Boise State Football

Who has the edge and players to watch as No. 17 Boise State faces No. 24 Oklahoma State

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin on Oklahoma State strengths, DeAndre Pierce

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin discusses the Beoncos’ big matchup with Oklahoma State on Sept. 13, 2018.
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Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin discusses the Beoncos’ big matchup with Oklahoma State on Sept. 13, 2018.


When the Broncos run the ball

Boise State ran around and over UConn for 400 yards last Saturday, sixth-most in school history. From top back Alexander Mattison to wide receivers to backup quarterbacks, the Broncos have seven players with a rush of 10 or more yards.

Against two overmatched foes, Oklahoma State has allowed just 188 yards on the ground. The Cowboys were 38th nationally last year against the run and have two 300-pounders in the middle flanked by 250-pound defensive ends.

“They have some size ... but they are athletic, they play with length,” Boise State offensive line coach Brad Bedell said.

Advantage: Push

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Boise State running back Alexander Mattison (22) dives into the end zone for a Bronco touchdown in the second quarter against UConn Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise. Katherine Jones

When the Broncos pass the ball

The Broncos’ biggest revelation so far has been the passing attack, be it the six players to catch touchdown passes or QB Brett Rypien’s turnover-free start, with an improved deep ball. Add in an offensive line that hasn’t allowed a sack since the first snap at Troy, too.

“He’s come a long way,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of Rypien, adding, “They’re a lot like we were last year with a really effective quarterback and skill at the receiver spot, mature guys up front.”

That should be a big test for Oklahoma State, which was 116th in pass defense last season. The Cowboys will certainly try to create pressure, which they’ve done well thus far, racking up nine sacks while allowing 286 yards passing the first two weeks.

Advantage: Boise State

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Oklahoma State linebacker Devin Harper celebrates an interception and subsequent touchdown during an NCAA college football game against South Alabama in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt) Brody Schmidt AP

When the Cowboys run the ball

Though Oklahoma State can put up some downright goofy numbers throwing the ball, it’s the run element that makes the Cowboys’ offense consistently good. Defenses get spread out and speedy backs behind a big line find running lanes. OSU has 595 yards rushing so far (6.1 yards per carry), though Gundy said “our run blocking is below average and it has to improve.”

“I think their O-line is really good,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “... You’ve got to decide, are you going to come down and play the run or are you going to stay back and be cautious for the pass? If you do that, the running back’s going to be able to hit you and now you’re at 4, 5 yards before you make that initial contact and he has a head of steam.”

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Boise State’s defensive line is outweighed by the Cowboys (who all check in at 304 pounds or more), but that’s nothing new. The Broncos held seven teams below 100 yards rushing last season and are allowing 123 yards per game, close to the 120.2 ypg allowed last year.

Advantage: Push

When the Cowboys pass the ball

Oklahoma State’s quarterbacks are often efficient, able to hit quick passes and let the Cowboys’ athletes do work in space. Averaging 377 yards passing per game this season, nine players have multiple receptions or a catch of at least 20 yards. The Cowboys have finished in the top 10 nationally in passing the last three seasons.

Harsin said his defense has “got to be disciplined” as it will face one-on-one situations. Tackling will be paramount, but getting pressure will affect rhythm — OSU has allowed six sacks and Boise State has six. Boise State cornerbacks Tyler Horton and Avery Williams have been dinged up the last two weeks, so the Broncos will need them as healthy as possible.

“The matchup is perfect. It’s speed on speed, athleticism on athleticism,” Oklahoma State receiver Tyron Johnson said.

Advantage: Oklahoma State

Special teams

Boise State took a step up from the first game to the second on special teams, making both field goals and punting better against UConn. If Williams can’t return punts again, freshman Khalil Shakir will be in for a major challenge. The Cowboys’ Matt Ammendola has made his last 14 field goal attempts and their punters are averaging 46 yards per attempt. Kick returner Chuba Hubbard is a world-class sprinter.

“Not many opportunities to get returns, they’ve been really good in those areas, so if you get an opportunity, take advantage,” Harsin said of the Cowboys.

Advantage: Push



DeAndre Pierce, S

The Broncos’ leading tackler through two games with 14 stops, the 5-11, 175-pound junior was pointed out by Oklahoma State QB Taylor Cornelius as someone that stands out to him — “their secondary, especially DeAndre (Pierce), who is probably their best player.” His tackling ability will be important as a last line of defense against the big-play Cowboys.

“He’s a really good tackler ... he’s got a nose for the football, great technique,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “He puts a lot of time in ... I think other teams would point him out because he’s usually around the ball.”

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Boise State safety DeAndre Pierce (4) celebrates a tackle for loss against UConn with nickel Kekaula Kaniho (29) in the Broncos’ home opener. Darin Oswald

Alexander Mattison, RB

Partially due to a nagging injury and a maturing offensive line, Mattison had 166 yards in four September games last year. The junior has 171 yards and three TDs so far; 115 of those yards came against UConn on 11 carries. He could be key in helping negate OSU’s tempo.

“We’re not scared of matchups with him and D-ends or linebackers because he is so physical ... we haven’t given him the carries yet where’s he turned a 200-yard game, but it will come,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.

John Hightower, WR

Rypien targeted Hightower deep against Troy in the opener, but didn’t connect. He sure did against UConn, hitting Hightower on a picture-perfect 67-yard TD and on four more passes for 52 yards. The 6-foot-2, 183-pound junior college hurdler also broke off a jaw-dropping 55-yard scoring run.

“We worked a lot (last) week on some deep balls and just trying to get the timing down,” Rypien said. “... He’s an unbelievable player and I think everybody kind of saw his speed.”


Justice Hill, RB

An ultra-productive junior, Hill is putting his name alongside some Cowboy greats. He rushed for 1,467 yards last season (331 more than any other Big 12 back) and has 2,763 yards in his career, second-most among FBS juniors.

His 98.7 career yards per game only trails three Cowboys in team history, two of them Hall of Famers (Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas). This season, he’s rushed 19 times for 154 yards and three TDs, so he’s well-rested for Saturday.

“Lightning in a bottle ... a guy that can move, probably a guy you can’t simulate in practice,” Harsin said.

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In this Aug. 30, 2018, file photo, Oklahoma state quarterback Taylor Cornelius (14) throws a pass during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Missouri State, in Stillwater, Okla. Brody Schmidt AP

Taylor Cornelius, QB

The Cowboys have churned out some good quarterbacks under coach Mike Gundy — Brandon Weeden and Mason Rudolph had multiple 3,000-yard seasons since 2010. A fifth-year senior, Cornelius has been patient, throwing 24 career passes before winning the starting job. He’s 50-of-75 passing for 728 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.

“He’s the same as the guys we’ve had here in the past,” Gundy said.

Jordan Brailford, DE

A second-team All-Big 12 selection last season, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound junior had 10 tackles for loss last season, including five sacks. He has two so far this season through two games, and with good speed, is certainly on the NFL’s radar.

“I think Jordan Brailford has a chance to have a breakout year,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles told The Oklahoman this week.



4 Brett Rypien, 6-2, 202 (Sr.)

10 Chase Cord, 6-2, 206 (RFr.)

9 Jaylon Henderson, 6-1, 211 (Jr.)

Running back

22 Alexander Mattison, 5-11, 211 (Jr.)

34 Robert Mahone, 5-10, 204 (So.)

31 Skyler Seibold, 6-1, 207 (Sr.)

Wide receiver

82 Octavius Evans, 6-1, 199 (So.)

16 John Hightower, 6-2, 183 (Jr.)

Wide receiver

6 CT Thomas, 5-8, 171 (So.)

81 Akilian Butler, 5-10, 192 (Jr.)

Wide receiver

7 A.J. Richardson, 6-0, 209 (Sr.) OR

8 Sean Modster, 5-11, 189 (Sr.)

Tight end

86 Chase Blakley, 6-4, 239 (Sr.)

85 John Bates, 6-6, 246 (So.)

47 Matt Pistone, 6-3, 244 (Jr.)

5 Garrett Collingham, 6-4, 229 (Jr.)

Left tackle

76 Ezra Cleveland, 6-6, 309 (So.)

69 Austin Dixon, 6-6, 289 (So.)

Left guard

77 John Molchon, 6-5, 310 (Jr.)

68 Jake Stetz, 6-2, 296 (RFr.)


67 Garrett Larson, 6-4, 298 (Jr.)

71 Donte Harrington, 6-2, 306 (So.)

Right guard

79 Eric Quevedo, 6-4, 295 (Jr.)

66 Isiah Moore, 6-4, 292 (Jr.) OR

65 Zachary Troughton, 6-6, 322 (Sr.)

Right tackle

78 Andres Preciado, 6-6, 295 (Sr.)

70 John Ojukwu, 6-6, 297 (RFr.)

Defensive end

91 Durrant Miles, 6-6, 261 (Sr.)

93 Chase Hatada, 6-3, 253 (Jr.) OR

45 Kayode Rufai, 6-4, 255 (So.)

Nose tackle

98 Sonatane Lui, 6-1, 305 (Jr.)

57 Emmanuel Fesili, 6-2, 319 (Jr.)

Defensive tackle

55 David Moa, 6-3, 275 (Sr.)

54 Matt Locher, 6-2, 269 (Jr.)

40 Jabari Watson, 6-1, 253 (So.)

STUD end

8 Jabril Frazier, 6-4, 238 (Sr.)

99 Curtis Weaver, 6-3, 266 (So.)

53 Sam Whitney, 6-2, 233 (Jr.)

Weakside linebacker

44 Riley Whimpey, 6-1, 218 (So.)

48 Bruno DeRose, 5-11, 233 (So.) OR

33 Tony Lashley, 6-1, 233 (Sr.)

Middle linebacker

58 Tyson Maeva, 6-0, 228 (Jr.)

25 Benton Wickersham, 6-2, 230 (So.)

56 Joseph Inda, 6-0, 231 (Sr.)

Nickel/strongside LB

28 Kekaula Kaniho, 5-10, 185 (So.)

9 Desmond Williams, 5-11, 205 (So.)

41 Will Heffner, 6-2, 225 (Jr.)


14 Tyler Horton, 5-11, 197 (Sr.)

15 Jalen Walker, 6-0, 174 (So.)


26 Avery Williams, 5-9, 197 (So.)

15 Jalen Walker, 6-0, 174 (So.)


10 Kekoa Nawahine, 6-2, 207 (Jr.)

21 Tyreque Jones, 6-2, 197 (RFr.)


4 DeAndre Pierce, 5-11, 174 (Jr.)

32 Jordan Happle, 5-11, 199 (So.) OR

5 Evan Tyler, 6-2, 191 (Jr.)


96 Haden Hoggarth, 6-0, 195 (Sr.)

46 Joel Velazquez, 6-0, 224 (So.)

Kick returner

26 Avery Williams, 5-9, 197 (So.)

34 Robert Mahone, 5-10, 204 (So.)

22 Alexander Mattison, 5-11, 211 (Jr.)


49 Quinn Skillin, 6-4, 189 (Sr.) OR

46 Joel Velazquez, 6-0, 224 (So.)

Punt returner

26 Avery Williams, 5-9, 197 (So.)

6 CT Thomas, 5-8, 171 (So.)



14 Taylor Cornelius, 6-6, 232 (Sr.)

11 Keondre Wudtee, 6-4, 216 (So.) OR

6 Dru Brown, 5-11, 200 (Sr.)


5 Justice Hill, 5-10, 190 (Jr.)

27 J.D. King, 5-11, 211 (So.)

Wide receiver

13 Tyron Johnson, 6-1, 193 (Jr.)

81 LC Greenwood, 6-3, 212 (RFr.)

Wide receiver

1 Jalen McCleskey, 5-10, 170 (Sr.)

88 Landon Wolf, 5-11, 174 (So.)

Wide receiver

2 Tylan Wallace, 6-0, 185 (So.)

17 Dillon Stoner, 6-0, 198 (So.)

Cowboy back

41 Britton Abbott, 6-2, 245 (Sr.) OR

89 Jelani Woods, 6-7, 251 (RFr.)

Left tackle

51 Arlington Hambright, 6-5, 308 (Jr.)

76 Dylan Galloway, 6-5, 297 (So.) OR

74 Larry Joubert, 6-4, 285 (Jr.)

Left guard

56 Larry Williams, 6-4, 330 (Sr.) OR

75 Marcus Keyes, 6-3, 309 (Jr.)


72 Johnny Wilson, 6-3, 304 (Jr.)

68 Deionte Noel, 6-2, 318 (Sr.)

Right guard

67 Shane Richards, 6-8, 336 (Sr.)

50 Ry Schneider, 6-3, 320 (So.)

Right tackle

73 Teven Jenkins, 6-6, 310 (So.)

57 Walker Reed, 6-6, 341 (So.)

Defensive end

93 Jarrell Owens, 6-3, 265 (Sr.) OR

82 Cole Walterscheid, 6-5, 260 (Sr.)

Defensive tackle

79 Darrion Daniels, 6-3, 320 (Sr.)

92 Cameron Murray, 6-2, 290 (So.) OR

98 Brendon Evers, 6-2, 290 (RFr.)

Defensive tackle

99 Trey Carter, 6-3, 299 (Sr.)

56 Enoch Smith Jr., 6-2, 295 (Sr.)

Defensive end

94 Jordan Brailford, 6-3, 250 (Jr.)

40 Brock Martin, 6-4, 242 (RFr.) OR

91 Mike Scott, 6-5, 240 (Jr.)


1 Calvin Bundage, 6-2, 215 (Jr.)

16 Devin Harper, 6-1, 231 (So.)


19 Justin Phillips, 6-0, 230 (Sr.)

11 Amen Ogbongbemiga, 6-0, 225 (So.)


4 A.J. Green, 6-1, 182 (Jr.)

5 Kemah Siverand, 6-1, 200 (Jr.) OR

10 Tyrell Alexander, 6-1, 182 (So.)


8 Rodarius Williams, 6-0, 187 (So.)

13 Lamarcus Morton, 6-1, 185 (RFr.)


3 Kenneth Edison-McGruder, 6-0, 220 (Sr.)

31 Kolby Peel, 6-0, 210 (Fr.)


20 Malcolm Rodriguez, 6-0, 205 (So.)

23 Tre Sterling, 6-1, 202 (RFr.) OR

18 Za’Carrius Green, 5-11, 210 (Jr.)


28 Thabo Mwaniki, 5-11, 185 (So.)

24 Jarrick Bernard, 6-2, 195 (Fr.)


49 Matt Ammendola, 5-9, 195 (Jr.)

59 Matt Hockett, 6-2, 227 (Sr.)

Kick returner

30 Chuba Hubbard, 6-1, 207 (RFr.)

7 LD Brown, 5-9, 191 (So.)


59 Matt Hockett, 6-2, 227 (Sr.)

39 Jake McClure, 6-3, 200 (RFr.)

Punt returner

17 Dillon Stoner, 6-0, 198 (So.)

2 Tylan Wallace, 6-0, 185 (So.)