After a heartbreaking, three-point loss to in-state rival Utah, BYU will have a chance to redeem themselves on the road on Thursday. This time, though, it will be in Boise as they take on Boise State.
The Broncos, who are currently ranked 24th in the country, should prove to be a test for the Cougars whose weaknesses were exposed against the Utes last week. BYU will definitely have to improve in order to win this one, but that could be tough with only five days to prepare.
Boise State and BYU have only met twice before, with the Broncos winning on both occasions. But with a strong defense and veteran play-makers on offense, this could be a great time for the Cougars to jump back in to national polls.
So, here is a complete preview for the upcoming game.
Who: BYU at Boise State
When: Thursday, 7:00 PM (MDT)
Where: Boise, Idaho
Stadium: Bronco Stadium (37,000)
Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM 1160 AM
Internet Stream: ESPN3 (www.espn.go.com/watchespn)
From left to right: Michael Alisa, Cody Hoffman, Kaneakua Friel
Offense (Starters in bold)
QB: Riley Nelson, James Lark/ Taysom Hill
RB: Michael Alisa, David Foote, Iona Pritchard
WR: Cody Hoffman, Skyler Ridley, JD Falsev; Ross Apo, Dallin Cutler, David Foote
TE: Kaneakua Friel, Austin Holt
LT: Ryker Mathews, Michael Yeck
LG: Famika Anae (Starter Houston Reynolds out for the rest of the season)
C: Blair Tushaus, Houston Reynolds
RG: Braden Hansen, Brock Stringham
RT: Braden Brown, Manaaki Vaitai
K/P: Riley Stephenson
LS: Reed Hornung
H: JD Falslev
LE: Eathyn Manumaleuna, Mike Muehlmann
DT: Romney Fuga, Simote Vea
RE: Russell Tialavea, Ezekiel Ansah
LB: Spencer Hadley, Alani Fua
MLB: Uona Kaveinga, Zac Stout
LB: Brandon Ogletree, Manoa Pikula
OLB: Kyle Van Noy, Jherremya Leuta-Douyere
CB: Jordan Johnson, Micah Hannemann, Robbie Buckner
CB: Preston Hadley, Skye PoVey
SS: Daniel Sorensen, Craig Bills
FS: Joe Sampson, Mike Hague
PR: JD Falslev
KR: Cody Hoffman, Mike Hague
Offense (Starters in bold)
QB: Joe Southwick, Grant Hedrick, Jimmy Laughrea
RB: D.J. Harper, Drew Wright
FB: Dan Paul, Chandler Koch
X receiver: Matt Miller, Aaron Burks
Z receiver: Mitch Burroughs, Troy Ware
Slot receiver: Kirby Moore, Chris Potter
TE: Gabe Linehan OR Chandler Koch, Holden Huff
LT: Charles Leno, Faraji Wright
LG: Joe Kellogg, Marcus Henry
C: Matt Paradis, Spencer Gerke
RG: Michael Ames, Brenel Myers
RT: Jake Broyles, Rees Odhiambo
DE: Demarcus Lawrence, Tyler Horn
NT: Mike Atkinson, Greg Grimes
DT: Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Darren Koontz
Stud end: Sam Ukwuachu, Beau Martin
MLB: Tommy Smith, Blake Renaud
WLB: J.C. Percy, Tyler Gray
N: Dextrell Simmons, Corey Bell OR Jonathan Brown
CB: Jamar Taylor, Ebo Makinde
CB: Jerrell Gavins, Bryan Douglas
S: Jeremy Ioane, Hazen Moss
S: Lee Hightower, Darian Thompson
K: Michael Frisina, Dan Goodale
P: Trevor Harman, Dan Goodale
KO: Trevor Harman, Dan Goodale
Holder: Matt Miller, Joe Southwick
KR: D.J. Harper, Mitch Burroughs
PR: Mitch Burroughs OR Chris Potter
Long Snapper: Chris Roberson, Kevin Keane
As was mentioned earlier, BYU is coming off a heartbreaking loss against Utah. Despite out gaining the Utes with nine more first downs and 67 more total yards, they lost at the last second - literally - with a final score of 24-21.
They say that stats don't always tell the story. That could not be more true for this game. The Cougars only finished with two turnovers, but recovered multiple fumbles on offense. Also, two snaps flew by the hands of Riley Nelson, one of them being saved by a facemask penalty and the other rewarding Utah a touchdown.
It would probably be impossible to think of a more absurd finish than the end of Saturdays game. The Cougars had the ball with time winding down and after a miraculous fourth-and-long pass was caught by Cody Hoffman, Nelson threw an incomplete pass as time expired. Ute fans stormed the field, but only to be moved off after the officials declared that one second was still on the clock.
So, BYU decided to set up a fifty-plus yard field goal, only for it to be blocked and the fans stormed the field again. But, for one more time, they were forced off after a flag was thrown because they were on before the play was over. So, fifteen yards closer, the Cougs set up another field goal, only for it to strike the post and bounce out.
Boise State's game on Saturday was not nearly as crazy, but a much happier ending for the Broncos. Hosting Miami (Ohio) in Boise, they were able to come up with a 39-12 win. Quarterback Joe Southwick threw for 309 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.
Not only was the passing game great, but the running backs put up quite a clinic. DJ Harper ran for 162 yards off of 16 carries, with his three touchdowns complimenting his performance. Despite trailing 9-8 early on, they were able to bounce back and win big.
Boise State has not lost its first home game of the season since 2001 and was able to keep that streak alive.
For Boise State, a win on Thursday would secure their first impressive win of the season. A game against Miami (Ohio), no matter the margin of victory, is simply not the type that you could call a "big win." If they can beat BYU, the Broncos will surely bolt up in the rankings. Also, this could become a great rivalry for Boise, since they have been looking for a rival.
On the other side of the equation, BYU is simply trying to save their season from tragedy. A loss against BSU would hand them a 2-2 record, and would show that they are simply not good enough to beat the likes of Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and perhaps even Utah State or Oregon State. In the long term, this could pan out to be a good rivalry and the Cougs would want to start it right.
The reason there is a "s" after the word "player" is because the key player for BYU come Thursday will not be one athlete but an entire unit.
Specifically, the offensive line.
After six false starts and multiple holding penalties, there is plenty of room to improve for the linemen. They also gave up several sacks and if they want quarterback Riley Nelson to stay healthy, that's something that had better change.
If the offensive linemen play well, Riley Nelson has time to complete passes and holes open up for the running backs. If the linemen play well, so does the offense.
After setting a career record with 162 rushing yards off of 16 carries last week against Miami, DJ Harper proved that he can be a great running back. He will need to have another breakout game in order for the Broncos to win.
With 15 carries against Michigan State, he finished with only eight yards. Because of his lackluster performance, all of the responsibility to lead the offense fell on quarterback Joe Southwick. Unfortunately, Southwick is not capable of singe-handedly carrying the offense, as he finished that game with no touchdowns and two picks.
In other words, DJ Harper is the key part of Boise's offense. He will have to play a great game against BYU's stellar running defense.
BYU's defense will be the key factor in this one. If they can stop the run, a win is very possible. If Nelson and the offense can match that intensity, I can see the Cougs leaving Boise with a win.
My Prediction: BYU wins, 31-23