Final score: Boise State 59, Hawaii 37
Records: Boise State is 6-0, 3-0 Mountain West; Hawaii is 4-2, 1-1
Why the Broncos won: The defense produced three turnovers on fumbles in the first half to thwart the Rainbow Warriors’ high-octane passing attack, and the offense maintained its composure despite the loss of starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier to injury early in the second quarter.
Main takeaway: There’s no reason to panic about the Bachmeier injury — at least not yet. Sophomore backup Chase Cord and senior third-stringer Jaylon Henderson played well and helped the Broncos to their best offensive performance of the season. They combined for 18-of-28 passing for 257 yards and four touchdowns. Cord accounted for three of those touchdowns, but Henderson was given a chance to run an entire drive in the third quarter with the game still in the balance — a first in his career. That drive also ended with a touchdown.
“It’s nice to see all of them make plays because they make plays in practice also, so we already know what they’re capable of,” wide receiver John Hightower said.
Cord was 12-for-18 for 175 yards in addition to the TDs, which covered 33, 42 and 8 yards. On one play he changed the protection to bring an extra blocker in to deal with a potential blitz, then completed the pass for a first down. On the 8-yard touchdown to running back George Holani, coach Bryan Harsin said Holani was the fifth read.
“I think Chase played exceptionally well tonight,” Harsin said. “... Chase has got good command when he gets in there.”
Cord, who was the primary backup last year, and Henderson, who was the backup after Cord was injured, give the Broncos enviable experience at the position in an era when backups often transfer.
“Hank’s going to be fine moving forward here, but those guys are ready to go,” Harsin said.
Cord and Henderson certainly showed they can run the offense — and they did it against what had been a solid pass defense through the first five games. What neither of them have done is step into the pressure cooker that is the Boise State starting quarterback job — and, if Bachmeier is unable to play for a game or two, Cord would be stepping into the lineup for a team that is undefeated and holding the pole position for the Group of Five’s spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.
Fortunately for the Broncos, they’re entering a soft spot in the schedule: at BYU, which fell to 2-4 with a loss to South Florida; the second bye of the season; and a game at San Jose State (3-3, 1-2). By the time the Broncos face another team likely to have a winning record — Wyoming on Nov. 9 — Bachmeier will be nearly a month removed from the hip injury he sustained against Hawaii.
No. 14 Boise State is one of just three undefeated teams remaining in the Group of Five conferences. No. 21 SMU (6-0) and unranked Appalachian State (5-0) are the others, and neither are a threat as long as the Broncos keep winning. With the way the defense is playing, Cord and Henderson seem plenty capable of keeping this team on track.
Player of the game: Boise State senior wide receiver John Hightower had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He also took snaps at quarterback in some run packages.
Several times, Hawaii’s safeties seemed to underestimate Hightower’s speed. Maybe the Warriors’ coaches did, too.
“Hightower is better in person,” Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich said, according to The Associated Press. “He’s an impressive athlete with really good speed. He ran some balls down and they did a good job of getting him in position to make some plays.”
Play of the game: Boise State junior nickel Kekaula Kaniho, who is from Hawaii, opened the meeting with the Warriors in grand style. He hit wide receiver Cedric Byrd II while fighting off a block on a screen pass, then stripped the ball from Byrd and gained control of it on his way to the turf. The Broncos scored moments later for a 14-0 lead and rolled from there.
What’s next: Boise State plays at struggling rival BYU on Saturday night in Provo, Utah (8:15 p.m., ESPN2).