Be Prepared: Breaking Down What to Know About Boise State vs UTEP this Weekend
The Boise State Broncos finally played a home game this past weekend, and while many will be happy with the result, there are still questions surrounding this football team. The Broncos are above five hundred for the first time this season and are on a two-game winning streak. They will look to extend that streak this coming weekend, when they head back on the road, continuing their out-of-conference play. Before we preview this week's game against UTEP, let's recap the Boise State win against UT Martin.
Recapping Boise State vs UT Martin
It's hard to say that Boise State struggled in a game they won by 23 points and never trailed, but the Broncos still have some issues to work out on offense. They were able to get some things going, but it still appears to be off. The Broncos were able to score on their opening possession of the game, after forcing UT Martin to punt. They got the scoring started with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Hank Bachmeier to Stefan Cobbs. The Broncos would fumble on their next possession, which would lead to a UT Martin touchdown to tie it up at 7-7, but the Broncos would respond with a field goal and eventually stretch the lead to 20-7 at halftime, never letting UT Martin score again.
For the third straight game, the Broncos were unable to win the turnover battle, but they didn't lose it either, as each team forced one turnover. They were able to sack UT Martin quarterback, Dresser Winn, who had not been sacked at all the previous two games but were only able to get to him once. Boise was able to finally get the running game going, as George Holani had his first 100-yard game of the season and became the first running back to find the end zone on the ground this season. He finished the game with 24 carries, 110 yards, and one touchdown, as well as 4 receptions, for 47 yards and a touchdown through the air, as the Broncos won 30-7.
Know Your Opponent: UTEP Miners
The UTEP Miners are set to host Boise State this weekend and are off to a 1-3 start on the season. The Miners play in Conference USA and had a 7-6 record a year ago, losing to Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. UTEP played Boise last year, having lost to them 54-13 on the blue turf. This year's team is off to a slow start, after losing to North Texas 31-13 on opening weekend, following that up with a loss to Oklahoma 45-13 the next week. UTEP would get their lone win against New Mexico State, 20-13, before falling to New Mexico the following weekend, 27-10.
The Miners are led by their head coach Dana Dimel, who is currently 13-36 in his time as the Miners coach. The team is led on the field by their junior quarterback, Gavin Hardison. While he may not be a household name, and the stats may not be impressive, this kid can make all the throws and is as tough as they come. He has thrown for 989 yards so far this season, but only has 2 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. His go-to target is 5'7 junior, Tyrin Smith, who has 437 yards receiving and two touchdowns. In the running game, senior running back Ronald Awatt is the man to watch, as he leads the team in rushing with 225 yards and two touchdowns.
Who to Watch: Boise State
What does George Holani do for a follow-up performance? Was the UT Martin game him finally getting back into form and finding his groove, or was it a good game against a weaker opponent? UTEP has given up over 160 yards rushing every game this season, and this seems like a great time to establish the run game and get it going before conference play gets into full swing. Holani is coming off his best game of the season, and if it carries over, the offense may begin to find its stride and help open up the playbook and passing game a little bit better.
Who to Watch: UTEP
Gavin Hardison is the leader of this team, and his ability to make the tough throws and take some hits is what UTEP will need if they are to beat the Broncos this week. If he can get into a rhythm and establish a couple of drives early to give the Miners some momentum at home, then this game could be close down the stretch. If Hardison and Smith can get going early, it can test this Broncos defense and turn this game into a shootout, which is not what the Broncos want. Get pressure on Hardison and get him to turn the ball over, and this game should play into the Broncos' favor.
3 Keys to the Games
1) Win the Turnover Battle
UTEP is -5 in turnover ratio, having lost 6 fumbles and thrown 5 interceptions on the season. This Broncos defense is experienced and one of the better defenses in the country, and this game is prime for them to show it by forcing multiple turnovers. Boise is yet to win the turnover battle in any of its previous three games this season, and this seems like the game where they should change that.
2) Run The Ball
UTEP is not a good run defense, and George Holani is coming off his best game of the season. This is a chance to establish the run game more and to get his confidence up as well as momentum before conference play. If Holani can get going early, it will open up the passing game and play-action and make the offense more multi-dimensional. It starts with the blocking upfront, and Holani being able to pick the right holes.
3) Get the Receivers Involved
Boise State knew it would need to find a new go-to receiver this season after losing last year's leader, Khalil Shakir. Many expect Stefan Cobbs to be that man, but so far he hasn't been early in the season. When your starting running back is leading the team in receptions and receiving yards, that is a problem. Rather it is Cobbs, Latrell Caples, or somebody else, Bachmeier needs to try to get the receivers more involved in the passing game, which the running game should help open up.
Prediction for Boise State vs UTEP
While UTEP might not be as bad as their record says, they did lose to a team that Boise State handled pretty well a couple of weeks ago. Boise still has some issues on their offense to figure out, but they are finding ways to win despite their low offensive numbers. This could be the week they put it all together and finally open things up. This defense is too good to let UTEP get going, even on the road, and the Broncos handle UTEP. Boise 35 UTEP 17
The game is on Friday, September 23 at 7 PM and will be on CBS Sports this week. The Broncos will look to extend their winning streak to three and build momentum before returning home and continuing conference play. The offense hasn't looked sharp, but it has done enough over the last two weeks and the defense continues to be one of the best units in the country. Set your DVRs and grab a beer, it's going to be a fun Friday night watching the Broncos.