Bronco Beat

Boise State vs. Virginia: Who gets the edge, players to watch in rare visit from ACC school

WHO GETS THE EDGE?

When the Broncos run the ball ...

Boise State has struggled to get the ground game going, with senior quarterback Montell Cozart’s 179 yards a team high. The Broncos’ 146 yards per game are 88th in the FBS and they’re averaging 3.3 yards per carry outside of a 49-yard TD run by Alexander Mattison against Troy.

“As an offense, we’ve got to continue to pound the ball. We want to be a run-first team, and I feel like (Thursday) we didn’t do that,” Cozart said. “That’s something we’re going to put an emphasis on with Virginia coming in here.”

The Cavaliers allow 4.0 ypc, which isn’t great, and allowed 207 yards last week to UConn, but it’s difficult to trust the Broncos’ backs.

ADVANTAGE: Virginia

When the Broncos pass the ball ...

Two years ago, Brett Rypien torched the Cavaliers in his first start, with 321 yards and three TDs. Whether he or Cozart gets the nod, the Broncos hope to push the ball down the field a little more, with their 11 yards per completion 92nd nationally.

“That’s the area, we haven’t quite had the production there on some of those easy throws, get the ball in their hands, make somebody miss and turn that into an explosive play,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “I think we’re lacking in some explosiveness. We’ve got to create some opportunities to make some people miss.”

None of Virginia’s first three opponents can throw it like Boise State, and the 69 attempts they’ve faced have been among the fewest in the nation. Opposing passers are completing 63.7 percent of passes, however.

ADVANTAGE: Push

When the Cavaliers run the ball ...

Virginia has a solid No. 1 back in Jordan Ellis (219 yards), but the way the Cavaliers have operated thus far is to rely on the air attack. Their 3.6 yards per carry are 98th nationally. Against Indiana and William & Mary, Virginia rushed for fewer than 100 yards. With some deep passes, it found a little more running room Saturday against UConn.

“When they play further off, the run game is better,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “So it was the clearest evidence and clearest display, so far, of what we’re trying to accomplish offensively since at least we’ve been together.”

On the other side, Boise State has handled every foe’s rushing attack with impressive results. The Broncos are one of 26 teams to yield fewer than 100 yards per game (98.7), and only four of them have faced more rushing attempts.

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

When the Cavaliers pass the ball ...

Senior quarterback Kurt Benkert tossed it around quite a bit at his previous stop, East Carolina, and has done so this season (96-of-145 for 976 yards with seven TDs and an interception). He has a strong corps of receivers, with three going over 100 yards last week against UConn.

Boise State has faced three seniors thus far, including two of the best in Troy’s Brandon Silvers and Washington State’s Luke Falk. The Broncos have allowed four touchdowns and have four interceptions. Their young secondary has handled every challenge so far, and with more than a week to prepare, there’s no reason to doubt it can happen again.

“They’ve got a lot of guys over there that can make plays,” Boise State junior cornerback Tyler Horton said. “(Benkert) and his receivers, they’ve been on point with things.”

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

Special teams ...

Punt returner Avery Williams again helped turn the tide of a game with a return to New Mexico’s 17-yard line to set up a much-needed score in the fourth quarter last Thursday. Punters Joel Velazquez and Quinn Skillin had long punts and kicker Haden Hoggarth is a perfect 16-of-16 on field goals and extra points.

Virginia has yielded a punt return for a touchdown and a 60-yard kickoff return. Kicker A.J. Mejia is 2-for-3 on field goals and punter Lester Coleman is averaging 40.9 yards per punt. ESPN ranks the Cavaliers’ special teams efficiency as 128th out of 130 FBS teams.

“Our depth is still an issue that’s manifesting on special teams,” Mendenhall said. “... We’re getting closer on offense, defense, but special teams is lagging behind.”

ADVANTAGE: Boise State

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BOISE STATE

Robert Mahone, running back

Even though he has only three carries for 13 yards this season, expect to see the redshirt freshman more against the Cavaliers. With a struggling run game, the Broncos are looking to inject a little bit of a different look in the 5-foot-10, 211-pounder whose first two carries went for 6 yards apiece.

“Rob is one of those physical running backs who has great balance, he can run through tackles,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “He’s been doing a good job hitting it downhill and finding those holes, so we’re going to use him a little bit more.”

Jake Roh, tight end

The senior came into this season with three career touchdowns. He’s had four thus far in 2017, including three last Thursday alone against New Mexico (two receiving, one rushing). Roh’s six receptions are just four shy of the 10 he had last year while fighting a knee injury. As the Broncos have been aiming to be better in the red zone, Roh is a major component.

“He did a great job there, obviously had a huge game with the three touchdowns,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “You can see what type of weapon he is.”

DeAndre Pierce, safety

Boise State’s improvement as a young and athletic defense was evident against New Mexico, especially in the sophomore. Pierce, who spent most of last season as a cornerback, is the son of an NFL Pro Bowl linebacker (Antonio), and tackled like him with 12 stops, including 2.5 for loss. He’ll be key against a versatile group of Virginia receivers.

“His eye control, and the way he was able to fit the run game and the pass game, was unbelievable,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “... DeAndre’s play last week was exceptional.”

VIRGINIA

Olamide Zaccheaus, wide receiver

Though he is listed on the team’s website as a halfback, the 5-foot-8, 190-pound junior rarely gets a carry. But when he gets his hands on the ball, he makes a major difference. Zaccheaus has four carries for 47 yards and leads the team with 26 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns. In 2015 against Boise State, he had 231 kickoff return yards, most in Virginia history.

“They have a weapon in (Zaccheaus),” Pierce said. “... He’s a little bit smaller, but he’s a weapon. Sometimes they put him in the backfield, hand him the ball, throw it out to him in the slot, try to send him deep. We have to make sure we know where he is at all times.”

Micah Kiser, linebacker

A preseason second-team AP All-American, Kiser has shown exactly why in his first three games with a team-high 36 tackles, five sacks and a fumble recovery. He has two sacks in each of the Cavaliers’ last two games despite battling a knee injury. A 6-2, 240-pound Baltimore native, Kiser racked up 134 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season as a junior.

“He values and knows his example means a lot, and he couldn’t be handling it any better,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “We have to pull him off when we want him off.”

Quin Blanding, safety

Like Kiser, the senior was a preseason second-team All-America selection. This season, the 6-foot, 195-pound junior has 33 tackles, No. 1 in the nation among non-linebackers. Blanding’s 391 career tackles are 64 more than any other player in the FBS. He also has six career interceptions.

“Long and rangy, obviously been very productive for them for a long time,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.

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.

7 A.J. Richardson

6-0

209

Jr

6 CT Thomas

5-8

152

Fr.

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.

Boundary cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

14 Tyler Horton

5-11

188

Jr.

15 Jalen Walker OR

6-0

172

RFr.

6 Michael Young

6-0

211

Jr.

Field cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

27 Reid Harrison-Ducros

5-10

180

So.

26 Avery Williams

5-9

194

RFr.

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.

41 Haden Hoggarth OR

6-0

198

Jr.

46 Joel Velazquez

6-0

228

RFr.

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

L, 47-44 (3OT)

Thursday, Sept. 14

New Mexico

W, 28-14

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)

VIRGINIA

DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

6 Kurt Benkert

6-4

215

Sr.

36 Lindell Stone

6-0

200

RFr.

Tailback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

22 Daniel Hamm

5-9

200

Sr.

1 Jordan Ellis

5-10

225

Jr.

Wide receiver (H)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

4 Olamide Zaccheaus

5-8

190

Jr.

Wide receiver (X)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

14 Andre Levrone

6-3

225

Sr.

15 De’Vante Cross

6-2

200

RFr.

84 Terrell Jana

6-0

185

Fr.

Wide receiver (Z)

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

5 Doni Dowling

6-1

220

Sr.

18 Ben Hogg

5-10

175

Jr.

Tight end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

46 Evan Butts

6-4

250

Jr.

16 Richard Burney

6-4

265

So.

Left tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

67 Jack English

6-5

305

Sr.

54 Ryan Nelson

6-4

290

Fr.

Left guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

74 John Montelus

6-3

325

Sr.

65 Ben Knutson

6-9

325

RFr.

Center

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

79 Dillon Reinkensmeyer

6-4

305

RFr.

77 Jake Fieler

6-6

315

Jr.

Right guard

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

77 Jake Fieler

6-6

315

Jr.

78 RJ Proctor

6-4

315

So.

Right tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

55 Brandon Pertile

6-5

320

Sr.

69 Chris Glaser

6-3

280

Fr.

DEFENSE

Left defensive end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

9 Andrew Brown

6-4

285

Sr.

93 Christian Baumgardner

6-5

290

RFr.

Nose tackle

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

58 Eli Hanback

6-4

305

So.

57 James Trucilla

6-0

280

So.

Right defensive end

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

99 Juwan Moye

6-3

285

So.

90 Steven Wright

6-3

280

So.

Strongside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

17 Malcolm Cook

6-1

230

Jr.

39 Chris Moore

6-0

210

So.

Middle linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

53 Micah Kiser

6-2

240

So.

33 Zane Zandier

6-3

215

Fr.

Boundary linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

37 Jordan Mack

6-2

225

So.

40 C.J. Stalker

6-2

240

Jr.

Weakside linebacker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

13 Chris Peace

6-1

245

Jr.

43 Elliott Brown

6-5

225

Fr.

Field cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

21 Juan Thornhill

6-0

200

Jr.

41 Germane Crowell

6-0

190

Fr.

Boundary cornerback

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

34 Bryce Hall

6-1

200

So.

15 De’Vante Cross

6-2

200

RFr.

Free safety

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

3 Quin Blanding

6-2

215

Sr.

39 Chris Moore

6-0

210

Jr.

SABRE

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

28 Brenton Nelson

5-11

180

RFr.

29 Joey Blount

6-1

180

Fr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

95 A.J. Mejia

5-11

190

Sr.

87 Andrew King

6-1

179

Fr.

Punter

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

47 Lester Coleman

6-0

200

Sr.

Snappers

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

11 Joe Spaziani

6-1

299

RFr.

16 Richard Burney

6-1

231

Jr.

Holder

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

81 Nash Griffin

6-0

200

Sr.

47 Lester Coleman

6-0

190

RFr.

Kick returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

22 Daniel Hamm

5-10

152

So.

2 Joe Reed

5-8

192

Sr.

Punt returner

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

22 Daniel Hamm

5-7

175

Sr.

19 Chuck Davis OR

5-9

173

Sr.

21 Juan Thornhill

6-0

200

Jr.

SCHEDULE

Date

Opponent

Time/Result

Saturday, Sept. 2

William & Mary

W, 28-10

Saturday, Sept. 9

Indiana

L, 34-17

Saturday, Sept. 16

UConn

W, 38-18

Friday, Sept. 22

at Boise State

6 p.m. (ESPN2)

Saturday, Oct. 7

Duke

TBA

Saturday, Oct. 14

at North Carolina

TBA

Saturday, Oct. 21

Boston College

TBA

Saturday, Oct. 28

at Pitt

TBA

Saturday, Nov. 4

Georgia Tech

TBA

Saturday, Nov. 11

at Louisville

TBA

Saturday, Nov. 18

at Miami (Fla.)

TBA

Friday, Nov. 24

Virginia Tech

TBA

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @davesouthorn

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