NCAA Thursday Night Football: Boise State/Colorado State Preview

by Alec McMordie

The Thursday night college football clash on ESPN features two teams for the Mountain West Conference.

Colorado State evened their record at 1-1 last Thursday with their 34-24 upset victory at home against Wyoming as a 3-point underdog. The Rams opened up the scoring in the first quarter with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown. Colorado State forced three turnovers against the Cowboys, which helped them overcome getting outgained by -123 yards. The Rams gave up 465 yards to Wyoming yet were often bailed out by their six sacks and 13 tackles-for-loss that they generated. The Rams have eight starters back along with seven of their top ten tacklers from a unit that ranked 52nd in the nation last season by allowing 377.4 yards-per-game.

Colorado State has a new defensive coordinator in Chuck Heater this season, who returned to the program after serving in the same capacity in 1991 and 1992. Heater was also the defensive coordinator with first-year head coach Steve Addazio when they both were previously at Boston College. Heater moved the defense back to a 4-3 scheme from the 3-4 formation that the Rams have played in the last two seasons. The impact has been immediately seen in their run defense as they rank 24th in the nation in limiting their opponents to 114.0 rushing yards-per-game. Colorado State also ranks fourth in the FBS by holding opposing rushers to 2.5 yards-per-carry.

Senior quarterback Patrick O’Brien completed 18 of 26 passes for 255 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He added another touchdown on the ground. The Rams gained only 342 yards against the Cowboys, but they only had the ball for 26:27 minutes. Colorado State averaged 5.42 yards-per-play last week. Seven starters are back from the unit that ranked 34th in the nation by averaging 437.4 yards-per-game. O’Brien passed for 2803 yards last year in leading an attack that averaged 305.3 passing yards-per-game.

The Rams had only six winning seasons in 19 years after their 4-8 record last year. The program moved on from Mike Bobo after five years as they tapped Adazzio after his seven years at Boston College, where he compiled a 44-44 record. Colorado State opened this season two weeks ago with a 38-17 loss at Fresno State.

Boise State was embarrassed in a 51-17 loss at home to BYU last Friday. Things began going south for the Broncos when quarterback Jack Sears was knocked out of that game in the first quarter with a concussion. The junior transfer from USC had started hot by completing all four of his passes for 41 yards. He was under center because the starter last year, Hank Bachmeier, has been out with a COVID-related issue. True freshman, Cade Fennegan, was forced into duty against the Cougars’ defense. He completed 15 of 26 passes for 182 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. However, he could not overcome a BYU offense that racked up 574 yards against the Boise State defense that pulled away in the second half of that game after going into halftime with a 16-3 lead.

Head coach Bryan Harsin has been mum about the quarterback status for this game. Privacy reasons preclude the discussion of Bachmeier’s health situation after he did not make the trip to Air Force two weeks ago. Sears is in the concussion protocol program. If Fennegan makes his first career start, he will not have the services of running back George Halani, who is doubtful with the knee injury that kept him out of the BYU game. The sophomore rushed for 1014 yards while earning the MWC Freshman of the Year award last season. Wide receiver Khalil Shakir caught ten balls for 139 yards with two touchdowns last week. He is averaging 117.3 receiving yards-per-game with four touchdowns this year.

Boise State returned 11 starters from the team that finished 12-2 last year in Harsin’s sixth year with the program. The Broncos opened this season with victories over Utah State and Air Force before their loss to BYU. Boise State won the meeting between these two teams last year in Fort Collins by a 31-24 score.

BetAnySports lists Boise State as a 14.5-point favorite with the total set at 61.5. The ESPN broadcast starts at 8 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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