Boise State offensive line rebounds from slow start
BOISE — There wasn’t a group getting more criticism early in the season than that of Boise State’s offensive line.
They may deserve the most praise with how they’ve played the past two weeks.
The Broncos allowed just four total tackles-for-loss in wins against BYU and San Diego State after allowing 34 tackles-for-loss in the first four games.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” right tackle Archie Lewis said. “That whole bye week gave us a chance to go over the basics and work on things we needed to work on and get the fundamentals right. It was good.”
After giving up 12 sacks the first four games, Boise State’s offensive line didn’t allow a sack to the Cougars or Aztecs.
They’ve also helped fuel a running game that was non-existent earlier in the year. Boise State had 30 yards rushing against Virginia, but racked up at least 158 yards on the ground against both BYU and San Diego State.
The Broncos had a season-high 186 rushing yards against the Aztecs.
“There’s a lot of positives in these last few games with them and just overall as an offense,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “You can see, I don’t know if it’s a change in mindset, but that toughness, that competitiveness is starting to come out.
“They’ve done a good job with that. We’ve gotten more physical in the run game and our backs are hitting that hole more downhill.”
Lewis said it was tough for the offensive line to get in a rhythm early in the season due to a young group that featured three new starters. The Broncos also used five different starting offensive line combinations in the first five games due to injuries to Lewis and center Mason Hampton, which made things tough.
“Honestly, how we were rotating in, we had five different groups I think of offensive linemen, so getting I that rhythm and getting ready to play physical,” Lewis said. “Rhythm is the most important part of playing offensive line, and offense in general.
“It’s a young group, so getting everything down as far as technique and stuff, you have to get that dialed in before you can start playing physical.”
The BYU and San Diego State games were the first time all season that the Broncos started the same offensive line combination. Garrett Larson started at center for a second straight game, but Hampton returned from his injury and rotated in as well.
As for the criticism earlier in the year? Lewis said it’s part of the job.
“It’s always tough, but we know,” Lewis said. “If something bad happens, we’re going to be the first ones blamed, and if something good happens we’re not acknowledged at all. As an offensive line, we know better (than to worry about it).”
HEALTHY ROH A HUGE ASSET FOR BOISE STATE OFFENSE: Tight end Jake Roh scored his team-leading sixth touchdown of the season last weekend against San Diego State.
Roh scored on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Brett Rypien to give the Broncos a 21-0 lead. He now has four receiving touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns at the midway point of the season.
“It’s nice obviously,” Roh said. “…It’s just nice being out there with my teammates and making plays, blocks, whatever it is.”
The senior was limited to 10 catches last season due to a nagging knee injury that forced him to miss the first two games of 2016.
He’s already doubled his production this season and is second on the team with 20 catches for 148 yards and four touchdowns. He also has five rushing attempts on the season, including two touchdowns out of the wildcat formation.
“As the tight ends, we always talk in our group ‘we’ll do whatever we have to do,’” Roh said. “If that’s blocking one week, we’re fine with that. Whatever we have to do to contribute.”
All six of Roh’s touchdowns have come in the red zone, where his return has been a huge plus for the Boise State offense.
NAWAHINE CONTINUING TO BUILD CONFIDENCE: Sophomore safety Kekoa Nawahine was impressive again against San Diego State last Saturday, finishing with five tackles, a tackle-for-loss, and a pass break-up.
He’s now second on the team with 37 tackles and remains tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He also has recovered a fumble, has three tackles-for-loss and leads the team with five passes defended.
“I’m way more comfortable,” sand Nawahine, who played some as a true freshman last season after coming off an LDS Mission. “It’s been fun being able to get back in the swing of things and just be comfortable and have fun out there. When we can have fun and relax and trust in ourselves, we can play so much faster and make more plays as a defense.”
Nawahine delivered one of the biggest hits of the game when he leveled a San Diego State receiver after he made a catch over the middle.
“Those aren’t too hard when they aren’t looking, but it did feel good,” Nawahine said.
Asked about being a physical player, Nawahine said, “I feel like I’ve always tried to pride myself on that identity. I’m typically a bigger safety, so if people are going to try and throw across the middle or run your way, you have to be able to establish an identity, and I’ve always prided myself on making those plays or tackles.”
LIMITED TICKETS REMAIN: Boise State still has some tickets remaining for Saturday’s game against Wyoming, but the school says tickets are trending well ahead of that for the Virginia game, when the attendance was a season-high 33,947.
Albertsons Stadium has a capacity just north of 36,000.