After an emotional win in Lincoln, the Cougars play their first home game of the season against the #24 Boise State Broncos who are 92-11 all-time when ranked. With a 12-game series being signed between the two schools, this matchup has become a pseudo-rivalry. The series began in 2003 and favors the Broncos 4-1. Additionally, Boise State is 24-7 all-time against teams from the state of Utah and is 23-1 since 1998. Last time the Broncos played in Provo, the Cougars got the best of them, winning 37-20. But, Boise State got revenge in 2014 with a 55-30 trouncing on the Smurf Turf during BYU’s midseason collapse.
Boise State won their season opener 16-13 last week against a very poor Washington Huskies team. The Broncos feature a stout defense with experienced players that fly to the ball, while the offense features a young QB and a trio of talented running backs. With Tanner Mangum getting his first collegiate start against his hometown team, the Cougars have an opportunity to start the season 2-0.
Nebraska 2014 Record: 12-2
vs #18 Mississippi 13-35 L
vs Colorado St 37-24 W
@ Connecticut 38-21 W
vs UL Lafayette 34-9 W
@ Air Force 14-28 L
@ Nevada 51-46 W
vs Fresno St 37-27 W
vs BYU 55-30 W
@ New Mexico 60-49 W
vs San Diego St 38-29 W
@ Wyoming 63-14 W
vs Utah St 50-19 W
vs Fresno St 28-14 W
vs #12 Arizona 38-30 W
Bronco Mendenhall vs. Bryan Harsin
vs. Bronco Mendenhall: 1-0
vs Boise St: 1-2
vs. Bryan Harsin: 0-1
BYU vs Boise St: 1-4
Largest Margin of Victory: 50-12 (’03)
Largest Margin of Loss: 37-20 (’13)
Nebraska depth chart
QB: Ryan Finley/Thomas Stuart
RB: Jeremy McNichols/Kelsey Young/Devan Demas
LT: Rees Odhiambo/Troy Bacon
LG: Mario Yakoo/Travis Averill
C: Marcus Henry/Mason Hampton
RG: Steven Baggett/Kellen Buhr
RT: Archie Lewis/Jerhen Ertel
X: Thomas Sperbeck/DJ Dean
H: Shane Williams-Rhodes/Terrell Johnson
Z: Chaz Anderson/AJ Richardson
TE: Jake Roh/Holden Huff
NT: Armand Nance or Justin Taimatuia
DT: Tutulupeatau Mataele/Elliot Hoyte
DE: Tyler Horn/Sam McCaskill
Stud: Kamalei Correa/Gabe Perez
WLB: Ben Weaver or Tyler Gray
MLB: Tanner Vallejo/Joe Martarano
N: Chanceller James/Mercy Maston
CB: Donte Deayon/Tyler Horton
SS: Dylan Sumner-Gardner/Kameron Miles
FS: Darian Thompson/Cameron Hartsfield
CB: Jonathon Moxey/Raymond Ford
Punter: Sean Wale
Kicker: Tyler Rausa/Blake Gonzalez
Kick Off:Tyler Rausa/Blake Gonzalez
LS: Kevin Keane/Matt Cota
Holder: Sean Wale
PR: Shane Williams-Rhodes/Donte Deayon
KR: Jeremy McNichols/Kelsey Young
Boise State runs a spread option oriented offense with a run-heavy focus. The Broncos will use the run to set up play-action passes that make more easy throws for Finley, in week 1, Boise State had 33 1st downs and ran the ball 25 times for 88 yds and passed the ball 8 times, completing 5 for 67 yds, Boise’s focus on running the ball shifted on 3rd down situations where they had 18 in the game and only ran the ball 7 times for 19 yds and passed the ball 11 times, completing 7 passes for 66 yds. Overall in the game, Boise ran the ball 53 times compared to attempting 27 passes.
The Broncos turned the ball over twice (1 INT, 1 FF) against the Huskies last week and will try and limit turnovers. They also struggled in the 2nd half last week and were shut out after scoring all 16 points in the first half. With an inexperienced QB making his first start on the road, the Broncos will continue to ease Finley’s job with easy throws and handing off the ball.
Ryan Finley is a mobile QB who tends to use his legs, but won’t overwhelm anyone with his athleticism. When beginning to feel pressure, Finley is quick to try and escape the pocket and losing track of his receivers. Boise State focused on throwing quick passes to the outside and dumping down to the running backs and allowing their playmakers to get the ball in their hands and go to work. Finley didn’t take many shots down field and tends to shy away from throwing over the middle of the field, he won’t challenge BYU’s corners in coverage, but will focus on short throws in the flat and test BYU’s DB’s to make tackles in the open field.
As said above, Boise’s offense is going to be extremely run-heavy. The Broncos will rely on two primary backs in Sr RB’s Jeremy McNichols and Kelsey Young. McNichols carried the ball 24 times last week for 89 yds and is a combo back with speed and power. He does a great job reading holes and using his hands to follow his blockers. He will tend to bounce outside when running lanes clog up, so the players coming off the edge for the Cougars will have to make play assignment sound: Bronson Kaufusi, Fred Warner, and Sione Takitaki will have to stay disciplined and take good angles to force McNichols back inside so the heart of the defense can make plays. As for Kelsey Young, the Stanford transfer was used primarily between the tackles but also shows ability to catch passes out of the backfield and make plays in the open field he had 13 total touches for 74 all-purpose yds. The final player in the rotation, Devan Demas is a small, shifty, explosive player who looked like Nate Carter did late in games last year.
Boise doesn’t really have a number one receiver, they had 4 receivers who had 3 receptions a piece and 2 receivers with 2 each. Last week, the leading receiver was Holden Huff who had 2 receptions for 28 yds. The Broncos focused on running quick, high-percentage completion routes to the outside of the field. There were times where longer routes were called but Finley either got antsy in the pocket and took off, or checked down to an easy throw to the running back coming out of the back field.
Boise State may have one of the most experienced offensive lines that BYU may face this year. Anchored by 1st team All-MWC C Marcus Henry (27 starts) and 2nd team All-MWC LT Rees Odhiambo (18 starts) 6 Broncos on the OL combine for 100 career starts. With the loss of Tuiloma, anchoring the middle will be difficult for the Cougars as they go up against the run-heavy Bronco offense. The Cougars LB core will have to focus on reading holes as they open up on the offensive line and use a variety of blitz packages to overwhelm the offensive line.
2014 Team Stats:
Points Scored Per Game: 39.7
Rushing Yardage: 2994
Returning for 2015: 531 (17.7%)
Receiving Yardage: 3926
Returning for 2015: 2621 (66.7%)
Passing Yardage: 3926
Returning for 2015: 223 (5.7%)
Total Offense: 10846
Returning for 2015: 5743 (53.0%)
Returning for 2015: 1
Sacks Allowed: 28 (-197 yds)
First Downs: 338
Third Down Conversion: 91/205 (44.4%)
Fourth Down Conversion: 10/21 (47.6%)
Penalties: 92 (-801 yds)
Red Zone Efficiency: 64/71 (90.1%)
Red Zone TDs: 50/71 (70.4%)
PAT Attempts: 68/71 (95.8%)
QB Ryan Finley: 16/26 for 129 yds and 1 INT, 11 rushes for 30 yds; RB Jeremy McNichols: 24 carries for 89 yds and 2 TDs, 3 receptions for 24 yds; RB Kelsey Young: 13 carries for 48 yds, 3 receptions for 26 yds; WR Thomas Sperbeck: 3 receptions for 28 yds; WR Shane Williams-Rhodes: 2 receptions for 16 yds; TE Holden Huff: 2 receptions for 28 yds; TE Jake Roh: 3 receptions for 23 yds
QB Ryan Finley: 12/27 for 161 yds, 2 TDs and 1 INT, 7 carries for 31 yds; RB Devan Demas: 25 carries for 173 yds, 2 TDs; RB Jeremy McNichols: 17 carries for 159 yds, 1 TD, 15 receptions for 155 yds and 1 TD; WR Shane Williams-Rhodes: 68 receptions for 585 yds and 7 TDs, 15 carries for 179 yds; TE Jake Roh: 35 receptions for 408 yds and 2 TDs; WR Chaz Anderson: 21 receptions for 456 yds and 2 TDs; TE Holden Huff: 10 receptions for 128 yds
Boise State plays a kind of hybrid 3-3-5/4-2-5 defense using their STUD LB as a hybrid DE/LB. They didn’t face much of a challenge last week against the Huskies and BYU will challenge the secondary as they continue to focus on throwing the ball. While their D is very experienced, they had their lumps last season and faced hiccups against Ole Miss (70th offense, ’14 28.3 ppg), Nevada (64th offense, ’14 29.2 ppg), and New Mexico (77th offense, ’14, 27.5 ppg) giving up 35, 46, and 49 points respectively. The key factor will be trying to establish a running game to keep the Broncos on their heels.
Starting up front, BYU won’t face pressure on the interior like they did against Nebraska’s DT’s (Valentine and Collins), so the OL should be able to get a push on the interior and control the line of scrimmage so the team can run between the tackles. Where Boise “lacks” presence on the inside, they make up for it in their defensive ends. The first of which will be hybrid LB, Kamalei Correa who officially plays the STUD LB position, he is projected as the #9 OLB in the 2016 draft. In 2014, he had 19 TFL and 12 sacks. As talented as he is, BYU has two extremely capable OT’s in Ryker Mathews and Ului Lapuaho, this should be an exciting match up for the two OL to showcase their abilities.
The Bronco’s strength on their defense is their LB core. Correa will be effective in his hybrid role, but the most talented player may be MLB Tanner Vallejo who had 100 tackles and 13.5 TFL during the 2014 season, against Washington he was a stand out showing ability to read holes as they opened on the offensive line his biggest issue may be that he plays too fast (see Uona Kaveinga/Manoa Pikula) and misses on big plays here and there. Tejan Koroma, Tuni Kanuch, and Kyle Johnson will need to be able to get up to the next level and take Vallejo out of the game when running the ball. At the WLB position, they have two talented playmakers in Ben Weaver and Tyler Gray who had 62 and 61 tackles in 2014, respectively. Gray is usually used to drop back in coverage and had 7 PBU and 2 INTs last season.
While stated that Boise St’s strength is in their LB core, the secondary isn’t far behind. The #1 FS prospect in the 2016 draft man’s the Bronco Secondary in Darian Thompson, in the 2014 season, he had 71 tackles, 7 INTs, 5 TFLs he has shown to be very versatile in coming up and stopping the run and being able to defend against the pass. Boise also has two talented CBs in Donte Deayon and Jonathan Moxey. BYU’s receivers have a definite height advantage as Deayon is 5’9″ and Moxey is 5’10”. Deayon, a former teammate of BYU RB Jamaal Williams had 9 PBUs and 6 INTs last season while Moxey had 7 PBUs and 1 INT. Tanner Mangum will need to take advantage of the height match up and not force throws into tight windows that allow the CBs to make plays.
2014 Team Stats:
Points Allowed Per Game: 26.8
Turnover Ratio: 31:24
Forced Fumbles: 12
Returning for 2015: 10
Fumbles Recovered: 9
Returning for 2015: 4
Returning for 2015: 17
Sacks: 47 (-275 yds)
Returning for 2015: 35.5 (-219 yds)
TFL: 109 (-411 yds)
Returning for 2015: 84.5 (-321 yds)
Returning for 2015: 5
Returning for 2015: 45
INTs: 22 (284 yds)
Returning for 2015: 17 (225 yds)
TDs allowed: 42
First Downs Allowed: 258
Third Down Conversion: 78/224 (34.8%)
Fourth Down Conversion: 12/28 (42.8%)
Red Zone Efficiency: 36/45 (80%)
Red Zone TDs: 26/45 (57.8%)
PAT Attempts: 41/42 (97.6%)
Key Defensive Players:
MLB Tanner Vallejo: 7 tackles, 1 FF; STUD Kamalei Correa: 6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack (5 yds); SS Dylan Sumner-Gardner: 5 tackles; FS Darian Thompson: 4 tackles, 1 INT; CB Donte Deayon: 3 tackles, 1 TFL; SS Chanceller James: 3 tackles, .5 TFL, 1 PBU; DT Armand Nance: 3 tackles, 1 TFL; MLB Joe Martarano: 1 tackle, 1 TFL; DT Justin Timatuia: 2 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack (8 yds)
MLB Tanner Vallejo: 100 tackles, 3 sacks, 13.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 INT; FS Darian Thompson: 71 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 PBU, 7 INTs; WLB Ben Weaver: 62 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 PBU; WLB Tyler Gray: 61 tackles, 2 sacks, 2.5 TFL, 7 PBU, and 2 INTs; STUD Kamalei Correa: 59 tackles, 17 TFL, 12 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 QBH; CB Donte Deayon: 46 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 9 PBU, 6 INT; MLB Joe Martarano: 42 tackles, 1 TFL; SS Chanceller James: 36 tackles, 2 TFL; DT Armand Nance: 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL; CB Jonathan Moxey: 33 tackles, 7 PBU, 1 INT
Boise State returns their primary kick returners and punt returners in Shane Williams-Rhodes, Jeremy McNichols and Donte Deayon, Deayon had the season long on punt returns with a 75 yd return and 1 TD. BYU will have to stay assignment sound on their special teams in order to account for these players and avoid momentum shifts.
Boise loses their primary kicker from last season, and bring in Tyler Rausa who transferred from Riverside CC and was 15/20 with a long of 48 yds and 52/53 on PATs, he redshirted the 2013 season at Boise and then saw action in 1 game last year converting on a PAT. They do return punter Sean Wale who avg’d 42 yds/punt and downed the ball inside the 20, 20 times.
Drew Brown: 47 KO, 2819 yds, 60.0 avg
Sean Wale: 66 punts, 2773 yds, 42.0 avg, 20 inside the 20
Jeremy McNichols: 19 returns, 393 yds, 20.7 avg, 30 long
Shane Williams-Rhodes: 18 returns, 153 yds, 8.5 avg, 37 long
Donte Deayon: 9 returns, 92 yds, 10.2 avg, 1 TD, 75 long
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