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.
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.
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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.
Marshall (1-0) at No. 24 Boise State (1-0)
Boise State coach: Bryan Harsin
RECORD: 53-15; YEAR: Sixth
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.
Marshall coach: Doc Holliday
RECORD: 71-46; YEAR: Tenth
West Virginia native was the 2014 Conference USA Coach of the Year. Holliday has led Marshall to at least eight wins in five of the last six seasons, and is 6-0 in bowl games.
THREE KEYS FOR BOISE STATE
NO LETDOWN: Boise State’s win at Florida State last week was a big one. They jumped back into the Top 25 and have been getting plenty of national attention as a leading contender for the Group of Five spot in the Cotton Bowl. But the win will mean nothing if the Broncos lose to Marshall. They’ve got to stay focused, and not look past the Herd.
KEEP HANK CLEAN: True freshman QB Hank Bachmeier showed plenty of toughness against the Seminoles, hanging in the pocket and delivering several throws just before getting hit. But he was sacked five times and took a number of big hits, and the Broncos have admitted that kind of beating is not sustainable. Boise State must keep him clean.
LIMIT BIG PLAYS: Boise State’s defense was the only unit in the country to allow at least three plays of 50 yards last weekend. The Broncos had hoped to limit the big plays after struggling in that area last year. Marshall had 29 plays of at least 10 yards last week, which tied for the national lead. The Broncos must avoid allowing big plays on defense.
BOISE STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
2 • Khalil Shakir • WR
The sophomore had eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown against Florida State after finishing last yearwith just 16 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos said all offseason that Shakir would be a major part of the offense, and he showed what they meant against Florida State. He could be in for a huge year.
34 • Robert Mahone • RB
Mahone had a better game against Florida State than he had in all of 2018 combined. In his first chance to take over for Alexander Mattison, Mahone had 24 rushes for 142 yards and two touchdowns and looked capable of carrying the load this season. He had just one total TD the past two seasons as a backup, but was impressive against FSU.
28 • Kekaula Kaniho • N
New Boise State defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding likes to be agressive with his nickel position, and Kaniho may be the perfect player for it. The junior had 4.0 tackles-for-loss against Florida State, which ties for the most in the country so far this season. He had six total tackles, and also forced a key fumble that was recovered by David Moa.
MARSHALL PLAYERS TO WATCH
17 • Isaiah Green • QB
Green completed 18 of 28 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns last week against VMI. He also had eight rushes for 46 yards. His passing effeciency rating of 175.7 is 19th nationally. The redshirt sophomore started nine games last year.
20 • Brenden Knox • RB
Knox, a sophomore, scored two touchdowns last week against VMI and finished with 10 rushes for 43 yards. His numbers would have been much better had he not sat the entire second half due to Marshall’s big lead....Tyler King added 10 rushes for 75 yards, while Sheldon Evans had 56 yards.
13 • Nazeeh Johnson • S
Johnson had six tackles against VMI, including three solo tackles. He’s the third-leading returning tackler from last season after finishing with 59 tackles, five pass break-ups and one interception last season...Corner Chris Jackson is also solid.
STATS AND FACTS
• Boise State and Marshall have met just once before, in the 1994 Division I-AA Semifinals in Boise. The Broncos beat the Thundering Herd, 28-24, before falling to Youngstown State in the national championship.
• The Broncos are 26-1 in non-conference home games since 2006.
• Boise State is 8-2 all-time against teams from Conference USA, but both losses came in bowl games.
• The Broncos have won 17 consecutive home openers.
• Boise State will play at Marshall on Oct. 3, 2020.
DATE, OPPONENT, RESULT/TIME
Aug. 31, VMI, W, 56-17
TODAY, at Boise State, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Sept. 14, OHIO, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 28, CINCINNATI, 3 p.m.
Oct. 5, at Middle Tennessee, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 12, OLD DOMINION, 12:30 p.m.
Oct. 18, at Florida Atlantic, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 26, WESTERN KENTUCKY, 12:30 p.m.
Nov. 2, at Rice, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 15, LOUISIANA TECH, 5 p.m.
Nov. 23, at Charlotte, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 30, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL, 10 a.m.
The Idaho Press and BlueTurfSports.com will have complete coverage of Boise State's home opener against Marshall. A live blog will be posted online with updated news, a scoring summary and more during the game. Video interviews with coach Harsin and players will be posted after the game, as well as a podcast with B.J. Rains and Mike Prater discussing the game. The Idaho Press will also have three full pages of coverage in Sunday's paper.