Boise State Football

Who has the edge and players to watch as Boise State tries to bounce back at Nevada

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin on Nevada, run game

Boise State football coach talks about facing Nevada, his O-line and RB Alexander Mattison.
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Boise State football coach talks about facing Nevada, his O-line and RB Alexander Mattison.

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

When the Broncos run the ball

Boise State is rushing for less than 90 yards per game against everyone except UConn. Coach Bryan Harsin said it simply Monday, “Right now, we’re no good at it.” When the Broncos run, the offense is almost always effective, but without that threat, they struggle.

“We had a 400-yard game earlier in the year, you can’t take that away ... but we need to be more consistent game in and game out,” offensive line coach Brad Bedell said.

Nevada will stack the box with its 3-3-5 base defense and has been solid against the run, holding four of its six opponents to 3.0 yards per carry or less. The Wolf Pack are No. 7 nationally with 8.8 tackles for loss per game and allowing only 2.0 ypc at home.

Advantage: Nevada

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Boise State wide receiver Sean Modster (8) has a long pass slip through his fingers in the first quarter as San Diego State defenders Tariq Thompson (14) and Parker Baldwin (33) keep in step Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

When the Broncos pass the ball

Perhaps the Broncos’ inability to run allowed San Diego State to tee off on QB Brett Rypien, who was pressured all day last Saturday. It could be a trend, or Boise State’s September showed what it will be — the Broncos are still 10th nationally, passing for 325.2 ypg.

“It’s not really just one thing, it’s everything, whether it’s getting rid of the ball a half-second quicker than I wanted to, whether the guy’s not out of his break yet, me not making an accurate throw, it’s a group effort,” Rypien said.

The Wolf Pack are 103rd nationally in passing defense and pass efficiency defense. There is opportunity for the Broncos to make some plays if they can protect Rypien. They’ve allowed 11 sacks in their losses, three in wins. Nevada has 10 sacks in its three home games.

Advantage: Boise State

When the Wolf Pack run the ball

Unlike some Air Raid teams, Nevada will use the run as a complement to its pass-heavy attack. The Wolf Pack’s 162.8 ypg is 80th nationally (Boise State is 90th). Toa Taua (5-8, 205) and Kelton Moore (5-11, 240) are strong backs.

“When they run, they run downhill, they like to take people for a ride if you tackle too high,” Boise State nose tackle Sonatane Lui said.

Boise State has allowed runs of 50 yards or more its last four games but is one of the more stout rush defenses nationally otherwise. Only five teams have allowed more 50-plus runs, but the Broncos are 39th nationally in fewest runs of 10 or more allowed with 22.

Advantage: Boise State

When the Wolf Pack pass the ball

Nevada can trot out plenty of receiving options, from two 6-4 starters to a pair of productive slot options in McLane Mannix and Kaleb Fossum. Senior QB Ty Gangi (266.4 ypg) is questionable, and the offense managed just three points with three turnovers last week without him.

Boise State will take on an offensive line that has allowed only nine sacks on 230 pass attempts, though the Broncos’ 3.6 sacks per game are fifth-best in the nation. Without an interception since the first quarter Sept. 8, look for Boise State to be aggressive.

“Their Air Raid is something crazy, they have some tall receivers, their concepts are pretty different,” Boise State senior cornerback Tyler Horton said. “They like to sling the ball, and I think that’s where they’re going to try to attack us.”

Advantage: Push

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Nevada’s McLane Mannix celebrates his first quarter touchdown pass against Oregon State on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Reno, Nev. Lance Iversen AP

Special teams

Boise State has been inconsistent at best when it comes to the kicking game — the Broncos recovered a botched 57-yard punt at the 4-yard line last week. That’s good. They also dropped a snap on a punt and missed an extra point. That’s bad. So is being ranked 112th on punt returns and 119th in net punting.

Nevada is 16th nationally in punt return average (17.6 yards per), with three players averaging 10 yards or more, including Romeo Doubs, who has an 80-yard TD to his credit. Kicker Ramiz Ahmed is 5-of-7 on field goals. The Wolf Pack have had a punt blocked that was returned for a touchdown and have allowed a 98-yard kickoff return score.

Advantage: Push

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BOISE STATE

Tyreque Jones, S

Last season’s Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year while redshirting, Jones made his first start last Saturday and is the starter for the foreseeable future as DeAndre Pierce is out for the year. The 6-foot-2, 197-pounder has 10 tackles and a forced fumble in 2018.

“It feels good, to be able to fight for my brothers, really help this team,” Jones said, adding, “(Pierce) has been a great mentor, a great motivator ... he’ll be a positive force for me moving forward.”

Tyler Horton, CB

After missing the Broncos’ previous two and a half games with a knee injury, Horton returned to action against San Diego State and recovered his third fumble of the season (tied for most in the nation). Against the Wolf Pack’s Air Raid offense, his experience will be key.

“My emotions were everywhere ... my preparation was there, me getting after it was really the only thing I could think about, didn’t think about my knee, didn’t feel like I missed a beat,” Horton said.

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Boise State running back Alexander Mattison (22) scores his second touchdown, this one against San Diego State in the fourth quarter Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

Alexander Mattison, RB

Boise State has churned out 1,000-yard rushers in eight straight seasons, including Mattison last year. He is a little off that pace this season with 347 yards on 84 carries. Injuries slowed him down during last year’s slow start. He’s in good shape this year but faces another tough run defense.

“He’s run hard, I think the key is the consistency all around, not just him,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “I think he’s been seeing the holes he needs to. ... He’s been solid so far.”

NEVADA

McLane Mannix, WR

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound preseason All-Mountain West pick fits the mold for a slot receiver in an Air Raid offense — the sophomore has 25 catches for 454 yards and a team-best five TDs. He had 778 yards and six TDs last season as a true freshman.

“There’s space, there’s windows in there, and he knows how to find those windows,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “He does a really nice job with his routes, and he’s elusive.”

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Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman is sacked by Nevada linebacker Malik Reed during the first half Sept. 29 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Dougal Brownlie AP

Malik Reed, OLB

Already a highly productive defensive end, the senior is also a highly productive linebacker. Making the switch has been smooth, as he has 34 tackles (eight for loss), four sacks and three forced fumbles. His 10 career forced fumbles rank No. 1 among active FBS players.

“That guy is a tremendous player. He was last year, he is this year,” Harsin said. “That guy is somebody that in our league is one of the better players we have.”

Asauni Rufus, S

A 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior, Rufus broke his leg in last season’s game against Boise State and missed the final three games. He’s come back strong, part of an improved defense with 31 tackles (4.5 for loss). He has eight career forced fumbles.

”What happened to him last year was certainly a tough setback, but he’s been playing as good as anybody on our team the last few weeks,” Nevada coach Jay Norvell told Nevada Sports Net.

BOISE STATE DEPTH CHART

Quarterback

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

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

Running back

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

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

21 Andrew Van Buren, 6-0, 227 (Fr.)

Wide receiver

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

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

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.)

2 Khalil Shakir, 6-0, 186 (Fr.)

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.)

Center

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.)

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

Nose tackle

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

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

90 Scale Igiehon, 6-2, 300 (Fr.)

Defensive tackle

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

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.)

7 Ezekiel Noa, 5-11, 243 (RFr.) OR

36 Blake Whitlock, 6-1, 214 (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.)

Cornerback

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

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

Cornerback

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

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

Boundary Safety

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

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

Field Safety

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

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

Kicker

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

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

Kick returner

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

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

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

Punter

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

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

Punt returner

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

2 Khalil Shakir, 6-0, 186 (Fr.)

NEVADA DEPTH CHART

Quarterback

6 Ty Gangi, 6-2, 205 (Sr.) OR

13 Cristian Solano, 6-1, 190 (Jr.)

Tailback

23 Kelton Moore, 5-11, 240 (Jr.)

35 Toa Taua, 5-8, 205 (Fr.)

Wide receiver

17 Brendan O’Leary-Orange, 6-4, 210 (Jr.)

7 Romeo Doubs, 6-2, 180 (Fr.)

Wide receiver

1 McLane Mannix, 5-9, 185 (So.)

3 Kaleb Fossum, 5-9, 180 (Jr.)

Wide receiver

4 Elijah Cooks, 6-4, 215 (So.)

19 Cole Turner, 6-6, 210 (Fr.)

Tight end

49 Trae Carter-Wells, 6-1, 230 (Sr.)

15 Trevion Armstrong, 6-3, 220 (So.)

Left tackle

71 Jake Nelson, 6-4, 295 (Jr.)

72 Miles Beach, 6-4, 250 (So.)

Left guard

62 Anthony Palomares, 6-3, 295 (Sr.)

67 Gray Davis, 6-4, 290 (RFr.)

Center

64 Sean Krepsz, 6-4, 330 (Sr.)

56 Kalei Meyer, 6-0, 280 (Sr.)

Right guard

76 Nate Brown, 6-4, 290 (So.)

54 Jermaine Ledbetter, 6-3, 330 (So.)

Right tackle

65 Aaron Frost, 6-5, 295 (Fr.)

67 Gray Davis, 6-4, 290 (RFr.)

Defensive end

51 Dom Peterson, 6-0, 315 (RFr.)

92 Kaleb Meder, 6-4, 260 (Jr.)

Nose tackle

96 Hausia Sekona, 6-0, 275 (Jr.)

78 Jarius McDade, 6-1, 335 (Sr.)

Defensive tackle

99 Korey Rush, 6-0, 270 (Sr.)

98 Sam Hammond, 6-5, 255 (So.)

Linebacker

90 Malik Reed, 6-2, 235 (Sr.)

16 Maliek Broady, 5-10, 215 (Jr.)

Linebacker

7 Gabriel Sewell, 6-0, 230 (Jr.)

30 Lawson Hall, 6-0, 230 (So.)

Linebacker

52 Kyle Adams, 5-11, 215 (Jr.)

8 James Fotofili, 5-11, 205 (Fr.)

Cornerback

23 Jomon Dotson, 5-10, 180 (Sr.)

3 Berdale Robins, 5-9, 165 (So.)

Cornerback

25 Daniel Brown, 5-11, 170 (Jr.)

29 Isaiah Hamilton, 5-10, 195 (So.)

Safety

6 Nephi Sewell, 6-0, 205 (So.)

9 Justin Brent, 6-3, 205 (Sr.)

Safety

5 Dameon Baber, 5-10, 200 (Sr.)

28 Austin Arnold, 5-10, 195 (So.)

Safety

2 Asauni Rufus, 5-11, 200 (Sr.)

14 Mar’Quette Jackson, 5-11, 200 (So.)

Kicker

26 Ramiz Ahmed, 6-0, 190 (Sr.)

Kick returner

5 Jaxson Kincaide, 5-8, 190 (Jr.)

23 Jomon Dotson, 5-10, 180 (Sr.)

Punter

35 Quinton Conaway, 6-0, 210 (JR.)

Punt returner

7 Romeo Doubs, 6-2, 180 (Fr.)

3 Kaleb Fossum, 5-9, 180 (Jr.) OR

1 McLane Mannix, 5-9, 185 (So.)

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