BOISE, Idaho — It's rivalry week as the No. 14 Boise State Broncos travel to Provo, Utah, to take on their regional foe - the Brigham Young University Cougars.
The Broncos (6-0, 3-0 MWC) go into their matchup against BYU after having arguably their most complete game of the season against the 4-2 Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors on Saturday night. The Broncos won 59-37, but the score suggests the game was closer than it really was, as Boise State was never in danger of losing the game thanks to a season-high four turnovers on defense and three quarterbacks throwing at least one touchdown - a first since 2008.
Even with freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier going out midway through the second quarter with a hip injury, Boise State's offense still rolled over the Rainbow Warriors' defense with sophomore Chase Cord and senior Jaylen Henderson playing well at quarterback and freshman running back George Holani scoring three total touchdowns.
BYU takes on the Broncos with a three-game losing streak. The Cougars return home after playing back-to-back road games against the Toledo Rockets and the USF Bulls. BYU lost both games.
To make matters worse for the Cougars, they lost starting quarterback Zach Wilson to a thumb injury in their game against Toledo. After nearly 100 years of having a football program, Jaren Hall became BYU's first-ever black quarterback to start a game in their matchup against USF. Hall ended the game 15 of 23 for 148 yards and one touchdown. Hall left the game against USF with a concussion.
Backup quarterback Baylor Romney also led the Cougars for a few drives following Hall's exit, going for six of ten for 73 yards and one touchdown.
Heading to their rivalry game against Boise State, BYU Head Coach Kalani Sitake said in a news conference on Monday, "I've got to do a better job coaching so that's what I'm looking forward to getting done."
The tone of Sitake's news conference on Monday following the Cougars' loss to USF stood in stark contrast to Harsin's. BYU is in full rebuild mode; their weak defense and inability to score touchdowns in the red zone have put the Cougars on pace to have their second losing season in three years. (Their last losing season prior to the 2017 season was in 2004 when they went 5-6).
For Bryan Harsin and the Broncos, their matchup against the Cougars is all about making fine-tune adjustments and continuing to improve as the season progresses.
"We gotta do a great job of continuing to get better, while we're on the road and how we travel," Harsin said at his regular Monday news conference. "This will be our third time [playing on the road]. So we're just in that process of improving on how we do things, each and every week."
Boise State at BYU
- Saturday, Oct. 19
- LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT
- Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. MT
- Weather: 50% of rain/snow. High of 61, low of 33.
The game will be televised on ESPN 2, which can be found on the following channels:
- Sparklight (formerly Cable One): Channel 134 / 1134 (HD)
- DirecTV: Channel 209
- Dish Network: Channel 143
- Cox: Channel 33 / 1033 (HD)
ON THE RADIO
Fans can listen to the game on the Bronco Radio Network (Bob Behler and Pete Cavender), which can be found online or on the following stations in the Boise area:
- KBOI 670 AM in Boise
- KTIK 93.1 FM in Boise
- KDZY 98.3 FM in McCall
- KSNQ 98.3 FM in Twin Falls
Here is a list of Bronco Radio Network stations outside the Boise area.
THE COUGAR'S STRUGGLES
BYU's 2019 season has been less than stellar, but it started off somewhat promising, even with a season-opening loss.
The Cougars started the season with a tough test against No. 14 Utah at home. BYU lost 30-12 to their in-state rival, but they were able to rebound from the loss.
The Cougars went on the road in week two and beat Tennessee 29-26 in double overtime.
They added a resume-building win against then No. 24 USC 30-27 in overtime at LaVell Edwards Stadium in week three.
Going into their week four matchup against No. 22 Washington at home, BYU was sitting pretty at 2-1 with back-to-back wins over Power 5 teams. But that's when the wheels started falling off BYU's wagon. The Huskies put on a clinic against the Cougars and won 49-19 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU's schedule eased up and the Cougars had two winnable road games against the 2-1 Toledo Rockets of the Mid-American Conference and the 2-3 USF Bulls of the American Athletic Conference.
The Cougars lost both road games, 28-21 against Toledo and 30-27 against USF. In both games, BYU squandered the game away and allowed the Rockets and Bulls to retake the leads in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
In the Cougars' loss to USF, they also lost backup-quarterback Hall to a concussion so they'll be on their third-string quarterback when they take on Boise State.
With the Cougars' struggles this season, BYU Head Coach Kalani Sitake said, "I'm hands-on with everything, so anything that's not functioning well is my fault. That's how I look at it, hands-on with the offense, defense, and special teams and we're not performing well so that's on me."
For BYU, a matchup against the Broncos is a chance to right a sinking ship by making coaching and player adjustments.
"No one on this team and no one in this building is going to quit, so we're looking forward to playing a ranked team, coming to our house, at home, excited for that moment, excited for that opportunity," Sitake explained with a somber tone on Monday.
THE BRONCOS' QB SITUATION
Freshman starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier went out Saturday night with an apparent hip injury during the second quarter against Hawai'i after he scrambled out of the pocket and took a big hit. Coach Harsin has been tight-lipped about Bachmeier's injury, as he usually is with all player injuries, so there's no clear timetable for when Hurricane Hank will return to the Broncos' offense. As of Friday, the Broncos' coaching staff hasn't stated when Bachmeier will be back to 100% or when he will play again.
For now, we can expect both sophomore Chase Cord and senior Jaylen Henderson to both lead the Broncos' offense, with Cord receiving the bulk of the workload. After Bachmeier went out of the game, both Cord and Henderson played well. Cord finished the game 12 of 18 for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Henderson was nearly as effective leading the Broncos, he finished the game going six of ten for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Regardless of who's on the field at quarterback, there's enough talent to help march the Broncos down the field and score. Wide receiver John Hightower and running back George Holani were both human highlight reels against the Rainbow Warriors and will help Cord or Henderson light up the scoreboard against a Cougars' defense that has plenty of room for improvement.
Bachmeier's absence from the Broncos' offense doesn't make them any less of a challenge in the eyes of the BYU coaching staff.
"They have plenty of quarterbacks that can play. They have a scheme that is dangerous, that's well balanced, that can run the ball and throw it and throw it to a lot of different people," BYU's Sitake said. "So they're dangerous, they're ranked for a reason and Coach Harsin has done an amazing with his program and it's going to be a fun game."
Boise State's offense leans on the passing game to create big plays — the team averages 321.7 passing yards per game and averages 8.4 yards per completion. But when it comes to scoring, the Broncos can get into the endzone with either its ground or air attack. The team has 16 passing touchdowns and 11 rushing touchdowns so far this season, leading to an average of 37 points per game. The Broncos are averaging 166.5 rushing yards per game and only Holani has broken the 100-yard rushing mark this season, which was against Marshall where he had 103 rushing yards.
The Broncos' passing offense shouldn't take a dip with Bachmeier, as Cord and Henderson played well after Bachmeier's departure. In his news conference, Harsin seemed to have plenty of confidence in how his quarterbacks were reading themselves each week.
"I think Chase showed what he is capable of doing when he came in and played and think Jaylen did too," Harsin said. "So both those guys, they're not the guys that I'm talking about when it comes to preparation. Those guys are focused, ready, and Chase didn't take as many reps as Hank did throughout the week. Hank handled the majority of the reps and Chase goes out there and ends up hitting George (Holani) all the way through his progressions for a touchdown."
All through the offseason, Harsin mentioned how deep the Broncos were at the quarterback position, and their win against Hawai'i showed how true those claims were. Bronco Nation shouldn't lose any sleep while Bachmeier is out due to injury, thanks to both Cord and Henderson showing that they can both lead the offense with ease and command.
TALE OF THE TAPE
If the tone of Sitake's press conference and their overall record wasn't enough, the Cougar's stat lines on the season clearly paint a team that is just trying to tread water.
BYU is ranked 123rd nationally in run defense, allowing an average of 224.5 rush yards per game. Their pass defense only fares marginally better as they're in the top half of the FBS for pass defense, allowing 188.5 yards per game. The Cougars also allow an eye-popping 30.5 points per game.
The Cougar's defense will be facing off a Boise State offense that averages 321.7 passing yards per game and 166.5 rushing yards per game. The Broncos put up an average of 37 points per game and enter this matchup after putting a season-high 59 points against a statistically comparable Hawai'i defense. BYU's weak run defense could allow Robert Mahone and George Holani to pound the rock and in-turn set up the Broncos' passing attack.
The tale of the tape between the Broncos' offense versus the Cougars' defense heavily favors Boise State.
Things aren't much better on BYU's offense. They average a measly 265.2 passing yards and 121.3 rushing yards per game and only score 22.7 points per game. Against a stout Broncos defense, which allows an average of 202.7 passing yards and 125 rushing yards per game, the Cougars are going to need to do a 180 on offense to keep up with a dangerous Broncos offense.
Boise State has only allowed 19.5 points per game and if you take away Hawai'i's 37 points, the Broncos have allowed an average of 16.4 points per game on defense. The Cougars have their work cut for them if they want to keep this rivalry game competitive.
The Broncos' defense takes the edge over BYU's offense, and with an inexperienced backup quarterback stepping in for the Cougars, a fierce Boise State defense could be feasting on Saturday night.
BRONCO ROUNDUP GAMEDAY
KTVB's Bronco Roundup Gameday show will be live from LaVell Edwards Stadium before the game from 6 to 7 p.m. on KTVB, KTVB.COM, and in the Bronco Roundup app.
Join Jay Tust and Will Hall for a live look at all of the major storylines surrounding this rivalry matchup. Also, make sure to check out KTVB's YouTube Channel for highlights from the Bronco Roundup Gameday show during the game.
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BOISE STATE-BYU SERIES
While the Broncos have beaten the Cougars for three-straight years and own the overall series, playing in Provo is always a challenge. Boise State's last two losses to BYU - in 2012 and 2015 - both happened at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Since 2003, Boise State leads the series 7-2 over BYU but some of the Broncos' wins have been razor-thin. Last season, it took a defensive goalline stand by the Broncos in the final minutes of the game to walk away with a 21-16 win at Albertsons Stadium. In 2016, Boise State won 28-27 thanks to a blocked field goal in the final seconds of the game and a failed hail marry attempt by the Cougars. (This game was also the last time that the Broncos were ranked 14th in the polls.) The first game in the current ten-year agreement in 2012 was a defensive slugfest, with the Broncos winning 7-6 thanks to a pick-six by nose tackle Mike Atkinson.
Bronco Nation can expect a close and exciting game as two of the last three BYU-Boise State games have been decided by five points or less. Boise State is also only 2-2 in Provo, so this week's game will decide if the Broncos can claim a winning record at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"BYU, we got a lot of history with this team, the series that we've had and continue to have, and we know playing there is difficult," Harsin said. "We gotta go on the road, they have the advantage when we play at their place."
BYU may be considered one of the true rivals Boise State has after the Broncos left the WAC. Each matchup is a battle and the teams that Boise State has played since the WAC - the Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors, the Fresno State Bulldogs, the Nevada Wolfpack - all aren't as competitive with the Broncos as the Cougars.
"I think they've been good games. Historically, if we could not keep them that close, that would be ideal, right?" Harsin said.
Boise State's all-time record against BYU:
- Nov. 3, 2018 - W, 21-16;
- Oct. 6, 2017 - W, 24-7;
- Oct. 20, 2016 - W, 28-27;
- Sept. 12, 2015 - L, 35-20;
- Oct. 24, 2014 - W, 55-30;
- Oct. 25, 2013 - L, 37-20;
- Sept. 20, 2012 - W, 7-6;
- Sept. 24, 2004 - W, 28-27;
- Oct. 30, 2003 - W, 50-12
In September, Boise State and BYU announced that they will extend their series for another ten years so there's still time for the Cougars to even the series - but their series turnaround likely won't start this year.
POLL POSITION: GROUP OF 5'S RACE TO THE COTTON BOWL
The Broncos are the team to beat in the Group of 5's race to the Cotton Bowl as Boise State is the highest-ranked G5 team in the Top 25 polls at No. 14 in the AP Poll. Boise State has a few other teams chasing behind them in the rankings, as Tom Scott explained his Tuesday column:
"Two teams chasing Boise State, one from the American conference and one from the Sun Belt, are also still undefeated. SMU has a three-point win over TCU, and Appalachian State, coached by former Bronco offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz, has a three-point victory over North Carolina. Neither triumph is enough to trump the Broncos at this point.
The Mountaineers do have a game at South Carolina on November 9, and a win there would be significant. Among the one-loss G-5 teams, Cincinnati has that upset of UCF but lost 42-0 at Ohio State. And Temple has defeated Maryland and Georgia Tech but has a 16-point loss at Buffalo. "
POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE
Burn the midnight candle following the game with KTVB as we will live stream the post-game press conference on KTVB.COM and in the Bronco Roundup app.
Interviews with coach Bryan Harsin and players will discuss the outcome of the game, key plays and moments, and any major stories to come out of the game.
The interviews will be posted on KTVB's YouTube Channel soon after the press conference ends, so you can watch the press conference and hear from some of your favorite players whenever and wherever you want.
Stay tuned to KTVB.COM after the game for a game recap and analysis, highlights, and a slideshow of sideline photos from the game.
For extended analysis and highlights from the Boise State-BYU game, make sure to watch KTVB Idaho's News Channel 7 at 11 p.m. Sunday for Sunday Sports Extra, where Jay Tust, Will Hall, and Tom Scott will discuss everything Boise State football.