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What you need to know: BYU vs. Boise State preview

After an emotional win over Nebraska, the Cougars come home to play the Boise State Broncos.

Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

The History

Saturday night, the Boise State Broncos will pay a visit to Lavell Edwards Stadium. The Broncos own the overall series record 4-1 against the Cougars, and are 1-1 in Provo. BYU will be looking to mimic the 2013 game as the game never seemed to be in doubt.

However, over the series it has been Boise scoring the points. In five games, the Broncos have outscored the Cougars by an average of almost 10 points (32-22.4). Both teams are using young quarterbacks, so this game should be another interesting episode in the series.

Boise, ID 2014
Boise State 55, BYU 30

In a game that was never really close, the struggling BYU Cougars dropped their fourth straight game as Boise State racked up 637 total yards. The Broncos came out strong, scoring the first 20 points of the game: Two field goals, a 12-yard rush by quarterback Grant Hedrick and a 78-yard pass from Hedrick to Thomas Sperbeck.

BYU finally found the end zone when Jamaal Williams took it in from 17 yards out.  On the next drive, a trick play put seven more on the board for Boise before BYU responded with an 81 yard touchdown of their own. Two more touchdowns for Boise and a safety for BYU gave the Broncos a 41-16 halftime lead. BYU would pull it within 18 on a Fred Warner interception that he returned 20 yards for a touchdown. BYU would score once more on a Christian Stewart run, but Boise would score twice more for the 55-30 final.

Provo, UT 2013
BYU 37, Boise State 20

The Cougars put on a show on a fall night in Lavell Edwards Stadium when Taysom Hill threw for 339 yards, three touchdowns, and 69 yards rushing. Hill also received help from Williams who rushed for another 107. After a slow start by both teams, Hill scored on a 20 yard rush to cap an 84 yard drive and the 7-0 lead. The teams would trade field goals before Hill found Ross Apo for a 37 yard touchdown. After a Broncos turnover, the Cougars used six plays to strike again as Hill found Cody Hoffman for the 24-3 halftime lead. With the score Hoffman recorded his 31st touchdown as a Cougar, becoming the all-time leading TD reception leader at BYU.

The second half started off with the Broncos threatening, but settling for a field goal. BYU once again put a touchdown on the board as Hill found Mitch Mathews for a 40 yard drive. The Cougars played conservatively for the remainder of the game and finished with two field goals to the Broncos two touchdowns for the 37-20 final score.

The Outlook

After a sensational game that left Cougar fans both euphoric and crushed, the focus must transition quickly to the Boise State Broncos. Coming out of Lincoln with a win was no small feat: It was Nebraska's first home-opening loss in 29 years. BYU should be excited and thrilled with the result of game one, and much was shown about the team:

The Positives

The play of freshman Tanner Mangum was a positive to a fan base that had yet to see him under center in a college game. After being thrown into the fire (twice), he finished the game completing 7-of-11 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. He also had five carries for 26 yards. Now that he's had his first bit of action against a physical Big 10 team, he should have the nerves out of his system and will get to game plan with the first-team offense. Don't forget the arm strength, either. Mangum threw the ball 48 yards through the air into the wind on the game-winning play.

The play of the wide receivers also stuck out as an extreme positive. Hill and Mangum were able to trust Mitch Mathews and Nick Kurtz to go after the ball and make a play. Terenn Houk joined the party, turning in a solid performance after dropping an easy first down early. The receivers will be a big part of the Cougars success and will need to make plays as Mangum faces his first start.

The Negatives

The defense started rough, allowing the Huskers to march down the field on their first drive in fairly easy fashion. When the second quarter came around the Cougars had figured out a few things but once again struggled at the end of the half. The defense showed up when needed but it won't be enough if they continue to gamble. The defense took a big hit, and it showed, when Travis Tuiloma went out with a knee injury. So for the next four to six weeks, they will need production from someone else.

Without Jamaal Williams in the backfield, the Cougars running game came close to being non-existent. Outside of the rushing from Hill and Mangum, the running backs totaled 34 yards on 12 carries. Sure it was against a good rush defense, but they will have to do more for the Cougars to keep winning.

The Match-up

Although there are a number of match-ups that are intriguing, the one that may be the most interesting is the Broncos secondary against the Cougars big receivers. The Boise secondary gives up many inches to the Cougars big three receivers Mathews, Kurtz, and Houk (and even Laulu-Putatau, who saw some snaps against Nebraska).  The key for the Broncos will be to knock the receivers off their routes and disrupt their timing. As Mathews and Kurtz both showed against Nebraska, they will let Mangum toss the ball up and then will go after it. Based on Saturday, the success was apparent on key plays.

The Keys to Watch

When the Broncos have the ball:

Watch for Boise State to establish the run early and often. Against Washington, the Broncos ran the ball 53 times for 185 yards.  Jeremy McNichols took the majority of the snaps as he ran for 89 yards on 24 carries. The Broncos are still breaking in a new quarterback in sophomore Ryan Finley and want to give him easy passes and a big dose of the running game as he becomes comfortable with the offense.

Watch for the Cougars pass rushers to disrupt the offense in both the pass and the run. Replacing Tuiloma won't be easy and others will need to take up the slack. The Cougars gave up 126 yards rushing against Nebraska and want to redeem themselves after giving up 445 total yards. With Kai Nacua and Sione Takitaki back in the line-up, the secondary should be solidified a bit more than last week, and the Cougars will need all the help they can get.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to use the running backs a little more in order to have success through the air. The receivers will still play a big part in this game. The offense will likely look more like the offense Christian Stewart ran last year. Mangum will run less than Taysom, but look for him to extend plays with his legs like he did in Lincoln.

Watch for the Broncos to pressure Mangum early as they try to force him into mistakes. The Broncos only allowed 29 yards on 22 rushes last week, so they will look to stuff the Cougars running backs in the backfield and force the offense to throw the ball. If they can force the Cougars to play from behind, they will try to tee off on Mangum and force as many mistakes as possible.

Interesting Tidbit

One of the most recognized features of the Broncos is their blue turf at Albertsons Stadium. Although dear to the heart of the players and fans of the school, many outsiders find it difficult to accept. Many complain it is hard to watch on TV and some go as far as to say it takes away from the game. Boise doesn't agree and even have a patent on the "Smurf Turf." The NFL recognizes the turf, creating a "Boise" rule that no NFL team can have a different colored surface in their stadiums.

Next Meeting

The Cougars and Broncos will meet once again in Boise on October 22, 2016. The series as set up will continue yearly through 2023.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 8:15 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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