Final score: Boise State 45, Portland State 10
Records: Boise State is 3-0; Portland State is 1-2
Why the Broncos won: The Broncos’ talent took over, as often happens when FBS teams play FCS teams. Boise State wide receiver/kickoff returner John Hightower’s electric speed (kickoff return and receiving TDs), the savvy of wide receivers CT Thomas and Khalil Shakir (two TDs for Thomas; 125 receiving yards for the tandem), the playmaking of tailbacks Robert Mahone and George Holani (121 yards from scrimmage combined) and the sheer dominance of STUD end Curtis Weaver (four sacks) were far too much for the Vikings to handle.
Main takeaway: The Broncos’ quarterback situation just got really interesting as they prepare to open Mountain West play Friday against Air Force on a short week. True freshman starter Hank Bachmeier got battered again, but he also threw an ugly interception and struggled to either recognize or properly attack some of the pressure Portland State threw at him. He took a nasty hit to the jaw in the first half — the defender was ejected — and he only played one series in the second half.
“Hank is perfectly fine,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “There is no controversy whatsoever.”
Still, there’s intrigue.
Sophomore backup Chase Cord, who competed with Bachmeier through fall camp, is ready to contribute. Cord was the backup to Brett Rypien last year before sustaining a torn ACL in practice in October. That hurt him to some degree in the quarterback competition as he worked back into playing shape.
In his first significant playing time of the season, Cord ran for a 7-yard touchdown in the first quarter in a red-zone package and led three scoring drives (two TDs, one field goal) once he took over on the second drive of the second half. And he looked good doing it, going 5-for-10 for 103 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an impressive scramble that showed his speed is coming back. Cord’s only flaw was a three-play series of incompletions after the scramble that forced a field goal.
Boise State led 28-10 when Cord took over.
“It was time to get him in the game,” Harsin said. “Whether we were tied up or not didn’t matter. I wanted to see Chase play today.”
Cord’s play showed that Boise State has a solid option behind Bachmeier. But more than that, it seems clear that Cord will be involved in the game plan on a weekly basis — like many other Boise State backups have been before.
The Broncos’ lead was sizable, but not overwhelming, when Cord entered the game. And Harsin said he planned to leave him in the game at that point.
“I thought some good things would happen,” Harsin said.
Cord’s two best plays were his 33-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver CT Thomas, a perfect throw for the second passing touchdown of Cord’s career, and his 29-yard scramble. The scramble required Cord to escape pass rushers in the pocket, then he flashed his speed in the open field and lowered his shoulder into the tackler. That play was Harsin’s favorite because it reminded him of the open-field run on which Cord was injured last year.
“It was good to see Chase get in to make a couple plays because we know what that guy can do,” Thomas said.
Player of the game: Weaver’s four sacks — the last of which snuffed out a Portland State scoring opportunity — tied the school record. More impressively, that sack total hadn’t happened since Chris Wing recorded four in 1996, also against Portland State. With all the great pass rushers Boise State has had in recent years, none of them did what Weaver accomplished Saturday. Weaver’s play helped the Broncos shut out their opponent in the second half for the third straight game.
Play of the game: The Broncos fell behind 3-0 — the third straight game the opponent has scored first. But before the Vikings could even notice the scoreboard was in their favor, Hightower took the ensuing kickoff, darted diagonally across the field and dashed down the sideline for a 98-yard touchdown. It was the Broncos’ first touchdown on a deep kickoff since 2013.
What’s next: Air Force at Boise State, 7 p.m. Friday at Albertsons Stadium (ESPN2).