After losing top scorers in quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Alexander Mattison to the NFL, the Boise State football team went into the 2019 season unranked and underestimated.
And the doubt seems to have sparked a fire under this team’s feet.
The Broncos are just past the halfway point of their season and are sitting at 6-1 and ranked No. 22 in the country. This team was the top-ranked Group of Five team in the nation prior to their loss to rival BYU. Now, there are three Group of Five teams ahead of the Broncos in the AP Top 25 Poll.
This team has had some major highs this season, but the Broncos are far from playing perfect football.
Boise State has depth on its roster, and it was showcased against Hawaii. True freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier went down with an apparent hip injury and backups Chase Cord and Jaylon Henderson stepped in without missing a beat. Cord took the majority of the snaps. The Broncos’ have depth at quarterback, and more importantly, it is diverse.
“Each of our quarterbacks are different. Hank brings a certain element to the vibe on the field. He has his energy and competitiveness,” said offensive coordinator Zak Hill. “Chase is a little bit more athletic and can kind of get out and make you pay with his feet, but can also throw it and be accurate. Chase has that calm cool demeanor about him.”
The wide receivers’ room is another strength of the team. There is senior John Hightower, who brings speed and the ability to make plays down the field; he had a career-high 141 yards against Hawaii. Sophomore Khalil Shakir brings versatility — he proved this when he ran the wildcat offense and rushed for a touchdown against Hawaii. Junior CT Thomas has broken over the century mark twice. They also have a solid receiver in redshirt senior Akilian Butler.
“We have a guy like Hightower, we have a guy like Shaq, even AK who can do some different things and move around different spots and makes it very hard to defend from a defensive standpoint,” said co-offensive coordinator and wide receiver coach Eric Kiesau.
The Broncos defense has been solid all season. The defense was only allowing an average of 19.5 points a game, prior to BYU’s 28 points. Not to mention, the defense is led by one of the FBS sack leaders STUD Curtis Weaver who has 9.5 sacks — a tie with Ohio States’ Chase Young.
The Broncos will start fast, and then they won’t. And when they do not, they leave a lot of pressure on the defense to keep the game close. The Broncos started fast against Hawaii putting up 31 points in the first half, but then started slow against BYU only putting up 10 points in the first half.
“I don’t think we’ve had the consistency yet that we’re all hoping for, to the standard that we play at,” said head coach Bryan Harsin.
The Broncos’ run game started strong at Florida State, where running back redshirt junior Robert Mahone netted 142 yards. This was followed by a 103-yard performance from freshman George Holani against Marshall. Boise State has not had a running back eclipse 100 yards since, but they did show more consistency against Hawai’i. Mahone and Holani combined for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought we were better… I thought we finished the way we wanted to. George had that big run at the end. That was solid, and that’s the effort you want to see your guys give,” Harsin said. “We did improve. As you kind of looked at the numbers and what we were able to do and how we attacked in the run game, we improved. But you have to put some back to back games like that together.”
After the offense posted a season-high 59 points against Hawai’i, they crashed at BYU. The Broncos were outplayed and outcoached. The defense could not stop first-time starter quarterback Baylor Romeny who finished with 221 yards and two touchdowns. Chase Cord and the offense could not get anything going until it was too late. The Broncos’ inconsistency cost them the game.
This team was sitting at an impressive 6-0 for only the second time in the Harsin era. But after BYU upset the Broncos they fall to 6-1 and are no longer a top contender for a spot in the Cotton Bowl.