BOISE - The Boise State football team will open the 2016 season on the road against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.v
Both the Ragin' Cajuns and the Broncos are looking to improve after relatively lackluster campaigns last season. UL Lafayette is coming off just four wins and no bowl game in 2015. Meanwhile the Broncos went 9-4 and missed out on the conference championship game - considered a down season for a program that has the best winning percentage in the country over the last 15 years - but ended the season a positive note with a 55-7 trouncing of Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl.
The teams have faced each other just once previously - two years ago at Albertsons Stadium. The Broncos won that game 34-9.
- Saturday, Sept. 3
- 10 a.m. Mountain Time
- Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana
HOW TO WATCH THE GAME
Boise State fans have grown accustomed to watching their team play on national television. In fact, the Broncos have appeared on networks like ESPN and CBS Sports 63 times in the last five seasons. And over that same time frame, the Broncos' openers have been top-billed matchups against teams like Washington, Ole Miss, Michigan State and Georgia. This season is a little different. Boise State faces a Sun Belt team with little name recognition; Hence, Boise State fans are going to have to work a little harder to watch their team in action.
The game will only be available on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app in the state of Idaho. While the game will be available in other parts of the country on the American Sports Network, it will not be available on television in the Boise market.
In order to stream the game on your computer, go to watchespn.com and search through the scheduled events to find the game. You will need to enter your TV or internet provider to watch the game.
On streaming devices, including tablets, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, ect., fans can download the WatchESPN app.
BRONCO ROUNDUP GAME DAY
KTVB's Bronco Roundup Game Day show will be live from the Cajun Field before the game from 9 to 10 a.m. on KTVB, KTVB.COM, and in the Bronco Roundup app.
LSU TRANSFER TO START AT QB
Quarterback Anthony Jennings has only been practicing with the Ragin' Cajuns for a few weeks, and he's already been named starter for the team's home opener against Boise State. Jennings, who graduated from LSU this summer, is eligible to play immediately thanks to the NCAA graduate transfer rule.
The 6-2, 231-pound Marietta, Georgia native started 12 games for the Tigers in 2014, throwing for 1,611 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions. During that season he led LSU to come-from-behind wins over Ole Miss, Florida and Wisconsin. He played sparingly in 2015, acting as backup to Brandon Harris.
Coaches speak highly of his big play ability and his skill at game management. Announced as the started after fall camp, Jennings beat out sophomore Jordan Davis and senior Jalen Nixon.
"He's got a live arm, I mean the guy can sling it," said Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. "And he's athletic, he can run it. He's a huge running back when he gets that ball in his hands. Obviously that creates some challenges in the run game."
RAGIN' CAJUNS WEAPON
While Jennings has received a lot of the headlines in recent weeks, Boise State coaches are not overlooking the Ragin' Cajuns' biggest play-maker of the last few seasons - running back Elijah McGuire.
This from the The Scott Slant:
McGuire has 3,185 career rushing yards going into his senior season, including back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns. ULL intends to find out quickly whether the rebuilt Boise State defensive line has what it takes Saturday morning. And if the Broncos lose track of McGuire, he’ll burn them through the air. He has 100 career receptions for 1,145 yards. The Cajuns will line him up all over the place.McGuire scored Louisiana-Lafayette’s only touchdown, a seven-yard run, in a 34-9 loss to Boise State on the blue turf two years ago. The Ragin’ Cajuns could not run on Boise State that night—they only tried 23 times, and McGuire netted just 31 yards on even carries. ULL had star quarterback Terrance Broadway throw 38 times, and half of his 20 completions went to McGuire for 106 yards. He was the Ragin’ Cajuns’ weapon, and he still is. And Cajun Field and its steamy air is his comfort zone.
McGuire is most definitely on Boise State's radar. Coach Bryan Harsin said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday that McGuire and Jennings working in tandem makes for a dangerous combination.
"Just look at the stats, he's done about everything," Harsin said of McGuire. "He's on every watch list, was the player of the year in '14. This guy is a very good player, he can certainly go, and to have those two guys in the backfield certainly is going to put a lot of pressure on any team they play. "
Saturday's game marks Brett Rypien's first season-opening start. The plan last year was to redshirt the true freshman and start Ryan Finley. That plan worked for all of three games, until Finley broke his ankle during a five yard run against Idaho State. Thus began the Brett Rypien era at Boise State. In the final 10-and-a-half games of the season, the Spokane, Washington native threw for 3,353 yards and 20 touchdowns with just eight interceptions.
Rypien was the first Bronco quarterback to average over 300 yards passing per game since Ryan Dinwiddie in 2003. He was also the first true freshman quarterback to earn first-team All-Mountain West honors. Over the summer he was named to three preseason watch lists.
At the completion of fall camp, Rypien was named season captain, along with seniors Sam McCaskill, Ben Weaver and Thomas Sperbeck. He is the first sophomore in at least a decade to serve as a season-long captain.
Going into his sophomore campaign, Rypien will have plenty of targets, including wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck and running back Jeremy McNichols.
Sperbeck is coming off an historic 2015 season, in which he broke the school record for receiving yards in a single-season (1,412) and tied the all-time mark for receptions (88). Both of those numbers led the Mountain West. He was named to the Biletnikoff Award Preseason Watch List in July.
In his first season as a starter, McNichols rushed for 1,337 yards and 26 all-purpose touchdowns, which tied for second most in the FBS last season and are the most of any returning players in 2016. As a sophomore in 2015, the aptly nicknamed "McWeapon" averaged 114.4 rushing yards per game, and racked up 460 receiving yards on the season. McNichols has been named to preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award and Doak Walker Award.
Including the aforementioned trio of weapons, the Broncos return eight starters on an offense that ranked 15th nationally in scoring (39.1 points per game) and total yards (501.5 yards per game) last season.
"We've got a lot of weapons," said co-offensive coordinator Zak Hill after the team's final fall scrimmage. "It's fun to have those guys, and it makes it tough on a defensive coordinator when you can't just focus in on one guy."
Not to be overlooked is Boise State's solid, and experienced, offensive line, which boasts three returning starters and several more who saw extensive playing time.
QUESTIONS ON DEFENSE
Both the Broncos and Ragin' Cajuns lost a number of starters to graduation on the defensive side of the ball.
The Broncos return just five starters, and have a few holes to fill on the line and in the secondary. Fortunately, the Broncos have experience and depth at linebacker with returning veterans Ben Weaver, Tanner Vallejo and Joey Martarano.
Despite the losses on the line and in the secondary, the Broncos have talent on the depth chart, and coaches say younger players have stepped up through the spring and fall camps to compete for starting spots.
"They're so hungry and ready to go and use what they've learned from their coaches and whoever it was that was in front of them," said Avalos at the start of fall camp. "There's no question they are motivated; it's their shot, it's their opportunity."
Their goal - to avoid a drop-off from last year's squad, which held opponents to just 20 points per game and 318 yards per game. Against the run, the Broncos were among the best in the nation (5th), allowing just 108 rushing yards per game.
Meanwhile, the Ragin' Cajuns are in the midst of a major rebuild, particularly on defense, which is loaded with underclassmen. During the offseason, the team signed 21 new players, 13 of them on defense. Only a handful of players on the current team were around for the game against Boise State in 2014.
“They don’t know much about Boise other than seeing them on TV,” coach Mark Hudspeth told the Acadiana Advocate. “Some of them that made that trip know how good those guys are in person.”
“Boise will be a huge measuring stick,” Hudspeth added. “They’re one of the best, if not the best, 'Group of Five' teams in the country. But here, we feel like we have a much better shot against them at home.”
Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson says the strength of Louisiana's residents has been on display in the wake of devastating floods that hit areas around Baton Rouge and Lafayette.
Recently, members of the Louisiana-Lafayette football team visited Youngsville, La., to help flooding victims clear out debris and start to move forward.
Benson told KTVB he's been in close contact with the university's leaders, and doesn't think there will be any impact on the game or fans coming to Louisiana for the season-opener.