Aggies face a nearly impossible game in an impossible year
WEEK 8: Utah State Aggies (0-0) vs. Boise State Broncos (0-0)
WHEN: Saturday, October 24th, 2020 – 5:00 PM MST/4:00 PM PT
WHERE: Albertson’s Stadium; Boise, ID (36,387)
STREAMING: FuboTV – Get a 7-day free trial
RADIO: Utah State radio broadcast on 1280 The Zone (1280 AM), 1280thezone.com / Tunein.com
ODDS (via ESPN): Boise State -16.5
Three Keys to a Utah State Victory
1. Move the chains no matter what
USU had a productive run game overall last season, but it faltered at critical times. Against the Broncos last year, USU rushed for 121 yards on 34 attempts, good for a mediocre 3.6 ypc. The ground game wasn’t effective enough to keep the Aggie offense on the field, and it hung the Aggie D, without the services of linebacker David Woodward, out to dry. Boise’s George Holani ran wherever he wanted whenever he wanted by garnering 178 yards on the ground with a blistering 11.1 ypc. Needless to say, the game was over by halftime.
This year, the Aggies return Jaylen Warren at RB and now have serious backup help in Utah/BYU transfer Devonta’e Henry-Cole. Though he saw limited playing time while he played for his last team, he averaged a healthy 5.2 ypc against Pac-12 competition. He’s also been touted as a strong blocker. With the addition of Pailate Makakona at running back, this unit easily figures to be USU’s best offensive position next to a now veteran offensive line.
Throwing in the known rushing prowess of QB Jason Shelley, USU has plenty of weapons to keep a stout Bronco D honest and allow a chance for a thin Aggie D to rest. If USU can’t run, they can’t win.
2. Pressure Hank Bachmeier… a lot
The Broncos return a dynamic quarterback in sophomore Hank Bachmeier. In eight games last year, he passed for 1,879 yard and nine touchdowns to six interceptions. He completed over 60% of his passes and often looked quite good. He also has an embarrassment of riches at the wide receiver position to throw to in senior Octavius Evans and junio Khalil Shakir. If there’s no pressure, it’s a long shot USU’s secondary can contain these dynamic threats.
Nevertheless, Boise is breaking in an inexperienced offensive line. As tough a QB as there is, Bachmeier still took an unreasonably high number of hits from opposing teams last year. After enduring a painful 65 hits through just four games, Bachmeier got knocked out for the remaining six games on the schedule.
With USU going back to its roots in the 3-4 base defense in 2020, the Aggies have a decent shot at finally getting pressure on opposing QBs again, which could prove enormously helpful in a game against a QB of Bachmeier’s caliber. The Aggies need to make him as uncomfortable as possible to have a prayer against this offense.
3. Unleash Jason Shelley and be creative
In order to keep up with the Broncos, the Aggies need to use every offensive arrow in their quiver. QB Jason Shelley has plenty of talent, last finishing the 2018 season passing for 1,162 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions. He also carried the ball 63 times for 192 yards, good for 3.0 YPC, with three touchdowns that year at Utah. For the Aggies, he’ll have plenty of reliable targets to throw to in WRs Jordan Nathan and Deven Thompkins. Along with JUCO transfer Justin McGriff, Shelley won’t be short of options, yet he’ll need to exercise good judgment and make sure he consistently makes the easy throws.
"I believe in the guys, and they believe in me."
— USU Football (@USUFootball) October 21, 2020
Scheme-wise, USU will be best off if they can stay as far away as possible from Bronco STUD Demetri Washington and LB Riley Whimpey. These players can and will get pressure, even against a strong Aggie offensive line. Shelley needs to get the ball out quickly and take whatever the defense gives him. If he doesn’t, ball security could become an issue and end the Aggies’ chances of keeping pace and stealing a win on the blue turf.
New Aggie offensive coordinator Bodie Reeder needs to rely heavily on his biggest playmakers and hope the offensive line outmuscles what appears to be an equally matched defensive line. And don’t be afraid to throw to a tight end once in a while!
As dire of a predicament, the Aggies seem to be going to in Boise, it’s not hopeless to scrape out a victory. Almost everything has to go right for the Aggies, and they will undoubtedly need to create turnovers and steal possessions. Blow for blow, USU has little chance of winning straight up against Boise, but they can limit Boise’s offensive opportunities by establishing a consistent ground game. Bachmeier can’t hurt the Aggie D whenever he is one the sideline, so it’s paramount to keep him there as long as possible.
On the flip side, USU has to make the Broncos work for everything they get offensively. Big plays will deflate and defeat USU if they allow the Broncos’ speedy receivers to take advantage of the thin secondary. The COVID-riddled offseason hasn’t been nearly as kind to USU as it has been to Boise in terms of player turnover.
It won’t be the humiliating pie in the face affair last year’s game was, but USU simply doesn’t have the horses to beat the defending conference champions yet.
Boise State 38, Utah State 24