Boise State Football: Keys to Victory vs. Miami (Ohio) RedHawks
Coming off of a heart-breaking loss at No. 10 Michigan State, the Boise State Broncos will welcome a less-daunting challenge to their famed blue turf in Bronco Stadium.
That doesn't mean their home opener should be taken lightly, though. The Miami RedHawks are bent on proving their worth against top-tier programs after a disappointing loss at Ohio State to begin the regular season.
Here are the Broncos' keys to victory in Saturday's showdown.
Win the time of possession battle
Against the Spartans, Boise State was constantly on its heels on both sides of the ball. The offense had the ball for just 20:41 of 60 minutes, and never really got into a rhythm. Although the defense played well, the unit eventually wore down due to Le'Veon Bell's punishing 44 carries.
The RedHawks are more renowned for their passing ability than their running game, so this matchup tilts more in favor of the Broncos in that regard.
A spread attack led by Miami quarterback Zac Dysert does lend itself to getting the ball to the team's playmakers on short throws, so the Broncos' defensive backs must tackle well in open space to force the offense off the field.
Shut down explosive RedHawks combo
Dysert and wide receiver Nick Harwell form one of the most underrated quarterback-to-receiver duos in college football.
Both players should garner consideration as NFL prospects, especially Harwell, who grabbed a game-high eight passes for 120 yards and a score against the Buckeyes.
The Broncos secondary will have their hands full, and will have to double-team Harwell in order to prevent him from having another big game.
Both a four-year starter and a team captain, Dysert has prototypical size and exceptional athleticism. Even if Harwell is blanketed, Dysert can escape the pocket and make plays with his feet, or sling it to sure-handed senior Andy Cruse, who had 12 catches last week against Southern Illinois.
It will be interesting to see how the Broncos fare against a more experienced quarterback than they faced in the opener.
Capitalize on turnovers
Speaking of that inexperienced signal-caller scenario, Michigan State's Andrew Maxwell made his first start against Boise State as the successor to Kirk Cousins, who won more games than any other QB in Spartans history.
The pressure of grabbing the reins of a Top 10 team seemed a bit much for the junior to handle at times, even though he had Bell to frequently hand the ball to.
Maxwell threw three interceptions against the Broncos, including one that resulted in a pick-six. That was their only touchdown of the game.
If the Broncos want to be more convincing in front of the home fans, they will need to take better advantage of those golden opportunities. There's no guarantee that the RedHawks will turn it over, but slightly better talent on Boise State's side should yield at least some mistakes from Miami.
More efficient quarterback play
If Maxwell had a tough time filling in during the season opener, imagine what new BSU quarterback Joe Southwick was feeling in attempting to follow the legendary act that was Kellen Moore.
Not only was he the winningest QB in the program's history, but also in the history of the entire NCAA. It's hard to blame Southwick for struggling, especially against a defense of Michigan State's caliber.
After last week's outing which resulted in zero-touchdown drives and an interception in the end zone, it's no lock that Southwick will provide the Broncos with a matchup edge at the game's most important position.
An improved running game against Miami will go a long way in making Southwick more comfortable in the saddle. However, he must make plays with his arm and outplay Dysert for the Broncos to come out on top.
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