You know exactly what San Diego State wants to do, but your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is trying to stop the expected.
That is what is facing the Boise State defense Saturday as the Aztecs and their power rushing attack come to Albertsons Stadium. San Diego State is 11th nationally with 244.9 yards rushing per game since the start of the 2015 season.
“It’s kind of like triple-option teams, you know that’s their main focus ... you’ve got to play with great communication and eye control and play a whole drive, not get discouraged about them chipping away,” Boise State junior safety Kekoa Nawahine said.
Through four games, the Aztecs have not quite put up the eye-popping numbers of recent years, but they also have been without some key pieces.
Starting quarterback Christian Chapman (MCL sprain) missed their past two games, starting tailback Juwan Washington broke his collarbone Sept. 22 in an overtime win over Eastern Michigan and fullback Isaac Lessard has a neck injury. All are out against Boise State.
“They always have guys that fill roles, and guys step up ... because they’re coached well,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
San Diego State churned out back-to-back 2,000-yard rushers in Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny, but neither beat Boise State as the Aztecs’ feature back. Penny was held to just 53 yards in last season’s meeting.
Four of the Aztecs’ starters on the offensive line have at least 15 career starts. The Broncos are one of 12 teams to give up at least three runs of 50 yards or more, so keeping the Aztec backs in check will be vital. Boise State has allowed just 9-of-39 conversions on third downs in their wins, and if the defense can limit big plays, it could force the Aztecs to lean more on backup QB Ryan Agnew.
“They’ve been a great rush offense for a long time now, they’ve had multiple backs that have been NFL-caliber guys,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “... But it starts with their O-line, their fullbacks and their tight ends.”
Fullbacks? Oh yes, this is an old-school offense.
“Fullback is a dying breed in this game, but not at San Diego State,” Avalos said.
There isn’t a much better representation of the San Diego State offense than a drive Harsin was able to watch after the Broncos’ loss at Oklahoma State on Sept. 15. Leading Arizona State 20-14 and trying to salt the game away in the fourth quarter, SDSU had Washington on the sideline with a knee injury.
Backup Chase Jasmin carried on 12 of the 13 plays of a 62-yard touchdown drive to create some breathing room in a 28-21 win.
“They weren’t trying to throw the football whatsoever and they still got down the field that way,” Harsin said, calling that “their identity.”
Jasmin, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound sophomore, is a bigger back than the 5-7 Washington and has 43 carries for 233 yards this season. He said last week that being part of the tradition was his goal, and he will make his first start Saturday.
“To be able to help the team from that position, it means a lot and it’s a lot of responsibility, and I take it with 100 percent dignity and respect,” Jasmin said.
San Diego State’s offense is dinged up, but so is BSU’s defense. Senior defensive tackle David Moa and senior cornerback Tyler Horton didn’t play at Wyoming, while senior STUD end Jabril Frazier missed the second half.
Just like they did in that long drive against Arizona State, the Aztecs will look to eat up time and keep Boise State’s offense on the sideline, but they know the Broncos still have a stout defense, despite injuries.
“The best way to have a chance to win is to keep them off the field, and that means we have to control the ball and get some first downs, but that’s easier said than done because they’re pretty good on defense, too,” San Diego State coach Rocky Long said.
BRONCOS GET BIG RUNNING BACK COMMIT
Recruiting never sleeps, and late Monday night, the Boise State football staff certainly went to bed content.
George Holani, a 6-foot, 195-pound running back from St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, Calif., verbally committed to the Broncos’ 2019 recruiting class. Bosco is currently ranked as MaxPreps’ No. 1 team in the nation and USA Today’s No. 2 team.
Holani had reported offers from Oregon, Arizona State, Boston College, Utah and more. He’s rushed for 517 yards on 51 carries, scoring 10 touchdowns on the ground and adding two receiving touchdowns.
SAN DIEGO STATE AT BOISE STATE
When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPNU (Mike Couzens, Kirk Morrison); CableOne ch. 136/1136, DirecTV ch. 208, Dish Network ch. 141
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 3-1, 1-0 (beat Wyoming 34-14 on Saturday); San Diego State 3-1, 0-0 (beat Eastern Michigan 23-20 in OT on Sept. 22)
Series: Boise State leads 3-2 (won 31-17 at SDSU on Oct. 14, 2017)
Vegas line: Boise State by 14
Weather: Mid-50s, mostly cloudy
Tickets: $54 to $89; stop by the ticket office on the west side of Albertsons Stadium, visit BroncoSports.com/tickets or call 208-426-4737.