The Broncos were 5-1 overall, and 2-0 in the MWC when they traveled to Logan, Utah last October. Things were looking good for the defending conference champions, who had also finished the 2014 season with a win in the Fiesta Bowl over Arizona.
That seemingly normal Friday night in Maverik Stadium would turn out to be anything but that as the Aggies were up big 45-10 at the half. Boise State ended the game with eight turnovers, but seven of those were in the first two quarters of play. To say the game was ugly is probably an understatement. The final score was 52-26, but the game didn’t even feel that close.
Fast forward to 2016, and the Broncos have a shot at redemption. Of course, it’s not the same exact two teams meeting on The Blue tonight in Boise, but many of these players were a part of that debacle in the shadows of the Wasatch Mountain, and you have to believe Boise State is gunning to set things right.
Players to Watch for Boise State
Quarterback: Sophomore Brett Rypien
Rypien looked great in the opener, and at times looked equally impressive in two subsequent games against Pac-12 opponents. However, he also struggled in those contests, and currently is completing just 57.7 percent of his passes. That’s much less than the Broncos are used to from their quarterback. It is also nearly six points lower than his 2015 overall statistics. Against Oregon State last week he had a few throws that were uncharacteristically over the heads of his targets, and at times has held on to the ball a bit too long in the pocket. He will need to step up his performance tonight against the Aggies, and help his team put together a complete game.
Running Back: Jeremy McNichols
McNichols had a career day last week against the Beavers. He carried the ball 28 times for 208 yards, and three touchdowns. He also had four receptions for 20 yards, and another TD. He was a huge part of helping Boise State amass a 31-7 lead at the half. He did not play last season against Utah State, and you have to think he is anxious to get on the field tonight. He should be a huge difference maker in this game.
These two receivers have been solid this season. Sperbeck and Wilson are both former high school quarterbacks, and each has shown the ability to throw this season. Last week it was Wilson’s turn as he completed a 23-yard pass to tight end Alec Dhaenens. On the season Wilson has also caught 12 passes for 219 yards, and a touchdown. However, last week his production was down, but look for him to be even more involved in the game plan tonight. Sperbeck is a fan favorite, and has impressed with his ability to catch passes that seem impossible. He currently leads the team in receptions with 19, and has 367 yards and two touchdowns. He will be another key to victory tonight on The Blue.
Boise State Defense: Linebackers
Right now Tanner Vallejo name appears on the depth chart. However, he left the game last week with an undisclosed injury. He is a difference maker, and if he can’t play tonight the Broncos will feel his loss. Good thing for Boise State that they are loaded at linebacker. Of course, in saying that it still isn’t certain how healthy starting middle linebacker Joe Martarano is. If he is 100 percent he is also a difference maker, and will need to have a great game. Ben Weaver is having an outstanding year, and he must continue to roll against the Aggies. Backups Darren Lee, Blake Whitlock, and Leighton Vander Esch will need to bring their best game as well to make sure the Broncos contain the sometimes mobile quarterback on the other side of the ball.
Utah State lost their best running back last week to injury (Devante Mays), and backup Tonny Lindsey was ineffective against Air Force carrying 17 times for just 18 yards. His longest run in the game was eight yards, but as the stats indicate, he didn’t get much else done. If the defensive line of Boise State continues to shut down the run game as they have done so far this season, look for the Aggies to do what they can in the air. This will put some pressure on the Broncos young secondary, and it will be a key battle all game long. The secondary is well coached this season, and so far has impressed. They should be able to contain the Aggies passing attack.
Utah State: Quarterback Kent Myers
For the Aggies they are going to have to find a way to move the ball on the ground to keep this game in striking distance. As previously mentioned, they are most likely without their premier running back, and backups have been less-than-stellar. Junior quarterback Kent Myers will have to carry a heavy load tonight in Alberstons Stadium. Not only will he need to move the ball through the air, but he will need to use his mobile ability to keep the Broncos honest on defense.
Myers has some talented targets to throw to. Last week against Air Force sophomore Ron'quavion Tarver caught nine passes for 143 yards, and his teammate Andrew Rodriguez caught seven for 64 yards. Both of them, and freshman Rayshad Lewis will challenge the Broncos. Rayshad has caught 12 passes this season for 185 yards, and is flying a bit under the radar. However, you know BSU coaches and players know all too well about his abilities.
Utah State Defense:
The real strength of the Aggies last season was the defense. Although they are not as stacked in 2016, they are still one of the best in the MWC on that side of the ball. They, like the Broncos, have a talented group of linebackers. Last week against Air Force Anthony Williams and fellow linebacker Alex Huerta combined for 24 tackles. On the line nose guard Travis Seefeldt stepped up with seven tackles, and senior defensive end Ricky Aliifua recorded a sack. This group will have their work cut out for them as they attempt to slow down McNichols and that potent ground game of Boise State. The secondary will also have its hands full, and will most likely be without starting safety Dallin Leavitt, who left last week’s contest with an injury.
Update: 8:00 P.M. MST - Injury Updates Boise State: All injury updates are not confirmed, and are not official
Safety Evan Tyler (Out for the season, knee)
Tight End Jake Roh (Available)
Linebacker Joe Martarano (Available)
Linebacker Tanner Vallejo (Out tonight)
Safety Kameron Miles (Available)
Center Mason Hampton (Out tonight)
Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Serving four game suspension)
Injury Updates: Utah State
Running Back Devante Mays (Knee, most likely out versus Boise State)
Safety Dallin Leavitt (Ankle, out indefinitely)