Boise State’s ground game—running backs division—has not been the same since wearing down Florida State with 214 yards on 57 attempts in the season opener as Robert Mahone netted 142 yards. George Holani followed with 103 against Marshall, but the Broncos haven’t had anyone go for 100 since. Boise State showed a little more consistency last week, though, rushing for 203 yards without the benefit of a big run from a wide receiver. Mahone and Holani combined for 138 of them. Now at BYU, the Broncos face a team that’s ranked 123rd out of 130 FBS teams in rushing defense, allowing 224.5 yards per game. Is this where Boise State gets back to ground-and-pound? Will Mahone or Holani, or both, go off?
RUNNING ON THE COUGARS
The BYU defense is coming off equally frustrating performances in games it was favored to win. Equally, as in, the Cougars allowed 243 rushing yards at South Florida last Saturday and 242 at Toledo the week before. Holding up in the second half has been a problem. Coinicidentally, USF and Toledo both ran for 178 of their yards after halftime while rallying for victories. If you listen to BYU coach Kalani Sitake, Boise State’s offensive line—with the original five back together again—bears watching Saturday night in Provo. “They were knocking us off the ball and getting chunk yardage,” said Sitake of the South Florida O-line. “So, it was guys not holding their ground, and guys getting knocked off the ball, and it became a fight.”
RUNNING ON THE BRONCOS
BYU’s rushing offense is also a concern. Ty’Son Williams, a graduate transfer from South Carolina, tore an ACL against Washington and was lost for the season. And the Cougars are down to 121.3 yards on the ground per game (the Broncos are allowing 125.0). Williams’ replacement is Emmanuel Esukpa, a transfer from Rice, but he did not finish the South Florida game (although there’s no indication he’s out for the Boise State game). Esukpa has rushed for 184 yards. The Cougars have Lopini Katoa backing up Esukpa. Kotoa has 123 yards on the season. With BYU’s quarterback status up in the air, the Cougs will need somebody at running back to step up.
A CERTAIN SIGHTING ON THE PRACTICE FIELD
KTVB’s Jay Tust tweeted a piece of video without elaboration Wednesday. It didn’t need any. No. 19 was in uniform and going through drills at Boise State’s morning practice. Unless it was somebody in disguise, quarterback Hank Bachmeier appears to be on the mend following his hip injury last Saturday versus Hawaii. It would still be a surprise to see him play Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Chase Cord remains the odds-on favorite. Cord’s season stats: 20-of-35 for 295 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. His pass efficiency rating is an excellent 184.5. Bachmeier’s is 149.2, and that’s good.
SENIOR HOOPS STATUS
Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice will throw five seniors on the floor this season as part of a talent-laden squad. The known quantities are Justinian Jessup, Alex Hobbs and Marcus Dickinson. The unknowns are RJ Williams and Robin Jorch. Williams, who celebrated a birthday Wednesday, started the 2018-19 season hot, but he cooled considerably in Mountain West play. He averaged 12.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in non-conference play and 6.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in league action. Jorch redshirted last season after playing sparingly the previous three. The 6-11 German will be important this winter, especially with Mikey Frazier no longer a part of the program. Rice said this week on Idaho SportsTalk he’s seen Williams and Jorch make huge strides since the end of last season.
MATTISON’S STAR IS RISING
Alexander Mattison is making points with Minnesota and its fans. Mattison was the Vikings’ leading rusher last Sunday in their 38-20 win over Philadelphia with 14 carries for 63 yards, including a nifty 35-yarder. “He goes out there and he performs,” Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said in a USAToday.com story. “There’s not much of a drop off from one to two, which is a really good thing for us, and we’re looking to get him some work. He provides a similar but different running style than Dalvin (Cook). But he’s a young player that I think is only going to get better, and I applaud his effort and how he prepares.” Mattison has rushed for 252 yards and a touchdown in his first six games as a rookie, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
MERRITT OFF, DELAET ON
Troy Merritt is pretty far away from Meridian today. Merritt essentially took a bye week from the PGA Tour last week to gear up for the CJ Cup halfway around the world. The tournament is underway at Nine Bridges Golf Club on Jeju Island, South Korea. The former Boise State star tied for 63rd two weeks ago at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. Graham DeLaet is taking time off after an educational but satisfying return to the PGA Tour the past two weeks. “Never been so happy to make a cut on the number,” tweeted DeLaet last weekend. “Lots of ups and downs. Lots of hard work. Here’s to everyone who’s ever made the decision to persevere!”
SHOWDOWN IN OLD BRONCO GYM
The Boise State women’s volleyball team hosts its biggest home match of the season tonight, as 14th-ranked Colorado State visits Bronco Gym. The Rams were Mountain West preseason favorites and have not disappointed, sitting atop the conference at 6-0. The Broncos are 4-2. A victory would be a huge upset—Boise State is 1-16 all-time against CSU. Elsewhere, the Bronco women’s soccer team tries to maintain its first-place Mountain West perch with road games at Wyoming Friday and Colorado State Sunday.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by MAZ-TECH AUTOMOTIVE…your car says, “Take me to Maz-Tech!”
October 17, 1997: The first game in the history of the Idaho Steelheads, who were making their debut in the West Coast Hockey League against the defending champion San Diego Gulls. Alain Savage, who would be the Steelheads’ leading scorer and fan favorite during that first season, instantly endeared himself to the locals by registering a hat trick in the 7-3 Steelies win. The Steelies would play in the WCHL until 2003, when the league was absorbed by the ECHL. Idaho is the only team from the old WCHL remaining in the ECHL.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)