The Boise State Broncos come into Provo for just the second time in school history and look to leave without having lost to the Cougars, indeed without having lost only twice in all the games they've played against Utah teams. Since the Broncos moved up to Division I-A (FBS) in 1996, they have not lost to the Cougars. In fact, they are 21-2 in games played against Utah schools in that time frame. The only losses came at the hands of USU in 1996 and 1997. That means BYU, Utah, and Weber State are win-less against them as they are the only schools to have played BSU. This needs to change, and it needs to change this week.
Provo, UT 2003 12-50 (0-1)
The first visit from the Broncos turned into a disaster for the Crowton led Cougars. Specials teams and a pick-six put BYU in a hole early and they could never recover. Not even four minutes into the game, BSU blocked a Matt Payne punt that was recovered in the end zone for a quick touchdown. The Broncos struck again four minutes later with a two-yard touchdown run that put them up 14-0. BYU finally found themselves on the board after a bad snap went through the end zone for a BSU safety. In the second quarter the Broncos defense returned an interception 42 yards for another touchdown. After yet another BSU touchdown, the Cougars scored their first touchdown on a Tafui Vakapuna one-yard touchdown run. Unable to stop the Broncos offense, the Cougars allowed three more touchdowns before the game ended and dropped to 4-6 after the 50-12 loss. In the loss, four Cougar quarterbacks (Todd Mortensen, Matt Berry, Jackson Brown, and John Beck) saw time and threw at least eight passes.
Boise, ID 2004 27-28 (0-2)
In the return trip to Boise, the Cougars lost a heart breaker in the final minute of the game. Just like the first game the Broncos started strong and led by double digits before the Cougars could get on the board. The scoring started with a safety on John Beck when he was called for intentional grounding in his own end zone. After two touchdowns to put BSU up 16-0, the Cougars finally got on the board with a two-yard rush by Curtis Brown. The Cougars added two field goals before the half to pull within three going into the third quarter. The third quarter was electric for the Cougars as they outscored the Broncos 14-6 on a 79-yard pass from John Beck to Todd Watkins and then a 57-yard pass from Beck to Austin Collie. Going into the fourth the Cougars would hold a 27-22 lead on the 21st ranked Broncos. With just a few minutes left in the game, the Broncos connected on a 44-yard touchdown. After missing the two-point conversion, the stage was set for the ever consistent Matt Payne to win the game. With 23 seconds left in the game Payne missed wide left from 37 yards out and ended his streak of 28 consecutive field goals. John Beck finished the game 20-35 with 390 yards and two touchdowns. This game will be long remembered for the two punishing hits Matt Payne inflicted on the Broncos punt returners.
Boise, ID 2012 6-7(0-3)
Once again BYU traveled to Boise to face a ranked Broncos team and failed to make the plays needed. The defense played outstanding as it kept the Broncos offense scoreless. After a scoreless first half, the Broncos intercepted Riley Nelson and took it back 36-yards for a defensive touchdown, for the only BSU points of the game. The Cougars couldn't help themselves as they turned the ball over five times. With freshman Taysom Hill replacing Nelson in the fourth quarter, he led the team on a 95-yard scoring drive to try and tie or win the game. After losing confidence in the kicking game early in the year, the Cougars coaches opted to try to win the game with a two-point conversion that ultimately failed and cost the Cougars a chance at overtime. Hill ended up leading the team in rushing yards with 72 yards on 12 attempts. The Cougar defense stole the show with a four-play goal line stand that brought out the excitement of Bronco Mendenhall. You can watch the video below and don't forget to look for Bronco and his helicopter celebration at about the 3:45 mark.
Taysom Hill. Enough Said. But how can you not talk about the amazing things he did? All he did was account for 545 yards and 4 touchdowns. He had a pass efficiency rating of 161.88 and he also led the Cougars on the winning touchdown drive with only minutes to go. To top it all off, he was nominated as the national player of the week.
The defense managed to intercept John O'Korn three times, including the first play of the game -- O'Korn had only thrown one interception coming into the game. BYU was able to disguise their sets, and confuse and pressure the freshman quarterback. They also forced O'Korn into two fumbles that were thrown behind the receivers, and behind the line. Both ended up out of bounds, though an argument could have been made that Mike Hague recovered one in bounds.
We can't talk about Taysom and not talk about the turnovers. He had three of them with the most costly one being the interception in the end-zone. You could make an argument for the pick-six as being just as important as it helped swing momentum. But on a positive note, he wouldn't have orchestrated the game winning drive if they had either touchdown back.
One of the most concerning trends that came from the game was the lack of focus. All across the board the focus needs improvement. From the blown coverage on defense, to the missed blocks, and even the specials teams giving up a touchdown. Worst of all was the 14 penalties for 125 yards. These penalties kept Houston on the field, and took the offense off the field. These need to be corrected or games will be lost due to a lack of focus.
BYU Defense vs. Grant Hedrick
With the injury of Joe Southwick, BYU once again has the opportunity to face a virtual unknown back-up quarterback. BYU has traditionally struggled when a back-up has come in during a game or been handed the reigns the week previous. Just take a look at what happened to the defense against Cody Vaz for Oregon State last year. Grant Hedrick is more of a dual threat quarterback than Southwick, so the defense will have their hands full. He has struggled with consistency when trying to throw the long ball but seems to be very accurate in the short and mid-range passes. Combined with his better running stats, he is very capable of running where Southwick wouldn't have, which could very well be all over the Cougars.
BYU Discipline vs. Penalties
As mentioned earlier, penalties were a major factor in the game. With the number of penalties committed by the Cougars, there was no way that there wouldn't be a few that had major implications on the game. There were at least three personal fouls that gave Houston 45 yards. On the final drive before the half, the offense committed an illegal formation and an ineligible receiver down-field, both inside the 20 yard line. On one third down stop, Kyle Van Noy was offside giving Houston another shot. Late in the game there was a roughing the passer call on a 2nd and 14 that gave Houston the first down inside the BYU 20 yard-line that ended up with a touchdown. Even if the team cuts down the penalties by half, a coach would be going crazy with the numbers. BYU needs to make sure they are focused and disciplined each time they step on the field and they cannot afford to lose their composure. BYU was able to pull out the victory despite the penalties last week, they cannot expect that to happen against BSU with a repeat performance.
The Keys to Watch
When Boise State has the ball: Watch for Hedrick to test the secondary early. If he can connect on a few short passes early and then stretch the secondary with a few good long passes, he will be able to do damage in the air and on the ground. The Cougar front seven need to fill the short passing lanes and create pressure. The trick will be to create the pressure and still keep him from creating room to run. Last week the Cougars had a hard time tackling the quarterback in the back field with even Van Noy missing a few. If this happens on Friday, the Bronco offense will pick up some yards. For the second straight week the defense has the chance to rattle an inexperienced quarterback. Though Hedrick is a bit older and more mature, he has thrown less than 40 passes this year. Van Noy and company need to confuse him and force turnovers.
When BYU has the ball: Watch for Hill to continue his progression in the passing game. For the first time this year he has a completion percentage of more than 50%. The short and intermediate routes are working.Throw in the periodic long pass and he is keeping the defenses on their toes. The offense continues to move the pocket and this allows Hill to make decisions on the run. He is becoming more comfortable with his receivers and throwing accurately while in stride. Look for Hoffman to continue to be a thorn in the sides of the defense. He is one touchdown away from being the career touchdown leader for BYU and should reach the milestone on Friday. Jamaal Williams should be back for the game and the running backs need to produce when called upon. Hill cannot continue to rush 34 times a game and come out healthy. Lastly, look for Skyler Ridley to garner more attention from Hill. The defenses will know about him, but the Cougars have too many weapons to shut them all down.
Boise State Head Coach Chris Peterson is one of the premier coaches in the country. He has turned down major college job offers and many have questioned why. According to Thayer Evans, in an article that can be read here, it could be due to family. When Peterson was a receivers coach at Oregon, his 13 month old son fell while at a scrimmage and hit his head. After running standard tests on him, it was found that he had brain cancer that had moved to the spine. His son is now a healthy 13-year old but it changed this coaches perspective. Family will always come first and for now that has meant staying in Boise.
The Cougars and Broncos will next meet in Boise on October 25th 2014. This will be the first of a ten game series lasting through 2023.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 6:00 pm MDT
Where: Lavell Edwards Stadium-Provo, Utah
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
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Radio Links (Boise State): Click Here