Boise State was back to their winning ways following a 39-12 victory over Miami (OH) last Saturday. The Broncos offensive performance was a night-and-day contrast from their season-opening loss at Michigan State two weeks prior as the Broncos racked up 599 yards of total offense behind 304 yards and two touchdowns passing from redshirt junior quarterback Joe Southwick; paired with sixth-year senior D.J. Harper’s career high 162 yards rushing to go along with his three rushing touchdowns.
Shift focus to Thursday night at 7 p.m., when the Broncos (1-1, 0-0 in Mountain West) will take to The Blue to renew their rivalry against BYU (2-1) in the first of a twelve-year series with the Cougars.
Both teams are coming in on short rest as BYU has a bitter taste in their mouths following a loss at the hands of their in-state rivals, the Utah Utes, in what was one of the craziest finishes college football has ever seen. This is the first time these two teams have seen each other since 2004 when the Cougars fell to the Broncos at home, 28-27 on a late missed field goal.
BYU brings in an offensive aspect which will test the Broncos defense in the mobility of their quarterback, Riley Nelson. Nelson, a transfer from Utah State who quarterbacked the Aggies back in 2006, is a threat with both his arm and his legs.
“He’s hard-nosed, doesn’t go down easy,” said senior linebacker Tommy Smith on Nelson’s play. “He likes the contact and he looks for his receivers.”
Through three games, including a 30-6 win over Washington State and a 45-13 win against Weber State, Nelson has completed 60 percent of his passes for 735 yards and 5 TD’s. Couple this with his ability to escape the pocket and create on the move, and Nelson has potential to cause issues for the Broncos defense.
“He’s much more of a running quarterback, that’s really part of his game I think, is running around and creating things,” said head coach Chris Petersen. “He’s really good off the scramble, and if he’s going to scramble, he’s going to put his pads down.”
On the opposite side of the ball, BYU presents a big, physical defense, a fact which resonates with coaches and players alike. The Cougars have outscored their opponents 96-40 through their first three games.
“From the film we’ve watched, they are a great defense, very physical, and have a ton of speed on their side so it’s going to be a fun matchup”, said senior wide receiver, Chris Potter, who scored his first touchdown since 2010 last weekend.
The Broncos will try and counter the tenacious BYU defense by continuing their high-powered, offensive efficiency from last weekend. With both quarterback Joe Southwick and running back D.J. Harper having career high games in yards, the Broncos will need to ride their confidence into Thursday night if they want the same success.
Quarterback Joe Southwick will be faced with a much tougher defensive scheme than last week. Petersen knows Southwick must get into a rhythm sooner.
“Joe does some really good things,” said Petersen. “The more reps he gets, and the more live snaps, that’s what he needs. If we can get some more experience under his belt, we’re definitely heading in the right direction.”
With the first win of the season under their belt, the Broncos will look to carry over the momentum from last week into Thursday night’s matchup as they look to make a statement against a tough BYU squad.