Final score: Boise State 52, San Jose State 42
Records: Boise State is 7-1 overall, 4-0 Mountain West; San Jose State is 4-5, 1-4
Why the Broncos won: The run game finally came alive in the second half — and it was sparked by the fearless running of true freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier.
In the third quarter, trailing 27-24, Bachmeier scrambled for an apparent 16-yard touchdown — taking a shot at the goal line. A holding penalty nullified the play.
Two plays later, on third-and-15, Bachmeier took off up the middle — on a play very similar to the one on which he absorbed a wicked shot against Hawaii, which forced him to miss the rest of that game and all of the loss to BYU with a hip pointer. On this one, Bachmeier decided to run through the defenders at the first-down marker rather than slide potentially a yard short, gaining 18 yards. The Broncos scored a touchdown on the next play.
Bachmeier, however, went to the medical tent, came out trying to get his throwing arm loose, tossed some footballs and went to the locker room. He came back after missing a couple of offensive snaps and returned for the first play of the fourth quarter.
“Hank showed his toughness again,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “He’s a competitor. If he feels like he’s got to get the first down, he’s going to do what he’s got to do, and he did that again tonight. That will never be something we try to take away from him — just that competitiveness. That’s what you want in all your players.”
With Bachmeier leading the charge, the Broncos went from minus-14 rushing yards (including sacks) in the first quarter to 31 in the second quarter to 106 in the third quarter to 123 in the fourth quarter. True freshman George Holani, in the featured role with junior Robert Mahone sidelined, rushed for a career-high 126 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Andrew Van Buren added a career-high 85 yards and a touchdown.
The Broncos finished with 253 rushing yards, a season high, and six rushing touchdowns. They hadn’t rushed for six TDs in a game in nearly three years (2016 vs. UNLV).
Most importantly, the Broncos got the ball with the lead twice in the fourth quarter and seized the opportunity to put the game away. They rushed 13 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns on those drives — including runs on their final 13 plays of the game, not counting kneel-downs.
The pass game, meanwhile, was efficient in limited chances. Bachmeier was 13-for-17 for 213 yards with an interception.
“I thought (offensive coordinator Zak Hill) called a great game, of sticking to the run game, and that’s what we had committed to during the last couple weeks of practice,” Harsin said. “That was going to be the game plan, and it ended up working in our favor towards the end.”
Player of the game: Holani carried a career-high 28 times and had a reception, accounting for 143 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. His four TDs tied for fourth in school history for a single game, a feat most recently accomplished by Jeremy McNichols in 2016. Holani ran with purpose when he needed to get a few yards, and he showed nifty moves in space, including one play on which he dodged a defender in the backfield on his way to the end zone. He’s now the leading contender to extend Boise State’s streak of 1,000-yard rushers with 589 yards this season.
“I thought George had a great performance tonight,” Harsin said. “I thought he showed toughness. I thought he showed his durability. I thought he showed great vision. Really proud of him.”
Play of the game: Bachmeier’s third-quarter scramble changed the game. The Broncos faced third-and-15 at the San Jose State 26-yard line, trailing 27-24. Bachmeier didn’t like his passing options and decided to take off up the middle of the field. He probably would have been short of the first down if he had chosen to slide. Instead, he plowed right into a defender and blasted past the first-down marker. Backup Chase Cord came on for the next play and scored on an 8-yard keeper to give the Broncos their first lead of the game.
What’s next: Boise State returns home to face Wyoming at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at Albertsons Stadium (ESPN). The Cowboys are 3-1 in conference play.