Boise State Football

‘Relentless’ Boise State defense spearheads win over Marshall with eye-popping second half

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin on Marshall win, his penalty, QB Hank Bachmeier

Highlights from Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin's press conference after the 14-7 win against Marshall. Harsin also addressed his unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and the play of quarterback Hank Bachmeier.
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Highlights from Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin's press conference after the 14-7 win against Marshall. Harsin also addressed his unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and the play of quarterback Hank Bachmeier.

The idea of Curtis Weaver can be just as impactful as the real thing.

But the threat of the 6-foot-3, 265-pound junior coming off the edge becomes even more frightening when the other 10 men on the field are playing with equal gusto.

Weaver took over the lead for active career sacks in the FBS on Friday night, part of a dominant effort for the Boise State defense in a 14-7 victory over Marshall at Albertsons Stadium.

The Broncos held the Thundering Herd to zero yards and zero points in the second half, which is the fewest second-half yards for a Boise State opponent since Northern Illinois had minus-3 in the Broncos’ 55-7 win in the 2015 Poinsettia Bowl.

“That’s a relentless defense when you go out there and do what they did in the second half,” Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin said. “We win games like that, I’m all about it. I’m all about our defense playing like that, all about our guys on that side of the ball getting out there and making plays.”

Weaver sacked Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green for a 5-yard loss in the third quarter and now has 22.5 career sacks. He moved into a tie for fourth in Boise State history and fifth all-time in the Mountain West.

“He’s affecting a play one way or another,” Harsin said. “He’s making it or he’s affecting it.”

Weaver’s performance was one of many standout efforts by the Broncos’ defense against the Herd. Sophomore middle linebacker Ezekiel Noa had seven tackles, including a career-high five solo tackles, and senior safety Kekoa Nawahine recorded a forced fumble and interception in the same game for the first time in his career. Sophomore safety Tyreque Jones recovered Nawahine’s forced fumble for the second of his career.

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Safety Kekoa Nawahine grabs his fourth career interception as Boise State defeated Marshall 14-7 on Friday at Albertsons Stadium. Joe Jaszewski Special to the Idaho Statesman

Had he arrived a second or two earlier, junior nickel Kekaula Kaniho would have had his second strip sack in as many games. Instead, Kaniho knocked a pass out of Green’s hand on third-and-11 to force the Herd to punt at the start of the fourth quarter.

As a whole, the Broncos totaled six tackles for loss and three sacks while limiting the Herd to 172 total yards.

“We love that. That’s been the identity of this year,” Nawahine said. “We’re gonna go out together as a family on the field. Mistakes or not, people are gonna make plays and we’re gonna have each other’s back.

“... Everybody out there making plays is what makes the sport fun and what makes it all worth it when you’re training the whole summer and the whole winter. Going out and being able to see all the guys to your right and your left being able to make those plays is something special.”

[Related: Boise State honors Paul Reyna’s family; Instant Analysis — Boise State survives its own mistakes; Harsin lets ‘bad wolf’ out]

Boise State was determined to start fast against Marshall a week after spotting Florida State a 24-6 lead. The Broncos appeared on their way to meeting that goal by forcing a punt and then a fumble on Marshall’s first two drives.

But on the Herd’s third possession of the game, four of their five plays went for 9 yards or more, including a 26-yard pass from Green to receiver Xavier Gaines that put the Herd on the Boise State 30-yard line. Two plays later, sophomore running back Brenden Knox reached the end zone on a 13-yard run for a 7-0 Marshall lead with 1:02 left in the first quarter.

“It was just fun to go out there and respond after giving up some stuff in the first half,” Kaniho said. “... The energy never falls on the defense, whether we give up big plays or make big stops. The energy’s always there and we always are there for each other on the sideline.”

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Boise State tight end John Bates (85) runs for extra yards after a catch before being tackled by Marshall linebacker Domenick Murphy (40) Friday, Sept. 6, 2019 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise. Darin Oswald

True freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier evened the score at 7-7 with a 1-yard touchdown dive with 10 seconds to go before halftime. It was Bachmeier’s fourth carry of the game, and he led all Boise State rushers with 33 yards at halftime.

Boise State had a touchdown called back on its previous drive. Senior receiver Akilian Butler caught a Bachmeier pass and weaved 74 yards through the Marshall defense for a touchdown. But a holding call erased the score and fired up Harsin, who was issued an unsportsmanlike penalty.

“Maybe I let the bad wolf out a little bit in that moment,” Harsin said. “That hurt our team ... and I told the team, we haven’t had a personal foul this season. After Sunday, when they see what I have to do, they’re not gonna want to get one.”

On the Broncos’ first drive of the second half, Bachmeier tossed a 47-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver John Hightower for a 14-7 lead. The Boise State defense did the rest as Marshall was forced to punt on four of its five second-half drives. The fifth ended with Nawahine’s fourth career interception.

“You kind of feel it when another team is kind of slipping away,” Kaniho said. “And that’s just when we ramp it up even more.”

In just his second collegiate game and first on The Blue, Bachmeier completed 22-of-34 passes for 282 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He had a QB rating of 138.2 and connected with eight different receivers. Sophomore Khalil Shakir set a career high for receiving yards for the second straight game, this time catching five passes for 95 yards. Junior tight end John Bates also set career highs for receptions (five) and receiving yards (63).

Boise State true freshman running back George Holani ended the Marshall defense’s 15-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. Holani had 22 carries for 103 yards.

The career milestones on offense didn’t translate on the scoreboard, however, as the Broncos stalled out on five promising drives.

“We know what we’re capable of as an offense,” Shakir said. “We know that wasn’t our standard. We know we can execute better and we need to execute better in the future. We’ll go back to the drawing board and correct what we did this weekend and just get right.”

Senior safety Kekoa Nawahine, junior nickel Kekaula Kaniho and sophomore receiver Khalil Shakir discuss the Boise State football team's 14-7 win over Marshall on Friday at Albertsons Stadium.

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