Game Week: Idaho vs. BSU

To say that Idaho has had troubles with BSU over the last 3 years is an understatement. Although Idaho leads the 3 decades old series, the last 3 games have been blowouts in favor of BSU. This year's battle with Boise State takes place in the Treasure Valley, and unlike years past, ALL the preseason hype has been cast upon the Bronco program. No surprise.

This off-season, however, Idaho has quietly undergone a much needed defensive overhaul featuring a new defensive staff and a slew of new players, and returns most of an offense that last year ranked 6th in the nation in total yards, and averaged 39 points per game in conference play.

So, who is this BSU team? Below is a quick snap-shot at the team being picked by several publications to win the WAC. They definitely have some talented weapons, particularly on offense, and a veteran defense (particularly the backfield). But the Broncos also have some very big shoes to fill as well.


Offense:

Points, points, point. BSU has put them up in buckets over the past 3 years (on just about every team they've played), and there are few reasons to expect them not to be capable of doing it again this year. The specialists are a veteran group led by Quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie (6-1, 189), a junior who last season put up 3,043 yards passing and led his team to 7 victories in his first season as a starter. His targets are a veteran, deep group of wide receivers and a couple of fleet footed tailbacks out of the backfield. In a bit of a twist this year, BSU is experimenting with lining-up both senior Brock Forsey (6-0, 198) and David Mikell (5-11, 204) in the backfield at the same time. This combination, which presents 2 backs who have had years of success both running the ball and taking off on passing routes, will likely be a challenge for most defenses to contain.

The wideouts are a veteran bunch led by 3 standout seniors. The go-to receiver in the past has been Jay Swillie, a big target at 6-3, 214 pounds. But this off-season Billy Wingfield (5-10, 176) has been getting a lot of work with Dinwiddie and should be among his preferred targets. Senior Lou Fanucchi (5-11, 195) is the play-maker for the Broncos and has averaged about 20 yards per catch over his career. Junior Tim Gilligan (5-8, 164) is working his way up the depth chart and is a threat anywhere on the field. Sophomore walk-on T.J. Acree of Pocatello has had a good fall and should contribute this year as well.

The tightend position has some big shoes to fill with the departure of Jeb Putzier to the NFL. This position will probably be filled by committee, with the likely starter being senior Rocky Atkinson, who saw time last year primarily as a blocker. The shelf is hardly bare, however, within the depth chart. The list includes Mike Fine (6-0, 236), a JC transfer who converted from DE, and a couple names from last season in junior Kevin Louwsma (6-4, 247) and part-time fullback, senior Matt Strohfus (6-2, 241). Transfers Andy Weldon (6-3, 244) and Trent Lundin (6-3, 231) will also likely figure into the mix.

The offensive line returns 2 talented starters in senior center Scott Huff (6-2, 300), who underwent off-season knee surgery, and right guard Rob Vian (6-5, 316). Left guard will be manned by oft-injured but talented senior Matt Navest (6-4, 297), who missed all of last season with a knee injury. The tackles will see a couple of young first year starters who have emerged at the top of the depth chart this fall. Redshirt freshman Darryn Colledge (6-5, 288) is the projected starter at one tackle, while sophomore Rusty Colburn (6-5, 313) tops the list on the other side of the line. The depth chart behind these guys is mostly young and unproven, and could become an issue if any of the starters go down with a serious injury this fall.


Defense:

The Broncos boast a new defensive coordinator, but will be running the same defense first introduced last season. With 7 returning starters, including preseason WAC Defensive Player of the Year candidate Quinten Mikell, BSU should be a stronger team defensively this season after struggling much of 2001 to stop the run. The interior defensive line is still small by Division 1-A standards, but these guys are tough as nails and they showed their mettle last year by beating then-ranked #8 Fresno State on ESPN. Senior Bobby Hammer (6-2, 266) is the foundation up front, and will likely be joined by junior Paul Allen (6-2, 293) on the interior. Senior Tony Altieri (5-10, 280), a feisty left tackle who has recovered from a serious neck injury suffered mid-way through last season, should see plenty of action as well. Both defensive ends will be first year starters this year. Senior Ryan Nelson (6-1, 237) tops the chart on the right defensive end, while the left end will be manned by either sophomore Julius Roberts (6-5, 240) or JC transfer Loa Emmsley (6-4, 280), a big, highly regarded transfer originally out of Hawai'i. Roberts is young and has tremendous physical potential to be a dominant 1-A defensive end, and they are looking for him to step up his game this fall. Look for Roberts and Emmsley to share duties early and often for BSU.

The defensive backfield is a veteran, confident group that should be the strength of the BSU defense. The leader, of course, is veteran senior Rover Quinten Mikell (5-10, 206), a solid DB who has been at or near the top of the BSU tackle count each of the past 2 years. Junior Wes Nurse (5-10, 187) is the starting free safety, but expect to see sophomore Deshan Cabaong (6-1, 187) regularly. The corners go 2-deep with good speed and athletic ability. The starters figure to be junior Julius Brown (5-10, 176) and Gabe Franklin (5-10, 177), a sophomore who made his debut last season and did well. Junior Machtier Clay (5-10, 185) transferred to bsu from Arizona State, and is the fastest player on the team. Redshirt freshman Lee Marks (5-7, 173) should see plenty of action this season. All-in-all, the starters all have a year of experience under their belt, and should be the leaders of the defensive unit.

The linebacking corp could be a concern for the Broncos this season. One of last year's starting linebackers, LaGary Mitchell quit the football team this off-season, plus expected backup middle linebacker, redshirt freshman Chris Barrios, was suspended from the team for fall camp and will not be participating in the game with Idaho. To fill gaps BSU has moved one safety up to the linebacking corp, and a group of youngsters should see action this weekend. Senior Chauncey Ako (5-11, 222) anchors this group at middle linebacker and is the leader of the group. Two players who saw occasional starts last season, sophomore Andy Avalos (5-10, 213) and senior Kris Foster (5-11, 225), should see time at the weakside linebacker spot. The strongside linebacker will be manned by converted safety junior Travis Burgher (6-1, 214) and Kameron Merritt (6-2, 232). Keep your eyes open also for 2 true freshmen, Korey Hall (of Glenns Ferry, Idaho) and Jaren Hunter.


Special Teams

If there is an area on the team that could seriously be considered a risk, it's the guys responsible for booting the ball. Injuries have had a major impact as steady place kicker Nick Calaycay is out for a couple weeks with an MCL injury suffered when a player collided with him during a scrimmage, and punter Keith Schuttler was lost for the first half of the season due to an Achille's tendon injury suffered during the spring. They also must replace the long snapper.

The place kicker penciled in to start is Tyler Jones, a sophomore who's never attempted a field goal in a college game (he is a kickoff specialist). Punting duties will fall to converted QB, redshirt freshman Sean Steichen. Senior Matt Strohfus has won long snapping duties this fall.

The struggles with the kicking game, however, are not at all present on the kick-off return and kickoff coverage units. The return group returns practically everybody from last season, and Tyler Jones has proven to be a weapon kicking the ball from a tee (he routinely puts it through the endzone).


Idaho Keys to The Game:

1. Vandal DL must apply heat to Bronco backfield: There is absolutely no way Idaho can win this game if Dinwiddie is able to pick and choose his receivers, and if Forsey and Mikell are allowed to run wild. Without pressure, that combination could pick apart most teams. BSU has talent up front on the line, but a lot of youth…this is definitely one situation where the old adage "Its won in the trenches" applies. Without question, a strong defensive line push will greatly help the linebackers and defensive backs.

2. Maintain composure: Last year Idaho started 7 first year starters on offense, and 7 on defense, and it showed with an unusual array of personal fouls, mistakes, and lost concentration. This game, as it has always been, is tough enough without these momentum changing set-backs.

3. Score early: Idaho last year did a good job of marching up-and-down the field between the 20s, but stalled in the redzone multiple times. Idaho needs to put points on the board early to avoid playing catch-up, and to give the defense some margin.




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