Bronco Beat

Boise State football report card: Grading the Broncos’ big win at Utah State

Boise State running back Ryan Wolpin (21) carries the ball as Utah State linebacker David Woodward and cornerback Deante Fortenberry (27) defend Saturday in Logan, Utah. Wolpin had 51 yards in the win.
Boise State running back Ryan Wolpin (21) carries the ball as Utah State linebacker David Woodward and cornerback Deante Fortenberry (27) defend Saturday in Logan, Utah. Wolpin had 51 yards in the win. AP

Boise State’s 41-14 win at Utah State on Saturday marked the Broncos’ season high for scoring in regulation, and the 27-point margin of victory was 10 points more than any other thus far.

That’s a pretty evident indication the Broncos (6-2, 4-0) had put together what was perhaps their most complete game of 2017, a good sign with only four regular-season games remaining.

“I thought our defense played well tonight … I think our special teams is playing better, and tonight the offense showed up, it was more balanced,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Yes, we had one of our better games tonight.”

The Broncos have won four in a row, and during that streak have one turnover (which came in the first three minutes Oct. 6) and have allowed just 12.3 points per game.

“We know we want to get stronger going into the rest of the season, we know we have opponents in the Mountain West and in our division we have to beat in order to get to that championship,” sophomore running back Alexander Mattison said.

Here’s how we graded Saturday’s win over Utah State:

OFFENSE: A

Believe it. Boise State’s offense, surprisingly frustrating all season, got a bit of its groove back at Maverik Stadium.

The Broncos had a season-high 533 yards (132 more than any other game this year), didn’t turn it over, got 110 yards from Mattison, and the quarterbacks combined for five touchdown passes.

Utah State came into the game 32nd nationally in pass defense and tied for ninth with 10 interceptions. Boise State used its recent success in the run game to catch the Aggies on their heels on run-pass option plays throughout the night.

“I thought the plan was really good,” Harsin said. “We thought we could throw it. We felt like we needed to balance our run game. We wanted to run the ball, that wasn’t something that was going to change.”

Boise State scored on the game’s opening drive and on its first drive of the second half. After Utah State cut it to 14-7 late in the first quarter, the Broncos responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Montell Cozart to Mattison.

Seven players had at least two receptions, and the team had nine plays of 20 yards or more. It had averaged just three per game coming in.

“I think the biggest thing was just the commitment to the pass game this week and having the coaching staff trust in both me and Montell to go out there and throw it,” Rypien said. “I felt like I really got into a rhythm tonight, and I really haven’t felt that all year.”

DEFENSE: B-plus

Facing a team that mostly used up-tempo paces for the first time this season, the defense handled it mostly well, allowing 279 yards while the offense ate clock (37:54-22:06 time of possession advantage). The Aggies had 126 yards on their two scoring drives, but just 2.9 yards per play otherwise.

Utah State quarterbacks completed 52.9 percent of their passes, the fourth straight game foes have completed 54 percent or worse. The Aggies had 93 rushing yards, and Boise State now stands at No. 7 in the FBS in rush defense.

“Held them under 100 yards rushing. That’s hard to do,” Harsin said. “Utah State’s really good. They’ve got a quarterback that can run, they’ve got a run game, the whole plan against these guys is hard.”

The Broncos did not register a sack and did not get a turnover, but did get six tackles for loss. Sophomore linebacker Tyson Maeva said the game plan involved a lot of three- and four-man pressures because the tempo did not often allow Boise State to get into its blitz packages.

They also stopped a fourth down at their own 17-yard line. A facemask and a pass interference penalty kept the Aggies afloat on their first scoring drive. A 34-yard pass set up the second score, which came in the third quarter after a fourth-down conversion in the red zone.

“I thought we had a pretty solid game, there were a couple things we have to clean up … our red zone really has to improve,” Maeva said.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Solid, but not spectacular. The Broncos will surely take it, even if they lost the field position battle for once (average start was 4 yards worse than Utah State’s). Junior kicker Haden Hoggarth hit both of his field goals in the fourth quarter, from 27 and 29 yards, and is now 9-of-10 on the season, the ninth-best percentage in the FBS.

The Broncos did not have a kickoff return and Avery Williams had 3 yards on three returns.

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @davesouthorn

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