Final score: Boise State 35, San Diego State 13
Records: Boise State 3-2, 2-0 Mountain West. San Diego State 2-3, 0-1.
Why the Broncos won: Boise State did something it hasn’t done very much the past two seasons. The Broncos successfully executed a second-half adjustment. The first half wasn’t pretty. The Broncos went into halftime trailing 13-0 after posting just 43 rushing yards. Quarterback Taylen Green was replaced by Sam Vidlak after just three drives, and Boise State gave up a punt-block touchdown.
Everything changed in the second half, and new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter deserves the lion’s share of the credit. He put Green in a position to succeed by playing to his strengths: blazing speed and freakish long strides. Koetter let Green use his athleticism with plenty of designed quarterback runs and run-pass option plays, and that got the whole backfield rolling.
Running back George Holani led the team with 131 yards and two touchdowns. Green added 105 yards and a pair of scores, and Ashton Jeanty finished with 82 yards and a touchdown.
Main takeaway: The Broncos’ offense isn’t a finished product by any means, but Boise State may have discovered its formula for success. Holani, Green and Jeanty all look like next-level athletes who just need some space and creative play calls to prove it. Green evaded pass rushers with ease, Holani exploded for two runs of more than 15 yards and Jeanty looked impossible to tackle at times, especially on a 32-yard touchdown run that gave the Broncos a 21-13 lead late in the third quarter.
Boise State’s defense was as dominant as it has been for most of the season. San Diego State had just 93 yards of offense late in the third quarter, and the Aztecs finished with 114. The Broncos pressured San Diego State’s quarterbacks and knocked two of them out of the game. They held the Aztecs to 1-of-14 on third down. An explosive running game and a dominant defense have equated to a lot of wins since football was invented.
Player of the game: This could go to Green, Holani, Jeanty or any number of players on Boise State’s defense, but tonight’s game ball goes to Koetter.
The 63-year-old former head coach at Boise State and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was “retired” and working only as an analyst for the Broncos until this week. Koetter was thrown into the fire after former offensive coordinator Tim Plough was fired last Saturday, and tasked with the unenviable chore of fixing the sluggish offense. With just one really good half, it’s premature to say he’s fixed the offense, but Koetter did prove that he understands how to get the most out of his personnel, and that’s a step in the right direction.
Stat of the game: Boise State had more penalty yards (61) than rushing yards (43) in the first half. The Broncos finished the game with 316 yards on the ground.
Play of the game: San Diego State starting quarterback Braxton Burmeister’s first pass of the second half was intercepted. Burmeister rolled right and delivered a pass directly to Boise State nickel Tyreque Jones, who undercut the route and snagged his first pick of the season. Two plays later, Green scored the Broncos’ first touchdown of the night on a 17-yard run, and the momentum had swung.
What’s next: Boise State returns to Albertsons Stadium on Saturday against Mountain West foe Fresno State (7:45 p.m., FS1). The Broncos are 16-7 all-time against the Bulldogs (1-2), including a 40-14 win last season in Fresno, California. Fresno State travels to UConn this weekend.