Wyoming vs. #22 Boise State: Three Keys To A Broncos Win
The Cowboys head to the blue for a critical Mountain division clash. Here’s how to watch and our preview of how the Broncos can win.
Both teams have a lot at stake.
WEEK 11: Wyoming Cowboys (6-2, 3-1 Mountain West) vs. #22 Boise State Broncos (7-1, 4-0 MW)
WHEN: Saturday, November 9 — 8:15 PM MT/7:15 PM PT
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium; Boise, Idaho (36,387)
RADIO: The Boise State broadcast can be found on the Bronco Sports Network, including flagships 670 AM (KBOI) and 93.1 FM (KTIK) in Boise, while the Wyoming broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Cowboy Sports Network.
SERIES RECORD: Boise State leads the series 12-1. In the last meeting on September 29, 2018, the Broncos defeated the Cowboys, 34-14, in Laramie.
LAST WEEK: Boise State survived a challenge on the road from San Jose State, 52-42, while Wyoming was on a bye after defeating Nevada at home the week before.
ODDS (via OddsShark): Boise State -13
SP+ PROJECTION: Boise State by 10.8 (73% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Boise State by 8.1
Now that their standing in the race to the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six bowl berth has been affirmed, the Boise State Broncos will get back on the blue Saturday night to take the next step toward claiming it against the Wyoming Cowboys.
Craig Bohl’s Pokes don’t figure to be an easy out, but the difficulty level of an upset bid got a lot higher this week when it was made official that starting quarterback Sean Chambers was finished for the year with an injury. The Broncos look primed to keep things rolling, but they’ll still have to find ways to crack what has been a very tough defense.
Here’s how the Broncos can maintain their winning ways against the Cowboys.
Three Keys to a Boise State Victory
1. Bury Tyler Vander Waal.
You might think it’s a stretch to say that the sophomore’s stint under center in 2018 was one of the worst quarterback performances of the decade, but Vander Waal is one of just two Mountain West quarterbacks since 2010 with more than 200 pass attempts in a season, under 5.5 yards per attempt, and a completion percentage of under 50%.
To his credit, he didn’t make many obvious mistakes — Hawaii’s Max Wittek was the other quarterback to meet those same “benchmarks”, but he had 15 interceptions and Vander Waal had just four — but the offense had zero punch, cracking five yards per play just twice in August and September against New Mexico State and, ironically, Boise State.
Needless to say, it’s hard to imagine the Broncos aren’t happy to be seeing him as QB1 again, especially if they can stop the run and pin their ears back in more obvious passing situations. On passing downs (2nd-and-8 or more, 3rd-and-5 or more, 4th-and-5 or more), the Cowboys have allowed a 10% sack rate, 103rd in the country, so don’t be shocked if Curtis Weaver has another monster game.
2. Get a fast start from Hank Bachmeier.
The Cowboys just might have the toughest secondary that Boise State has faced all season long. No team in the country has been thrown at more — Wyoming has faced 41.9 pass attempts per game — but they’ve done an admirable job of locking things down, especially after halftime. Their 110.24 opponents’ passer rating ranks 20th among FBS teams and they’ve held quarterbacks to a 55.1% completion rate.
This makes avoiding a slow start all the more important, as “Hurricane Hank” has been mostly pedestrian in the first quarter so far in 2019. He currently sports a passer rating of 123.56 and a 53.6% completion rate in the first 15 minutes and a 161.20 rating and a 66.7% completion rate in the last 45, so the sooner Boise State can get the aerial attack off the ground, the better.
3. Account for Alijah Halliburton on the ground.
It seemed like a tall task to replace a pair of NFL-bound safeties, but Wyoming has done just that with the senior strong safety from Aurora, Colorado, who’s quietly having one of the best seasons in the conference. He’s on track to become the first Mountain West defensive back since Hawaii’s Trayvon Henderson in 2016 to finish with double-digits tackles for loss and he also leads all FBS defensive backs with 9.5 tackles per game, a big reason why the Cowboys rank 24th nationally with a 15.1% Stuff Rate (plays stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) and, without adjusting for sacks, have allowed just 2.8 YPC.
He’ll make running effectively a unique challenge since the Broncos have been up and down in that regard. Boise State doesn’t often get pushed backwards themselves — they own an offensive Stuff Rate of 15%, which ranks 21st nationally — but Florida State, Marshall, and Air Force all held the Broncos under four yards per carry. If Wyoming can muddy things up in that same fashion, it’ll be that much tougher for the Broncos to give themselves breathing room as the game progresses.
Wyoming’s injury luck landed a critical blow at a really bad time. The defense seems capable of frustrating the Broncos offense and landing some hits on Hank Bachmeier, but without Sean Chambers under center, it’s difficult to imagine the offense establishing the tone it wants. It might be close for a half, but expect Boise State to pull away late and put the clamps on the Cowboys.
Boise State 21, Wyoming 6