Two weeks after suffering a devastating loss to rival BYU, No. 21 Boise State traveled to San Jose, Calif. to take on the now 4-5 Spartans. In the 14th year matchup between the two schools, the Spartans have yet to walk away with a win.
Despite a shaky start to the game, the Broncos were able to hold on and beat the Spartans on Nov. 3 by a score of 52-42. Here are three possible reasons the Broncos were able to come away with a win vs. San Jose State.
A slow start for the Broncos ended with a rapid finish
Boise State struggled on both sides of the ball during the first half. Defensively, they had no answer for San Jose quarterback Josh Love who threw for 292 yards while accounting for a pair of touchdowns in the first two quarters of the game.
Offensively, the Broncos could not find a rhythm early on. In his first game back since a hip injury, quarterback Hank Bachmaier was left unprotected. The Spartans sacked Bachmaier three times in the first half and forced an interception.
Going into Saturday’s contest, San Jose’s defense averaged 236 yards per game on the ground against, ranking last in the Mountain West. Boise State rushed for only 17 yards on 15 attempts in the first half.
After being down 14-0 in the first quarter and 24-17 at the half, Boise State still managed to rally. Bachmaier received more time in the pocket and connected with wide receiver John Hightower on five occasions for 129 yards.
“No matter what happens in the game, we’re going to keep fighting,” Hightower said. “I know for sure that everyone on our offense is going to keep fighting.”
Boise State’s running backs stepped up
After finishing the first half with only 17 yards on the ground, head coach Bryan Harsin and offensive coordinator Zak Hill made it a point to continue running the football.
“I thought Coach Hill called a great game by sticking to the run,” Harsin said. “When you get behind, sometimes that’s hard to do, but we were committed to it.”
The decision by Hill to continue running the ball certainly paid off. True freshman George Holani has continued to find his groove in the Broncos offense. Holani was the leading rusher on the team going into the night and added to his impressive freshman season by rushing for 126 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Andrew Van Buren also stepped up, rushing for 85 yards on nine carries and recording a touchdown as well.
Player injuries mattered, but the Broncos prevailed
Injuries were a key factor in Boise State’s lack of domination from the start. The Broncos were without starting safety Kekoa Nawahine, who was out with a knee injury that he suffered against BYU. San Jose quarterback Josh Love would expose Boise State’s lack of experience in the secondary by throwing for 432 yards, the most by a Mountain West quarterback this season.
On the offensive line, tackle John Molchon was also unavailable due to a knee injury. Molchon has been a constant this season for the Broncos on the offensive line. Molchon’s lack of presence was felt early on when Bachmaier was sacked multiple times. However, Boise State did not give up a sack in the second half.
The Broncos see the matchup against San Jose State as a learning point going forward.
“We have a lot of stuff to clean up from this game,” said cornerback Kekaula Kaniho. “Now it’s a matter of finishing and maybe even starting better.”
With their New Year’s Six bowl game hopes still alive, the Broncos will return home on Nov. 9 to play University of Wyoming (6-2, 3-1).