Going into its Mountain West matchup at UNLV, the Boise State offense had been running like clockwork on third-down conversions.
The Broncos entered the weekend with a third-down conversion percentage of 53.2 percent — the seventh-best mark in the nation. But Boise State was a season-worst 2-for-13 on third down against the Rebels and a perfect 2-for-2 on red-zone scores.
“One area goes up, one goes down, right?” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said during his Monday press conference at the Bleymaier Football Center. “You hear me say consistency a lot. That’s always the thing we’re chasing.”
After its first two games against Florida State and Marshall, Boise State was a combined 4-for-12 on scoring touchdowns in the red zone. The Broncos have since gone 6-for-7 on TDs in the red zone against Portland State, Air Force and UNLV. But they now rank No. 22 on third down at a clip of 46.7 percent.
“I did think we’ve done a much better job in the red zone. We certainly emphasized that,” Harsin said. “... Sometimes in practice, your time spent — and it might even be five minutes — five minutes more on red zone is five minutes less on third downs. We’ve got to keep balancing that every week in the practice schedule. That’s the reality of it. ... Five minutes here and there means a lot for our execution come Saturdays.”
Boise State punted eight times against UNLV and went 1-for-2 on fourth-down tries, another aspect of Saturday’s game that Harsin wasn’t happy about. Sophomore running back Andrew Van Buren was stopped on a fourth-and-1 try in the second quarter, and junior running back Robert Mahone fumbled on a third-and-1 play two drives later.
“That’s gut-wrenching when you can’t get half a yard,” Harsin said. “We’ve been like 135th in the country (in 2017), right? We were so bad. We were so far behind, we thought we were in first place. ... So we spent a lot of time on that, and we’re not going backwards.”
Rocky grad makes debut
Rocky Mountain High alum Keeghan Freeborn got on the field for the first time in Boise State’s win Saturday at UNLV.
The 6-foot-1, 304-pound nose tackle redshirted last season and had been out with an undisclosed injury he suffered in the preseason.
Freeborn registered his first career tackle against the Rebels, teaming with defensive tackle Jabari Watson to take down UNLV running back Chad Magyar in the fourth quarter.
“He’s back out there. He’s practicing,” Harsin said. “... So we got guys up front that can make plays.”
BYU kick time announced
Boise State will face BYU (2-3) at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. The game will air on ESPN2. The time and TV were announced Monday.
The Cougars play at USF this Saturday, while Boise State hosts Hawaii in a Mountain West showdown Saturday at Albertsons Stadium (8:15 p.m., ESPN2).
The BYU game is the eighth Boise State game scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. or later Mountain time this season. Two more (Wyoming and New Mexico) are still awaiting game times from ESPN.
HAWAII AT NO. 14 BOISE STATE
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN2 (Roy Philpott, Kelly Stouffer, Lauren Sisler)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: Boise State 5-0 overall, 2-0 Mountain West; Hawaii is 4-1, 1-0
Series: Boise State leads 12-3 (last meeting: Boise State won 52-16 on Nov. 12, 2016, at Hawaii)
Vegas line: Boise State by 12
Weather: 63 degrees, mostly sunny, 5-10 mph wind