Air Force Boise St Football

Boise State mascot Buster Bronco in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Air Force, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won 30-19. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)

LAS VEGAS - The Boise State football team will look to stay undefeated Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium when they play UNLV at 8:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

The Broncos (4-0) are ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press poll and coming off a bye week. UNLV (1-3) suffered a 53-17 loss at Wyoming last week.

Here's everything you need to know to get set for kickoff...

THREE KEYS FOR BOISE STATE

RUN THE BALL: Boise State has struggled to run the football through four games. They rank No. 94 with just 3.87 yards per carry, and No. 74 with an average of 153.5 yards per game. UNLV is one of the worst in the country against the run, giving up 227.5 yards per game (No. 120). This is a game the Broncos should get the run game going.

FORCE TURNOVERS: The Broncos rank 85th nationally with just five takeaways on defense through four games. Boise State has three fumble recoveries and two interceptions. UNLV’s offense is 83rd with eight turnovers so far (two per game), so the Broncos seemingly are in a good spot to force a few turnovers. Their goal is three per game.

BUSINESS TRIP: Boise State refers to road games as ‘business trips’, with the sole focus being leaving town with a1 win. The Broncos have a tough game with Hawaii next week, so they can’t afford to be caught looking ahead. On paper the Broncos should have no trouble with UNLV, and a comfortable win would be welcomed. Staying focused is a key in this one.

BOISE STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH

34 • Robert Mahone • RB

Mahone rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in the season opener at Florida State, but has just 146 total yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in the three games since. Boise State’s running game has struggled, and this would seem to be a perfect game to get Mahone and the ground game back on track.

25 • Benton Wickersham • LB

The former walk-on moves into the starting lineup as the replacement for Zeke Noa, who suffered a torn ACL and broken wrist against Air Force. Wickersham has started two career games one each in 2017 and 2018. The redshirt junior has played in 31 career games the last three years. He’s got 11 tackles in 2019 as a backup to Noa.

98 • Sonatane Lui • DL

The senior defensive tackle set a Boise State record for tackles by a defensive lineman in a game with 16 against Air Force. With Zeke Noa’s injury, Lui is now the leading active tackler on the team with 24 tackles through four games. He also has 3.0 tackles-for-loss. Lui lost weight in the offseason and is quicker and more agile. He’s been impressive so far.

UNLV PLAYERS TO WATCH

8 • Charles Williams • RB

Williams suffered a knee sprain last week against Wyoming and is questionable to play. He’s averaging more than 100 yards per game and has six rushing touchdowns. Williams is fourth nationally among running backs with at least 40 carries with a crazy 8.6 yards per rush. He’s the biggest weapon on an offense that has struggled.

27 • Evan Austrie • DB

The safety leads UNLV with 34 tackles (25 solo) and is second with 3.5 tackles-for-loss. He’s had at least seven tackles in every game this season, including nine last week at Wyoming. The Broncos will need to pay attention to where Austrie is.

19 • Hayes Hicken • P

It says all you need to know about UNLV that the punter is one of three players to watch, but Hicken is one of the few bright spots at this point. He’s averaging 44.4 yards per punt on 25 punts, and has a long of 71 yards. He’s one of the best in the league.

STATS AND FACTS

• Boise State has won six straight games at Sam Boyd Stadium, including four wins in the Las Vegas Bowl and two against UNLV.

• Since joining the Mountain West, Boise State is 4-0 against UNLV with an average margin of victory of 24.3 points.

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• Boise State is one of just four schools to rank in the top 10 in third-down conversions both offensively and defensively.

• The Broncos are 18-3 in October games under coach Bryan Harsin.

• Boise State is 4-0 for just the second time since 2011. The Broncos were 7-0 to start 2016.

COACHES

Boise State: Coach Bryan Harsin (56-15, sixth year)

Harsin has led the Broncos to a pair of Mountain West championships, a New Year’s Six bowl win and an average of more than 10 wins per year since taking over in 2014.

UNLV: Coach Tony Sanchez (17-35, fifth year)

Sanchez went 85-5 and won six state championships in six years as the head coach at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas prior to being hired at UNLV, but has struggled to get the Rebels going.

UNLV SCHEDULE

Aug. 31, SOUTHERN UTAH, W, 56-23

Sept. 7, ARKANSAS STATE, L, 17-43

Sept. 14, at Northwestern, L, 14-30

Sept. 28, at Wyoming, L, 17-53

OCT. 5, BOISE STATE, 8:30 p.m., CBSSN

Oct. 12, at Vanderbilt

Oct. 18, at Fresno State, 8 p.m.

Oct. 26, SAN DIEGO STATE, 8:30 p.m.

Nov. 2, at Colorado State, 1:30 p.m.

Nov. 16, HAWAII, 2 p.m.

Nov. 23, SAN JOSE STATE, 2 p.m.

Nov. 30, at Nevada, 1 p.m.

IDAHO PRESS COVERAGE

The Idaho Press will have a reporter in Las Vegas covering Boise State's matchup with UNLV. This blog will be updated before, during and after the game with news, notes and scoring updates. The Idaho Press will also be the only local paper to have a full recap in Sunday's paper despite the late start. 

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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