The BYU game was always going to be an uphill battle for the Broncos. The team knew it, the media knew, and the fans knew it. Boise State had to overcome the massive amount of extra time that the Cougars had to become a complete, battle-tested team.
To add injury to insult, the Broncos also were forced to deal with an almost comical amount of bad luck with injuries and illness at crucial positions. Boise State played their fourth and fifth string quarterbacks, had just one scholarship running back available, and had injuries on a completely rebuilt defensive line that couldn’t afford anymore missing bodies. It ultimately was an impossible task.
Even still, Boise State looked terribly overmatched. As noted by Head Coach Bryan Harsin and the players made available for interviews after the game; it was an embarrassment. There is no amount of excuses to explain away the beating the Broncos took on Friday night.
If you absolve the offense of blame (they were down three quarterbacks, a starting running back and a starting wide receiver), you would still have to explain why the Boise State defense gave up 51 points, including a soul-crushing stretch where the Cougars scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives. BYU did everything they wanted on offense and Boise State had no answers.
Boise State fans can play the what-if game if it helps, but even the eye test wasn’t kind to Broncos. BYU looked bigger, faster, stronger and overall, just better than Boise State. The stats bear that out. BYU outgained the Broncos by 263 yards, completed 13.3 yards per pass attempt and 5.6 yards per rush, plus won the turnover battle 2 – 0.
Maybe the best example of the Cougars dominance is how the second half began for Boise State. They entered the half down 23 – 3 and found themselves being clobbered 45 – 3 early in the 4th quarter. It was as ugly a 15-minute stretch as you’ll see out of Boise State.
It isn’t all doom-and-gloom for the Broncos. In fact, the early season defensive struggles should have been predictable by Bronco fans. The constant success of rebuilding from year-to-year blinded reality to some degree. Consider that Boise State replaced their entire defensive line and both safeties in a year where practice, preparation, and team activities was extremely limited.
They also suffered injuries to the very positions that were thin to start with. Ultimately, just as BYU destroyed BSU in their eighth game of the season, so to would the team that the Broncos put on the field in week 8 embarrass their week two selves.
Despite the tough loss, Boise State remains favored to win the Mountain West Conference and get out of 2020 with some positive momentum for the future. Even as bad as the game looked Friday night, there were still some silver linings. Let’s finish up with a happy note for each unit:
Offense: The offense was injury depleted and it looked ugly throughout the contest. However, Boise State may have had the best player on the field in Khalil Shakir. Shakir was open all night long, and most importantly, never gave up no matter how bad the scoreboard looked. The junior wide receiver fought for every catch and scratched for every yard he could once the ball was in his hand. His play exemplified the “Blue Collar” mentality that has defined Bronco football.
As a bonus positive, the Boise State offensive line has vastly outplayed expectations. They have been solid in every game of the young season.
Defense: Not a lot went right for the Broncos, but the inexperienced defensive line was able to have some success against the toughest competition they’ll face this season. It wasn’t consistent (that will come with more reps), but Boise State finished the game with three sacks and eight tackles for loss. As they have time to heal up and gel as a unit, the defensive line can return to the dominant unit that Boise State fans are accustomed to.
Special Teams: Jonah Dalmas remained perfect on extra points and finally got the chance to kick a field goal. The Freshman from Meridian, Idaho made the 39-yard field goal. Every kick he’s attempted has gone right through the uprights. The cherry on top was the successful onside kick attempt and the second attempt that also gave the Broncos a chance at a recovery.
Coming up: Boise State stays home to host Colorado State on Thursday night. The short week offers the Broncos a chance to turn the page from BYU and return to conference play. The Rams are 1 – 1 on the season, losing to Fresno State in their opener and surprising Wyoming in week two. Boise State is currently favored by 13.5 points.