn’t slipped.

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

Air Force Nevada Football
Nevada quarterback Ty Gangi, left, hands the ball off to running back Kelton Moore in the first half Oct. 20 against Air Force in Reno, Nev. Tom R. Smedes AP

When the Wolf Pack pass the ball ...

First-year coach Jay Norvell brought an Air Raid system, built on quick passes akin to Washington State’s. Such a change takes time but has shown signs of progress, with 1,073 yards and 12 TDs the last three weeks. Nevada has attempted 279 passes and allowed only 14 sacks.

During Boise State’s four-game win streak, the Broncos have allowed foes to complete just 49.6 percent of passes with three TDs to four INTs. Boise State has 21 sacks but didn’t have one last week. Teams have completed at least one pass more than 30 yards the last three weeks.

“Looking over Washington State, (we’re) trying to reflect on what we did well and what we didn’t that week,” Maeva said. “We have to make sure we’re in the right zones and make sure our communication is on point, which we struggled with against Washington State.”

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

Special teams ...

Boise State started off the season with a bang on special teams, and has maintained a high level all year. The Broncos rank No. 4 nationally in kickoff returns (27.4 yards per return) and are one of just eight teams with two or more punt return TDs, while kicker Haden Hoggarth (9-of-10) is No. 9 nationally in field-goal percentage.

Nevada is 55th nationally or worse in kickoff return, punt return, kickoff return defense and punt return defense. The Wolf Pack are 107th in net punting and kicker Spencer Pettit is 5-of-8 on field goals.

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BOISE STATE

Kekaula Kaniho, nickel

Naturally, the true freshman already has a touchdown (a 34-yard fumble return Oct. 14 at San Diego State). Kaniho scored five TDs last season as a senior at Kahuku (Hawaii) High. He made his first start last Saturday at Utah State and has 11 of his 17 tackles during the Broncos’ four-game win streak.

“He’s very intelligent, he’s a competitor,” defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “... There’s some intangibles in there that allow guys to (play early). He has that, the confidence, the awareness of what’s going on.”

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Boise State safety Kekaula Kaniho deflects a pass intended for Wyoming wide receiver Austin Conway on Oct. 21 against Wyoming at Albertsons Stadium. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

Montell Cozart, quarterback

The senior graduate transfer from Kansas has been everything the Broncos could hope for, providing another weapon complementing junior Brett Rypien. His 275 rushing yards and four touchdowns are No. 2 on the team, and he’s 50-of-76 passing for 649 yards and nine TDs to one interception.

“I just came into it with the mindset of being humble, being patient and you have to be ready for your number to be called,” Cozart said. “I knew when the opportunity came, I was going to be ready for it.”

A.J. Richardson, wide receiver

He did not have a reception in the two games before Saturday at Utah State but quickly made an impact with a 32-yard reception on the first play of the game. The junior finished with four receptions for 65 yards, helping provide some much-needed variety in the passing game.

“One thing about him, he’s going to compete, he’s going to do whatever you need,” junior cornerback Tyler Horton said. “He’ll go on a deep route, he’ll go block. He’s quiet, in his own world, just focused.”

NEVADA

Kelton Moore, running back

After having just two carries for 10 yards last season, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound sophomore has 91 carries for 543 yards and two TDs. He has 346 yards and both rushing TDs in the last three games, plus a 57-yard TD pass and seven receptions for 121 yards.

“Big back, gets downhill, runs physical,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “They do a good job with the run game complementing the pass game.”

Austin Paulhus, linebacker

Paulhus wasn’t offered by Nevada until after signing day 2015 out of junior college. The senior is making the most of it. A 6-foot, 230-pound strongside linebacker, Paulhus has a team-high 79 tackles (10 for loss). He has three games with double-digit tackles, including 21 on Oct. 20 against Air Force.

“I believed in myself and thought I deserved a scholarship, so I kept working and kept doing it,” Paulhus told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “This is everything I dreamed of. It’s a huge deal for me.”

Air Force Nevada Football (1)
Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman, right, runs away from Nevada’s Austin Paulhus in the second half Oct. 20 in Reno, Nev. Tom R. Smedes AP

Ty Gangi, quarterback

Gangi started the final four games of last season and the first two in 2017. He lost the job for two games, then got it back. Since, the 6-foot-2 junior who started out as a walk-on at Colorado has completed 96 of 153 passes for 1,198 yards and 12 TDs with four INTs.

“Since they transitioned with the quarterbacks to Ty, they’ve done a really good job,” Avalos said. “Since he stepped in there, the offense has been really productive.”

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @davesouthorn

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.

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

W, 41-14

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)

NEVADA

DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

6 Ty Gangi

6-2

210

Jr.

13 Cristian Solano

6-1

200

So.

Tailback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

23 Kelton Moore

5-10

220

So.

5 Jaxson Kincaide

5-8

195

So.

Wide receiver (X)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

17 Brendan O’Leary Orange

6-4

210

So.

11 Daiyan Henley

6-1

205

Fr.

Wide receiver (H)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

1 McLane Mannix

5-10

175

Fr.

15 Trevion Armstrong

6-3

220

RFr.

Wide receiver (Z)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

19 Wyatt Demps

6-4

200

Sr.

4 Elijah Cooks

6-4

210

Fr.

Tight end/WR (Y)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

88 Brandon Scott

6-3

225

Jr.

83 Andrew Celis

5-11

195

Jr.

Left tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

73 Austin Corbett

6-4

305

Sr.

72 Miles Beach

6-4

260

RFr.

Left guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

65 Clifford Porter OR

6-4

290

So.

62 Anthony Palomares

6-2

295

Jr.

Center

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

64 Sean Krepsz

6-5

325

Jr.

66 Thomas Newton

6-1

270

Sr.

Right guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

77 Ziad Damanhoury

6-6

310

Sr.

75 Carl Burton-Hill

6-4

320

RFr.

Right tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

71 Jake Nelson

6-4

290

So.

76 Nate Brown

6-4

290

RFr.

DEFENSE

Defensive tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

95 Patrick Choudja

6-4

250

Sr.

93 Jordan Silva

6-4

260

Jr.

Nose tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

96 Hausia Sekona

6-0

290

So.

54 Chris Green

6-1

325

Fr.

Defensive end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

90 Malik Reed

6-1

250

Jr.

99 Korey Rush

6-0

295

Jr.

Strongside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

50 Austin Paulhus

6-0

230

Sr.

24 Lucas Weber

6-0

230

Jr.

Middle linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

7 Gabriel Sewell

5-11

235

So.

30 Lawson Hall

6-0

230

RFr.

Weakside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

34 Travis Wilson

6-1

220

Sr.

52 Kyle Adams

5-11

220

So.

Spur

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

8 Jaden Sawyer OR

6-0

200

Sr.

5 Nephi Sewell

5-11

205

Fr.

Bandit

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

2 Asauni Rufus

5-11

190

Jr.

9 Marcus Lucas

5-10

185

RFr.

Cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

1 Vosean Crumbie

6-1

195

Jr.

25 Daniel Brown

5-11

180

So.

Cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

18 Elijah Moody

5-11

175

Jr.

3 Ahki Muhammad

5-9

175

Jr.

Free safety

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

5 Dameon Baber

5-10

205

Jr.

9 Marcus Lucas

5-10

185

RFr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

48 Spencer Pettit

5-9

180

So.

Punter

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

35 Quinton Conaway

6-0

200

So.

Snapper

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

42 Wes Farnsworth

6-1

230

Jr.

Holder

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

35 Quinton Conaway

6-0

200

So.

Kick returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

11 Daiyan Henley

6-1

205

RFr.

33 Blake Wright

5-10

215

Jr.

Punt returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

1 Vosean Crumbie

6-1

195

Jr.

SCHEDULE

Date

Opponent

Time/Result

Saturday, Sept. 2

at Northwestern

L, 31-20

Saturday, Sept. 9

Toledo

L, 37-24

Saturday, Sept. 16

Idaho State

L, 30-28

Saturday, Sept. 23

at Washington State

L, 45-7

Saturday, Sept. 30

at Fresno State

L, 41-21

Saturday, Oct. 7

Hawaii

W, 35-21

Saturday, Oct. 14

at Colorado State

L, 44-42

Friday, Oct. 20

Air Force

L, 45-42

Saturday, Nov. 4

Boise State

8 p.m. (ESPNU)

Saturday, Nov. 11

San Jose State

TBA

Saturday, Nov. 18

at San Diego State

8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 25

UNLV

1 p.m.

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