Apparently, “Aggies All the Way” does not apply throughout a Boise State beatdown. Utah State fans fled from the Maverik Stadium as the Broncos steam-rolled their Aggies 56-21 on Saturday, Nov 23.
Knowing a ticket to the Mountain West Championship was at stake, the Broncos met their opponent’s efforts with dominance on all sides of the ball — a degree of dominance not yet seen in 2019. In simpler terms, the Broncos came to play.
The defensive highlights included four sacks on USU quarterback Jordan Love and two interceptions, one of which was returned by redshirt junior Jalen Walker for a 15-yard pick-six. Special teams also put six points on the board with redshirt junior Avery Williams’ 74-yard punt return for a touchdown.
The main takeaway, however, may be the shift in the dynamic of Boise State’s offense.
Throughout their season, there has been plenty of doubt surrounding the Broncos’ ability to run the ball, protect the passer and maintain momentum in the pocket within an arguably unstable quarterback room. Boise State responded to such doubts with clear growth and a newfound maturity in the areas previously questioned.
Head coach Bryan Harsin explained that his team’s level of play was reflective of their devotion toward improvement in the week prior.
“They start to see that the work we’re putting in is paying off,” Harsin said. “That creates a lot of momentum on the sideline — a lot of energy.”
Jaylon Henderson’s leadership
Amidst the irregularity of his team’s quarterback situation, redshirt senior Jaylon Henderson maintained composure in his second start of the season. Henderson went 16-28 for 187 yards and three touchdowns.
After the game, Henderson was quick to attribute the high score to the efforts of teammates around him, ultimately crediting his O-line, running backs and receivers. The team-centric nature of Henderson’s statement aligned with Harsin’s comments about his selfless attitude toward the sport.
“[Henderson is] just out there leading,” Harsin said. “There’s nothing about him, it’s all about us. It’s all about ‘What do we have to do?’ And he’ll do whatever it takes. I really believe that.”
Harsin’s faith in Henderson was put on display when the quarterback was entrusted with executing the legendary “Statue of Liberty,” a play first debuted in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. This play is strategically demanding, as it consists of a fake pump pass across the middle of play followed by a blind handoff, behind-the-back.
The legacy of the “Statue of Liberty” lives on, as the play resulted in the Broncos’ third touchdown of the night.
“I felt honored,” Henderson said. “That’s a very monumental play in Boise State history and it felt great for us.”
George Holani and Boise’s run game
Before facing the Aggies, Boise State’s offense often struggled to run the ball effectively, averaging 175.2 rushing yards per game. Collectively, the Broncos left Utah with 297 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, statistically showing major development on the front end.
Freshman running back George Holani exceeded his career record of 126 rushing yards early on in the night, with 149 yards in the first half and 178 yards total. His success did not go unnoticed; his teammates were forthcoming with their appreciation for the young athlete.
“George had a big game. He really was the backbone of our offense tonight as far as moving the ball,” Henderson said. “The kid runs the ball hard.”
The O-line’s role
When freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier was at shotgun early in the season, he took an average of 16 hits per game. Against Utah, Boise State’s offensive line only allowed one sack on Henderson throughout the whole game, allowing the relatively inexperienced quarterback time in the pocket with little pressure.
“Hats off to the O-line up front. I couldn’t have done anything without them,” Henderson said.
The O-line’s aggressiveness also improved the Broncos’ run game, clearing wide pathways for Holani and other running backs — pathways not made in games yielding low rush yardage, such as their loss against BYU.
The Broncos’ meticulous preparation not only earned a 10-1 record, but also guaranteed them a seat in the Mountain West Championship to be hosted on their home field on Dec. 7 at 2 p.m MT.
In the meantime, Boise State hopes to keep their winning streak alive on the road against Colorado State on Nov. 29 at 1:30 p.m. MT.
“We’re just going to put it all on the field and get ready for the next game. That’s all we can do,” Walker said.