Geoff Burke, USA Today Sports

Boise State Broncos Look To Establish Themselves As A Major Bowl-Worthy Team Against the Virginia Cavaliers

This week, Boise State travels cross country to take on a Virginia team hungry for a win. The Cavaliers have already taken on two Top 25 teams (UCLA and Notre Dame). With the playoff committee watching, it will be Boise State's last high-profile game in which to make their case for a major bowl game.

Boise State will try to continue its winning ways when the Broncos take on the University of Virginia Friday night in Charlottesville.  The Cavaliers got in the winning column last week with a victory over William & Mary.  The Broncos have already lost a game this season and know that with the success of other top competitors for a New Year's 6 Bowl, they cannot afford another loss.

Virginia is averaging just less than 112 yards per game on the ground while giving up 183.  Through the air, Virginia is averaging just over what they give up, generating 263 yards per game while allowing 261.  

Virginia has something in common with another Boise State opponent--both BYU and Virginia have played UCLA.  The Cavaliers lost to the Bruins 34-16 in the season opener, while last week BYU held the lead over UCLA much of the game before losing 24-23.  In Virginia's case, the biggest factor in their loss was that three first-half drives ended in field goals rather than touchdowns.  Bruin quarterback Josh Rosen played with confidence despite his youth, and guided the UCLA attack to 503 yards of total offense against Virginia.  

"I just thought their receivers outplayed our corners," London noted.

The following week, the Cavaliers fared much better against Notre Dame.  Virginia held a 14-12 halftime lead and were tied at 27 until Fighting Irish reserve quarterback DeShone Kizer threw a 39-yard TD pass to Will Fuller for the winning touchdown with 12 seconds remaining.

Junior Matt Johns (6-5, 210 Jr.) will guide the Cavalier offense at quarterback against Boise State.  Johns has hit 64-of-96 passes for 790 yards and six TD's and three interceptions.  Playing catchup against UCLA, Johns went 9-of-20 in the second half. 

Taquan Mizzell (5-10, 195, Jr.) has been a multiple threat coming out of the backfield while Vincent Croce (6-4, 260, Sr.) is the fullback. Mizzell, who the Cavaliers like to call "Smoke", has carried 39 times for 155 yards (4.0 avg.) and added 17 catches for 233 yards (13.7 avg.) and two touchdowns.  Mizzell caught eight passes against UCLA in the season opener.  

Whereas last season, Mizzell came out of the game on third downs, Taquan has improved his overall game, including his pass blocking.  Coach London said, "First and foremost, we believe he's a dynamic guy.  The running opportunities present itself with the type of offense, off tackle, the jet sweeps--things like that."  "But it's also a guy we like to match up," London continued, "whether it's an outside linebacker, down safety.  Having had opportunities to do that, he can make you miss.  So his productivity is adequate in the run game.  Getting him the ball in space, he's really done a good job of that."

Senior Canaan Severin (6-2, 205), junior Keeon Johnson (6-3, 210) and senior T.J. Thorpe (6-0, 200) are the wideouts, with Charlie Hopkins (6-6, 255, Sr.) at tight end.  Severin is the top receiver with 19 catches for 264 yards (13.9 yards per catch) and a touchdown.  Thorpe returned to action last week in a limited role against William & Mary, and has had a good week of practice.  Hopkins was a teammate of Boise State's Kelsey Young at Stanford for four years, then after graduating, decided to transfer to Virginia.  Although Johns has spread the ball around (13 Cavaliers have at least one reception), no others have more than five catches in three games.

Jackson Matteo (6-5, 290, Jr.) is the Cavalier center, Sean Karl (6-6, 310, Jr.) and Ross Burbank (6-4, 310) are the guards and Eric Smith (6-5, 300, Sr.) and Michael Mooney (6-6, 290, Jr.) are the tackles.

The Bronco offense will be greeted by veterans  Kwontie Moore (6-2, 280, Sr.) and Trent Corney (6-3, 255, Sr.) at the ends and senior David Dean (6-1, 290) and sophomore Andrew Brown (6-4, 280) at tackle.

Michael Moore (6-4, 265, Sr.), Micah Kiser (6-4, 240, So.) and Zach Bradshaw (6-3, 235, Jr.) are the linebackers.  Thus far, Kiser is the leader of the group with 42 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and 3.5 sacks.  Coach London is happy with Micah's progress:  "He's a smart player, does very well in school.  He made the most of his reps in spring practice.  He sat in the meetings, listened to the adjustments and the checks.  Now it's his time."

Maurice Canady (6-2, 195, Jr.) and Demetrious Nicholson (5-11, 180, Jr.) are the Cavalier corners, Quin Blanding (6-2, 205, So.) will start at free safety while Kelvin Rainey (6-1, 195, So.) is the strong safety. Blanding has 25 tackles this year, with one for loss.

Ian Frye will handle placekicking duties, while Nicholas Conte is the punter.  Canady has already proven his worth at punt returner, taking three punt returns for 105 yards and a touchdown.  Dylan Sims is the kickoff return specialist.

Boise State will see a couple of faces familiar to Bronco fans on the Virginia sideline.  Larry Lewis, who played outside linebacker on Boise State's 1980 Division I-AA national championship team, is now the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator for the Cavaliers.  Since leaving Boise, Lewis has faced his alma mater several times--in 1997 and 1998 as an assistant for Washington State, in 2003 as the head coach at Idaho State, in 2011 while an assistant at Colorado State and again in 2012 when Lewis went to Nevada.

Virginia offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild was the head coach at Colorado State in 2011 when the Rams and Broncos met in Mountain West Conference play.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Mountain time Friday night.


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