x
Breaking News
More () »

Game Day Guide: Boise State defends The Blue against the Miners of UTEP

After a narrow loss to one of the top Group of 5 programs in the nation, Boise State will host the Miners and build on what the Broncos learned against UCF.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's Note: The video above is from Boise State head football coach Andy Avalos' press conference on Sunday, Sept. 5.

With the first week of the 2021 college football season wrapped up, it's safe to say that while Boise State University's 31-36 loss to the University of Central Florida hurts, it could have been so much worse for the Broncos and company.

Losing after leading 21-0 in the second quarter is a feeling Bronco Nation definitely doesn't want to experience again, but it pales in comparison to the bad losses some other teams faced in week one. 

The University of Washington Huskies were embarrassed 13-7 at home against the University of Montana Grizzlies, an FCS school and member of the Big Sky Conference, which the University of Idaho Vandals have also called home since dropping from FBS.

Bronco Nation could have also felt the embarrassment that Miami Hurricanes fans felt after seeing their team celebrate a turnover with a new and improved turnover chain and only to have the turnover overturned by officials, all while losing 27-0 to the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Unlike the National Football League, colleges only have Fall Camp and usually one full scrimmage to get ready for the regular season. With a whole new coaching staff under first-year head coach Andy Avalos, a 31-36 loss against UCF, a Group of 5 power and likely soon-to-be-member of the Big 12, to start the season is worlds better than other possibilities, like getting run out of the gym or embarrassed on national television. 

The Broncos showed promise and potential, especially with the defense's two, almost three, interceptions and the offense clicking when distributing the ball evenly with an up-tempo speed in the first quarter.

Boise State's loss effectively slammed the breaks on any talk of the Broncos getting to play in a New Year's 6 Bowl, which would have taken a lot of help from the football gods when with a win. However, there's plenty for Andy Avalos and the coaching staff to adjust and improve upon in week two against the UTEP Miners and try to extend their winning streak of home openers to 20 years.

WAC RIVALRY RENEWED

Since the Western Athletic Conference ceased its support of football in 2013 and Boise State's departure in 2010, it's rare for the Broncos to play against an old WAC member who didn't also jump ship for the Mountain West Conference, like Fresno State, Nevada, San Jose State, Utah State and Hawai'i did. While calling Boise State and UTEP rivals is a stretch since the Broncos dominated the series, this week two matchup between the Miners and Broncos is the first time they've played in nearly two decades.

A lot has happened in the 18 years since the Broncos last played the Miners in 2004. One of the Broncos to make that last trip to El Paso was Boise State head coach Andy Avalos. At the time, Avalos was still a hard-hitting linebacker for the Broncos' defense. 

"It was a physical game, extremely physical game," Avalos recalled during a press conference on Sunday. "There were some back and forth and there were a few special teams plays that had a big, big part in the game. Back in the old WAC days right, that's all we're talking about, we had some unbelievable matches, they had some really good players."

'It's going to be a physical game'

Avalos finished that game second in total tackles with nine, five solo and four assisted. He also had a tackle for a loss of six yards. Boise State beat UTEP in El Paso that game, 47-31.

Now in 2021, Avalos is breaking down film on the Miners and watched their 38-28 win over Bethune-Cookman University on Saturday night. Bethune-Cookman is an HBCU that plays in the Southwestern Athletic Conference of the FCS.

"As we start to look at the film, you know, over the last couple days and look at what they look like this year, they have some explosive players on both sides of the ball," Avalos said. "And so, it's, it's going to be a physical game especially upfront with the way they run the ball when the way they work to stop the run."

'It's an aggressive defense'

In his weekly press conference on Monday, UTEP head football coach Dana Dimel said they've already started watching Boise State's game tape not because of the short week but because of Andy Avalos and his experience at Oregon and Boise State.

"So, there's a lot of things there from Boise that he brought back to Boise that they've done in the past," Dimel said. "They do a nice job of coaching the defense, very sound and disciplined. It's an aggressive defense that does a lot of good things. Offensively, their quarterback has a lot of experience. He's a talented quarterback who has the ability to spin the ball really well."

The tenth-year head coach said he has a lot of respect for Boise State and the Broncos have depth on their roster and are big strong.

"They've earned and proven what kind of football team they are," Dimel said. "They've done some tremendous things over the years, and when you do tremendous things you're able to recruit tremendous players. They have got as good of talent that we're going to face all year."

This year will be Dimel's fourth season as Miners' head coach, he was hired in 2017.

RELATED: How to watch Boise State play UTEP on Friday

GAME INFORMATION

UTEP (2-0, 0-0 C-USA) at Boise State (0-1, 0-0 MW)

ON TV

The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1, which can be found on the following channels:

  • Sparklight (formerly Cable One): Channel 146 / 1146 (HD)
  • DirecTV: Channel 219
  • Dish Network: Channel 150
  • Cox: Channel 78

Click or tap here for more information on how to watch the game.

BRONCO ROUNDUP GAMEDAY

KTVB's Bronco Roundup Game Day show will be live on KTVB, KTVB.COM, and on the KTVB mobile app at 6:30 p.m. MT on Friday. Join Jay Tust, Will Hall for a look at all of the major storylines surrounding this matchup. KTVB's sports team will feature interviews and updates from former and current players during the show.

RELATED: Andy Avalos holds press conference on Boise State's loss to UCF, next game against UTEP

FAN COLOR SCHEME

For Boise State's home opener against UTEP, Bronco Nation is asked to wear white when they attend the game at Albertsons Stadium. The fan color scheme for the entire stadium is white.

Credit: Boise State Athletics

FACE MASK REQUIREMENT FOR FANS

With the coronavirus pandemic still affecting most of the Gem State and Boise State University itself, fans who attend the Broncos' game at Albertsons Stadium will need to wear face masks while on campus.

On Aug. 11, Boise State, the University of Idaho and Idaho State University all announced that students, staff and fans will need to wear face masks while on campus in 2021, including during sporting events such as Boise State football games.

More recently on Sept. 1, Boise State University issued a warning that classes, activities and events like football games could be impacted by new restrictions and/or cancelations if the current COVID-19 surge on campus doesn't change soon.

"If campus infection rates continue to increase, we likely will face temporary, rolling closures, which may mean shifting face-to-face classes online or to hybrid mode, suspending or cutting back some campus-based services, delaying or canceling large gatherings, performances and athletic events, and temporarily returning to remote work," Boise State President Dr. Marlene Tromp and other university administrators said in an email.

However, the fan experience will be better in 2021 than in other seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic. Head coach Andy Avalos said athletic director Jeremiah Dickey and his staff have cut down on the number of in-game advertisements and there won't be so much "dead time" during the game.

"I'm excited to see that too and see what that looks like," he said. "Now obviously, we are the center and focal point of why everybody's there so it is our responsibility to be able to, you know, play football with it, that incorporates a certain mentality incorporates how we finish and how we work together, and that's going to create excitement within the stands and within the atmosphere."

10 TO 10 ZONE

According to the Boise Police Department, the 10 to 10 Zone remains in place for home games this season. It specifies areas off-campus where people age 21 or older may consume alcoholic beverages from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Boise State home football game days only.

Alcoholic beverages are allowed in opaque plastic cups within the zone. Glass containers, beer cans, and type of liquor bottle and cups with alcoholic labeling are not allowed.

The "Zone" begins at Broadway Avenue and Myrtle Street, extends south down Broadway to Beacon, turns west along Beacon, north up Oakland Avenue, west on Potter Drive, north again up South Joyce Street, and then west along University Drive all the way to Capitol Boulevard. The boundary extends north along Capitol and turns east onto Cesar Chavez Lane, crosses Friendship Bridge north, and leads into Julia Davis Park. In the park, the "10 to 10 Zone" boundary is the area east of Zoo Boise to Broadway Avenue, and south of the Julia Davis pond.

Credit: Boise Police Dept.
The 10 to 10 Zone specifies areas off-campus where people age 21 or older may consume alcoholic beverages from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Boise State home football game days only.

COURSE CORRECT AFTER UCF

In week one, the Broncos' offense showed promise against UCF before woes in the second half derailed much of the team's chances of escaping Orlando with a win. In most years, a matchup against a team like UTEP would be considered a trap game, but for a new coaching staff, it's where they can show what they learned against UCF and what this team is capable of.

During his press conference on Sunday, Boise State head coach Andy Avalos explained that there were a lot of teachable moments for himself and the rest of the coaches and players in their game against UCF. He added that not leaving Orlando with a win isn't ideal, there's a lot of room for improvement for the team as a whole moving forward in 2021.

"One of the things that I look at that I'm excited about improving going forward is just making sure that for me and my role I keep us on schedule throughout the whole game, and we were more deliberate and efficient with our communication and keep us on schedule and that's an exciting thing that's an exciting role, I look forward to that challenge and working on it throughout the course of the week and implementing things in practice, that are going to make us respond that are going to challenge all the coaches, including myself, as well as the players," Avalos said.

'We got to do a better job as a staff adjusting'

Few players or coaches have taken on so much responsibility for the team's performance like new offensive coordinator Tim Plough. Immediately after the game, Plough explained that it is on him for how the offense performed in the second half.

"Just we didn't come out of the second half with the right energy, with the right, probably with the right plan for my end too," Plough said after the game. "I'll take the blame on that our third quarter just wasn't where it needed to be and it starts with me and the staff, making sure we do a better job coming out of the second half."

During a press conference on Sunday, Plough was honest and reflective on what went wrong for the Broncos against UCF.

"We got to do a better job as a staff adjusting and getting ourselves in better run schemes, and then also just again, knowing that our style of offense and how it works is we got to do a better job on first down, whether it's run or pass that we could get into our, our tempo and then wear teams out, you know, by moving to football," he said.

Plough reiterated that he especially learned from his play-calling against UCF. He also explained that the offense in the third quarter tried to keep calling the game as they did in the first half but struggled to find footing for their rushing attack. At one point during the second half, the Broncos had five-straight three-and-out drives and had possession of the ball for less than ten minutes after halftime.

"I'm definitely not a conservative guy and I know that that's something I'm going to be painted with after the third quarter and trust me, if I walk down the street right now, that's what people are gonna yell at me but that's not, it's definitely not who I am, you know, I'm an aggressive play-caller and trust me, we're gonna take plenty of shots down the field. But every game is gonna be unique, you know, we got to do what we need to do to win that game," he said.

He added that "First time doing this offense in a real game together, expecting some good and some bad so some things we can learn from for sure."

Plough explained that everyone had a hand in the team's issues in the third quarter, but that it's a "great opportunity to learn from that and grow from it."

Before their season opener, Plough admitted he might have put his foot in his mouth with his #halfahundred goal on offense but he has a solid chance of accomplishing his lofty goal against the Miners in week two.

'First and foremost, I take responsibility of it'

Co-defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson also publicly shouldered some of the blame and responsibility for the Broncos' play against UCF. The Knights' rushing attack ground down the Broncos' defense with a team total of 48 carries for 255 yards, an average of 5.3 yards per carry, and a touchdown.

Against UCF, Danielson said there were plays Knights ran the ball when he thought it would be a pass.

"I probably could have put them in better calls so obviously first and foremost, I take responsibility of it and then from all three phases. We're going to get it fixed and a lot of starts just with fundamentals and techniques and playing goes better and not guessing and trying to play different calls," Danielson said on Sunday.

This matchup between the Miners and Broncos is overshadowed by Boise State's week one loss to UCF and their week three home game against the Big 12's Oklahoma State Cowboys. While some in Bronco Nation may be chalking up one in the win column already, the Boise State coaching staff is all focusing on how to improve ahead of UTEP.

Head coach Andy Avalos said the team has so much to review and learn from their loss to UCF and that's all the coaching staff can think about.

"We got so many things that we've learned from our last game, we ain't got time to think about anything but showing up here every morning, and that's our challenge," he said. "That's our challenge right now, is every single morning how we show up here, what our care factor looks like in wanting to impact ourselves and impact our team, and that's all we're focused on right now."

BOISE STATE'S VACCINATION RATE

The Broncos had two games in 2020 canceled due to COVID-19 inside the program, one against UNLV and one against San Jose State. Those games were declared no contests, however, under new rules in 2021 set by the Mountain West Conference, any team unable to play the game due to COVID-19 will be forced to forfeit the game and a loss will be added to their record for conference standing purposes. If both teams cannot play, then it's declared a no contest. 

With more riding on being able to play every game this season, the Boise State football team's vaccination rate could be crucial. With more players and staff vaccinated, less likely there is an outbreak between the more than 125 members of the program.

Days before the Broncos' season opener against UCF, university athletic director Jeremiah Dickey said the program's vaccination rate was close to 85%. Out of the 144 personnel within the program, which includes players, coaches and staff, 122 members had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 111 were fully vaccinated.

With so many within the football program vaccinated, and the team already being in a "bubble," Bronco Nation can rest a little easier in 2021 knowing that the COVID-19 pandemic will hopefully and likely impact Boise State a little less than in 2020.

MINERS' RARE WIN STREAK

Since 2000, the Miners football program has enjoyed a grand total of four winning seasons. With two wins on the season already in 2021, this season is shaping up to be UTEP's best season since 2016 or even 2015 when the Miners went 4-8 and 5-7, respectfully.

The Miners started the 2021 season with a week zero matchup on Aug. 26 against New Mexico State University, another former member of the WAC. UTEP won 30-3 in Las Cruces to start the season 1-0.

In week two, UTEP host the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman, an FCS school that did not play in 2020 due to COVID-19. The Miners won 28-38 after starting sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardison went 14 of 23 for 183 yards and three touchdowns.

UTEP's two-game winning streak is tied for their second-longest since 2014 when they had a high winning streak of three games. Unfortunately for the Miners, it will be extremely difficult and unlikely for them to tie 2014's streak with a road game against the Broncos, who they've never beaten.

The last time the Miners had a winning season, Boise State was hoisting up their third Fiesta Bowl trophy.

'This is going to be an unbelievable opportunity'

Since leaving the Western Athletic Conference in 2004 for Conference USA, the Miners have had only one winning season in 2014 when they went 7-6.

For the Miners, Friday night's game will be one of their biggest of the 2021 season. For the Broncos, their home opener should serve as a final tuneup before Boise State goes against the Oklahoma State Cowboys of the Big 12 on The Blue in week three and into Mountain West Conference play after that. 

In Las Vegas, Boise State is favored over the Miners by 26 points. 

While UTEP is and has been a struggling Conference-USA team, the Broncos still have their work cut out for them on a short week.

"They got three running backs that are over six yards a pop, you know, and other guys that are there near the five-yard average more," Avalos said. "So that tells you what they're doing on offense. Their o-line is big and you turn on the film, and they run all the schemes. And so this is going to be an unbelievable opportunity for us this week to sharpen our tools and get ready because we got another run game coming at us and how disciplined we are with our eyes and our fists."

Avalos added that the team needs to have "an unbelievable week" because of UTEP's focus on the running game, which then sets up their passing attack.

"As soon as you start sucking up into the run game and all that play actions, boots, and those things come off of the run, the run looks," Avalos explained. "They have the ability to spread it out a little bit and attack vertically, they got some wide receivers they can stretch the field, and run vertical, and, you know, although they've only had about 40 attempts on the year, they've been accurate, been able to create some explosive plays."

He also said the Miners have two quarterbacks that they like to use on offense so it will be key for the defense to understand how the offense operates with each one under center.

Co-defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson said the Broncos' coaching staff did some brushing up on UTEP over the summer and watched their latest game on Saturday night.

"They've got multiple running backs that can play that can run on that are tough to tackle they got a big o-line that move their feet, and they got two tight ends and fullbacks that are going to go get you, so excited for the task and our guys are excited for the task as well and excited to get back on field," he said.

Losing to UCF in week one shouldn't be cause for Bronco Nation to hit the panic button for the 2021 season, after all, it's not like it was the biggest game in program history, but not beating the Miners by four or more touchdowns at home would certainly be enough reason to at least hover the panic button.

POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE

KTVB will live stream the post-game press conference on KTVB.COM, the KTVB YouTube channel, and on the KTVB mobile app.

Interviews with coach Andy Avalos and players and/or other members of the coaching staff will be posted online soon after the press conference ends, so Bronco Nation can watch the press conference whenever and wherever they want.

Stay tuned to KTVB.COM after the game for a game recap, highlights, and slideshow from the game.

BRONCOS-MINERS SERIES

The last time the Broncos and Miners played, Boise State head coach Andy Avalos was still lining up as a linebacker on the Broncos' defense. 

Between 2000 and 2004, the Broncos and Miners faced off four times as conference foes back in the Western Athletic Conference and once in a bowl game. Boise State joined the WAC in 2000 when the Big West Conference ended support for football. The Miners were one of the first expansion teams to the WAC in 1968 but eventually left in 2004 when Conference USA expanded after losing some members to larger conferences.

The Broncos went 5-0 against the Miners over the course of five seasons in the early 2000s, including four years that they were WAC foes.

Boise State and UTEP are only scheduled to play one more time in the next decade. On Sept. 24, 2022, Boise State will travel to El Paso to take on the Miners.

Boise State's all-time record versus UTEP:

  • Sept. 18, 2004 - W - 47-31 (El Paso)
  • Nov. 15, 2003 - W - 51-21 (Boise)
  • Nov. 2, 2002 - W - 58-3 (El Paso)
  • Sept. 22, 2001 - W - 42-17 (Boise)
  • Dec. 28, 2000 - W - 38-23 (Boise)* 

*Humanitarian Bowl

TRAFFIC, PARKING & FREE SHUTTLES

Expect increased traffic on all roads surrounding Boise State before and after the game. University Drive, from Capitol Boulevard to Broadway Avenue, will be congested throughout the morning and afternoon. Because of limited public parking on-campus, fans are encouraged to park off-campus and walk/bike or use a shuttle to get to the game.

Parking in Boise Parks:

Parking is allowed in designated parking spots within Julia Davis Park, Ann Morrison Park, Riverside Park, and Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park. Parking for Boise State home games is free on a first-come, first-served basis.

Towing will be delayed at those parks until 3 a.m. the following morning regardless of kickoff time.

Overnight parking is prohibited.

Off-campus Parking:

The Downtown Boise Association coordinates free shuttle buses from five convenient downtown locations to Albertsons Stadium.

These shuttles run every 15 minutes starting two hours prior to game time, and immediately after the game for one hour.

  • 6th & Grove (Bardenay)
  • 8th & Main (Bronco Shop)
  • 8th & Main (Diablo & Sons)
  • 8th & Broad (Solid Grill & Bar)
  • 6th & Broad (Boise Brewing)
  • River Street between 12th & Ash (Payette Brewing)

Here is more information on the Bronco Gameday Shuttle, and game day parking options.

ENTRY TO THE GAME

Bronco fans should arrive early. Those whose seats are not in the Stueckle Sky Center may enter the stadium through any gate. Fans are encouraged — but not required — to leave their bags at home or in the car. For faster entry into the stadium, bring a clear bag or no bag to the game. Prior to entry, fans will pass through metal detectors, and any bags carried in will be subject to search. Remember to leave prohibited items behind, including all weapons, alcohol, glass, and coolers.

BRONCO BASH AT THE ALUMNI AND FRIENDS CENTER

The Bronco Bash at the Alumni and Friends Center is open to Broncos fans three hours prior to every home football game and closes 30 minutes prior to kickoff. The event features a family-friendly atmosphere with live music and activities for all ages.

Returning this year is the Bronco Bash Cash Dash, a series of one-minute challenges, that guests can play to compete for time in the Mountain America Credit Union cash machine, Boise State merchandise and other prizes. Find out more about the Bronco Bash here.

Editor's Note: To never miss a beat of Boise State football news this season, make sure to download the KTVB app for the latest updates, stories and scores.

Watch more Boise State Football:

See all of our Boise State football coverage in our YouTube playlist: