Key #3: Continued Offensive Line Improvement
It has been no secret that Boise State’s offensive line has gone through its struggles this year, but due to some substitutions by the Bronco coaching staff, their play has improved some over the last game and a half. Last week’s game against Colorado State once again proved that given time, Brett Rypien is still the best quarterback in the Mountain West.
While it was still not up to Boise State standards, the running game did improve slightly, as the Broncos ran for 156 yards and 2 touchdowns (when adjusted for sacks). The right side of the line featured Donte Harrington as right guard and John Ojukwu as right tackle. According to Coach Harsin, Ojukwu is playing very well and he appears to have earned the starting spot for the near future.
While he did not say Harrington played poorly, he hinted that when healthy, Eric Quevedo would return at right guard. Because Harsin keeps non-season injury updates close to vest, we may not know the starting five until the first snap on Saturday.
Running back Alexander Mattison ran for 85 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, good for 4.25 yards per carry. This is also an improvement from his last four games when he was under 4 yards per carry, we are unfortunately not seeing the same Mattison who dismantled Colorado State in 2017 for well over 200 yards from scrimmage. I do not believe this is simply on Mattison, the offensive line certainly deserves some blame as well.
I do however believe that Mattison’s patient running style is not conducive to the play that we have seen out of this improved starting five. Despite Mattison’s obvious talent, the Broncos might want to give a few more carries to backups Robert Mahone and Andrew Van Buren. They are more aggressive downhill runners, who may have better luck with the style of run blocking (short, more compact holes) that this offensive line is currently providing. Keeping Rypien clean and providing the backs lanes to run in will be critical for the Broncos to take the series lead on Saturday.
ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Broncos a 77% chance to beat the Falcons on Saturday. Despite the Falcon’s 3-4 record the FPI gives Air Force nearly a 25% chance to win this game this also illustrates how difficult it is to play in Colorado Springs. While I do not necessary believe Boise State will walk away with a repeat of 2017, I do believe they leave Falcon Stadium victorious. The Broncos win the turnover battle again this week in route to a close but sturdy win.
Boise State 27 Air Force 13