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Game Preview: No. 24 Boise State Broncos Vs. BYU Cougars

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The Boise State Broncos (1-1) will be taking on the BYU Cougars (2-1) in Thursday night football action. The Broncos team will be led by QB Joe Southwick, 6-1, 187 lbs, the junior out of Danville, California. Southwick has proved he is worthy of being the starting quarterback for the Boise State football team after Saturday’s action. He threw for 304 yards, completing 24 of 31 in Saturday’s 39-12 rout of the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks and now he is looking to amp up the team in competition against the vaunted BYU Cougars.

The Cougars, however, might have other ideas about Southwick’s ambitions. BYU is coming off a loss against instate rival Utah, 21-24, and the whole team is seething. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall is ready to go out and redeem his team’s image and no better way to begin that process than a win on national television over the #24 ranked Broncos on their famed blue carpet. Don’t think he hasn’t reminded his players that while the Cougars have been knocked out of the Top 25 rankings, they need to suck it up and beat the Broncos if they want something more than a trip to the Poinsettia Bowl at the end of the season.

He has more than enough ammunition on his roster, too. Senior QB Riley Nelson, 6-1, 199 lbs, is the quarterback who can get it done. In 2011, he passed for 1717 yards, had a 57.4% completion rate, and ended the season with a QB rating of 152.9 percent. But in Saturday’s the loss to Utah he finished 17 of 35 for 206 yards, was intercepted once and sacked four times. Look for the Boise State defenders to use the pass rush to see if they can exploit those stats.

When passing the Cougars have good receivers to give Nelson a hand. One of those is WR Cody Hoffman, 6-4, 215 lbs. Another is a huge tight end, Kaneakua Friel, 6-5, 215 lbs. On the running side of the equation, he can hand it off to RB Michael Alisa, 6-1,220 lbs. So far in three games he has ran 39 times and averged 4.3 yards a carry. Or, Nelson can keep it himself. He scampered for 14 carries against Utah, and one of those went for 20 yards.

But the Boise State defense might have something to say about that action. They held the RedHawks to 49 yards rushing out of 227 total yards, and only 9 first downs. Can they repeat that against BYU? Not likely against an explosive offense that is averaging 423 yards per game so far this year. But don’t expect the Broncos to lay down for a beating either. Demarcus Lawrence, 6-3, 242 lbs, is starting on the D-line and he has LB J.C. Percy, 6-0, 227 lbs, lining up behind him. That is one hole that is now plugged. In the secondary, safety Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 197 lbs, and DB Lee Hightower, 6-2, 192 lbs, are making big moves of their own in defensive coverage.

Offensively Southwick will be looking to take a balanced offense against the Cougar defenders. Plan A will be releasing the running game to see if it truly has the legs it showed against the RedHawks. RB D.J. Harper, 5-9, 205, will be at tailback and everyone will be waiting to see if he can duplicate the outstanding effort he made against the RedHawks---including the massive Cougar D-line. The backfield has other playmakers who can step in: RB Jack Fields, 5-9 194 lbs, will definitely see action along with RB Drew Wright, 5-9, 203 lbs. Expect BYU to be all over them in an attempt to shut down the running game and force Southwick to go to the air. They held Utah to just 49 yards on the ground.

If the Cougars stuff the Broncos O-line then a Broncos passing game will certainly be plan B. In Southwick’s last performance he showed that as his confidence builds, his passing game continues to improve. He also has a stable full of receivers stepping up their game to make some great catches. WR Matt Miller, 6-3, 215 lbs, Mitch Burroughs, 5-9, 193 lbs, Aaron Burks, 6-3, 200 lbs, Kirby Moore, 6-3, 203 lbs, and Chris Potter, 5-9, 159 lbs., all saw heavy action and will be wanting to shine Thursday night. The Broncos O-line will consist of LG Joe Kellogg, 6-3, 305 lbs, LT Charles Leno Jr., 6-4, 294, RG Michael Ames, 6-4, 293, and Matt Paradis, 6-3, 289, in at Center. They allowed Southwick and his new playmakers to put up 599 total yards on Miami (Ohio).

Southwick and Company will certainly have their hands full. At first glance there is the new confidence sweeping through a struggling offense. But they will be going against a big, tough BYU defense that will be looking to make another statement: BYU is mean and stingy when it comes to giving up yardage. The Cougars are a team that has only allowed 53 yards on average in rushing and held all three opponents this season to an average of 186 yards through the air.

And that is a statement in itself.

Thursday night’s game starts at 7 PM MT, and will be televised on ESPN.