LOGAN – It’s not getting any easier for the Utah State football team. After last week’s conference opener against Air Force, the Aggies are heading to Idaho to take on 3-0 Boise State, a team that is coming off two-straight Pac-12 wins, the first against Washington State and the second at Oregon State.
For the Aggies, already with a conference loss, this game is a near must-win if USU wants to stay in conference championship contention.
<span>”It’s a huge test for us going on the road and playing Boise State,” head coach Matt Wells said. “Our job is to get off the mat, to prepare for a game and get ready to go try to find a way to win on the road in this league.”</span>
<h1><em>Broncos want revenge</em></h1>
The Aggies have traditionally struggled against Boise State, but that wasn’t the case last year.
Boise State came into to Logan with a No. 21 ranking and 12-straight wins against USU, but you wouldn’t have guessed that by the end of the first half. The Aggies forced seven turnovers and had a 44-10 lead in the first 30 minutes. The Broncos returned to Idaho with a 52-26 loss.
“There were a lot of turnovers,” USU linebacker Brock Carmen said. “There was electricity in Maverik (Stadium) and a lot of momentum going our way, and once the ball got rolling it just didn’t stop.”
If a conference win wasn’t enough motivation for Boise State, the sting from last October would be. Aggie wide receiver Andrew Rodriguez said if USU had lost last year’s game, he would take it personally.
“I would hope that they would, too,” he said. “But any game, especially going there and playing them, it’s going to be an interesting situation.”
When asked if there is any sort of revenge factor, Bronco head coach Bryan Harsin said “that was last year’s team.”
“Different coaches, different team,” he said. “I don’t think anybody is not aware that we lost to them last year. We’ve got a lot more things to focus on than what happened to last year’s team.”
<h1><em>Tough offense, tough defense</em></h1>
As usual, Boise State looks like a team that is well-balanced and dangerous. In its three wins, the Broncos have gotten off to quick starts and outscored opponents 83-17 in the first half.
The team is led by sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien. The second-year starter has completed 60-of-104 passes for 861 yards and four touchdowns so far this season. The guy behind him, running back Jeremy McNichols is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and has picked up seven touchdowns this year. Wells said Rypien has great accuracy and arm strength, and that McNichols is one of the best running backs in the conference.
“They are very good and probably feature the best quarterback and tailback we’ll see all year,” he said.
The Boise State defense is holding opponents to an average 358 yards per game. Most of those yards, 285.7 of them, come through the air.
“They have a very solid, blue-collar, tough, really active defensive line,” Wells said. “It goes in between three-down or four-down, and they move around a lot, which is very similar to our front.”
That could be a concern for USU’s run game, which was only able to pick up 99 yards on the ground against Air Force. A big chunk of those came off a single 26-yard run by Justen Hervey. Wells said Air Force brought “seven, eight or nine guys” every play, and said if Boise State tries that, there could be open receivers, but he doesn’t seem to think they’ll try to.
“I think the big challenge with Boise State in pass protection is when they bring four or five men, because those guys can rush,” he said. “They’ve got moves, they go from speed to power and they’ve got counter moves. With Boise, it’s not about them trying to overload your protections. It’s about winning the one-on-one battles and they’ve got excellent defenders on the edge to do that.”
Top players on offense and defense were injured in the game against Air Force. Tight end Wyatt Houston was hurt, but should be all right, according to Wells. It is safety Dallin Leavitt and running back Devante Mays that still causes concern.
On Tuesday night’s Matt Wells Coaches Show on KVNU Wells declined to comment on the extent of the two injuries.
“When a guy is out for the year, I’m going to talk,” Wells said. “When a guy is out for a major extended amount of time, I’m going to talk about it, but other than that it doesn’t do anybody good. It doesn’t do us, our opponents, anybody out there any good to comment. I appreciate everyone’s concern about everybody on our football team, not just two guys, but a lot of other guys.”