Boise State Football

Weaver keeps Boise State in the fight; Broncos’ secondary takes another injury hit

The Mountain West career sacks leader, Curtis Weaver, had impeccable timing for the second week in a row Saturday in Boise State’s 20-17 overtime win against Wyoming.

The Cowboys’ physical running game was beginning to have its way with the Broncos’ front seven late in the first half. Driving to Boise State’s 16-yard line with less than a minute until halftime, Wyoming looked like it was headed for a touchdown that would have sent it into the locker room with a seven-point lead.

Weaver had other plans. He came up with sacks on the next two plays — first with a bull rush and then with a speed move that beat Wyoming right tackle Frank Crum before he could even get out of his stance. His second sack left the Cowboys facing a third-and-15 and eventually led to a 39-yard field goal, which sent the Broncos into halftime trailing by just three.

“You never know, at those points in the game, how it’s all going to end, but then as you piece it all together when the game’s over, you go back and ‘that was critical. That wasn’t that critical,’ ” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Those type of things start to show up and how big a sack turns out to be in that type of situation.”

[Related: Boise State defense comes up big; Harsin frustrated with offense; Instant Analysis: Kicker delivers for Broncos; Bachmeier missed another game; scoring summary]

Last weekend at San Jose State, Weaver’s only sack came on a third down with less than 10:00 to play and Boise State clinging to a 38-34 lead.

Weaver’s two sacks Saturday night were also historically significant. They gave the junior 33 for his career, which moves him past former Boise State player Chris Wing and into No. 2 all-time in the Broncos’ record book.

Especially with so much speculation around him declaring for the NFL Draft a year early, Weaver isn’t likely to catch Erik Helgeson and his 54.5 career sacks before his college playing career comes to an end. But the “big rascal,” as Wyoming coach Craig Bohl referred to him during the week leading up to Saturday’s game, is closing the gap.

Williams makes special plays

For the second game in a row, Boise State’s Avery Williams came up with a significant play on special teams.

With the game tied, 10-10, early in the third quarter, Williams — known for his skills as a punt returner — wasn’t standing alone waiting to track the ball in the air and cradle it to his chest. Instead, he was at the line of scrimmage in what resembled a sprinter’s stance. On the snap, he exploded into the backfield and got a hand on the punt, which ended up traveling just 10 yards.

It was Williams’ first career blocked punt. He blocked an extra point against Air Force earlier this season and a field goal against Fresno State last fall.

Last weekend at San Jose State, Williams returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown.

Broncos’ secondary takes a hit

Boise State was without a pair of starters on Saturday against Wyoming, and the Broncos lost a third during the game.

Despite Harsin saying during the week that he expected all the starters who missed the San Jose State game to play, running back Robert Mahone did not see the field. He was injured on Oct. 19 in the first half of the Broncos’ loss at BYU.

Defensive lineman Chase Hatada was out Saturday, which meant expanded roles for senior Sonatane Lui and sophomore Scale Igiehon, who saw his most extensive action of the season.

Safety Kekoa Nawahine did suit up on Saturday, but he split snaps with junior Jordan Happle, who started in his place against San Jose State. Nawahine was also injured at BYU.

At the end of the third quarter, Boise State lost safety DeAnde Pierce, who didn’t get back to his feet after a collision with Weaver, opting instead to crawl to the Broncos’ sideline in search of assistance. He did not return.

Harsin adds another year

Harsin clinched an automatic one-year extension to his contract with Saturday’s win, the Broncos’ eighth of the season. The extension also comes with a $100,000 raise in the year that’s added to his deal.

Harsin now is under contract through the 2024 season. He makes $1.75 million this season and would reach $2.25 million in 2024.

That makes his contract worth $10.25 million over the next five years.

Quick hits

Boise State wore all black. ... Senior guard Eric Quevedo was the single-game captain. ... Wide receiver Octavius Evans carried the Hammer for the second time this season. He had a big block on Williams’ punt return for a touchdown at San Jose State. ... Boise State won the coin toss and deferred. ... Redshirt sophomore defensive end Aisa Kelemete (Highland High) pressured the quarterback on his first college snap in the first quarter. ... The attendance was 33,018.

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Ron Counts is the Boise State beat writer for the Idaho Statesman. He’s a Virginia native and spent that past three years covering University of Virginia.