PROVO, Utah — Down both starting corners for the full game and then the top safety and leading tackler on the team after a targeting call in the second quarter, the Boise State defense didn’t make excuses.
They made plays.
The Broncos came away with four takeaways — three on defense and one on special teams — and had two key fourth-down stops to fuel a 26-17 upset win of No. 10 BYU on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“Early on the first couple drives (BYU) had some success, but it was about getting settled in and not getting rattled,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said of his defense. “That’s the difference when you come into games like this. You have to get settled in. It’s going to be a little bit faster than it was in practice.
“The guys stayed calm after the first couple drives and I don’t believe we gave up points for the next couple quarters and and that was awesome to see how they responded.”
The Broncos were without starting cornerbacks Markel Reed and Tyric LeBeauf due to injuries. Reed, according to a source, suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier in the week at practice.
Bowling Green transfer Caleb Biggers and redshirt senior Damon Cole started at corner in their absence. Redshirt freshman Kaonohi Kaniho saw significant playing time at corner as well after Cole went down with an injury.
Kaniho had one of Boise State’s four takeaways when he intercepted a pass near the end zone in the final seconds that sealed the win.
“The corners stepped up,” Avalos said. “That was unbelievable. That’s why the team prepared all week. We knew we’d be missing some guys and then Damon Cole goes down early in the game and Kaniho steps up and balls. Semaj (Verner) jumped in there, he’s been at safety and worked a bit at corner but jumped in there for a few plays today.”
Boise State also came away with three fumble recoveries despite BYU coming in with only one lost fumble in its first five games of the season.
Two of them came in a short span, and both led to Boise State touchdowns.
Isaiah Bagnah forced a fumble on BYU running back Tyler Allgeier that Scott Matlock recovered at the Cougars’ 24-yard line. After Boise State scored, Alexander Teubner forced a fumble on BYU returner Lopini Katoa and forced a fumble that JL Skinner scooped up at the Cougars’ 23.
Boise State scored again, and then the defense stopped BYU on fourth down on the next possession — which led to a Bronco field goal as time expired in the second quarter and a 20-10 lead at the half.
“Those were huge momentum plays,” Avalos said. “We talk about it all the time, the middle eight (final four minutes of second quarter and first four minutes of third quarter), and we finally did a really good job on both sides.”
Tyreque Jones also forced a fumble of Allgeier in the third quarter and Teubner recovered it inside the Boise State 20 to keep the Cougars off the scoreboard.
“The guys who stepped up and came in did their job and did their one-eleventh and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” linebacker Riley Whimpey said. “Shout out to Kaonohi, Teubner, ‘Biggs’ — all those guys came out and played their butts off and it showed tonight.”
Boise State’s defense now has 16 takeaways through six games after recording three in seven games last season.
SKINNER EJECTED FOR TARGETING
Skinner was ejected late in second quarter for targeting after a helmet-to-helmet hit on the ballcarrier on a kick return.
Skinner, who entered the game with a team-high 51 tackles, led with his helmet and delivered a big hit on Javelle Brown with 3:34 left in the second quarter and Boise State leading 17-10.
The hit was not initially called a penalty, but fans booed as replays showed the helmet-to-helmet contact and a video replay was initiated by the booth. After a lengthy delay, Skinner was ruled to have committed targeting and was disqualified for the remainder of the game.
Since the penalty occurred in the first half, Skinner will not face any additional penalties moving forward and is eligible to play the full game next week against Air Force.
Teubner, a redshirt sophomore, replaced Skinner at safety for the rest of the game.
SIX STARTERS OUT DUE TO INJURIES
In addition to Reed and LeBeaf, the Broncos were without four other starters.
Boise State was without a pair of starting offensive linemen for the second straight game in center Kekaniokia Holomalia-Gonzalez and left guard Garrett Curran. The Broncos went with the same alignment as last week along the line — left tackle John Ojukwu, left guard Jake Stetz, center Will Farrer, right guard Ben Dooley and right tackle Uzo Osuji.
Running back George Holani and wide receiver CT Thomas also missed the game for unspecified reasons, although Boise State said no players were out due to COVID-19 protocols.
Scale Igiehon, who was listed as the starting nose tackle on the preseason depth chart, missed his fifth straight game while on a ‘leave of absence’ for personal reasons.
Khalil Shakir led the Broncos onto the field with The Hammer, while Donte Harrington carried the ‘Bleed Blue’ flag and Daniel Cantrell carried the American Flag. ... Wide receiver Stefan Cobbs and safety Tyreque Jones were the single-game captains for the Broncos. ... The crowd of 63,470 tied for the eighth-largest for the Broncos in a road game. ... Boise State passed for just 172 yards, its lowest in a win since Oct. 14, 2017, at San Diego State. ... Boise State led for the final 33:34 of the game. BYU hadn’t trailed all season until Saturday. ... Jonah Dalmas has made a field goal in 11 straight games, the longest streak for the Broncos since Tyler Rausa’s 16-game stretch during the 2015-16 seasons. ... Boise State called tails and won the coin toss. The Broncos deferred to the second half.