Surely, some Boise State fans watching at home saw the first play from scrimmage at Troy and thought “here we go again.”
On the Broncos’ first offensive snap, Trojans linebacker Hunter Reese sacked Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien. Looking back at that play, junior guard John Molchon couldn’t help but let out a sheepish chuckle.
“The first thing I thought was ‘next play mentality,’ we have a ton of time,” Molchon said. “’We can’t let the first play ruin the 2018 season.’”
Sure enough, the Boise State offensive line did not let it snowball, did not let it become a talking point like it was for the first month of last season.
The Broncos allowed 13 sacks the first four games of 2017 (four against Troy), and the run game struggled to get going. On Saturday, it was a far better start — that one sack the exception. Troy did not have a sack the rest of the game, and had four tackles for negative yardage.
“The O-line is doing a great job, their communication is a whole lot better ... there’s some guys in there that have had some experience now,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “It’s good to see, it’s close, we’re (right) there.”
With four linemen who started at least half the games in 2017 returning — Molchon at left guard, Ezra Cleveland at left tackle, Garrett Larson at center and Eric Quevedo at right guard — there was confidence the Broncos could start on a better foot.
Molchon said “Garrett got excited” on that first play, shuffling to his left as Reese shot the gap to his right. The mistake, he said, was simple to correct, which Larson certainly did.
“It meant a lot, it told us that we can fight through adversity,” Molchon said. “It was kind of cool having that happen early, so it wouldn’t happen later on ... that was a big thing for us.”
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said the line had a big hand in Rypien’s 305-yard, four-TD, zero-turnover game, giving him ample time to throw. He noted that Reese got free for the sack because the receivers were covered up. He praised the group, which included senior Andres Preciado at right tackle, for handling a loud environment well in Troy, as the Trojans drew a record crowd.
“I thought they were very solid, I thought that sack, it was a coverage sack ... I don’t put that on the O-line,” Harsin said.
If there was an area that did not appear to be as solid on the line was run blocking — backup quarterback Chase Cord had a 44-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to boost the final number to 111 rushing yards. If not for that run, it would’ve been the second-worst output last season, a year in which the Broncos were 90th nationally in rushing.
Troy, it should be noted, was No. 7 against the run amongst FBS teams last season. Harsin said the interior was solid, but that the Broncos “can be better on the edge,” pointing to some penetration allowed by tight ends. The line was called for three penalties, one for holding and two false starts.
Molchon said “we would love to put up more numbers but we were hot as far as passing goes ... I know there were a couple penalties that hurt that yardage.”
“I thought we did really well,” he added. “There’s a ton of stuff we need to work on but as far as our first game we executed, we had a plan, we followed it, we kept to it. ... I was proud of how we handled it, especially at their place.”
UCONN AT No. 20 BOISE STATE
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPNU (Mike Couzens, Kirk Morrison); Cable One ch. 136/1136, DirecTV ch. 208, Dish Network ch. 141
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 1-0 (beat Troy 56-20 on Saturday); UConn 0-1 (lost 56-17 to UCF on Thursday)
Series: Boise State 1-0 (Broncos beat Huskies 38-21 on Sept. 13, 2014, in East Hartford, Conn.)
Vegas line: Boise State by 31
Tickets: Stop by the ticket office on the west side of Albertsons Stadium, visit BroncoSports.com/tickets or call 208-426-4737.
What to wear: Tri-color. White in North End Zone and sections 6, 10, 25, 29, 33, 102, 106, 110, 125, 129 and 133; orange in 8, 20-23, 27, 31, 35, 108, 120-123, 127, 131 and 135; blue in all other sections and Stueckle Sky Club