Boise State at Oklahoma State

The Sports Xchange

September 12, 2018 at 5:13 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
TV: ESPN
SERIES: First meeting
RANKINGS: Boise State No. 17; Oklahoma State No. 24

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Broncos

–CB Tyler Horton should be busy Saturday against Oklahoma State. Coming off a first-team All-Mountain West season, Horton has eight tackles this season and two fumble recoveries for touchdowns, each against Troy. He also tipped a pass in that game that led to an interception.

–QB Brett Rypien ranks fifth nationally with a passing efficiency rating of 214.51. He has completed 41 of 56 passes for 667 yards, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He is the active career leader in completions with 778, two ahead of Middle Tennessee senior Brent Stockstill, and is the active leader in career passing yards with 10,543. Rypien ranks 830 yards ahead of Washington’s Jake Browning in that category.

–WR John Hightower finished last Saturday’s contest with 119 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches, and he carried once for 55 yards and a touchdown. Hightower had all his 119 receiving yards at halftime, the second straight game in which the Broncos had a receiver eclipse 100 yards by the break. Sean Modster had six catches and 161 yards in the opener against Troy.

Cowboys

–RB Justice Hill not only led the Big 12 in rushing last season but also in attempts with 268. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy vowed to reduce that workload this season. Gundy said before the clash against Boise State that he would like to have Hill average 15 attempts per game on the season.

–QB Taylor Cornelius set an Oklahoma State record for combined passing yards in a quarterback’s first two career starts with 728 yards during the 2-0 start. He passed for 428 yards in the Sept. 8 victory against South Alabama, becoming the seventh Cowboy to pass for 400 yards in a game.

–LB Devin Harper returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown, helping solidify Oklahoma State’s victory over South Alabama with the first score of the second half. The interception was the first for Harper, who added five tackles. The Cowboys have a takeaway in 29 straight games.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Boise State rolled for a school-record 818 total yards in its last game, climbed to No. 17 and is making a strong case out of the blocks to be a Group of Five member worth considering for the College Football Playoff.

That case could strengthen on Saturday when the Broncos travel to Oklahoma State to meet another 2-0 team, the No. 24 Cowboys.

As prolific as Boise State has been, particularly in its 62-7 rout of Connecticut last week, Oklahoma State actually leads the country with a 674.5-yard offensive average. Boise State ranks fourth (617.0).

“They can do like all of us, dink and dunk,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said, “but they can take shots. You have to be disciplined on defense and you’ve got to make plays because you’re going to get one-on-ones.”

The team that counter-punches most effectively seemingly has the best chance.

Boise State certainly has made the most of these opportunities in the past. The Broncos are 2-1 against the Big 12. Each previous matchup came in the postseason, including the 43-42 overtime thrill ride they claimed against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

Since 2000, Boise State is the winningest major-college program with 199 victories. It stands 13-16 all-time against ranked opponents but has won three of its last four. The Broncos have just three wins in 17 road games against Power Five opponents but has won two of their last three, at Virginia (2015) and Oregon State (2016).

Clearly, no stage is too tall. No light too bright.

“We are just going to treat (Oklahoma State) like a regular team,” Broncos wide receiver A.J. Richardson said. “We’ll go in and practice hard. I think that is where it has been paying off for us.”

Senior quarterback Brett Rypien has passed for 667 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions, while completing 41 of 56 attempts. He will face an Oklahoma State defense still responding to schematic changes made by new coordinator Jim Knowles.

“We all like it a lot,” said Cowboys linebacker Devin Harper, who scored on a pick-six against South Alabama. “It’s very energetic and (Knowles) likes to blitz and see us run around. He likes for all of us to be athletes a lot of the time.”

As well as Rypien has distributed the ball, one of his top weapons, sophomore wide receiver Octavius Evans, has been out with an injury. He is expected to make his season debut against the Cowboys. Same for senior defensive tackle David Moa.

“I don’t see them seeing us any different. They are probably just going to run their offense and run their defense,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “We have to be intelligent as play-callers and from the quarterback position and how we distribute the ball. If they do give us the run at times, then we have to block so our backs can make a cut at the line of scrimmage instead of the backfield.”

The Oklahoma State run game has been unspectacular, despite the presence of last year’s Big 12 rushing leader, junior Justice Hill. Hill carried just nine times for 32 yards against in a 55-13 romp over South Alabama, but Gundy admittedly was sparing his standout back from wear and tear. Backup J.D. King also gained 32 yards on nine attempts.

“Our run-blocking is very below average,” Gundy added. “It’s got to improve.”

The numbers make Oklahoma State appear well-oiled.

However, Taylor Cornelius, a fifth-year senior in his first season starting at quarterback, will be facing his biggest test. He was sacked three times in the South Alabama win and was under duress on an interception he threw.

Although Cornelius has looked mechanical at times, he was still productive in his first two starts, though the opposition was indeed light.

Against South Alabama, two promising receivers emerged with 100-yard breakouts. Sophomore Tylan Wallace caught 10 passes for 166 yards and sophomore Tyron Johnson added five receptions for 137 yards to give the Cowboys more dimensions within a deep receiving corps.

 

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