Boise State vs. New Mexico: Keys For A Broncos Victory
What do the Broncos need to do to be victorious over the Lobos on Friday?
Will the Broncos be challenged?
Team A has lost five in a row and Team B has won five in a row. Team A has nothing to lose and Team B has everything to lose, including an outside chance at the New Year’s Six game. I’ll let you decide which team is which.
Even though the Broncos are the much better team on paper, Coach Bryan Harsin was quick to site the 2015 debacle where Boise State lost to the Lobos at home, despite being a 30 point underdog. Now the Broncos are back in a similar situation to 2015 where they have to win out to return to the Mountain West Championship Game to defend their 2017 conference crown.
New Mexico has (mostly) transitioned from their typical triple-option attack to a more conventional and balanced offense. Last week against Air Force they threw the ball 18 times for 186 yards and one interception. The Lobos played both Sheriron Jones and Coltin Gerhart against the Falcons.
Jones is expected to start against the Broncos as Gerhart is questionable with a leg injury. So far this year Jones has thrown for 1,316 yards, 7.7 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, with a 54.4% completion percentage. Jones also runs the football but finished the Air Force game with 6 carries for -6 yards and a long of 8 yards.
Let’s take a look on the keys to a Boise State Victory.
Key #1: Continued Offensive Line Improvement
This is a standing key for victory and will continue to be until the Broncos can prove that their offensive line is more reliable than the results from the San Diego State and Oklahoma State games.
The offensive line had arguably its best performance of the year last week when it paved the way for running back Alexander Mattison to gain 144 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Quarterback Brett Rypien, who is not typically considered a mobile quarterback, added in 30 yards of his own on 8 carries (including one sack). If the Broncos offensive line can once again open holes for Mattison, while keeping Rypien clean, Boise State should be fine on Friday night.
Key #2: Maintain Focus
As mentioned above, Boise State appears to be the better team on paper. This, however, does not give the Broncos an automatic win in Albuquerque, there are upsets in college football every week. In 2015 the Broncos struggled with turnovers, especially in the red zone.
The defense needs to remain alert, Coach Bob Davie has nothing to lose and will be pulling out all the stops in hopes of a Lobo victory. Losing focus and looking ahead to next week’s matchup with Utah State will result in a New Mexico upset or a dangerously close Bronco win.
Key #3: Next Man Up
While it is the time of the year when nearly every college football team is banged up, Boise State has been hit especially hard by the injury bug. Next man up remains a key for the Broncos despite having a few key contributors back last week such as nose guard Sonatai Lui.
Lui and true freshman nose guard Scale Igiehon took the field together at times in the Fresno game to help alleviate some of the pain felt from having David Moa out for the year.
Another individual who has been forced to step up for the Broncos is Jabari Watson, a redshirt sophomore defensive tackle, who has also been tasked with picking up some of the slack left by Moa’s absence.
Ezekiel Noa has replaced Riley Whimpey at linebacker played well against Fresno State, notching 5 tackles, including half a tackle for a loss. Another effective showing of the Bronco’s depth on Friday will allow them to leave Albuquerque victorious.
ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Broncos a 90.7% chance to beat the Lobos on Friday night. Boise State has never lost when visiting the Lobos and that trend won’t be broken this year. An interesting wrinkle to watch for is to keep track of the true freshman that play now that there is a max of 4 games remaining for the Broncos. This could lend a hint of what the future might hold.
Boise State 42 New Mexico 17