Boise State, Mountain West standard-bearer, starts league play with fresh ‘mentality’

A 1-2 start to the season is not what the Boise State football team had in mind, but a new season of sorts begins Friday night.

The Broncos begin Mountain West play at 8:30 p.m. Mountain time against San Diego State at Snapdragon Stadium with nearly all of their goals still ahead of them.

“Definitely conference play means a lot to us,” Boise State quarterback Taylen Green said. “Our goal is to win the Mountain West and a bowl game, so this is the first step in that. Our intensity and our attention to detail has been really good this week in practice, and everybody’s energy is excited.”

The Broncos have a long history of success in conference openers — in fact, it’s almost absurd.

They have never lost a Mountain West opener. Before that, they never lost a Western Athletic Conference opener. Their last loss in a league opener came in 1999 as a member of the Big West, when they fell to North Texas. Gas was about a $1.20 a gallon then, and there were only 23 bowl games.

That also is the current Boise State winning streak in conference-opening tilts: 23, with a 12-0 mark in the Mountain West.

“The competition in the Mountain West has improved year by year, and especially in the last couple years,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said. “You’ve got to be your best each and every week. There are no weeks off, and obviously we start off with one of the most challenging opponents.”

In its 12 seasons in the Mountain West, Boise State has lost just 15 league games, and only five of those losses have come by more than seven points. San Diego State is the only current Mountain West program against which the Broncos do not have a winning record, with the series tied 4-4.

The Aztecs lead the country in turnovers gained (10) and are among the best in the nation when it comes to red zone defense, ranking 47th in the country and second in the Mountain West.

“This is a team that plays extremely hard, really tests you from an eye-control standpoint with the amount of movement,” Boise State offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said. “I know they’ve done a great job with takeaways and obviously, from last week, that’s a huge point of emphasis from us. But it’s physical, it’s downhill. Not a ton of easy throws.”

Boise State defeated San Diego State 35-13 last season at Albertsons Stadium in quarterback Taylen Green’s starting debut, a win that helped turn the season around after a 2-2 start, the firing of offensive coordinator Tim Plough and the departure of QB Hank Bachmeier. The Broncos racked up 316 rushing yards in the game, including 105 from Green, 131 from George Holani and 82 from Ashton Jeanty.

A win Friday against the Aztecs could serve as another springboard as the Broncos seek their first conference championship since 2019. Boise State has played in six of the past nine Mountain West title games, winning three of them. San Diego State last played in the final in 2021, losing to Utah State.

“It’s a big deal to us going into conference play,” Jeanty said. “The mentality is a little bit different because you can’t lose any games — and we don’t want to lose any games anyways — but one loss and you may not be able to play in the final championship game.”

BOISE STATE AT SAN DIEGO STATE

When: 8:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Snapdragon Stadium (35,000, grass), San Diego

TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Aaron Taylor, Justin Walters)

Radio: KBOI 670 AM/93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)

Records: Boise State 1-2; San Diego State 2-2

Series: The series is tied 4-4. Boise State won last year’s meeting 35-13 in Boise.

Vegas line: Boise State by 6

Weather: High of 74 degrees, 6% chance of rain, 10 mph wind