BOISE, Idaho--The Boise State football team is on the road at Colorado State this Saturday in a key divisional matchup in the Mountain West Conference. The Rams were 10-3 last season and Boise State needs a win to keep pace with Air Force, New Mexico and Utah State, all of whom sport 1-0 conference records in the Mountain Division.
Mike Bobo left his offensive coordinator job at Georgia to take the helm at Colorado State. Dating back to 2012, the Rams have won 14 of 17 home games, their best performance since 1997-2001. Bobo's offensive-minded strategy has guided CSU to 442.2 yards of total offense, second in the Mountain West Conference.
Boise State has won all four previous meetings, though the Rams scored first in each of the last two years. Colorado State jumped out to a 10-0 two years ago in the last meeting between the two teams in Fort Collins. The Rams outgained the Broncos in total yards (626-437) and controlled the clock (40:00 to 20:00), only to lose 42-30. After Boise State's 37-24 victory last season, the Rams went on a tear to win a school record nine-consecutive games. games for 1,129 yards and 10 touchdowns vs. 5 interceptions.
Purdue transfer Dalyn Dawkins (5-9, 1975, So.) and Jasen Oden, Jr. (5-11, 220, Sr.) pack a 1-2 punch at running back, while senior Nuuvali Faapito is the fullback. Oden has 87 carries for 382 yards, while Dawkins has rushed 54 times for 286 yards (5.2 avg. per carry). Oden ran for 143 yards last week in a victory over UT-San Antonio.
(Wotchit video produced by Rod Couch of BroncoCountry)
Junior wide receiver Rashard Higgins (6-2, 190) was a Biletnikoff Award finalist last year, a consensus All-American who led the nation in both receiving yards (1,750) and TD receptions (17). Although he has been somewhat bothered by a foot sprain that kept him out of the Minnesota game, Higgins has 30 catches for 426 yards and four scores this season. While all Bronco eyes are focused on Higgins, other Ram receivers, including Joe Hansley (5-10, 180, Sr.), Deionte Gaines (5-8, 180, So.) and tight end Kivon Cartwright (6-4, 245, Sr.), hope to break free for catches of their own. The Colorado State receiving corps leads the nation with 7,592 career yards between them.
Up front, senior right tackle Sam Carlson (6-4, 295) leads the Rams. He'll be joined on the line by center Jake Bennett (6-3, 295, So.), guards Zack Golditch (6-6, 290, So.) and Fred Zerblis (6-3, 295, Jr.) and left tackle Nick Callender (6-3, 315, Jr.)
(BroncoCountry video by Rod Couch)
Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates is wary of what the Rams can do offensively.
Four seniors on the CSD defensive line will greet the inconsistent Bronco offensive line. Martavius Foster (6-4, 270) and Joe Kawulok (6-6, 250) will line up at end, with Justin Hansen (6-5, 305) and nose tackle Terry Jackson (6-1, 295) inside.
Another senior, Cory James (6-0, 245), leads the Ram defense with 36 tackles, 5.5 for loss, along with junior Kevin Davis (6-3, 240, Jr.), who also has 36 tackles on the season. Kiel Robinson (6-2, 225, So.) will join Davis at outside linebacker.
Colorado State features an outstanding secondary. DeAndre Elliot (6-1, 185, Sr.) and Preston Hodges (5-11, 200, Jr.) will be the cornerbacks, while Trent Matthews (6-3, 210, Sr.) is the strong safety and Kevin Pierre-Louis (6-1, 215, Sr.) is the free safety. Pierre-Louis is third on the Rams with 33 tackles, while Elliot paces CSU with two interceptions.
(BroncoCountry video by Rod Couch)
The Rams are especially tough on third downs, allowing opponents to convert just 25.7% of third-down opportunities to place eighth in the county. Boise State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz thinks highly of the CSU defense.
Punter Hayden Hunt is ninth in the nation with an average of 42.0 yards per boot.
Boise State has been ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls for at least one week in each of the past fourteen seasons. The Broncos are 13th in scoring offense at 40.4 points a game and 8th in scoring defense, allowing 12.4 points a contest. This Boise State team seems to understand the importance of first downs--they rank 19th on offense with 118 first downs through five games, and 11th on defense, allowing opponents just 68.
Ever since true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien came in for an injured Ryan Finley against Idaho State, the Bronco offense has been on fire. Rypien has gone 51-69 (73.9%) for 718 yards and six touchdowns through the air.
Shane Williams-Rhodes pulled in four passes last week in Boise State's 55-0 victory over Hawaii and with two more, will become the fourth receiver in Boise State history to reach 200 career catches. Matt Miller (2011-2014), currently a graduate assistant coach with the Broncos, is the school's record holder with 244, Austin Pettis and Titus Young (both 2007-2010) had 229 and 204 career receptions, respectively.
Chaz Anderson set career highs last week with five receptions for 95 yards and is the Broncos' chief deep threat, averaging 17.2 yards a catch this season. Dependable Thomas Sperbeck has turned circus catches into commonplace, with 22 grabs for 348 yards and three touchdowns.
Jeremy McNichols leads the nation with 10 rushing touchdowns and has gained 381 yards on the ground. Stanford transfer Kelsey Young recorded a career-high 69 yards rushing on 12 carries last week, and Ryan Wolpin saw his first action as a Bronco, carrying 10 times for 40 yards.
Defensively, the Broncos are led by their front seven, which to date are allowing 51.8 yards on the ground, good for second in the country behind Boston College (43.4). And, paced by 34 career interceptions between them, cornerback Donte Deayon and safety Darian Thompson lead a Boise State defense that paces the nation with 11 so far this year. Deayon and Thompson, with 17 career interceptions each, is the most prolific pair of pick men since cornerback Frank Robinson (22) and safety Darrin Lyle (15) piled up 37 while playing together from 1988-1991.
Bronco placekicker Tyler Rausa has emerged as one of the country's most reliable specialists, connecting on 9-of-10 field goal tries (13th in the nation in accuracy). Rausa is also fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 51 points.
Of course, Boise State hasn't achieved those numbers against Colorado State nor Utah State, the Broncos' next two road opponents and Mountain Division rivals.
The Broncos and Rams meet up in Hughes Stadium this afternoon at 5.