The Boise State football team have some experience in the hot and humid season opener east of the Mississippi River.
The Broncos have done it three times since 2016, and they’ve won all three. They opened the 2016 season with a trip to Lafayette, Louisiana, and a 45-10 victory. In 2018, they made the trip to Troy, Alabama, and beat the Trojans 56-20.
Boise State opened the 2019 season with one of its biggest wins in recent memory. The Broncos had expected to play in Jacksonville, Fla., But Hurricane Dorian forced the game to be moved to Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. Despite pre-game madness and a halftime deficit, Boise State rallied to win, 36-31.
It’s going to be hot and humid in this season’s opener Thursday at UCF (5 p.m. MT, ESPN), but the Broncos roster is full of players who have taken the field for at least two of those firsts. opening matches in the Southeast. They plan to build on that experience, especially since Boise State hasn’t played in front of a large crowd since the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl, and the Bounce House can accommodate over 45,000 fans.
“I think it’s going to be a huge advantage for us,” said Boise State linebacker Riley Whimpey. “To have these older guys who understand what it’s like to play in front of a packed stadium is huge because it’s so different.”
The victory over Florida State was not just a decisive game against a Power Five opponent. It was also a breakout game for two players the Broncos will rely on again this year: quarterback Hank Bachmeier and wide receiver Khalil Shakir.
“You walk away from this game knowing these guys are going to be nightmares to face if you’re a defense in our conference or in the country for a while, and they’ve lived up to that,” Boise State co- defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson, who was the defensive line coach in 2019.
The Broncos trailed 31-19 at halftime, but Bachmeier – playing in the first college football game of his career – led a third-quarter goalscoring campaign that squeezed the state’s lead Florida at five, and former Boise State running back Robert Mahone scored the goal. before the touchdown at the start of the fourth.
Bachmeier finished the game 30 of 51 for 407 yards, one touchdown and one interception – and left a lasting impression on his teammates.
“He’s going to go out there and give it his all, no matter what,” Shakir said. “He also took a few hits in that game and he always got up immediately. When you have someone like that leading the attack, it’s hard not to give it your all.
Bachmeier’s third quarter touchdown pass went to Shakir on a third down from the Florida State 11-yard line. Shakir, then a sophomore, finished the game with eight catches for 78 yards. He went on to lead Boise State with 63 receptions this season.
“At the end of the day, we’ll have to run every game like this,” Shakir said.
The keys to victory
Throw the ball : What’s the best way to control a powerful attack? Keep him on the sidelines. To do that, the Broncos are going to have to handle the ball a lot better than they did last season and eat away at playing time with long runs. It might not be the most exciting brand in football, but a ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ mentality will limit the chances of UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel going deep into the game. one of its many fast receivers.
Boise State struggled last fall with running back George Holani out for most of the season, but he’s back and he’ll have some help. The Broncos added Oregon transfer Cyrus Habibi-likio this summer, junior college transfer Taequan Tyler is back from an Achilles injury and 240-pound murderer Andrew Van Buren is back after leading the Mountain West last year with eight rushing touchdowns.
Take a photo early: Boise State hasn’t played in front of a large crowd for almost two years. The Broncos are going to get into a noisy environment Thursday at the Bounce House, and they open the season on ESPN in a game that could very well have playoff implications. The winner will be immediately included in the discussion for the Group of Five’s offer to a New Year’s bowls game.
There is a lot to do in this game. UCF fans know this and they will show no mercy. The Broncos must therefore remove them from the game early. Coaches have to take risks in the first half. Whether it’s with deep passes, tricks, or a big play on special teams, Boise State needs to pull the energy out of the crowd early on.
Make Gabriel uncomfortable: If there’s one thing the Boise State defense can’t do, it’s let Gabriel sit in the pocket. He’s got the arm and weapons on offense to keep them apart, so the Broncos are going to have to put pressure on his face, confuse where that pressure is coming from and disguise cover in the secondary in the hopes of capitalizing on a mistake.
There is a risk in blitzing an athletic quarterback like Gabriel. He can take off and burn teams with his legs, but the Broncos have to do something to force him to throw while running. There aren’t many passers who are as precise on the move as when their feet are set.
New Boise State starters in CB’s pass attack on UCF: The UCF ranked No. 4 in the nation last season with 357.4 passing yards per game. The Knights have a Heisman candidate for quarterback and plenty of speed for the wide receiver again this year. Now is not the time to introduce two new starters to the cornerback position, but it is the position Boise State is in.
Markel Reed and Tyric LeBeauf are expected to start. It will be the No.2 career start for Reed, who has spent the past two seasons as a top substitute for former starters Avery Williams and Jalen Walker. This will be LeBeauf’s first start after he netted his first career interception in the clean-up game in last season’s opener against Utah State.
The UCF have lost three receivers to the NFL this year, but Jaylon Robinson is back after finishing second on the team with 55 catches and 979 yards last fall. Ryan O’Keefe is also returning after appearing in 10 games last season, and he’s one of the team’s fastest players.
The Knights also have many wide transfer receivers on the field this year, including Dionte Marks (Florida), Jordan Johnson (Notre Dame), Nate Craig-Myers (Auburn / Colorado State) and Brandon Johnson (Tennessee). Marks is eligible after being absent last year. The rest are immediately eligible because they are graduate transfers or through the NCAA One-Time Transfer Rule.
Boise State’s offensive tackles against UCF DE Big Kat Bryant: UCF’s defense was just plain bad last year. It ranked No. 123 nationally in total defense. The Knights have some players back who retired last year due to COVID-19, but the team also added a big transfer in former Auburn defensive end Big Kat Bryant.
Bryant was a two-year starter at Auburn and won second-team All-SEC honors last season after finishing tied for third on the team with three sacks. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound native of Cordele, Ga., Has 56 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks and two interceptions in four seasons with the Tigers.
Boise State left tackle John Ojukwu is entering his fourth season as a starter, and the Broncos expect to introduce a new starter to second-year red shirt right tackle Ben Dooley. Both will be supported by the transfer of Rice Uzo Osuji. Auburn is sure to move Bryant around in the lineup, so both tackles will need to be ready, and it might be a good idea for coaches to shift some extra protection to which side he’s on.
Boise State is heading into the season opener as a 5.5-point underdog, according to Las Vegas, with an over / under of 68.5 points. The Broncos are 7-13 in their last 20 games as an underdog on the road, and they’re 13-6-1 ATS. Boise State was a 6.5-point underdog in his first game of the 2019 season at Florida State.
UCF is 19-1 in its last 20 games as a home favorite and 10-10 ATS.
My choice : Boise State has enough veterans on the roster to keep the crowd, the weather, or the big stage that accompanies a prime-time game from becoming too big of an issue. The much bigger problem will be containing UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel and his seemingly limitless supply of fast weapons on offense. The departure of two new cornerbacks against that attack is a concern, and if the Broncos’ defensive front can’t put pressure on Gabriel, it will be a long day for the visitors. If Boise State can lead the ball and control the clock, the Broncos have a chance. But I don’t think they can win an athletics competition against UCF. Final score: UCF 35, Boise State 21
Ron Counts is the author of the Idaho Statesman football beats in Boise State. Contact him at [email protected] and follow @Ron_BroncoBeat on Twitter.
THE STATE OF BOISE AT UCF
When: 5 p.m. Mountain on Thursday
Or: Bounce House, Orlando, Florida
TV: ESPN (Matt Barrie, Rodd Jones, Harry Lyles Jr.). It’s channel 133 on Sparklight, 206 on DirecTV, and 140 on Dish Network.
Radio: KBOI 670 AM / KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Series: This is the first match between the programs.
Vegas Line: UCF of 5.5
Time: 75 degrees when playing, 24% chance of rain, 9 mph winds