BYU and Boise State meet again this week after last year’s defensive bout in which Boise State’s nose guard scored as many points as the BYU offense, and everyone watching the game at home on TV scored as many points as the Boise State offense. The BYU defense allowed only 260 total yards and 13 first downs to a powerful Boise State Offense, which left Boise State head coach perplexed after the game, and resolved to make the necessary changes to get his offense back on track.
Boise State has never lost to BYU, and is riding a current 49-game win streak in the month of October. Yes, Boise State has not lost a football game in the month of October since 2001. BYU and Boise State are ranked 36th and 37th, respectively in this week’s current BCS rankings, and Vegas has BYU as a 7.5 point favorite this week (which we all know means nothing, especially after last week).
Boise State is annually one of the most explosive, creative, and best executing offenses in the country, and this year is no exception. This game will be BYU’s toughest home test of the year.
Boise State Offense
#2 Completion Percentage (73%)
#4 Rushing Touchdowns (3.4 yards per game)
#5 Third Down Conversion (54%)
#9 Plays Run (82 per game)
#17 Rushing Attempts (46 per game, 56% of their offense)
#18 Red Zone Offense (40 red zone attempts, 20 rushing TD’s, 9 passing TD’s, 7 made FG’s)
#20 Rushing Yards (225 per game)
#33 Passing Efficiency (147)
#38 Passing Yards (270 per game)
#46 Turnover Margin (+3)
#49 Turnovers Lost (11 total, 7 interceptions, 4 fumbles lost)
#52 Yards Per Pass Attempt (7.6)
#52 Forth Down Conversion (5/10)
#56 Tackles For Loss Allowed (5.7 per game)
#3 Passes Defended (5.9 per game)
#4 Rushing Touchdowns Allowed (0.4 per game)
#17 Rushing First Downs Allowed (6.5 per game)
#17 Yards Per Pass Attempt Allowed (6)
#25 Yards Per Rushing Attempt Allowed (3.5)
#26 Opponent Third Down Conversion (33%)
#27 Opponent Completion Percentage (55%)
#29 Pass Efficiency Defense (116)
#29 Points Allowed (21 points per game)
#30 Defensive Touchdowns Scored (0.3 per game)
#34 Rushing Yards Allowed (136 per game)
#37 Total Yardage Allowed (366 per game)
#47 Red Zone Defense (20 opponent red zone attempts, 3 rushing touchdowns allowed, 9 passing touchdowns allowed, 4 field goals allowed)
#55 Interceptions (7)
#61 Turnovers Forced (11)
#64 Passing Yards Allowed (230 per game)
#65 Tackles For Loss (6 per game)
#76 Sacks (1.7 per game)
#93 Turnover Margin (-3)
#27 Jay Ajayi 6’0, 220 RB
After the loss of Joe Southwick last week against Nevada, the Bronco offense let Ajayi shoulder the majority of the work load, which led to Ajayi recording a career-high 222 yards and three touchdowns on only 24 carries. Ajayi is built like a linebacker but has track speed, and is an absolute load to bring down. He isn’t very shifty but his speed is dangerous in the open field, and he will definitely have a big role again this week against BYU as Boise State continues to break in a young quarterback. Boise State’s favorite running play is the inside zone, where Ajayi’s strength is his ability to make a quick read, put his foot in the ground, and run north and south.
This year Ajayi has run for over 700 yards and 12 touchdowns in seven games, averaging nearly six yards per carry.
In the red zone, especially near the goal line, Boise State uses Ajayi as its wildcat quarterback, where they like to run a QB read with fly motion. Ajayi has shown that he can pick a hole and drag defenders into the end zone for a touchdown, which makes Boise’s wildcat package dangerous. Last week against Nevada he got loose for a 71-yard touchdown run that ended up being the go-ahead score.
BYU’s run defense was not tested much last week against Houston, but Boise State’s running game will be in full attack mode this week. The combination of an experienced and talented offensive line, an unproven quarterback, and a powerful runner make which facet of the offense Boise State will rely on to move the ball obvious.
Ajayi was featured recently on SportsCenter’s “Not Top 10″ for chugging pickle juice out of a jar full of pickles during his four-touchdown performance against Air Force.
Ajayi was arrested during his redshirt freshman year for stealing sweatpants from Walmart.
#9 Grant Hedrick 6’0, 200 QB
When Joe Southwick went down with a broken ankle on Boise’s first play from scrimmage last week, it would have been really easy for Boise State to fold against a solid Nevada team. Not many programs in all of college football can deal with the loss of their starting quarterback after weeks of preparation, much less during the 40 seconds in-between the first two plays of the game. Enter Grant Hedrick, who apparently does not realize that he is just a backup quarterback. The former Oregon high school player of the year and three-star recruit stepped in without a hitch and completed a surprising 18 of 21 passes for 150 yards, and also ran the ball eight times for 115 yards and two touchdowns. His efforts rescued Boise State from being behind 17-10 at half time to winning the game by a decisive margin of 34-17.
Hedrick made a handful of easy passes and was smart at taking what the Nevada defense gave him. Boise State has a crew of very skilled wide receivers, and Hedrick was able to place the ball in open windows to gain easy chunks of yards. He’s deceptively athletic and very elusive in the open field, and is especially comfortable keeping the ball on option runs in the red zone (which he did back-to-back on the same set of downs after his first touchdown run was negated by a clipping penalty). He is very poised and collected, and does not act or play like a backup in any shape or form.
I expect Boise State to tailor their offensive game plan a little to accommodate Hedrick’s style, but he proved plenty capable of executing Boise State’s regular offense last week. He’s a much better runner than Southwick and his passing game is not far behind. The first Boise State play call after Southwick came was a pass out of an empty formation, so it’s not as if Boise feels like it needs to dumb down its offense any for the redshirt junior. If the Nevada game is any indication of what to expect this week, we’ll see a lot of none read, speed option, and shallow to intermediate passing routes. Hedrick never really showed the deep ball against Nevada, but he completed plenty of 5-15 yarders and looked comfortable doing it. As a coaches son, he’s probably waited his entire life for this opportunity and I’m sure he’s preparing to make the most of it.
The fact that Boise State can plugin a backup quarterback and have him go 18 for 21 speaks volumes about their quality of depth, and high level coaching.
#11 Shane Williams-Rhodes 5’6, 155 RB/WR
Williams-Rhodes is an electric athlete, and the way he is utilized as both a RB and WR reminds me of the way the New Orleans Saints use Darren Sproles. Last year as a freshman he did some unbelievably filthy things to defenders, and this year he has remained productive with an increased role in the offense. He is small and shifty with breakaway speed, and Boise State loves to hand him the ball on fly sweeps and use his speed on the perimeter. With 45 catches for 400 yards this season, he’s not Boise State’s leading receiver, but he’s certainly the most dynamic. He has very reliable hands out of the backfield and lined up as a traditional wide receiver. He’s tiny, but he can get away with being as light as he is because he rarely takes hits.
Because BYU’s corners play off, and Hedrick is such an accurate shallow to intermediate passer, Williams Rhodes will likely get a lot of balls thrown his way, with a chance to make the first defender miss and make his way up field to do damage. BYU will have to tackle much better than they did against Houston to limit this Boise State offense. Also, watch for him out of the backfield running the “angle” or “Texas” route trying to get matched up alone on one of BYU’s inside linebackers.
What to Expect
Gadgets: From the 40-yard line going in, Boise is not scared to pull a rabbit out of the hat to catch a defense off guard. Earlier in the season I gave an account of almost every trick play Boise State has used over the last several years, and it’s almost a guarantee this week that we will see one. Last season they attempted a receiver pass that BYU shut down, but that wont stop Chris Peterson from going back into his bag of tricks.
Downhill Runs: Boise State’s favorite run plays are inside zone, stretch, and peel. Jay Ajayi is a very physical runner and Boise State’s offensive line is among the best BYU will face this season. It will be crucial for BYU’s linebackers to make contact with the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage or behind it, or else Ajayi will fall forward for at least five yards a carry.
Quarterback Keeps: Given Hedrick’s running ability, quarterback runs are a no-brainier, but I expect the Boise State coaching staff to implement a few run plays similar to the way BYU uses Taysom Hill (QB Draws, Zone Read, Bootleg). BYU’s defense was hurt badly last week against Houston by letting passers break contain and buy time with their legs. If they want to beat Boise, they need to get that fixed.
This will be an excellent match-up with plenty to watch for. Both sides have a bad taste in their mouth from last year (BYU for losing, and Boise State for getting shut out). I expect both teams to be ready with adjustments and counter punches, but ultimately the team that controls the line of scrimmage is the team that will win.