QB questions face No. 14 Boise State at BYU
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By TIM BOOTH
Right now, there's just one obvious similarity between No. 14 Boise State and BYU.
Both teams will have questions at quarterback when the Broncos travel to Provo to face the Cougars on Saturday night.
Boise State (6-0) may be without freshman standout Hank Bachmeier, who left last week's win over Hawaii with an apparent hip injury. Coach Bryan Harsin has declined to give updates on Bachmeier's status leading up to the Broncos' final nonconference game of the regular season.
"That remains to be seen now, doesn't it?" Harsin said.
Meanwhile, the situation appears more straightforward for the Cougars (2-4). Jaren Hall left BYU's loss last week at South Florida in the fourth quarter with a concussion. Baylor Romney stepped in and was nearly able to lead a last-minute comeback, only to see his throw into the end zone get batted away on the final play. The Cougars lost 27-23.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake said he was impressed with Romney's poise when thrown into a difficult situation.
"We can work with guys that have a lot of confidence and we just need to put him in a position that works with his strengths," Sitake said.
The quarterback concerns are where the similarities end. Boise State is rolling as one of only 12 unbeaten teams left in the country and has a weekend off on the horizon to get healthy before entering the final stretch of Mountain West Conference play.
Boise State is likely to start Chase Cord at quarterback if Bachmeier can't play, and there doesn't appear to be much drop off. Cord has been used intermittently throughout the season. After taking over for Bachmeier last week, he was 12 of 18 for 175 yards and three touchdowns.
The Cougars, meantime, have been struggling since their upset win in overtime over Southern California last month. BYU was blown out at home by Washington, lost on the road at Toledo, and last week at South Florida blew a 23-14 second-half lead in the loss to the Bulls.
"As a team you never want to be the one to point fingers, so I would hope that everyone on the team takes it personally," BYU linebacker Chaz Ah You said. "When you hear a coach step up and take the responsibility for the players, that takes a lot of love and humility. As a player, it makes me want to step my game up even more."
Here are other things to watch as the Broncos and Cougars meet for the 10th time.
ON THE GROUND
Boise State's streak of having a 1,000-yard rusher may come to an end in part because Robert Mahone and George Holani are doing a pretty good job of sharing the load. Mahone has 375 yards rushing, five touchdowns and is averaging five yards per carry. Holani has added 366 yards on the ground and is averaging 5.6 yards. Both could end up having a big day against the Cougars, who rank 123rd nationally in rushing defense giving up 224.5 yards per game on the ground.
NO BIG PLAYS
While BYU's run defense has struggled, its pass defense has been solid. Opponents have just 10 pass plays of 20 or more yards against the Cougars this season. That's the fourth fewest in the country behind only Wisconsin, UCF and Clemson.
ALL ALONG THE HIGHTOWER
Boise State wide receiver John Hightower has clearly become the favored target of whoever is throwing passing for the Broncos. Hightower has 11 catches for 246 yards and three touchdowns over the past two games combined. The three TDs have come on catches of 26, 42 and 76 yards as he's been able to stretch the field.
BYU's pass rush has been mostly absent all season. The Cougars have just five sacks, tied for 123rd nationally. After struggling with protection earlier in the season, Boise State has allowed only three sacks in the past three games.
Boise State is currently No. 2 on the all-time list of winningest programs in terms of win percentage. The Broncos could move into first place Saturday depending on two outcomes. The Broncos have a .729 win percentage since beginning to compete as a four-year institution in 1968, trailing only Michigan and its .730 win percentage. If Boise State beats BYU and Michigan loses to Penn State, the Broncos would move ahead by the slightest of margins. The Broncos win percentage would be .7296 and the Wolverines' would drop to .7295.
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Updated October 18, 2019