WHEN: Saturday, November 15, 8:15 PM MST
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID (37,000)
CONFERENCES: Mountain West Conference
2014 SEASON: Boise State, 7-2, 4-1 (MW); San Diego State, 5-4, 3-2 (MW)
COACHES: Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin (14-7); San Diego head coach Rocky Long (30-18 SDSU, 95-87 All Time)
WEB: Watch ESPN
RADIO: Bronco Radio Network: KBOI (670 AM) and KKGL (96.9 FM) in the Boise area; San Diego State Aztecs Sports Network: The Mighty 1090 AM/ and The Max 105.7 FM in the San Diego area
SERIES RECORD: San Diego State leads, 2-1
Saturday will be Black Out day in Albertsons Stadium when San Diego State head coach Rocky Long and his Aztecs come to Boise. If he thought it was troubling before when the Broncos wore all blue uniforms on the blue turf, wait until he sees them all decked out in black opposite his Aztecs, whose traditional colors are black and scarlet. But uniform colors could be the least of his worries this year when the Aztecs take to the field. His team is 1-4 on the road this season while Boise State is 4-0 at home.
Lined up on the opposite side of the field will be Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin and his team. He and his Broncos will be wanting to make a statement after a 60-48 win over New Mexico last week in a game where they trailed until the 4th quarter. Harsin knows that if his team is to have any credibility in the polls they need to win this game and win it decisively. This game is also a chance for the team to redeem itself after two straight defeats at the hands of the Aztecs in 2012 and 2013.
What to expect when San Diego State has the ball: The Aztecs like to employ a balanced attack with about 53 percent of their plays being rushing plays. They have the talent on the ground to get it done. The star of that show is RB Donnel Pumphrey, 5-9, 170 pounds, who is averaging over 135 rushing yards a game and has punched in 13 touchdowns this season. The Aztec passing department, on the other hand, has been dicey. QB Quinn Kaehler, 6-4, 215 pounds, is 120 of 206 pass attempts this season, for a 58.3 percent completion rating and has been good for 164.8 yards per game. His 7 TD’s are offset by 8 interceptions and 15 sacks. But why pass against the Broncos, anyway? Perhaps the Aztecs will want to follow New Mexico's lead. Last week the Broncos let the Lobos chalk up 627 total yards and 505 of those were on the ground. You have to figure Rocky Long and his coaches have been pouring through those game tapes and looking for ways they can also use their backfield to hammer the Broncos.
But if push comes to shove and the run stalls, Kaehler's passes could find their mark. Boise State’s weakened defense could leave the Broncos vulnerable to the pass due to several recent losses at cornerback and now with safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner, 6-1, 196 pounds, questionable for Saturday. Still, the Broncos defenders can take heart in the fact that, yes, this season San Diego State has been outscoring their opponents in the first half, but the Aztecs also seem to run out of gas at the end of second quarter. In two of their four losses this season they led at halftime only to be outscored in the second half.
What to expect when Boise State has the ball: The Broncos have the eighth best offense in the nation behind a balanced attack that rushes about half the time from scrimmage. That won't change against the Aztecs. Especially after last week when quarterback Grant Hedrick, 6-0, 198 pounds, completed 21 of 32 pass attempts for 367 yards and four touchdowns and capped off the win by rushing for 131 yards and two more touchdowns. He finished only 30 yards behind star running back Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 216 pounds, who carried 31 times for 171 yards and two TD’s. Backing up the run game is the second best passing offense in the league, allowing the Broncos to outscore their opponents 50-38 in their last four games. In shoring up the secondary is sophomore WR Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 173 pounds, who has emerged as a great replacement for the injured WR Matt Miller. In his past two outings Sperbeck has 15 receptions for 312 total yards and now suddenly finds himself ranked as the eighth best receiver in the conference.
The Broncos offense will be going up against the best overall total defense in the Mountain West. The Aztec defenders are downright stingy on the field and have given up on average of just 144 yards rushing and 157 yards through the air. That defense is made up such standouts as DL Alex Barrett, 6-3, 260 pounds, and LB Calvin Munson, 6-1, 235 pounds, who lead their team in tackles. Munson also leads the team in interceptions and will be ready to pick off any of Hedrick’s errant screen passes. Defensive back Damontae Kazee, 5-11, 180 pounds, is third in the conference defending against the pass. If Hedrick gets to playing loose and fast with the football, anything can happen.
Special Teams: You could say a lot of mean, bad things about the Boise State defense and that includes the special teams after last week's performance at New Mexico. But there are plenty of players carrying their load. Take kicker Dan Goodale, 5-10, 185 pounds, who booted two field goals and 6 extra points through the uprights last Saturday and whose 12 points figured prominently in the win. He is now 14 of 18 attempts on field goals (77.8 percent) and is 39 of 41 extra points. Goodale is also second in the MWC in kickoffs, averaging 63.88 yards per kick with 43 touchbacks. Broncos punter Sean Wale, 6-2, 186 pounds, also continues to improve and is averaging 41.62 yards per punt. Kickoff return specialist WR Dallas Burroughs, 5-9, 169 pounds, is averaging 20.41 yards per return.
The Aztecs have some great talent of their own. Kicker Seamus McMorrow, 5-11, 195 pounds, is third in the conference in kickoffs averaging 63.18 with 13 touchbacks. Donny Hageman, 6-1, 170 pounds, handles the other kicking duties and is 10 of 13 in field goals and has made all 26 of his extra point attempts. RB Rashaad Penny, 5-11, 200 pounds, has the distinction of being the second best kickoff return specialist in the conference averaging 23.91 per return while punt returns are handled by wide recdiver Lloyd Mills, 5-10, 165 pounds. Mills is 2nd in the conference averaging 11.9 yards per return.
The Bottom Line: The odds makers have Boise State as an 8-point favorite. The Broncos are playing at home where their last loss came two years ago against this very same team. You think it will be deja vu? Not this time. The Broncos are just too determined to get this win. And besides the payback, they are looking to get their swagger back.