BYU will take on No. 24 Boise State this Thursday, where Cougar fans will get a chance to see if the dramatic finish in Saturday night’s rivalry game left an emotional drain on the players, as they had only four days to recharge and prepare.
“The emotion is there, and the fact is, we are anxious,” BYU senior quarterback Riley Nelson said after practice Monday. “[The Utah game] is behind us… We are fully focused on Boise State because they are a very good football team.”
The Cougars enter this game boasting a No. 9 ranking nationally in total defense this season (241 yards per game) and the No. 6 rush defense in the nation (53 yards per game).
BYU’s defense also has not given up over 300 yards of total offense in a game in nine consecutive outings dating back to last season.
The Boise State offense, on the other hand, has a national reputation of having an explosive offense and high-scoring capabilities.
Something will have to give Thursday night on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium.
Last week against Miami (OH), Boise State produced 599 yards of total offense. 304 yards came through the air, and 295 came on the ground en route to winning 39-12.
Boise State is also the highest scoring team in the nation since 2000 as the only team to average more than 40 points per contest (41.75).
The game was originally scheduled for Saturday, but ESPN rescheduled the game for Thursday prime-time to feature these two teams. This resulted in a short week of preparation for coaches and players from both teams.
“[The Broncos offensively] are really good,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “They have many, many diferent formations, all kinds of shifts and motions, multiple balls going to multiple players. Half the work is just getting lined up to what they do at the tempo they do it.”
BYU junior outside linebacker Spencer Hadley said the defense is excited to go up against a Boise State offense known for its complexity.
“Every offense can be basic if you put in enough preparation…,” Hadley said. “You realize a lot of what [Boise State] tries to do is just smoke and mirrors; they want you to get confused by the motions that they’re running. We do a good job on the defense communicating with each other, and we understand our assignments. I trust the guys around me.”
For Boise State, one of the bigger problems its team has to confront may come from within its own program.
For the past six years Boise State has been at the forefront of the BCS conversation. However, this season a loss in its season-opener to No. 13 Michigan State has placed the hopes of a BCS game at a farther reach than normal.
An early-season loss is unfamiliar territory for the Broncos, and there is a chance it could affect their energy and motivation, exploiting an opportunity for a hungry BYU team eager to bounce back and replace the sour taste in its mouth from Saturday’s rivalry game.
“It’s like when you drink vinegar when you are expecting water,” Nelson said, trying to describe the emotions following Saturday’s loss.
The Cougars will try and rattle first-year starting junior quarterback Joe Southwick and get pressure on him early. BYU’s defense is fifth in the nation in sacks this season, averaging 4.33 sacks per game.
The Broncos are yet to give up a sack this year, however.
Another streak to look for, BYU junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman has successfully caught a pass in 22 consecutive games and looks to extend his streak.
Good news for Cougar fans is that under Mendenhall, BYU is 3-1 in Thursday games that immediately come after a Saturday game, with the most recent win coming in 2009. The Boise State Broncos also played last Saturday and have not had to play in a Saturday-Thursday game since 2005.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally by ESPN.