Boise State Football

Quarterbacks take center stage at Boise State Spring Game, show reason for optimism

Bronco fans get a preview of Boise State’s football team at annual spring game

Boise State's football gave Bronco fans their first look at the 2019 team at the annual spring game scrimmage on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium.
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Boise State's football gave Bronco fans their first look at the 2019 team at the annual spring game scrimmage on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium.

There was not one particular Boise State quarterback who came out of spring football head and shoulders above the rest. That’s a good thing.

Five Bronco passers saw series in Saturday’s annual Spring Game at Albertsons Stadium — the quintet avoided turning the ball over and each had some positive plays that will give coaches a lot to talk about. Again, a good thing.

A starter was not going to be named out of spring, especially with redshirt sophomore Chase Cord coming back into the mix in the fall as he recovers from a torn ACL, but there was a lot of solid play from the position with 6,841 fans on hand.

“Overall, those guys came and they prepared pretty well and executed the fundamentals we’ve been working through the spring,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “... They’ve done a great job throughout spring. They’re figuring it out.”

On the day, the offense put up 24 points in four 8-minute quarters. Senior quarterback Jaylon Henderson got first crack with the No. 1 offense, and after six runs to start the day, his first pass attempt was a 53-yard touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Khalil Shakir.

[Related: Veteran playmakers deliver in Spring Game]

Henderson, who was 2-for-4 in the Spring Game last year, has looked vastly improved this spring, and he led two scoring drives. He was 9-of-13 for 187 yards on Saturday with the touchdown.

“I feel like Jaylon’s had a really good spring ... he’s elevated his game through spring, he’s played better each scrimmage and the other guys that have been competing have brought their level up as well,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin discusses the Broncos’ annual spring game April 6, 2019 and what he saw from the quarterbacks.

The touchdown pass to Shakir was the only one among the quarterbacks, but each had their moments moving the ball. True freshman Hank Bachmeier got the first snaps with the No. 2 offense against the No. 1 defense. He was 3-of-7 for 33 yards.

Redshirt freshman Riley Smith, after two poor passes to start, had a beautiful 35-yard strike down the sideline to redshirt freshman receiver Stefan Cobbs on third-and-15. Junior running back Robert Mahone capped off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.

Redshirt freshman walk-on Zach Matlock connected with senior receiver John Hightower for a leaping, 35-yard grab, then true freshman Kaiden Bennett led a touchdown drive that included a diving 36-yard Hightower catch late in the fourth quarter.

One can see it as a negative for the quarterbacks or a positive for the defense, but both Hill and Harsin were quick to mention there were too many sacks Saturday. It was not full contact on the passers, so that helps the defense a bit, but they were sacked eight times, often holding the ball longer than the staff would like.

Junior STUD end Curtis Weaver continued to pester the offense with two first-half sacks. The only other healthy STUD available, redshirt freshman Dylan Herberg, had a sack and broke up two passes, including the last play of the day in the end zone on a pass from Henderson intended for Cobbs.

“Iron sharpens iron. If you’re going to get better, go against the best, and Curtis is definitely one of those guys,” junior tackle Ezra Cleveland said.

Using a lot of no-huddle, the quarterbacks also showed some scrambling ability, which could be another part of the 2019 arsenal. They finished 21-of-36 for 367 yards, with Bennett leading on the ground with 27 yards on six carries.

“You’ve got a lot of different types, I think that’s going to be a challenge,” defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding said. “I’m not going to get too far into it, but I’ll tell you, there’s some guys that can chew up yardage with their legs.”

Aiding the quarterbacks on the ground, sophomore running back Andrew Van Buren led the way with 47 yards on 12 carries. Shakir (96 yards) and Hightower (92) were the top receivers.

As the Broncos enter the summer, the big questions still remain at quarterback and running back. It was unlikely any quarterback would take the jobs in April, but as Boise State gets closer to August, Harsin hopes to continue the momentum forged the last five weeks.

“We didn’t have many issues out there where they weren’t in command,” Harsin said. “... Nobody’s walking out of here like we feel like we have an answer. That’s not a knock on anybody, that’s just where we are, that’s the reality of it.”

LEWIS NO LONGER ON ROSTER: Junior cornerback Robert Lewis, who was arrested early March 29 on suspicion of DUI, is no longer on the team, a Boise State spokesman said following the Spring Game. A Los Angeles native, Lewis made his college debut last season, playing in 10 games and making two tackles.


PASSING: Jaylon Henderson, 9-for-13, 187 yards, 1 TD; Riley Smith 4-8, 57 yards; Zach Matlock, 2-4, 49 yards; Kaiden Bennett, 3-4, 41 yards; Hank Bachmeier 3-7, 33 yards.

RUSHING: Andrew Van Buren, 12 carries, 47 yards; Kaiden Bennett 6-27, Robert Mahone 5-26, 1 TD; Marcus Washington 4-12, 1 TD; Riley Smith, 1-9; Zach Matlock 1-(-3); CT Thomas 1-(-5); Jaylon Henderson 4-(-8); Hank Bachmeier 3-(-14).

RECEIVING: Khalil Shakir, 3 catches, 96 yards, 1 TD; John Hightower 3-92; Stefan Cobbs 3-69; Akilian Butler 3-25; Tyneil Hopper 3-20; CT Thomas 2-5; Andrew Van Buren 1-23; Damon Cole 1-20; Maclaine Griffin 1-12; John Bates 1-5.

TACKLES: Chris Mitchell 6, Tyreque Jones 5 (one TFL), Avery Williams 5 (one TFL), Jordan Happle 5, Benton Wickersham 5 (one TFL), Jabari Watson 5 (one TFL), Evan Tyler 4, Kekoa Nawahine 3, Dylan Herberg 3 (one TFL), Curtis Weaver 3 (two TFLs), Matt Locher 3, Scott Matlock 3, Marques Evans 2, Nick Provenzano 2, Bruno DeRose 2, Brandon Hawkins 1, DeAndre Pierce 1, Zeke Noa 1, Jalen Walker 1, Sonatane Lui 1, Roman Kafentzis 1, Kekaula Kaniho 1, Scale Igiehon 1.

SACKS: Curtis Weaver 2, Tyreque Jones, Benton Wickersham, Jabari Watson, Dylan Herberg, Brandon Hawkins, Sonatane Lui

SCORING PLAYS: Khalil Shakir 53 pass from Jaylon Henderson, first quarter, 4:57 remaining (Joel Velazquez kick); Robert Mahone 4 run, second, 7:28 (Velazquez kick); Velazquez 27 field goal, second, 0:00; Marcus Washington 1 run, fourth, 0:59 (Ryan Meyer kick).

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Dave Southorn is a 2004 graduate from the University of Colorado. He has covered Boise State athletics since 2005, and worked at the Idaho Statesman since 2013. He’s won multiple Idaho Press Club awards and once won a contest designing a play for the Seattle Seahawks.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.