Football finally returned to The Blue on Saturday night. In a game unlike any before it, the Broncos opened the delayed 2020 college football season with a 42-13 thrashing of the Utah State Aggies. Even with no fans in the normally deafening Albertsons Stadium, and a stilted practice and preparation schedule, Boise State looked like Boise State from the opening kickoff.
Boise State opened the scoring on their second drive of the game. The 9 play 79-yard scoring drive featured Hank Bachmeier at his best, going a perfect 4-4 for 49 yards, and showcased the ever-growing talent of Sophomore running back George Holani who scored on a one-yard run to give the Broncos a lead they would never relinquish.
Hank Bachmeier opened the second quarter scoring with a 52-yard strike to a wide-open Khalil Shakir off a blown coverage assignment by the Aggies. After punting on their second drive of the quarter, the Broncos closed out the half by scoring touchdowns on nine and ten play drives capped off with a Bachmeier touchdown run and a receiving touchdown for Holani’s second score of the game.
Wide open touchdown pass to Shakir:
Hank Bachmeier hits Khalil Shakir for a 52-yard score to extend the Boise State (-17) lead to 14-0 over Utah State#BarstoolSportsbook— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) October 25, 2020
Nifty moves from Holani:
GEORGE HOLANI YOU ARE INSANE pic.twitter.com/EjVOGs7DdF— Boise Edits (@boise_edits) October 25, 2020
The third quarter was a different story for Boise State. The Broncos ran nine plays in the quarter for a total of 26 yards. Boise state also gave up 103 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter after holding the Aggies to just 45 total yards in the first half. To make matters worse, the Broncos had a -38-yard punt that Bryan Harsin dubbed the “Butt Punt” that led to the Aggies second touchdown of the night to start the fourth quarter.
The legendary “Butt Punt”
This, folks, is a punt of -38 yards for Boise State. pic.twitter.com/phIAoo8Ruh— The Comeback (@thecomeback) October 25, 2020
After the disastrous third quarter, the Broncos settled back in, scoring on their final two possessions as Shakir secured his second touchdown of the night and backup running back Andrew Van Buren capped off the night with a five-yard touchdown run to seal the 42-13 drubbing on The Blue.
Shakir’s second touchdown of the game:
Hank Bachmeier completes the 18-yard TD pass to Shakir and Boise State (-17) takes a 35-13 lead over Utah State#BarstoolSportsbook— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) October 25, 2020
Boise State looked to be in mid-season form to start the strangest season in history. Maybe the most impressive thing about the offense was the multitude of plays, formations, and wrinkles they were able to incorporate with such a truncated offseason to prepare. The Broncos utilized two quarterbacks, ran the ball with eight different players, and had eight players with a reception. They even punted with a running back and handed the ball off to an offensive lineman. They truly had everything humming.
The biggest question coming into the game for the offensive was the ability of the new-look offensive line to gel in the opener. For the most part, they were excellent. Bachmeier was sacked three times in the game, but only one of those sacks should be attributed to the offensive line. There were a few missed blocking assignments in the run game, but they mauled their way to creating 171 rushing yards on the night. Is this a product of the talent level of Utah State, or is the offensive line becoming a strength of the team? Only time will tell, but it was a great start for a unit that has struggled in the past few seasons.
Another question coming into the season was the progression of Hank Bachmeier. The Sophomore starter showed the anticipated improvement, going 20-28 for 268 yards with 3 passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown, and zero turnovers. He also spread the love, completing balls to eight pass catchers (4 WRs, 2 RBs, and 2 TEs). Overall, it was an impressive start to his second season for Hurricane Hank.
An encouraging sign of things to come for Boise State fans is that the players who fans anticipated being the offense playmakers came up huge on Saturday night. Bachmeier was explosive and efficient. Holani finished the game with 133 yards on 17 touches and some poor stat guy is still counting all the missed Utah State tackles on the elusive back. Shakir had seven catches for 123 yards and added 34 yards on three jet sweeps.
Lastly, Boise State made their fans happy by getting the tight ends heavily involved. John Bates had five grabs for 44 yards and Riley Smith added a 16-yard catch. The Broncos used three tight end sets early and often to perfection. Whether it was the line play, the playmakers making plays, or the trick plays, the Boise State offense receives an A for their performance on Saturday night.
The Boise State defense was a tale of two halves. They were completely dominate in the first half giving up just 45 yards of total offense in as dominate a performance as you’ll see. They blinked in the third quarter allowing a 16-play 80-yard scoring drive to end the shutout. After an embarrassing punt, the defense couldn’t react to the sudden change and gave up another touchdown.
Nitpicking one drive aside, the Bronco defense was commanding in a season where defenses have been slow to start the season. Boise State held the Aggies to 203 yards with 92 passing yards and 111 rushing yards surrendered. The Aggies ran the ball 43 times (seemingly content to run the clock out and accept defeat), and only averaged 2.6 yards per carry. Similarly, the defense only allowed 3.4 yards per pass.
As with the offense, the biggest question was the Boise State defensive line that had to replace all four starters. As with the offense, the reload project was mostly successful. With the help of a dominate linebacker group and a deep and experienced secondary, the defensive line held up remarkably well outside of the long scoring drive in the third quarter. They will certainly be tested more as the season progresses, but they are 1-0 to start the year.
Obichere with his first career sack:
@_kiingd50_ gets his first sack as a Bronco! pic.twitter.com/YsjT3MjZvu— Boise Edits (@boise_edits) October 25, 2020
Whimpey and Whitney meet at the quarterback:
Riley Whimpey and Sam Whitney get the first sack of the year! pic.twitter.com/O6QPhkDeqT— Boise Edits (@boise_edits) October 24, 2020
Overall, the defense was impressive. Up-and-comers JL Skinner and Markel Reed had flashy moments, the linebackers lived up to the hype, and there wasn’t a single position or player that looked like they didn’t belong on the field. It’s an A for the Boise State defense to open the 2020 season.
Special Teams: C-
If you have a “butt punt” you are automatically disqualified from getting an A or B grade on special teams. Beyond the -38-yard punt, the Broncos had punts of 28 and 29 yards (one kicked by George Holani). It wasn’t good.
In all honesty, a C- might be generous, but Boise State was 6-6 on extra points and were good in the return game when they had opportunities. Avery Williams was particularly good. He didn’t rack up the yardage, but he fielded several difficult to reach punts that saved the hidden yards that often go unnoticed. The punt coverage unit also didn’t allow any return yards. Was it great? No, but let’s give them a generous C- in week one.
The Broncos travel to Colorado Springs, Colorado to take on the dreaded triple option of the Air Force Falcons. Air Force lost in an upset to San Jose State in week one and they couldn’t get anything going offensively. Even still, the Broncos are heading to a stadium and facing a team that has given them trouble in the recent past. They will need to continue their efficiency on offense and dominance on defense to leave Colorado Springs 2-0.