Boise State set for latest installment of growing rivalry with BYU
PROVO, Utah — In the first game of the 12-year series back in 2012, Boise State won 7-6 on a defensive touchdown.
Two years ago in Provo, the Broncos led most of the game before Tanner Mangum’s 35-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left gave BYU a stunning win.
Last year in Boise the Broncos overcame five turnovers and escaped with a 28-27 win on a blocked BYU field goal attempt in the final seconds.
Why should we expect anything else tonight?
Boise State and BYU continue their growing rivalry tonight with an 8:15 p.m. kick off from LaVell Edwards Stadium in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN.
“It’s always a battle for us,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Always a good game.”
The Broncos would rather forget the events from their last trip to Provo in 2015, when the Eagle High product Mangum heaved a jump ball into the end zone that Boise State’s defensive backs somehow let fall into the arms of Mitchell Juergens for the game-winning score.
Thankfully, a good chunk of Boise State’s roster wasn’t around back then. Only two players from this year’s team recorded stats in the 2015 loss at BYU — tight end Jake Roh had a catch and linebacker Gabe Perez had a tackle. Ten other current Broncos played in that game, but mostly in special teams role.
It was also in that game that BYU offensive lineman Uliu Lapuaho took a cheap shot and punched former Boise State safety Chanceller James in a sensitive spot below the belt while fighting for a loose ball.
Moments like that have only added to what most players and coaches were willing to call a rivalry in the days leading up to this game.
“This is a great game for the region, a great rivalry game,” former Boise State player and current Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “Their tradition and history is excellent, and obviously we’ve gone back and forth within the series for a long time now.
“No matter where it’s played, it’s always a tough, hard-nosed football game. Obviously going on the road into a hostile environment like that is very tough, but that’s the fun part of getting to play this game and going to different stadiums. The reality of it is we have to focus in and handle the things we need to handle.”
Roh admitted “there’s things here and there in games past that have happened”, but said, “I think you should always play with an attitude so that’s what we’ll do when we go out there.”
The teams are entering the sixth year of a 12-year deal that will see them play yearly through 2023. Each of the previous five matchups have been won by the home team.
Despite being just 380 miles apart, this will mark just the eighth all-time meeting between the two storied programs. Boise State is 5-2 against BYU with both losses coming in their two previous trips to Provo.
A capacity crowd of 63,470 is expected tonight, which will easily be the largest crowd Boise State plays in front of during the regular season. It’s more than double the crowd from the only other road game they’ve played so far at Washington State.
“The crowd is always good,” Harsin said. “I think a Boise State-BYU game, it doesn’t matter when you play it or where you play it, there is going to be a great crowd. I really believe that. From a fans standpoint, people like this game. It’s exciting. The energy is always good.
“If you’re going to be a good football team you have to play on the road and win. You have to play in a place like BYU where you have a lot of energy coming from the crowd. You have to be able to play in that.
“We’ve had that (at Washington State), and we haven’t done anything to say we’ve overcome that.”
Mangum’s availability for tonight is one of the storylines surrounding the matchup. He’s been out for the past month due to an ankle injury but reportedly has returned to practice this week and could play tonight.
Sophomore backup Beau Hoge started against Wisconsin and Utah State but was injured during last week’s game against the Aggies and didn’t return. Koy Detmer Jr. replaced Hoge and didn’t have much success.
It’s unclear if any of the three will be able to play tonight, or what the Cougars (1-4) will do if they can’t.
“We know they can all run and they all like to move and extend plays, so we’ll be ready for whoever it is,” sophomore safety Kekoa Nawahine said.
Boise State has plenty of problems of its own to worry about tonight. The offense has surprisingly struggled in all facets and ranks just 68th in scoring offense (29.8 ppg) and 101st in total offense (351.3 ypg).
The Broncos had just 30 rushing yards last time out against Virginia and rank 104th in the country in rushing offense at 117.0 yards per game.
Defensively the Broncos showed several leaks in allowing 42 points to the Cavaliers. The young group will play on the road for just the second time all season.
“It’s a huge game for us,” defensive end Durrant Miles said. “Every single game we play is a big game and a big opportunity for us, especially as a defense coming off the Virginia loss. We have something to prove out there. We’re looking forward to going out and executing like we can.”
The game means nothing for Boise State’s quest for a Mountain West Championship, but at 2-2, the Broncos are badly in need of momentum ahead of arguably the biggest game of the season next week at San Diego State.
Both teams are off to less-than-ideal starts. The Broncos lost at home and blew a 21-point in a loss at Washington State, while the Cougars are just 1-4 on the season and are coming off a 40-24 loss at Utah State.
But it’s Boise State-BYU. Anything can happen — and probably will. Buckle up and enjoy it.
“This will be a really fun game,” defensive tackle Sonatane Lui said. “I can’t wait to get out there and see what we can do against them.”