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What you need to know: BYU vs Boise State

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NCAA Football: Utah State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The BYU Cougars and the Boise State Broncos will face off Thursday for the seventh time since Boise State joined the FBS ranks. BYU has only won two of the previous six games, and both of them were in the friendly confines of Lavell Edwards Stadium. Twice the Cougars have lost close games on the Smurf Turf as they lost by one point in both 2004 and 2012. Outside those two games the score has been decided by double digits with the largest win being 38 by Boise State.

Boise, ID 2014 (55-30 Loss)

The Cougars went into Boise without Taysom Hill and on a three game losing streak. The Broncos jumped out early and never let the Cougars defense catch up. After keeping the Broncos to a field goal on their first drive the defense gave up a twelve yard touchdown and a 78 yard touchdown to go down 20-0. The Cougars pulled within 13 at 27-14 before going down 41-16 at the half. Fred Warner would give Cougar fans something to cheer for when he picked off Grant Hedrick for a 20 yard pick six but the Cougars could never quite recover and would drop the game 55-30.

Provo, UT 2015 (35-24 Win)

Tanner Mangum made his first start at Lavell Edwards Stadium as he faced off against the 20th ranked Broncos. Unlike the previous year the Cougars started off strong with an 84 yard pass from Mangum to Mitchell Juergens for a quick 7-0 lead. The Broncos would proceed to hold the Cougars scoreless for the rest of the half and would score the next 17 points. BYU would finally put up another seven points after a 70 yard pass from Mangum to Devon Blackmon put the offense in a position for Adam Hine to score on a 21 yard rush. Each team would score once more before Mangum found Juergens for a 35 yard touchdown on fourth down, giving the Cougars a 28-24 lead with under a minute to go. Once more the late game heroics gave fans something to cheer about as Kai Nacua put the nail in the coffin with an interception return for a touchdown with under 40 seconds to play. Although the game was closer than the score than indicated, the 35-24 win was a great win for the Cougars at home and with a freshman quarterback.

The Outlook

The Cougars offense struggled for most of the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs but came through in crunch time. The defense played well although they gave up a few big, and key, plays. However, the game came down to a defensive stand and the Cougars didn’t disappoint. The double overtime win left the crowd and players excited, drained, and ready for the next game which comes on a short week where the emotions may still be lingering.

The Positives

A win in dramatic fashion would normally call for a number of positives. However, this night belonged to Jamaal Williams. On an otherwise tough night for the running back, 26 carries for 76 yards, Williams became the Cougars all-time rushing leader. It happened on the Cougars first offensive play in overtime as he carried the ball nine yard and passed Harvey Unga in the record books. Williams will always be loved by fans and has proven his worth over and over again. As a token of their gratitude to his hard work, and play, the fans held up signs with his number on them and a banner recognizing his achievement was held up by the student section.

The Negatives

The running game was shut down overall in the game as BYU finished with only 146 total rushing yards. Averaging only 3.1 yards per rush will not win many games when the run plays such an important part of the game plan. The Cougars will need to shore up the line and open a few more holes as they face the remaining schedule or they could find themselves on the losing end of a few more games.

The Match-up

The Cougars offensive line vs the Broncos defensive front:

If the Cougars want to win this year on the blue turf, they will need to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, but if the offensive line can’t deliver then the game will be over early. The offense needs to click in both the passing and running game and so much of this will depend on the play of the line. If the Cougars can create holes for Williams and Squally Canada, their chances of the upset drastically increase.

The Keys to Watch

When the Broncos have the ball:

Watch for the Broncos to use their two headed horse in quarterback Brett Rypien and Jeremy McNichols. Rypien is completing over 62% of his passes while racking up over 1,600 yards passing on the year. McNichols is averaging over five yards per rush while finding the end zone 14 times (11 rushing, 3 receiving). With 775 yards rushing to his name, McNichols creates havoc with defenses and will look to do the same against the Cougars. The Broncos leading receiver also will need to be dealt with as Thomas Sperbeck has over 700 yards receiving on the year and six touchdowns.

Watch for the Cougars to attempt to neutralize McNichols as they trust their secondary to make plays downfield. The Cougars shouldn’t need to use a spy this game as Rypien has seven total rushing yards this year. With the extra player available, watch for him to make a difference in the run game as they make Boise State earn every yard they get.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to make the rushing game a priority. Last week the Cougars struggled to run the ball and it slowed down the entire offense. The Cougars want to get back to having success on the ground and will pound the ball as much as they can. Watch for Hill to take a few more looks to the tight end as they add another element to the passing game. The Cougars will need to take advantage of their tall receivers and will need to take a few chances in order to have a chance to win against a good Broncos team.

Watch for the Broncos to shut down the Cougars running game and forcing Hill to use his arm. Boise State knows that the senior quarterback has not been consistent in the passing game and will look to take advantage of some misplaced passes. Watch for the Broncos to put pressure on Hill as they force him to either run or pass quicker than he can make his reads, putting his decision making to the test. The secondary feels like they can take advantage of Hill and will look to bait him into bad throws, putting the Broncos offense into good field position.

Next Meeting

The next meeting will take place on October 7th 2017 at Lavell Edwards Stadium.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 8:15 pm MT

Where: Albertsons Stadium-Boise, ID

TV: ESPN

Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here