The Cougars are looking to rebound after their comeback hopes against Utah fell *just* short last Saturday. They will be going up to Boise tomorrow night to take on the Broncos on that hideous blue turf. Boise fans, are you riled up yet? If not, just know that I still pronounce it BOY-ZEE.
The Cougars and Broncos have met twice. In 2003, the Broncos steamrolled BYU in Provo 50-12. The return trip to Boise ended when Matt Payne missed a 38 yard field goal with 23 seconds remaining, leaving the final score 28-27 in favor of Boise.
Since the beginning of the 2008 season, Boise state has 4 losses. In that span, they’ve lost to Michigan State (this year), Nevada, and TCU (twice). On the turf, the Broncos lost to TCU last year, missing a last second field goal attempt. But to find the loss on the turf previous to that? You have to go back to 2001, when Boise State lost to Washington State. Yes, that’s far enough back that WSU was actually good at football. Two home losses in 10 years. That’s home dominance. The crowd will be loud. It will be a sea of blue and orange complete with Bronco Elvis and several brightly colored pimps. It oughtta be fun.
The Cougars were rattled last week against Utah. Rice Eccles Stadium is about as hostile an environment as you can get as a Cougar, but I think Boise State will be able to match that stadium intensity. BYU committed 7 false start penalties and had an errant snap scooped up by Utah and returned for a touchdown. These mistakes obviously contributed to and/or caused the loss, and must be amended before gametime. The Cougars did show a lot of fight, even when down 24-7, they rallied back to within three, and put themselves in position to tie and possibly win the game.
Keys to the game
Offensive Line. The aforementioned penalties and errant snap can all be traced back here. It’s hard to get into any sort of rhythm on offense when you have 7 false start penalties. I’ve mentioned this too, but the errant snap turnover to TD was the difference in the game. This unit has got to come together, and their job was made all the more difficult with the loss of Houston Reynolds for the rest of the season. As goes the O line, so go the Cougars.
The Rush Attack. Talk from coaches was that Alisa will be getting more and more touches, becoming the (I hate to say it this way but) Harvey Unga of the RB unit. I’ll accept that where reps go, but Alisa hasn’t shown himself to be that good yet. I am happy with the move though, because this running back by committee pretty much adds up to no one ever doing much of anything. As a great number two, I see Jamaal Williams. The kid looked really great with increased touches against Utah…and he’s only 17.
Special Teams. This is a love-hate unit. What I’m loving: the kick and punt returns have been electrifying! The punt team has been excellent as well, even pinning Utah inside the 1 yard line last week. At this point I really hate field goals. I don’t want to see us attempt anything longer than about 20 yards out. Boise also shares some kicking woes…so we may see more going for it and less kicking it this game.
Turnovers. Like Utah, Boise is a good team that will capitalize on mistakes. BYU must win the turnover battle to win this game. That is all.
Bronco D. While the offense is struggling, this defense already has found an identity. These guys are amazing. Besides allowing a 39 yard touchdown pass last week, I felt the unit was solid from start to finish. The only thing I really felt was missing was forcing turnovers. BYU gave up the ball twice, but our defense wasn’t able to force a single Utah turnover. Boise State will be forced to beat us through the air. I do not see them running effectively against this defense. The pressure will then be placed squarely on the shoulders of Joe Southwick, who will become intimately acquainted with Kyle Van Noy and a few other Cougar defenders.
It’s pretty simple. Boise has lost twice on the smurf turf in the last 10+ years. But they did lose on it last year. They have three losses in the last 4 years. But they already have one loss this season. The Broncos are a great team, but they can be beaten. Both teams feature tough defenses, and I think those defenses will rule the day. This is going to be a low-scoring, defensive struggle, and the difference in the game will be a single touchdown.
I’m picking the Cougars to upset the Broncos on the blue turf, 21-17.