Allowing an average of 549 yards per game, the Boise State defense ranks near the very bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense.
The Broncos’ task doesn’t get any easier this week, despite facing an FCS school.
North Dakota, which leads the FCS in total offense at 548.5 yards per game, will be in Boise for a 10 a.m. kickoff Saturday at Albertsons Stadium.
A major part of that yardage comes down to limiting explosive plays. The Broncos gave up 19 explosive plays in their season opener against Washington, and UCF totaled 17 explosive plays.
“I think just in general we’re being attacked to see how we handle certain shot formations, see how we handle certain coverage adjustments because we put that on film,” Boise State defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson said. “When you play good offenses, they are going to look back and see what has hurt you, and if you have not fixed it and you do not have an answer, it’s coming again.”
North Dakota moved up this week to No. 13 in the AFCA FCS Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, and the Fighting Hawks have made the FCS playoffs three of the past four seasons. They’re also 3-3-1 against current Mountain West schools, with their most recent win coming against Wyoming in 2015. This will be the first meeting between the Broncos and Fighting Hawks.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Can the defense limit big plays and be disruptive?
UCF’s first play of the game last week, a pass, went for 49 yards. The Knights had a 39-yard run on their second drive, and pass completions of 20 and 29 yards on their third drive.
The hits against the Broncos’ defense just kept on coming, to the tune of six drives that covered at least 58 yards. Simply put, Danielson’s unit has to clamp down.
In particular, the defense needs to disrupt more plays in the backfield and put the quarterback under more pressure. North Dakota QB Tommy Schuster is a rather ridiculous 43-for-56 passing in two games. Yep, only 13 incomplete throws. The BSU defense has forced just 18 incompletions in two games.
Standout linebacker DJ Schramm and his teammates must come out flying Saturday morning.
Who else is coming out flying Saturday morning?
The last thing Boise State needs — aside from a 0-3 start — is a half-empty Albertsons Stadium. But factors are working against the home team. North Dakota is a good FCS program that probably could defeat New Mexico, but it’s still arguably the least inviting game on The Blue this year because it’s not UCF or a Mountain West opponent.
And then there’s the obvious: the glorious 10 a.m. kickoff. Boise State needs its fans, however sleepy, to show up and be loud.
Who’s able to trot onto the field for the Broncos’ offense?
Running back George Holani was out last week with an apparent leg injury. QB Taylen Green left the game in the third quarter and didn’t return.
Green was said to have leg cramping problems, and head coach Andy Avalos reiterated on Monday that the redshirt sophomore was fine and will be “ready to roll” this week.
There’s nothing wrong with RB Ashton Jeanty or WR Stefan Cobbs, which is good news for Boise State. Better news would be that Green busts out with big plays and shows better accuracy — he’s just 28-of-58 on the season — and Holani is well enough to combine with Jeanty for a strong 1-2 punch.
NORTH DAKOTA AT BOISE STATE
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf), Boise
TV: FS1 (Eric Collins, Devin Gardner)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: Boise State 0-2; North Dakota 2-0
Series: First meeting
Weather: High of 91 degrees (but not at 10 a.m.), 0% chance of rain, 7 mph wind