Boise State is set to resume one of the oldest rivalries in its history Friday when the Broncos host Idaho State. The Broncos and Bengals have tangled 30 times since 1968, a match up behind only Nevada (41 games) and Idaho (40).
The two teams haven't met in five years, but started their rivalry in 1964. Bengal coach Mike Kramer took his team to the FCS playoffs a year ago, earning 2014 Big Sky Conference of the Year honors and finishing seventh in balloting for the Eddie Robinson Award (given annually to the nation's outstanding FCS coach) in the process.
ISU rushed for 2,567 yards and chalked up 6,744 yards and 64 touchdowns last season in rewriting school records in all of those categories. The Bengals opened the 2015 season with a 55-0 whitewashing of Black Hills State before suffering a 24-14 loss to Portland State, a team which knocked off Washington State in the season opener.
The Portland State win over WSU was one of four wins by FCS teams over FBS teams this season. South Dakota State beat Kansas, North Dakota defeated Wyoming and Fordham stopped Army. Last weekend, Jacksonville State nearly beat #6 Auburn.
But Boise State's difficulties this year haven't been because they did not show enough respect for their opponents, but rather they perhaps are not showing enough respect for themselves. The Broncos were 11 1/1 point favorites against Washington but held on to win 16-13, and then were favored against BYU and held 10-point leads twice in the fourth quarter only to lose 35-24. Thus far, Boise State has lacked the mentality to finish off a team. When they have had a team down, they haven't kept them down.
Michael Sanders (6-3, 221) is a first-year starting quarterback, just as his counterpart Ryan Finley is. But while Finley has thrown just one touchdown pass, Sanders has already tossed seven--Sanders is 35-of-57 passing for 455 yards.
Sanders will be looking to a group of receivers led by senior Madison Mangum (6-2, 212), the brother of BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum. Madison has been on the receiving end of eight passes for 112 yards in two games. Josh Cook (6-3, 220), Hagen Graves (6-1, 179) and KW Williams (6-1, 212) will also be roaming the Bronco secondary looking for busted coverages.
The Bengals have averaged 279.5 yards through the air this season, and is probably their strength. They, however, are more than capable of running the ball, churning out 447 yards in two games (4.6 yards a game). Xavier Finney (6-3, 220), Jakori Ford (5-8, 185) and Braedon Mitchell (5-11, 223) will share the load in the ISU backfield.
Boise State fell last week to BYU in Provo 35-24 in a game in which the Broncos had 10-point leads twice in the fourth quarter but could not finish the Cougars off.
Finley completed 25-of-38 attempts last week for 297 yards and a touchdown, but also threw three interceptions. The Bengals have allowed just 94 passing yards per game so far.
(BroncoCountry photo by Rod Couch)
Adding to Boise State's problems this week is the fact that the Bronco offensive line has not sustained blocks long enough to generate more than a meager ground game--Boise State ranks 11th out of 12 teams in the Mountain West in rushing. Junior college transfer Jake Pettit (6-3, 232) is proving to be a valuable addition to the Bengal defense. Pettit had 111 tackles, 14 for loss, three sacks, three forced fumbles and three pass breakups for Santa Barbara City College last season. Like Pettit, Hayden Stout (6-2, 230) also has 16 tackles this season for Idaho State.
The last time the Bengals won (1987) came a year after Boise State first installed their blue turf. Kickoff is set for tonight at 7 in Albertsons Stadium.