Boise State Football

He is ‘the guy right now.’ Mahone makes the most of his chances for Boise State in spring

Boise State RB Robert Mahone

Boise State sophomore Robert Mahone discusses playing as a freshman and competing for time in 2018.
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Boise State sophomore Robert Mahone discusses playing as a freshman and competing for time in 2018.

At practice this week, Robert Mahone did something he would not have done even a few months ago.

Standing against starting middle linebacker Tyson Maeva in a one-on-one pass drill, the sophomore running back brimmed with courage.

“He was like ‘I’m about to route you up,’ ” Boise State running backs coach Lee Marks said. “Last year, Rob would’ve been a little bit nervous. But he went out there and caught the ball.”

It’s amazing what even one game can do for a player.

Mahone played in 13 games last season as a redshirt freshman, but saw more than four carries only once before the Las Vegas Bowl. With Alexander Mattison hobbled, he had season-highs of 12 carries for 34 yards against Oregon, which Marks said “was a good step for Rob.”

Leading 24-0 in the second quarter, quarterback Brett Rypien attempted a Statue of Liberty handoff to Mahone, but it was a bit high, plus the Ducks sniffed it out well. It hit off Mahone’s face mask, and Oregon linebacker Troy Dye ran it back 86 yards for a touchdown.

But Mahone wasn’t down.

“Even after the whole Statue of Liberty debacle, the first thing I was really concerned about was ‘How is his mood, how is his attitude, is he down on himself?’ ” Marks said. “And he was good.”

Said Mahone: “The play kind of got busted by their end, just mishandled the ball. But it’s always the next-play mentality.”

Playing behind Mattison and Ryan Wolpin last season, Mahone had an interesting first season that wasn’t always easy to weather. When the Broncos’ run game struggled last September, coach Bryan Harsin said he planned to get Mahone more work. He had five carries for 28 yards in the two games after he said that.

He started against BYU, but fumbled in the first quarter, not getting another attempt that game. He saw nine carries in a November rout of Nevada, but had only four carries in the other seven games before the bowl following the BYU game. Mahone finished the season with 35 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown.

With an opportunity for a bigger workload following Wolpin’s graduation, Mahone’s eager to take advantage.

“I feel very good,” Mahone said. “… Learning defensive fronts, learning tendencies of defensive players, just being one step ahead of the game, getting that edge.”

Marks noted that the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Mahone is “getting in better shape” than he was last year, doing extra conditioning after winter team runs. As Mattison is sidelined this spring after postseason surgery, and neither Skyler Seibold nor Drake Beasley, the other running backs, have had a carry in a game, Marks says Mahone “is just like, ‘I’m the guy right now.’ 

“His confidence is up,” Marks said. “Last year, you could tell he had little confidence, right now he has a lot of confidence.

“It’s encouraging to know where he’s going. I’m excited to see what he does this season.”

QUARTERBACKS SOLID, DEFENSE TOUGH IN SCRIMMAGE

Boise State held its second scrimmage of the spring Saturday, closed to the public, but media was allowed to view it. Quarterbacks Chase Cord and Jaylon Henderson had touchdown passes of more than 35 yards, while cornerback Avery Williams returned an interception for a touchdown. The defense also stuffed a long drive on a fourth-and-goal at the 1 toward the end.

“I think it went well ... we worked some situational (scenarios), low and high red zone, some goal line, some 2-minute,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “I thought the defense tackled well. I saw some good things from the quarterbacks.”

Check out more from Harsin here.

Rypien said after the defense created a lot of turnovers in Friday’s practice, Saturday’s showing was an improvement, “but definitely stuff we still can work on, for sure.”

“Our defense put in some new pressures, some new fronts,” Rypien said. “They’re good. Our edge guys look unbelievable right now ... it’s a good challenge for us every single day.”

GYMNASTICS MISSES OUT ON NCAA BERTH

The Boise State gymnastics team found itself in a too-familiar position Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, with a strong showing at regionals but not enough for the program’s first-ever NCAA berth.

Boise State finished fourth in the regional with a 196.225, the second-best regional score in team history, but UCLA (197.650), Arkansas (196.775) and Ohio State (196.500) finished ahead of the Broncos. They needed to finish in the top two to advance to the NCAA championships.

Junior Shani Remme tied for first in the all-around with a 39.425, which earned her a second straight NCAA individual berth.

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @davesouthorn

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