BOISE - All-Mountain West left tackle and possible early round NFL Draft pick Ezra Cleveland missed the first game of his career Saturday against Portland State due to an undisclosed injury.
Cleveland was wearing a protective boot on his right foot on the sideline and didn’t suit up. The redshirt junior had started 29 consecutive games since debuting as a redshirt freshman in 2017.
John Molchon slid out to left tackle in place of Cleveland, starting in his third different spot along the line in three games. The senior started at left guard in the season opener against Florida State but started at right tackle against Marshall due to an injury to John Ojukwu.
Ojukwu missed a second straight game Saturday, which forced more shifting along the line. Redshirt freshman Garrett Curran made the start at right tackle for his first career action as a Bronco, while Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez earned his first career start at left guard.
Jake Stetz started at left guard against Marshall but was on the bench to start Saturday’s game.
The Boise State football team returns to Albertsons Stadium for a second straight home game tonight when they host Portland State at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN2.
The Broncos will wear all-orange uniforms as part of an 'Orange Out.' It's a warm, but beautiful evening for football. A small crowd is expected with the Broncos playing an FCS school at 8:15 p.m.
Portland State (1-1) played well in a 20-13 loss at SEC opponent Arkansas in week one before beating up NAIA Simon Frazer 70-7 last week.
The Broncos (2-0) are coming off a 14-7 win against Marshall last week.
Las Vegas odds makers have pegged the Broncos as 31-point favorites.
We'll update this blog before, during and after tonight's game with scoring updates, news and more. For now, here's everything you need to get set for the opening kick...
KNOW THE FOE: PORTLAND STATE
Coach Bruce Barnum (17-30, 6th season)
Barnum named FCS National Coach of the Year in 2015 for leading the Vikings to a 9-3 record and a win over Washington State. Went 0-11 in 2017. Spent five years as Vikings’ OC before becoming head coach.
VIKINGS PLAYERS TO WATCH
7 • DAVIS KOETTER • WR
Koetter is the son of former Boise State coach and current Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The sophomore had four catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns last week in a win over Simon Fraser. He has four career touchdowns.
51 • KENTON BARTLETT • DT
The Boise native returns home after playing at Centennial High School. The senior starter leads Portland State with 3.0 sacks through two games. He has started 24 career games for the Vikings and last year was a third-team All-Big Sky pick.
1 • ROMEO GUNT • S
Gunt has proven to be a playmaker for the Vikings on defense. He had 15 tackles against Arkansas in the season opener, and leads the team with 19 tackles. The safety had 6.5 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions in 2018.
PORTLAND STATE SCHEDULE
Aug. 31 at Arkansas L, 13-20
Sept. 7 SIMON FRASER W, 70-7
TODAY at Boise State 8:15 p.m., ESPN2
Sept. 21, EASTERN OREGON, 3:05 p.m.
Sept. 28, at Idaho State, 3:05 p.m.
Oct. 5, SOUTHERN UTAH, 3:05 p.m.
Oct. 12, IDAHO, 3:05 p.m.
Oct. 19, at Northern Colorado, 1:05 p.m.
Oct. 26, at Northern Arizona, 4:00 p.m.
Nov. 2, MONTANA, 3:05 p.m.
Nov. 9, UC DAVIS, 3:05 p.m.
Nov. 23, at Eastern Washington, 2:05 p.m.
THREE KEYS FOR A BOISE STATE WIN
FINISH DRIVES: Boise State’s offense has moved the ball this year, but they’ve struggled to turn the yards into points. The Broncos are 18th in total offense (529.0 yards per game) yet just 84th in scoring (25.0 points per game). A big reason is their production in the red zone, where the Broncos rank 112th with three touchdowns in 12 chances.
ESTABLISH THE RUN: Boise State has had two different 100-yard rushers through two games, but the overall rushing numbers aren’t great. The Broncos rank 99th with 3.55 yards per rush, 54th with 184.5 yards per game and 63rd with three touchdowns. Rob Mahone only had 7 carries agaisnt Marshall, while Andrew Van Buren has just 10 on the season.
BETTER START ON DEFENSE: The Broncos have been amazing in the second half through two games, allowing a total of 68 yards, four first downs and no points in 60 minutes to Florida State and Marshall. But the Broncos have given up 530 yards and 38 points in the first half through two games. Boise State is hoping for a faster start and better first half against PSU.
THREE BOISE STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
24 • George Holani • RB
The true freshman stunningly leads Boise State with both 36 carries and 173 rushing yards through two games. He had 14 carries for 70 yards in the season opener at Florida State, and posted his first 100-yard game against Marshall with 22 rushes for 103 yards. The speedy, shifty Holani has been very impressive so far, and should only get better.
85 • John Bates • TE
Bates already has eight catches for 114 yards after finishing with just 10 catches for 155 yards last season. The tight end has yet to reach his full potential at Boise State but might finally be turning the corner. He’s made a couple nice grabs, and appears to be a top target for quarterback Hank Bachmeier. It’s early, but Bates’ play has been a big plus.
7 • Zeke Noa • LB
The middle linebacker is tied for the team lead with 11 tackles through two games and also has 1.0 tackles-for-loss. The Broncos moved Noa from weakside linebacker to middle linebacker prior to the season in order to get both he and Riley Whimpey on the field together. It appears to be a smart move as Whimpey is fifth with eight tackles.
STATS AND FACTS
• The Broncos are one of just three FBS teams to not allow a point in the second half so far this season.
• Boise State ranks No. 2 nationally in time of possession at 39:37.5 per game.
• The Broncos have held opponents to just 3 of 21 on third down (14.3 percent), which is tied for the third-best mark in the country.
• Portland State is just the third FCS opponent since 2010. Only seven schools nationally, and none from the Group of Five, have played fewer games against teams from the FCS (previously Division I-AA).