WHEN: Saturday, October 3, 8:15 PM MST
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID (37,000)
CONFERENCES: Mountain West Conference
2015 SEASON: Boise State, 3-1, 0-0 MW; Hawai’I, 2-2, 0-0 MW
COACHES: Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin, 2nd year (15-3, 22-8 all time); Hawai'i head coach Norm Chow, 4th year (10-31)
WEB: Watch ESPN
RADIO: Bronco Radio Network: KBOI (670 AM) and KTIK (93.1 FM) in the Boise area; Hawai'i Multimedia: KKEA AM- ESPN 1420 AM in the Honolulu area
Hawai'i has had a better season than expected this year, coming on the heels of head coach Norm Chow’s overhaul of his coaching staff. A 2-2 record might not sound very impressive but when you consider a brutal schedule whereby they beat Colorado and their two losses were to #1 Ohio State and #22 Wisconsin, 2-2 doesn’t look so bad. It has been 5 years since the Warriors went to bowl game but he is determined to have them in post season play this year. Now sitting near the top of the West Division and with the games ahead, Warrior fans are even optimistic about winning the conference championship.
But first they have to get past a rejuvenated Boise State squad. Last week the Broncos went to the east coast and surprised the FBS world with a blowout win over Virginia, 56-14. This came two weeks after the Virginia Cavaliers gave #9 Notre Dame a big scare before losing that contest in the last 12 seconds of the game.
With the Broncos offense settling down under a new quarterback and their #16 ranked defense improving by the week, all seems well in Bronco Nation.
What to expect when Hawai'i has the ball: Former USC quarterback transfer Max Wittek, 6-4, 240 lbs, is leading the charge this year for the Rainbow Warriors. He had to sit out last year after transferring to Hawaii to play for former USC assistant, Norm Chow. Chow has a reputation for developing good quarterbacks and has had five first-round picks. Already Wittek is the third leading passer in the league and in four games he has completed 58 passes of 118 attempts for 730 yards, averaging 182.5 yards per game. His two favorite targets are WR Marcus Kemp, 6-4, 200 lbs, and WR Quinton Pedroza, 6-2, 215 lbs. Kemp averages 19.2 yards a catch and is the 4th best receiver in the conference with 13 catches good for 255 yards. But last week Pedroza was the beast on the receiving end of the football with 10 catches for 134 yards.
It is the running game that is the drag on the Rainbow Warrior offense. Last week they ran 18 times for 15 yards and sit at the bottom of the MWC in rushing offense with a pathetic average of 97 yards per game. That has to hurt when you are going up against the #1 best running defense in the country. The Broncos give up an average of just 44.25 rushing yards per game. That stalwart defense is anchored by DE Kamalei Correa, 6-3, 248 lbs, LB Ben Weaver, 6-0, 231 lbs, and Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 228, to name three. Correa leads the Broncos with 4 tackles for loss and Weaver leads the team with 13 tackles. Armand Nance, 6-0, 306 lbs, leads the team with sacks. It would be safe to say the defense was responsible to the lopsided score at Virginia by helping Boise State to a 17-0 lead before the game was 7 minutes old. They will certainly be trying to do something similar against Hawai'i.
If the Broncos stop the run then expect to see Hawai'i forced into a passing game and that could spell trouble. The Broncos secondary is steadily improving in pass defense. CB Donte Deayon, 5-9, 155 lbs, leads the team in passes defended and is #1 in the conference with interceptions. Safety Darian Thompson, 6-2, 210 lbs, is third with interceptions.
What to expect when Boise State has the ball: The Broncos have found their starting quarterback. With freshman QB Brett Rypien, 6-2, 199 lbs, at the helm there is new wind in the Broncos' sails. A week after burning his redshirt and a good performance against Idaho State, he finished off Virginia with 21 of 35 pass attempts for 321 yards, including a touchdown throw of 10 yards to RB Jeremy McNichols, 5-9, 205 lbs, and two more of 30 and 64 yards to WR Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 175 lbs. You have to wonder if he'll take is foot off the gas for this game. The Warriors have a pretty good pass defense and only grudgingly give up 190.8 yards through the air per game. They are 4th in the conference in pass defense and last week they held Wisconsin to 186 passing yards, well below the Badgers' national average. Guess who leads the entire Mountain West Conference in passes defended? You guessed it: Hawai'i's Nick Nelson, 6-0, 200 lbs.
But the Broncos are aware that the Warriors lack a solid run defense and one ranked near the bottom of the conference. Expect them exploit that weakness and use this game to mount a vigorous ground game to give their backfield a chance to shine and develop. McNichols has 273 yards and 10 touchdowns this season and is hungry for more. Last week his 9 rushing attempts averaged 7.7 yards a carry with one of his runs a 47-yarder.
All this talk about the Rainbow Warriors defense does not mean they lack any play-makers besides Nick Nelson. On the contrary this defense has earned its stats from taking on three P-5 teams in their last four games---two of them top-25 juggernauts. The Boise State ground-pounders will be going up against the likes of DL Kennedy Tulimasealii, 6-0, 285 lbs, who is tied for 4th in the conference in tackles for loss and LB Jerroll Garcia-Williams, 6-2, 235 lbs, ranked 7th in the conference in tackles. He has 33 and is averages 8.25 per game.
Special Teams: Hawaii has a number of good kickoff return specialists and last week it was RB Paul Harris, 5-11, 190lbs, nicknamed "Housecall", who garnered all the accolades with 2 kickoff returns for 37 yards. PK Rigoberto Sanchez, 6-1, 190 lbs, is the placekicker and he has a dependable foot. It is too bad he has not had many opportunities to show his stuff, but when he has Sanchez has made good. Last week he doubled as the punter and had 7 kicks that averaged a whopping 58 yards per kick.
Boise State special teams coach Kent Riddle has also continued to improve his squad. One thing that is starting to show improvement is the reduction in penalties. Another is in the kicking game. Two weeks ago punter Sean Wale, 6-2, 185 lbs, had three punts that averaged just 36 yards. But last week against Virginia he was back in top form and had four punts that averaged 44.8 yards a punt with one being a 51-yarder. But the story on that night was about kicker Tyler Rausa, 5-10, 195 lbs. He had a 51-yard kick of his own: a monster field goal that was the longest field goal made by a Bronco since 2009. Rausa narrowly missed a 54-yarder when it glanced off the uprights. His had an tremendous night making 4 of 5 field goals and all 6 extra points last week, accounting for 18 of the Broncos 56 points.
Overview: The improvements in the Broncos' offensive game coupled with the reduction in both penalties and turnovers have been evident. They have made significant strides in their offense. The Rainbow Warriors have had a tough time trying to move the ball but those efforts were against some very powerful teams. Boise State will be another rock in their road.
The Vegas guys have the Broncos winning this contest by 24.5 points and I agree.