Editor's Note: The video above is from Boise State head football coach Andy Avalos' press conference on Monday, Sept. 13.
When Boise State played the University of Texas-El Paso on The Blue, the Broncos revived a matchup last seen during their days in the Western Athletic Conference. Unfortunately for the Miners, the Broncos' week two matchup also ended in a WAC-era blowout, 13-54.
Against the Miners, Boise State found its footing and started developing its identity on both sides of the ball. The defense forced six turnovers, the highest since 2013, and the offense was able to pound the ball into the end zone on the ground during goal-line situations and make big, splash plays through the air, especially in the hands, even occasionally just one hand, of wide receiver Khalil Shakir.
However, Boise State still has a lot to work on before they take on Oklahoma State. The Broncos' offense still needs to find a lead running back, however, junior George Holani should no longer be on a rep count against Oklahoma State. He was limited against UTEP and sat out against the University of Central Florida in week one.
Now, heading into week three, the Broncos will host the first-ever regular season Big 12 Conference foe at Albertsons Stadium. On Saturday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. MT, the Oklahoma State University Cowboys will play the Broncos on The Blue. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
The Cowboys might be 2-0 but the Broncos (1-1) are favored by five points in Las Vegas.
Through two games, Oklahoma State's offense has struggled against FCS and Group of 5 teams. In week one, the Cowboys beat Missouri State 23-16 and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 28-23 in week two after they trailed 7-14 heading into the fourth quarter. Tulsa had lost to an FCS team in week one.
The Cowboys' offense has struggled to click and move the ball for the majority of their games until finding enough life in the fourth quarter to win. Buoyed with a strong defense that has only allowed an average of 19.5 points per game, the Cowboys' offense just needs to keep it close, something that may prove difficult against a turnover-hungry Boise State defense.
The Broncos are tied for first in the country for turnover margin with +8 through two games.
While Oklahoma State has shown its weaknesses through two weeks of play against lesser teams, the Cowboys will still storm The Blue as the first-ever Big 12 team to play at Albertsons Stadium during the regular season, which should get Bronco Nation excited, according to Boise State head coach Andy Avalos.
"I mean it's an unbelievable opportunity for Bronco Nation and the valley, to be able to get games like this to come into our stadium and the type of opponent, the history, the tradition, the players that they've had go through this program, obviously the coach that has been very, very consistent for some time now," Avalos said during his Monday press conference. "We got a great challenge in front of us."
When the Cowboys and Broncos play at 7:00 p.m. MT on Saturday, Sept. 18, Boise State will have its work cut out for them and will need Bronco Nation's help to get the win.
Game Analysis: How the Broncos and Cowboys compare
BRONCOS' 'CARE FACTOR'
If Boise State's rout of UTEP was a course correction for the Broncos, the winds that carried the team's sails were the players and coaches' "care factor."
Since the start of the 2021 season, head coach Any Avalos has referenced "care factor" several times throughout his press conferences, especially when discussing how players and learn and grow. Avalos explained on Monday that coaches are teachers and consistency and being able to find things to do better is part of the process.
"If we're going to teach them, we got to be constantly evaluating, not just what we're doing, how we're doing the progressions, how we're speaking on the unintended consequences of doing things a certain way and just being mindful of those and you know what being out in front, always being detailed with how we evaluate," he said.
The focus on accountability and learning from past mistakes extends throughout the whole Boise State coaching staff.
Offensive coordinator Tim Plough took ownership of the offense's second-half troubles against UCF in week one.
"I do think that the criticism from week one was deserved from everybody. And other than my mom and wife, I think everyone's okay with it," he said on Monday.
Plough seemed to have righted the ship against UTEP, where he hit #halfahundred for the first time, with some help from the defense.
"So I was happy to see us take another step in improving our offense, still a long way to go but I thought it was a positive step from week one to week two," Plough said of the Broncos' offensive performance against UTEP on Monday.
Junior quarterback Hank Bachmeier said he thought the team could have put up more points against the Miners.
"I think we could have finished better in the redzone, to be honest, I think we could have put up a lot more points in there. And I think I made a couple of mistakes in this game that I'm going to try to come back this week and work on," he said.
With both coaches and players taking on accountability for their mistakes and focusing on correcting them and the Avalos' "iron sharpens iron," the entire Broncos football program isn't satisfied with their work thus far.
"The coaches here are competitors, just like the players, and we want to get it right too, and our players are unbelievable, whatever we ask them to do, they do whatever they need help from us, we figure out a way to get it for them and then we just got to keep growing that way," Avalos said.
IN THE TRENCHES, THROUGH THE AIR
With a whole new coaching staff working with players recruited by former head coach Bryan Harsin and a tough schedule, the outlook for Andy Avalos' first year at the helm of the Broncos was cautiously optimistic at best. However, through two games, the Broncos' identity in 2021 is starting to take shape.
The defense has shown to be more than capable of forcing turnovers, which it sorely needed to do after the last couple of seasons. The Broncos' offense can move the ball down the field with a quick tempo West Coast style of play, focusing on short to intermediate throws and relying on a run game that relies on RPOs.
However, not everything has gone according to plan. Without junior running back George Holani, Boise State's stable of running backs have struggled.
Through two games, the Broncos' rushing attack has 141 yards on 63 carries, making for a lowly average of 2.2. yard per carry.
Oklahoma State's rush defense ranked 42nd in the country, allowing an average of 112.5 run yards per game. Without a lead running back for Boise State, the Broncos' run game on offense may struggle once again.
The outlook for Boise State's run game isn't helped by the Cowboys' stout defense, which head coach Andy Avalos has already recognized as being a problem for the Broncos.
"We know that it's gonna be tough sledding this week as well, they got a tremendous D line," Avalos said. "Their linebackers are experienced, great read and react players."
Fortunately for the Broncos, Holani is expected to be 100% against the Cowboys and without a rep count.
"I think that he's a very explosive player that has an innate ability to make the first guy miss, which I think all great running backs do and all the great running backs are never going to be tackled by the first guy," Plough said about Holani. "That seems to be kind of his MO."
Plough added that he's keeping his fingers crossed that Holani will be 100% ready against Oklahoma State but they still need to see how he does throughout the week.
'That's college football these days'
According to Avalos, some of the offense's running woes can actually be attributed to how the offense relies on RPOs, or run-pass options.
RPOs are option plays where the quarterback, based on the defensive reads, can either hand the ball off to a running back, or keep it himself and throw a pass.
With the offense using so many RPO plays, play calls that are made with the run in mind turn into pass plays on the field, based on what the defense shows.
"That's the bottom line, that's college football these days. Certain teams are going to stack the box of people and leave some matchups on the outside and commit more bodies to the box and that's where we're gonna have to get our run yards as well," Avalos explained.
Offensive coordinator Tim Plough dived into the X's and O's of how the running game works.
"But how you run the football in a shotgun offense is going to be categorized into three ways, right? So I can choose to have the wide receivers block on the perimeter and that's how they're going to handle the extra tacklers in the box," he explained. "You can choose to have the quarterback keep the ball and read the extra defender decide if he's gonna run with the ball or you can run an RPO which if they have an extra defender."
'We need to do a much better job as a staff'
Plough said because of the offense's use of the RPO, 122 of the Broncos' passing yards came from RPO plays that were called with the run in mind.
"Because they have so many guys in the box, he threw a pass right, the touchdown pass to Steph Cobbs, the 60 yarder, that was a run play. Right the flats, Shak, we have 30 yard gain on the fifteenth play of the game," Plough said. "And then he had another one, I think on the thirty-first play the game right same play, those 40 yards, we call a run play. But they load the box so it becomes a pass play."
For quarterback Hank Bachmeier, there's been a learning curve on using RPOs plays on offense.
"This is the first time I've ever done RPOs ever in my life I didn't do it in high school, Hars didn't do it," he said on Tuesday. "So it was a big adjustment for me but I think it's finally clicking for us and for myself, and I think it's such a great weapon to use especially within the offensive and the playmakers we have."
Boise State's offense might be finding success with the RPO this season, there's still plenty of work to be done.
"The other side of it is we need to do a much better job as a staff coming up with schemes where we can run the ball and develop our mentality and create that consistency that you're talking about where it's not an RPO to true run play and we're able to get off the ball be physical," Plough said.
The Broncos' battle in the trenches during the run game should be helped with the return of junior running back George Holani, who was out against UCF in week one and was on a rep count against UTEP.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos will also need some help in the trenches.
The Broncos' secondary on defense may prove to be a bunch of ball hawks through two games, the defensive line and pass rush still need to find themselves. Boise State is 94th in the country for rush defense, allowing an average of 179.5 running yards per game.
Prior to the Broncos' game against UTEP, it was announced that junior nose tackle Scale Igiehon was leaving the team due to personal reasons. During his press conference, Avalos declined to share any additional information about his departure from the team.
The Broncos will also be without senior linebacker Riley Whimpey for the first half against Oklahoma State. Whimpey was ejected from the UTEP game after a questionable targeting penalty. Since it happened in the second half of the game, Whimpey has to miss the first half of the following game.
With two of the Broncos' key defensive players out, someone on the defensive line will need to step up and the linebacker Brandon Hawkins needs to hold strong until Whimpey can return after halftime.
Whimpey may not be able to take the field in the first half, he'll still be able to help the Broncos' defense.
Co-defensive coordinator Spencer Daniel said Whimpey will help Hawkins "making sure that he understands the entire game plan and some different tricks in the trade that he might use and how he preps and how he plays."
A LITTLE LESS 'HERO BALL'
The Broncos' week one loss to the UCF Knights was heartbreaking, especially after junior quarterback Hank Bachmeier threw an interception when the offense was marching down the field to win the game.
Adding salt to the wound, Bachmeier was about three yards past the line of scrimmage when he threw the pick, so it would have been an illegal forward pass even if it was caught.
However, that has been the story of Bachmeier's career at Boise State so far, he tries to do too much sometimes. Yet, Bachmeier's story with the Broncos is far from over so he still has time to learn and grow.
During player interviews this week, Bachmeier shared how difficult it was throwing that interception against UCF.
"That hurts me. It haunts me. But I'm not going to let it define me," he said.
Bachmeier is taking his mistake against UCF in stride and taking ownership of it, but that doesn't make the burden any easier to carry.
"It frickin' sucked," he said, "you know, I didn't get very nice messages after that game, you know, as expected. I didn't make a great decision there but I think before that decision, I think I was playing really well, I think the offense was playing really well."
While there's nothing wrong with armchair quarterback talk at the water cooler, it is a wildly different thing to say hateful and cruel things at a 20-something college student. Unfortunately, fans attacking Boise State players for singular mistakes have happened before, just ask Kyle Brotzman.
'Just trying to throw a touchdown every play'
Due to injuries, the junior has only played in 14 full games in the last three seasons he has been the starting quarterback. During that same span, Bachmeier had been sacked 28 times.
Thankfully for Bronco Nation's heart health, and unfortunately for cardiologists in the Treasure Valley, Boise State offensive coordinator Tim Plough has been working on Bachmeier's "hero ball" style of play.
"We've talked a lot obviously with you guys about that was something just watching his film the last few years, I thought he was playing hero ball a little bit, just trying to throw a touchdown every play and hang on to the ball too long. We've worked really hard at that as an entire quarterback room, I think he deserves a lot of credit for getting the ball out of his hand."
Plough added that Bachmeier plays with a lot of fire and passion but he has learned to grow into his role as leader of the offense.
"He's got to lead himself so that he can lead others and I really believe that's where his greatest steps have been made in the offseason. It's not anything physically or mentally, it's just been his ability to understand how important his role is from a leadership standpoint that he himself needs to be held accountable to doing things the right way," Plough said. "And when he does that, he'll be able to hold his teammates accountable and do it the right way."
According to Bachmeier, Plough views the quarterback as the "conductor of the orchestra," and he enjoys playing Plough's offense because it lets him be "a point guard."
'It's different in that aspect that he values my opinion'
"I think when I'm able to distribute the ball and facilitate the ball to so many different guys and just get them going and have them make it plays, I think that's when we're at our best," Bachmeier said.
With the rest of the season and ideally a couple more seasons together, Boise State may have a dangerous quarterback-offensive coordinator tandem.
"I think it's huge for me to just be able to have that relationship with my offensive coordinator and be able to ask him questions that communicate with him and him bounce ideas off of me," Bachmeier said. "I haven't really had that before so I have to be prepared for me to be able to answer his questions instead of being told what to do and going out there. It's different in that aspect that he values my opinion I think."
35 YEARS OF THE BLUE
Sept. 13, 2021, marked the 35th anniversary of The Blue's first-ever game. Boise State debuted college football's first blue astroturf in the country on Sept. 13, 1986, against Humboldt State, winning 0-74.
What would become The Blue was a project completed over the summer of 1986. Prior to the first game on what would be known as The Blue, a young and dashing Mark Johnson reported that the project cost the university $600,000.
Johnson also reported back in 1986 that the university's athletic department thought blue turf and orange uniforms would gain the school some additional publicity.
Thirty-five years later, it is the Broncos' all-blue uniforms, which is expected to be worn against Oklahoma State on Saturday, that is the team's most popular home uniform. Boise State's blue jerseys on The Blue actually became a snag in a deal to join the Mountain West Conference.
Between 1986 and 2019, Boise State went 182-39 at home on The Blue, with ten of those losses happening since the turn of the millennia. Since 2000, Boise State's win percentage at home is 92.4%.
'That makes all the hard work worth it'
The Broncos have become a fearsome force at home in large part of Bronco Nation who packs the 51-year-old Albertsons Stadium. In the Broncos' home opener last week, UTEP had three false start penalties on offense, which is about on average the number of opponents' false starts on The Blue before the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2018 and 2019, Broncos' opponents had 44 false starts called, for an average of 3.14 per game, the highest in any stadium in the country during that span.
Boise State head coach Andy Avalos explained that The Blue does and means for the Broncos is exactly what home-field advantage is all about in college football.
"[Its] one of the best game-day atmospheres, you know, in terms of the energy in the stadium, how loud it is when the defense is playing on the field and special teams," he said.
The unique atmosphere given off by The Blue at Albertsons Stadium and the energy brought by Bronco Nation is something special to both the players and staff.
"That's why the guys work as hard as they do year-round. That's why the coaches work as hard as they do year-round. It's something different, you know, to be able to play in a stadium like that, that makes all the hard work worth it," Avalos said.
COWBOYS SEARCH FOR OFFENSIVE FIREPOWER
Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy is known for three things, being a man, having a mullet and coaching teams that can put points on the board in bunches. In 2021, only two of those have held true two games into the new season.
While Boise State is tied for 22nd in the country for post points score per game with 42.5, the Cowboys average 25.5 points per game this season, tied for 91st in the country.
The Cowboys' offense may struggle to put points on the board, they're still led by a veteran quarterback, junior Spencer Sanders, and have all the talent that comes with being a Power 5 school.
"I think looking at it and it's tough to judge after two games you know cause obviously, they've done a great job recruiting, they have the athletes they have the o-line up front, they got the tight ends, they got a returning quarterback as a three-year starter," Co-defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson said in a press conference
He added that bringing Sanders back in under center attributed to some of Oklahoma State's offensive troubles against lesser teams but said the team is still excited for the matchup.
"I think Coach Gundy and the offensive staff do a phenomenal job, they've been doing a great job on offense for a long time. And, I think their quarterbacks really good, number three Spencer Sanders, I think he had, he can run, he can throw the ball mile he's got good receivers on the outside and inside he's got some physical tight ends."
Danielson added that while some of the Cowboys' offensive line left last year, but their coaches are great and the offense will try to confuse the defense between defending the run and their different pass options.
Head coach Andy Avalos explained that Sanders can be a factor in the run game and has enough experience within Gundy's system to have success quickly.
'We're gonna have a tremendous challenge on our hands'
Sanders went 15 of 26 passing for 173 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
"Number one, a guy who's played a lot of football, an experienced player that can do it, he can extend plays with his legs," Avalos said. "So, you got a quarterback that has a ton of experience, and is, you know, being coached by really good coaches so we're gonna have a tremendous challenge on our hands."
Avalos added that the Cowboys have a strong offensive line, their running backs are one of their strengths and have ball carriers "that run behind their pads and got some elite speed."
If the Cowboys' offense struggles on The Blue on Saturday, they'll have a strong defense that'll be a challenge for the Broncos, according to Tim Plough.
"They got a lot of returning starters, guys that have played a lot of football, they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback because they're just, you know, it's kind of like Star Wars out there, you can't really identify what the front is, there's just people moving all over the place a lot of confusion," Plough explained. "So we got our hands full this week."
Quarterback Hank Bachmeier said the offense's focus needs to be on execution against the Cowboys.
"I think they're very ferocious on defense, I think that their, their shell, the back end, is very interesting," he said. "They create a lot of confusion on the quarterback. They run fit really well with the safeties coming down to play with the three safeties set."
Game Information: How to watch the game
Oklahoma State (2-0, 0-0 Big 12) at Boise State (1-1, 0-0 MWC)
- Saturday, Sept. 17
- Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
- Capacity: 36,387
- Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. MT
- Channel: Fox Sports 1
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
BRONCO ROUNDUP GAMEDAY
KTVB's Bronco Roundup Game Day show will be live on KTVB, KTVB.COM, and on the KTVB mobile app at 6:00 p.m. MT on Saturday. 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.
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.
Nearly three years to the day, on Sept. 15, 2018, the Boise State Broncos traveled to Stillwater, OK to take on the Cowboys in a Top 25 matchup.
While the Broncos were ranked higher at 17th in the country, the then-No. 25 Cowboys showed who was the better team with a 21-44 win over Boise State.
In 2018, KTVB columnist Tom Scott explained what went wrong for the Broncos in Stillwater.
"What happened to the Broncos’ special teams, as in two easy blocked punts that produced 14 OSU points, was stunning," Scott wrote. "But the futility of the Boise State offensive line against the relentlessly quick Oklahoma State defense, as in seven sacks allowed, actually tells us something else. It shows that the Group of 5, even the best among ‘em, is going to have trouble keeping up with elite Power 5 talent as the financial gap keeps widening."
Boise State head coach Andy Avalos noted in his press conference that poor tackling is what doomed the Broncos in 2018.
"They are notoriously a physical team in terms of the ball carriers and again we did not do a good job last time we played them," he said.
In college football, just like the rest world, has dramatically changed in the three years since the Broncos and Cowboys played. Boise State entered the 2021 season with a whole new coaching staff, led by first-year head coach Andy Avalos. Back in 2018, Boise State's head coach was former quarterback and Capital High School alum Bryan Harsin, who bolted from Boise just before Christmas in 2019 for the University of Auburn Tigers of the Southeastern Conference.
In addition to the Broncos finding their way under a new coaching staff, both Boise State and Oklahoma State are navigating a shifting college football landscape.
The Cowboys started the season with two of its long-time conference foes, Oklahoma and Texas, announcing that they were ditching the Big 12 Conference for the SEC in the next few years.
The Big 12 then invited UCF, University of Houston, University of Cinncinati and Bringham Young University to the conference. Boise State was yet again the bridesmaid and not the bride in the latest round of college football conference realignment, as of now.
With rumors already brewing that the Big 12 could expand again soon, with Boise State and the University of Memphis from the American Athletic Conference reportedly atop of the list, the Broncos and Cowboys could play as conference foes in the next few years, if everything works out just right for Boise State.
Boise State's all-time record versus Oklahoma State:
- Sept. 15, 2018 - L - 21-44 (Stillwater)
Attending the game: What fans need to know about going to the game
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.
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)
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.
FAN COLOR SCHEME
For Boise State's home game against Oklahoma State, Bronco Nation is asked to wear blue when they attend the game at Albertsons Stadium. The fan color scheme for the entire stadium is blue.
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 types of liquor bottles 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.
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: