Boise State Broncos vs. BYU Cougars: Game Preview

BOISE, ID - SEPTEMBER 20: Taysom Hill #4 of the BYU Cougars scores BYU's only touchdown against the Boise State Broncos at Bronco Stadium on September 20, 2012 in Boise, Idaho. - Otto Kitsinger III

Boise State takes to the road to play BYU in Provo in nonconference action in what could be their toughest game of the season.

WEEK9: Boise State Broncos vs. BYU Cougars

WHEN: Friday, October 25, 6:00 PM MT

WHERE: LaVell Edwards Stadium ( 63,470)

CONFERENCES: Mountain West (Boise State) vs. Independent (BYU)

2013 SEASON: Boise State, 5-2, 3-1 MWC; BYU, 5-2

COACHES: Boise State head coach Chris Petersen (89-10); BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall (79-31)

TV: ESPN

WEB STREAMING: WatchESPN

RADIO: Cougar Sports Network: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM/1160 AM) in the Salt Lake area--- Bronco Radio Network : KBOI (670 AM) and KKGL (96.9 FM) in the Boise area.

SERIES RECORD: 4th meeting. Boise State is 3-0 against BYU

LAST MEETING: 2012, in Bronco Stadium, Boise, ID, Boise State 7, BYU, 6

WEB SITES: Boise State official | BYU official

The Boise State Broncos will be in Provo, Utah this Friday to do battle with the BYU Cougars. Both have 5-2 records and both are coming off wins. Boise State’s last game was a bruising win over Nevada at home on Saturday, and BYU is riding a four game winning streak after a 46-45 win on Saturday over the Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference.

Two huge question marks remain over the recent turn of events in the Broncos camp. Foremost is the ability of QB Grant Hedrick, 6-0, 200 lbs, who is replacing starting QB Joe Southwick. Starting in the first game of his college career will Hedrick be able to lead the Broncos to victory against a tough BYU Cougar defense? And second, is the sometimes sluggish Broncos defense that often gives up long yardage to quality opponents ready to step up and play four straight quarters of solid football?

But BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall probably has a few concerns of his own about his Cougars. For one thing, in three tries BYU has failed to get a win over Boise State. He also knows that if the Cougars can continue their winning run, this game could be the one that will finally give them a victory over a team that is quickly becoming their nemesis. Another looming question is how will the change in Boise State’s quarterback situation alter the dynamics of the play action on Friday night?

What to expect when BYU has the ball: With wins against Texas, Georgia Tech, USU, and Houston, Mendenhall is eager to add Boise State’s scalp to the list. Considering that Boise State's defense gave up 246 yards to Nevada in the first half last Saturday, look for Cougar QB Taysom Hill, 6-2, 221 lbs, to do what he does best: use his running ability. Hill put up 681 total yards and accounted for 128 of those yards on the ground by himself. And expect him to keep the Bronco secondary guessing with a passing game that until last week was pretty mediocre. His arm was good enough to for 363 yards against a very good 5-0 Houston team. But Boise State defenders know his one weakness is throwing 8 interceptions against 9 TD’s this season so they will try to take advantage of that.

Boise State’s defense gives up huge yards in the open field before buckling down in the red zone for stops. Mendenhall knows they have problems stopping big drives. Last week in the first half Nevada used that weakness to eat up the clock, score some points, and keep the Broncos offense off the field. And that is something BYU is also good at. Last week BYU had five scoring drives in the first half that went for 70 yards or more. They also have a big weapon that can help with those scores if a drive stalls. Kicker Justin Sorensen, 6-1, 243 lbs, is 11 of 13 with field goals on the year, and 6 of 7 have come from 30-39 yards out.

That is why it is imperative that last week’s Bronco defensive standouts C Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 170 lbs, LB Ben Weaver, 6-0, 233 lbs, and DE Demarcus Lawrence, 6-3, 244 lbs, bring their A-game to Provo and hit the ground running to the ball. Boise State cannot spot BYU a double-digit lead in the first half and expect to return home with the win.

What to expect when Boise State has the ball: Broncos offensive coach Robert Prince will need the Broncos to score early and often if he wants to be in it at halftime. That could be a tall order for a general who has a new commander at the helm. Like I said before, QB Grant Hedrick will be starting in his first full game against a tough, hardened Cougar defense. Will Prince allow him to throw passes early to balance a running game after he tossed an interception on his first drove last week against the Wolf Pack? My guess is yes, as Hedrick finished 18 of 21 for 150 yards. And you can look for WR’s Matt Miller, 6-3, 218 lbs, and Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 158 lbs, to be two of his main targets. If Houston can be a bellwether then you have to consider that of their 483 total yards against BYU, 435 were though the air and only 48 were on the ground.

Still, Hedrick and RB Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 215 lbs, will have to test the Cougar D-line for a soft spot and use the run to try to keep the ball away from the BYU offense. The Broncos had 407 rushing yards last week, but they are well aware that BYU is not Nevada. And just because the Cougars let Houston roll up big yardage and 46 points, those numbers are the exception and not the rule. In their previous 6 games BYU held their opponents to less than 18 points per game on average.

Unlike the game last year with a 7-6 win for the Boise State, the game in LaVelle Edwards Stadium Friday night promises to be a high scoring one. It remains to be seen how many of those points will belong to the Broncos.

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