Onside kick, TD passes, Mattison’s big night and a game-winning fumble
It seems like only a few weeks ago, everyone wondered, “What happened to the Boise State offense?”
Oh right, that was only a few weeks ago.
In the last three games, the Boise State football team has put up its three highest-scoring performances in regulation and its three best games in terms of yardage.
The Broncos’ 52 points in four quarters Saturday at Colorado State was the most in any game, then they got seven more in overtime. Their 641 yards of offense was 9 yards short of cracking the top 10 for a single game in school history.
“It’s huge for our guys’ confidence, knowing what they can do and what we can accomplish as an offense and as a team,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.
Boise State has put up 141 points since Oct. 28, with 533, 479 and 641 total yards — going from seventh to first in the Mountain West in scoring (28.3 to 33.9 points per game).
With that sort of production, it isn’t a coincidence the Broncos have been spreading the ball around more. Seven players caught passes against the Rams in the 59-52 overtime win.
Senior tight end Alec Dhaenens had one catch, scoring on a 25-yard screen pass from junior quarterback Brett Rypien on an excellent play design. He had five catches all season coming in. Redshirt freshman running back Robert Mahone had one carry, and he scored on it from 6 yards out for his first career touchdown.
Junior receiver Sean Modster had a career-best five receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. Four of the five came on the same drive, capped by his score that cut the deficit to 52-45.
“Trying to be more unpredictable with the way I’m calling it, and that’s opened up some things for guys,” Hill said.
Play-calling is the great unmeasurable: If it works, then it’s genius. If it doesn’t, then it was bad. But Boise State coach Bryan Harsin credited Hill’s mindset in his calls. He noted that mobile senior quarterback Montell Cozart was going in motion from a wide receiver position on sophomore running back Alexander Mattison’s go-ahead, 4-yard touchdown run in overtime.
“I thought Zak did a really good job of continuing to attack,” Harsin said. “Sometimes where you can make a mistake as a play-caller is when you’ve been aggressive to get there, then you get close and you don’t stay aggressive. … Even a simple run had some flavor on it.”
Hill was in a similar spot Sept. 22 against Virginia. The Broncos trailed 21-14 at the half in that game, and 35-17 at Colorado State.
In the former, Boise State rushed 16 times, and just eight in the second half. On Saturday, it was 15 rushes in the first half and 24 in the second.
“Definitely tried to stick more to the run game in the second half, and I think that was the big factor for us to be able to be balanced and move the ball and not just rely on our tempo pass game,” Hill said.
Hill said the longer runs often came from lighter sets, noting an “11” grouping (one tight end, one running back) worked well as the pass game was moving the ball. Rypien was 23-of-43 for a season-best 331 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He has nine touchdowns and 849 yards in the last three games. He had 842 yards in his six games before that.
“Brett was really locked in. I didn’t say anything to him, you just kinda look at him and you could tell he was zoned in on what needed to happen,” Harsin said.
And the offensive line, which Hill said is “getting better and better,” can’t be forgotten.
Boise State will be challenged Saturday against Air Force. The last time the Broncos scored 40 or more points in three straight games was Nov. 4-18 last year, but they couldn’t make it four straight during a 27-20 loss at Air Force.
“You’ve got to be able to hit some big plays,” Hill said. “There’s going to be one-on-ones; they have no problem getting in your face and seeing if you can run the ball or seeing if you can throw it over the top of them.”
TWO BRONCOS HONORED BY MOUNTAIN WEST
Mattison was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week after he rushed for 242 yards in Saturday’s win. It was the third-best rushing performance in school history, and his 286 yards from scrimmage set a school record.
Redshirt freshman kicker/punter Joel Velazquez picked up his first Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week award for his perfect onside kick that allowed the Broncos to drive and force overtime. Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said it was “probably the best onside kick I’ve ever seen.” Velazquez also had five touchbacks and averaged 40 yards on two punts.
Only one Boise State football player had earned a Mountain West player of the week award this season — returner Avery Williams was honored twice for his special teams work.
MISS OUT ON THE END? REPLAY IS AVAILABLE
Boise State’s website will host a replay of Saturday’s overtime win at Colorado State. The game ended at 12:55 a.m. Sunday, so a few fans might have fallen asleep before all was said and done. Or some might have turned it off down 14 with 3 minutes left.
Regardless, you can watch it at www.broncosports.com/
Air Force at Boise State
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN2 (Roy Philpott and Tom Ramsey)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 8-2, 6-0 (beat Colorado State 59-52 in OT last week); Air Force 4-6, 3-3 (lost to Wyoming 28-14 last week)
Series: Air Force leads 3-2 (Falcons won 27-20 in Colorado Springs on Nov. 25, 2016, in last meeting)
Vegas line: Boise State by 17 1/2
Kickoff weather: Upper 30s, partly cloudy