Bronco Beat

Boise State vs. Washington State: Who gets the edge and players to watch in showdown

WHO GETS THE EDGE?

When the Broncos run the ball ...

Boise State had a tough time against a big, physical Troy front, averaging 3.3 yards per carry, which drops to 2.3 ypc outside of Alexander Mattison’s 49-yard touchdown run. Washington State was No. 29 nationally in rush defense last season and held Montana State to 115 yards on the ground in the opener.

The Cougars utilize a defense built on speed, with a line that has three of its four starters around 250 pounds.

“They move a lot, they’re always stemming, so it’s tough to get double-teams,” Boise State senior center Mason Hampton said. “The challenge for us is to sustain blocks, and if we can, we’ll run the ball well.”

ADVANTAGE: Washington State

When the Broncos pass the ball ...

Washington State is No. 4 nationally in pass defense after allowing 28 yards against Montana State. That won’t continue Saturday. Last season, the Cougars allowed 271.7 yards per game, and they lost safety Shalom Luani (two interceptions on Boise State QB Brett Rypien last year).

[Related: Boise State hasn’t been this much of an underdog in nine years]

This game will be perhaps the biggest opportunity for Rypien to prove himself, playing near his hometown and trying to rebound from a subpar game against Troy. Ten players caught passes against Troy, which could put stress on a thin Cougar secondary.

“The secondary does a great job of disguising their coverages. Obviously seeing an offense like Washington State’s every single day, you know their secondary is going to have to be disciplined,” Rypien said. “... We’re looking to improve on what we did last year and come out and just execute like we know we can do.”

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

When the Cougars run the ball ...

Boise State had a great start, holding Troy to 76 yards on the ground and limiting senior Jordan Chunn to 41 yards on 11 carries — his worst total with double-digit rushing attempts since 2014. The Cougars have slowly evolved the Air Raid offense into one that’s a little more balanced, rushing for their best total in 10 years last season, with a solid 150 yards against Montana State.

“If you just start dropping back into coverage ... and you forget about the back, that’s about the time they flip it to him and he’s making big plays,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Last year, they started to run the ball more, created some balance. I think it made it hard on defenses when they’re able to do it effectively.”

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

When the Cougars pass the ball ...

This could be a nightmare for Boise State, with Washington State senior quarterback Luke Falk the most prolific passer in the nation against a secondary that started three sophomores last week. Falk completed his first 20 passes against Montana State. His 11,204 career passing yards are No. 1 in the NCAA. He has a mammoth offensive line protecting him, too, all checking in at least 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds.

The Cougars don’t have the big-name target like Gabe Marks was last season, but again they’re not lacking in options. Seven players had multiple receptions last Saturday. Boise State defenders did a great job against Troy keeping passes in front of them, allowing only one completion over 17 yards. The Broncos will need to be that good again to have a shot at the win.

“Their pass attack is very powerful. They’ve got a really good quarterback, one of the best in the nation. A wide receiver corps that features length and size, speed, really good route runners,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said.

ADVANTAGE: Washington State

Special teams

It’s only one game in, but Boise State’s special teams already appear to be much better than in 2016. Avery Williams’ 81-yard punt return touchdown was a highlight, plus he and Cedrick Wilson had kickoff returns of 48 and 55 yards, respectively. Kicker Haden Hoggarth hit his only field goal attempt, a 41-yarder.

Washington State punter Kyle Sweet averaged 51.5 yards on two punts against the Bobcats. The Cougars had two return touchdowns last season, but made only 9-of-15 field goals, missing their first five.

“They’ve got good athletes out there, good schemes,” Boise State special teams coordinator Kent Riddle said. “... They do everything we’re trying to do. It’s going to be a good contest.”

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BOISE STATE

Montell Cozart, quarterback

Though the senior transfer from Kansas said when he rehashed his debut it wasn’t as good as it felt on the field, he no doubt made a big impression. The mobile Cozart was 6-of-9 passing for 50 yards and ran for 36 more as he was in the game for most of the fourth quarter against Troy. Even though junior Brett Rypien remains the starter, Cozart will give opponents more to think about.

“Every day I’m preparing like I’m the starter, so when I go out there it doesn’t feel like something I haven’t done before,” Cozart said. “I’m going through practice, going through the game plan, knowing the plays in and out so when I get out there I know exactly what’s going on.”

Desmond Williams, linebacker

The redshirt freshman made a big impression in his debut, showing exactly why coaches have raved about his athleticism for the last year. Williams had four tackles, broke up a pass and forced a fumble that turned around the win over Troy. As receiver Deondre Douglas appeared to be headed for a tying touchdown with Boise State ahead 20-13 in the fourth quarter, Williams forced him to fumble out of the end zone.

“It was a huge play for us,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “That’s just what Dez brings, that spark on the field, he flies around and he plays fast. ... We’re really excited about Dez and the things he’s doing.”

A.J. Richardson, wide receiver

Regarded as having the best hands on the team, Richardson immediately showed why the Broncos were excited about his improvement from last season to this, his junior year. The 6-foot, 209-pounder tied for the team lead with four catches against Troy, for 39 yards. Last season, he had two receptions, one from backup quarterback Tommy Stuart and one from fellow receiver Thomas Sperbeck.

“He was the same guy he had been the past nine months. I think he’s probably worked the hardest of anyone I’ve seen, as far as putting in extra work,” Rypien said. “... An unbelievable teammate, a guy that’s really unselfish, had to wait to get on the field and it’s starting to pay off.”

WASHINGTON STATE

Luke Falk, quarterback

The Logan, Utah, native was a walk-on for the Cougars, and the senior will no doubt finish his career with a bevvy of records. Falk is on pace to throw for more than 15,000 yards in his career, which would put him in the top five in NCAA history, just ahead of Kellen Moore. His 92 touchdown passes are a school record, and he should break Matt Barkley’s Pac-12 record of 116.

Falk had the opportunity to declare for the NFL Draft, but opted to return, to many defenses chagrin. He was 55-of-71 for 480 yards with four touchdowns and an interception last year against Boise State.

“I think he watches more film than anybody else I’ve ever dealt with,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said. “He watches a ton of film. Sometimes, I think, too much. He’s about the only quarterback I’ve considered shutting off the film.”

Hercules Mata’afa, defensive tackle

He’s got the best first name around, and he plays with that sort of attitude.

The junior from Maui is listed at 6-foot-2, 252 pounds, not the usual size for someone playing on the inside, but he makes up for it in a multitude of ways. He had team highs with 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks last season. The inexperienced Boise State offensive line will no doubt be tested.

“If you look in the dictionary, (defensive tackles) don’t really look like him,” Leach said. “He’s well-built, but he’s not chiseled up like some of them, and he’s definitely undersized. He does a remarkable job of understanding leverage. He’s inordinately strong on the field.”

James Williams, running back

Part of a backfield that can run four-deep, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound sophomore showed he can be a weapon in space last week against Montana State, when he set Cougar running back records with 13 receptions and 163 yards. He also added nine carries for 45 yards. He rushed for 584 yards and had 342 receiving last season with a knack for breaking tackles.

“He plays the game so fast. … He can make bad things look good in a hurry,” running backs coach Jim Mastro told The Spokesman-Review.

BOISE STATE

DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

4 Brett Rypien

6-2

208

Jr.

3 Montell Cozart

6-1

205

Sr.

Tailback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

22 Alexander Mattison OR

5-11

214

So.

21 Ryan Wolpin

5-8

195

Sr.

34 Robert Mahone

5-10

211

RFr.

Wide receiver (X)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

1 Cedrick Wilson

6-3

188

Sr.

9 Bryan Jefferson

5-11

193

So.

Wide receiver (H)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

28 A.J. Richardson

6-0

209

Jr

81 Akilian Butler

5-10

193

Jr.

Wide receiver (Z)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

8 Sean Modster

5-11

196

Jr.

82 Octavius Evans

6-1

195

Fr.

Tight end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

88 Jake Roh

6-3

227

Sr.

87 Alec Dhaenens

6-3

246

Sr.

Left tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

76 Ezra Cleveland

6-6

296

RFr.

66 Isiah Moore

6-4

275

Jr.

Left guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

67 Garrett Larson

6-4

295

So.

52 Andrew Tercek

6-1

278

Sr.

Center

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

59 Mason Hampton

6-3

295

Sr.

71 Donte Harrington

6-2

298

RFr.

Right guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

77 John Molchon

6-5

313

So.

79 Eric Quevedo

6-4

304

So.

Right tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

74 Archie Lewis

6-3

299

Sr.

78 Andres Preciado

6-6

292

Jr.

DEFENSE

Defensive end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

91 Durrant Miles

6-5

253

Jr.

93 Chase Hatada OR

6-3

267

So.

45 Kayode Rufai

6-4

254

RFr.

Nose tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

98 Sonatane Lui

6-1

305

So.

57 Emmanuel Fesili

6-2

302

So.

Defensive tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

55 David Moa

6-3

271

Jr.

90 Daniel Auelua

6-2

298

Sr.

STUD end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

53 Sam Whitney

6-2

231

So.

8 Jabril Frazier OR

6-4

243

Jr.

99 Curtis Weaver

6-3

252

RFr.

Weakside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

38 Leighton Vander Esch

6-4

240

Jr.

44 Riley Whimpey

6-1

212

Fr.

Middle linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

58 Tyson Maeva

6-0

214

So.

25 Benton Wickersham

6-2

231

RFr.

Strongside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

33 Gabe Perez

6-4

246

Sr.

9 Desmond Williams

5-11

201

RFr.

Field cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

14 Tyler Horton

5-11

188

Jr.

15 Jalen Walker

6-0

172

RFr.

Boundary cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

27 Reid Harrison-Ducros OR

5-10

180

So.

6 Michael Young

6-0

211

Jr.

Field safety

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

4 DeAndre Pierce

5-11

174

So.

32 Jordan Happle

5-11

198

RFr.

Boundary safety

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

10 Kekoa Nawahine

6-2

199

So.

37 Cameron Hartsfield

5-10

197

Sr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

46 Joel Velazquez OR

6-0

228

RFr.

41 Haden Hoggarth

6-0

198

Jr.

Punter

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

46 Joel Velazquez OR

6-0

228

RFr.

49 Quinn Skillin

6-4

185

Jr.

Snappers

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

89 Brock Barr

6-3

204

Sr.

50 Nicholai Pitman

5-11

230

So.

Holder

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

49 Quinn Skillin

6-4

185

Jr.

Kick returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

1 Cedrick Wilson

6-3

188

Sr.

26 Avery Williams

5-9

194

RFr.

Punt returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

26 Avery Williams OR

5-9

194

RFr.

1 Cedrick Wilson

6-3

188

Sr.

SCHEDULE

Date

Opponent

Time/Result

Saturday, Sept. 2

Troy

W, 24-13

Saturday, Sept. 9

at Washington State

8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Thursday, Sept. 14

New Mexico

6 p.m. (ESPN)

Friday, Sept. 22

Virginia

6 p.m. (ESPN2)

Friday, Oct. 6

at BYU

8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, Oct. 14

at San Diego State

8:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Saturday, Oct. 21

Wyoming

TBA (ESPN Networks)

Saturday, Oct. 28

at Utah State

8 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Saturday, Nov. 4

Nevada

TBA (ESPN Networks)

Saturday, Nov. 11

at Colorado State

8:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Saturday, Nov. 18

Air Force

TBA (ESPN Networks)

Saturday, Nov. 25

at Fresno State

1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

WASHINGTON STATE

DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

4 Luke Falk

6-4

223

Sr.

3 Tyler Hilinski

6-3

213

So.

Tailback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

25 Jamal Morrow OR

5-9

203

Sr.

32 James Williams OR

5-11

195

So.

23 Gerard Wicks

6-0

221

Sr.

Wide receiver (X)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

8 Tavares Martin Jr.

6-1

183

Jr.

88 C.J. Dimry

6-5

211

Sr.

Wide receiver (H)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

81 Renard Bell

5-8

162

RFr.

89 Brandon Arconado

5-11

182

So.

Wide receiver (Y)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

17 Kyle Sweet

6-0

193

Jr.

6 Jamire Calvin

5-10

152

Fr.

Wide receiver (Z)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

9 Isaiah Johnson-Mack

6-3

216

So.

12 Dezmon Patton

6-4

212

So.

Left tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

60 Andre Dillard

6-5

306

Jr.

63 Liam Ryan

6-5

281

RFr.

Left guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

76 Cody O’Connell

6-9

368

Sr.

79 Cedric Bigge-Duren

6-6

320

So.

Center

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

69 Frederick Mauigoa

6-3

315

So.

55 Noah Osur-Myers

6-4

295

So.

Right guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

75 B.J. Salmonson

6-4

310

Sr.

73 Robert Valencia

6-6

291

Jr.

Right tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

61 Cole Madison

6-5

314

Sr.

65 Josh Watson

6-4

292

RFr.

DEFENSE

Defensive end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

30 Nnamdi Oguayo

6-3

237

So.

55 Derek Moore

6-1

248

So.

Nose tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

90 Daniel Ekuale

6-3

305

Sr.

99 Garrett McBroom

6-3

281

Sr.

Defensive tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

50 Hercules Mata’afa

6-2

252

Jr.

45 Logan Tago OR

6-3

247

Jr.

52 Kingston Fernandez

6-2

276

Jr.

Rush end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

51 Frankie Luvu OR

6-3

235

Sr.

33 Dylan Haser OR

6-4

236

Sr.

40 Chima Onyeukwu

6-2

220

Jr.

Weakside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

31 Isaac Dotson

6-1

232

Sr.

13 Jahad Woods

6-0

214

RFr.

Middle linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

47 Peyton Pelluer

6-0

225

Sr.

54 Nate Derider

6-1

231

Sr.

Nickel

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

26 Hunter Dale OR

5-10

190

Jr.

10 Kirkland Parker

6-1

190

Sr.

Cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

3 Darrien Molton

5-10

185

Jr.

36 George Hicks III

6-0

179

Fr.

Cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

27 Marcellus Pippins

5-10

178

Sr.

4 Marcus Strong

5-9

177

So.

Free safety

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

2 Robert Taylor

5-10

186

Sr.

28 Skyler Thomas

5-9

186

RFr.

Strong safety

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

34 Jalen Thompson

6-0

191

So.

27 Sean Harper, Jr.

6-2

186

Jr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

46 Erik Powell

6-1

202

Sr.

42 Jack Crane

6-2

190

RFr.

Punter

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

17 Kyle Sweet

6-0

193

Jr.

46 Erik Powell

6-1

202

Sr.

Snappers

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

72 Kyle Celli

6-1

240

So.

68 Matthew Allen

6-0

236

Fr.

Holder

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

10 Trey Tinsley

6-3

211

So.

72 Kyle Celli

6-1

240

So.

Kick returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

2 Robert Taylor

5-10

186

Sr.

81 Renard Bell

5-8

162

RFr.

Punt returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

25 Jamal Morrow

5-9

203

Sr.

6 Jamire Calvin

5-10

152

Fr.

SCHEDULE

Date

Opponent

Time/Result

Saturday, Sept. 2

Montana State

W, 31-0

Saturday, Sept. 9

Boise State

8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, Sept. 16

Oregon State

3:30 p.m. (Pac-12)

Saturday, Sept. 23

Nevada

TBA

Friday, Sept. 29

USC

8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, Oct. 7

at Oregon

TBA

Friday, Oct. 13

at Cal

8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, Oct. 21

Colorado

TBA

Saturday, Oct. 28

at Arizona

TBA

Saturday, Nov. 4

Stanford

TBA

Saturday, Nov. 11

at Utah

TBA

Saturday, Nov. 25

at Washington

TBA

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