BOISE — It may have been the hangover that some predicted following Boise State’s win at Florida State, or it could have just been a less-than-perfect game against a solid opponent.
Boise State will take the win, regardless.
The 24th-ranked Broncos used another dominant second half on defense and did just enough on offense to escape their home opener with a 14-7 win over Marshall Friday night at Albertsons Stadium.
Marshall (1-1) arrived with aspirations of a season-changing upset just like Boise State had a week ago in Tallahassee. And the Thundering Herd were within a score the entire way.
But Boise State’s defense held Marshall to no points and no yards in the second half — yes, zero yards over 30 minutes of action in the second half — to help the Broncos overcome a so-so night on offense and improve to 2-0 on the season.
“You’d love to go out there and dominate in all phases and blow a team out and shut them down and make plays, but it doesn’t always work that way,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “They have scholarships too, and they prepared. … We did enough tonight to win, but the potential that we have, we have to find a way to tap into that a little bit more.”
Freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier was solid again, passing for 282 yards and a touchdown. But he was intercepted, lost a fumble and sacked twice to keep the Broncos from doing more offensively.
The Broncos needed 29:50 to score in the first half, but just 93 seconds in the second half. The Broncos used a 47-yard touchdown pass from Bachmeier to John Hightower to take a 14-7 lead with 13:27 left in the third quarter, and they never trailed again.
But it was anything but easy the rest of the way, at least offensively. The Broncos had turnovers on two straight possessions, and couldn’t take advantage of another unreal second-half effort by the defense.
Boise State was driving late in the third quarter when Marshall linebacker Omari Cobb intercepted Bachmeier in the red zone on a nifty play in which he tipped the ball up into the air and caught it himself.
The Broncos got the ball back with good field position, but turned it over again when Bachmeier was hit and lost a fumble near midfield with 12:45 to play.
"We know what we're capable of as an offense," said wide receiver Khalil Shakir, who had five catches for 95 yards. "We know that wasn't our standard. We know we can execute better and we need to execute better in the future. We'll go back to the drawing board and correct what we did this weekend and just get right."
Boise State’s defense was up to the task for a second straight game in the second half. After limiting Florida State to 68 yards and no points in the second half last week, the Broncos held Marshall to minus six yards in the third quarter and no yards for the half.
Kekoa Nawahine’s interception with 7:36 left stopped a potential game-tying drive, and the Broncos were able to keep the ball until time expired. It was Nawahine’s first interception since Nov. 4, 2017.
Marshall’s offensive stats in the second half: 14 plays, 0 yards, four punts, an interception and no first downs.
“I would like it if we had shutouts in both halves, so there’s work to improve on there,” Nawahine said. “But it feels good to get a win and have that momentum to carry into next week.”
The matchup was the first between the two teams since they met in the semifinals of the Division I-AA playoffs back in 1994. Boise State topped Marshall 28-24 in Boise on The Blue before falling to Youngstown State in the championship game the following week.
Boise State’s George Holani rushed 22 times for 104 yards to salvage what was a tough night on the ground. Robert Mahone had just seven carries for 14 yards after rushing for 142 yards last week against Florida State, and Andrew Van Buren had five rushes for 18 yards.
“Boise State’s an excellent football team,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “I think we’re a good football team as well. It was a battle, but unfortunately they made more plays.”
The Broncos sputtered early and Marshall took advantage, going up 7-0 on a 13-yard run by Brenden Knox with 1:02 left in the first quarter. In the first half Boise State punted twice, failed to convert a fourth down attempt and had a 74-yard touchdown called back as a crowd of 31,951 started to get restless.
Boise State’s defense allowed 172 yards in the first half but limited Marshall to just seven points. Safety Nawahine forced a fumble and Tyreque Jones recovered it to stop one drive, and the Broncos held the Thundering Herd to 2 of 5 on third down.
The Broncos finally got going on offense late in the second quarter, using an impressive nine-play, 88-yard drive to even the score at 7-7 just before the half. Bachmeier found John Bates over the middle for 25 yards, and Khalil Shakir went for 45 yards on a shovel pass from Bachmeier to get the Broncos inside the 5-yard line. Bachmeier then scored his first career rushing touchdown on a quarterback keeper on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 with 10 seconds left in the half.
The Broncos did their best all week to avoid a letdown against Marshall after moving into the Top 25 earlier in the week. And while they surely didn’t play perfect Friday, they grinded out a tough win to stay undefeated on the year.
“You’re paranoid as heck about things like that,” Harsin said. “I don’t know if it was a combination of us not executing well or what Marshall was doing to us. I never want to take away from the other team. I think Marshall played really well tonight.
“A lot of it had to do with Marshall. I felt like our preparation was good, the attitude of the team today was very good. I think Marshall came out and provided a challenge and they made it tough. I don’t want to say it was on us, we should have dominated Marshall and rolled them. Sure I want a faster start, absolutely, but give credit to Marshall.”
Boise State now gets an extra day of rest before a matchup with FCS foe Portland State on Sept. 14 at 8:15 p.m.