San Diego State won a thrilling finish over the Toledo Rockets 17-14 to improve their record to 2-2. The Aztecs defense played lights out football recovering a fumble and intercepting Toledo QB Dequan Finn 3 times while limiting him to only 44 yards rushing on 11 carries.
The Aztecs offense outside of a couple of long Jordan Byrd runs struggled to move the ball again and went 1-12 on 3rd downs. The continued struggles on offense culminated in the Snapdragon Stadium crowd booing the Aztecs coaches for their dismal play calling.
SDSU QB Braxton Burmeister came alive on the game’s final drive to win it. Operating out of a spread formation, the senior QB went 3-4 for 25 yards and rushed for another 46 yards as he looked more comfortable working outside of the pocket with an option to pass or run. Jordan Byrd capped off the drive with a 1 yard TD to give the Aztecs a lead they would not relinquish.
Next up, the Aztecs begin conference play with a trip to Boise State, a team experiencing similar offensive woes. The Broncos are coming off of one of the worst losses in 25 years: a 27-10 beat down by UTEP where the Boise State offensive only managed 93 yards passing.
In its wake, Boise State announced the firing of its offensive coordinator Tim Plough. Long time college and NFL coach Dirk Koetter will assume offensive play calling for the Broncos for the rest of the season. Another bombshell dropped on Monday as 4 year starting QB Hank Bachmeier announced he will enter the transfer portal.
The game is scheduled for a Friday night kickoff at 5pm PST at Albertson’s Stadium in Boise, ID. It will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1.
Statistically, both teams are among the worst offenses in college football right now. The game will certainly get consideration for the Sickos Committee’s game of the week. San Diego State owns a 2-game winning streak against Boise State including a road win on the blue turf in 2018 as the Aztecs upset the Broncos 19-13. The news of starting QB Bachmeier leaving the team didn’t significantly affect the betting odds as the Broncos are still favored to win the game by 6 points.
Boise State Offense
Taylen Greene, a 6’6″ dual threat QB moves into the starting role for Boise State. The redshirt freshman saw limited action in 2 games last season. In Boise State’s 2022 opener vs. Oregon State, Bachmeier was benched for Greene in the 2nd quarter down 17 points after being intercepted twice and losing a fumble on a strip sack. Greene’s mobility helped the Broncos outscore the Beavers in the 2nd half 17-10. He finished the game 19-28 for 155 yards and 1 INT. He also rushed 11 times for 102 yards and 2 TDs.
George Holani is a talented running back but has been limited to 3.6 yards per carry this season largely due to poor blocking from his offensive line. Against UTEP, injuries caused Boise State to start true freshman Roger Carreon at right guard and he played like a true freshman- having difficulty in run blocking and pass protection.
Boise State is known for having fast receivers and the Broncos have a trio of good ones. Billy Bowens, Latrell Caples and Stefan Cobbs can all stretch the field with their speed and possess good hands to make catches in traffic. Holani is also a frequent target out of the backfield with 11 catches for 96 yards and 2 TDs.
Boise State Defense
The strength of Boise State’s team in 2022 so far has been their defense. It’s difficult to evaluate how good Boise State is at this point in the season considering 3 of their 4 games were against one FCS opponent and two FBS teams with bad offenses—New Mexico and UTEP. In the Broncos’ other game, they surrendered 470 total yards to a good Oregon State offense.
Scott Matlock is the Broncos best defensive lineman and received All Mountain West 2nd Team honors in 2021. JL Skinner is a hard hitting safety who is 2nd on the team in tackles to go along with 1 interception. A pair of cornerbacks in Caleb Biggers and Tyreque Jones were selected to Pro Football Focus’s Preseason All Mountain West 1st Team.
3 Keys to Victory
1. Similar Defensive Game Plan as Toledo
Green has athletic traits like Toledo’s Dequan Finn: a young, dual threat QB who can escape the pocket and either run or find open receivers down field but who is also vulnerable to making bad reads. There is no need to significantly alter the Aztec defensive game plan against Boise State that Coach Mattix used against Toledo.
The Aztecs have the experience and confidence that they can limit the effectiveness of this type of QB. SDSU linebackers will need to shoot the gaps on the offensive line to apply pressure while also trying to contain Greene to the pocket.
They should also continue to drop linebackers into zone coverage and bait the young QB into forcing a bad pass. Senior Caden McDonald did this perfectly against Toledo and his interception of Finn sealed the win for the Aztecs.
If the Aztecs continue to have difficulty moving the ball on offense, creating turnovers and short fields is going to be crucial for the Aztecs’ hopes of winning against Boise State.
2. Jack Browning
The junior punter and kicker has been outstanding for the Aztecs this season. He pinned Toledo inside their 20 yard line on 6 punts and also nailed a 50 yard field goal that proved to be the difference in the game. To the surprise of many Aztec fans, Browning was not on scholarship until this week despite being one of the team’s MVPs of the season so far. Brady Hoke announced at practice this week that Browning was awarded a scholarship that is well deserved.
The Ray Guy Award candidate could prove to be the difference in the outcome of the game between two evenly matched opponents.
3. Take Some Shots Deep
Boise State’s defense has given up one big play passing touchdown in every game this season. These quick strikes went for 47, 69, 37 and 42 yards. On two of the touchdowns, blown assignments in the Broncos secondary lead to the scores.
The Broncos defense only has 2 interceptions this year. Since points may be a premium in this game, SDSU can gain some easy ones by converting a few deep throws on 50/50 balls or capitalizing on mistakes made by the Broncos secondary.
This should be a low scoring game due to both defenses being significantly better than their offenses. Aztec fans who were hoping for changes to the offensive play calling such as going uptempo or using 4 and 5 wide receiver sets are likely going to be disappointed.
The operative word in Coach Brady Hoke’s press conference this week was execution. He mentioned several times the need to execute better on offense. This suggests that the offensive play calling will remain the same or have slight changes moving forward.
On the other side, Boise State’s solution to poor offense was to replace their offensive coordinator and starting QB. Boise State has the element of surprise on their side as the Aztecs do not know how much of Dirk Koetter’s play calling will deviate from that of his predecessor.
This could make it difficult for the Aztecs defense to prepare for what they will see against the Broncos on Friday night. On the bright side, it may also lead to Boise State mistakes as they adjust to new play calling and a new starting QB.
Revenge will be a factor as the Broncos are hungry to avenge their loss to the Aztecs 27-16 in Carson last season and will be playing with a renewed sense of optimism under a new offensive coordinator and QB.
The Aztecs have a history of pulling upsets on the blue turf when they are the underdog. They are also the better running team and we should expect a heavy dose of Jordan Byrd and a healthy Chance Bell who returns to the lineup after being out with injury to carry the offense.
SD Sports Fiend’s Prediction
San Diego State 20 Boise State 17
Ride the Bronco, Go for Broke!