Here's how Boise State beat writer B.J. Rains and sports columnist Mike Prater graded Boise State's 31-24 win at Colorado State on Friday in Fort Collins:
Boise State did enough offensively to win, but it certainly wasn't anything close to their best performance. The good? Jaylon Henderson again looked smooth running the offense and didn't turn the ball over for a second straight game. Boise State scored four touchdowns, including two that each chewed up more than seven minutes off the clock. Tight end Garrett Collingham got involved and scored twice, including one on a 2-yard run in which he planned to throw the ball before electing to run it in. The bad? Boise State tied a season-low with just 91 rushing yards and George Holani had 18 carries for 42 yards. His longest run was only eight yards. The Broncos had just 344 total yards, finishing more than 100 below their season average. The offense was good, but definitely not great.
This wasn't the Broncos' best, most efficient performance of the season, but it was impressive because of two words: Jaylon Henderson. No longer the third-string QB, he's been the starter for three straight games and is the best QB on the roster right now. In his three starts, Henderson is 57-of-92 for 732 yards, eight TDs, one interception and 103 rushing yards gained. The Broncos have outscored opponents 129-54 during that span. Five different players caught passes on the opening drive against Colorado State, TE Garrett Collingham caught two TD passes in his final regular season game, and Khalil Shakir/CT Thomas came up big on multiple plays, finishing with a combined 12 catches for 156 yards. Boise State picked up two critical fourth-down conversions and was 4-4 in the red zone, where the Broncos have been deadly in the past month. The run game produced only 91 yards on 37 carries, and the line wasn't as dominant or physical as it was last week against Utah State. That will need to change moving forward. B+
David Moa's sack late in the fourth quarter was arguably the play of the game, forcing Colorado State to punt instead of going for it on fourth down. The Broncos got a first down and ran out the clock and the Rams never touched the ball again. Curtis Weaver and Tyreque Jones both had interceptions in the first half, and both led to points. Colorado State moved the ball some through the air as the Broncos struggled to get any kind of a pass rush, but they did limit the Rams to 90 yards rushing. Colorado State had a couple extended scoring drives, but overall the Broncos did enough to slow the Rams - especially when they needed to late in the game.
Boise State came up with two interceptions, and had one huge fourth-down stop in the second half, but the defense was soft and generous on a cold, sleepy Friday afternoon in Fort Collins. Colorado State scored on drives of 9, 12, 9 and 9 plays and outgained Boise State 379-344 as the Broncos showed some sloppy tackling. David Moa came up with the Broncos' first sack late in the fourth quarter - a huge play that helped secure the victory. Until then, Boise State showed very little interest in pressuring Colorado State's quarterback, and sackmaster Curtis Weaver spent a lot of time in pass coverage, and not being a pocket pest.
Eric Sachse connected on his only field goal attempt, a 39-yarder late in the second quarter. He's been quite the find for the Broncos out of Trinity College as a graduate tranfer. Not much else to write home about on special teams. Nothing spectacular but nothing horrible. Joel Velazquez averaged 42.9 yards on four punts and had a long of 49. John Hightower had a 33-yard kick return.
John Hightower averaged 26 yards on three kick returns (Boise State held Colorado State to a 16-yard average), and the dependable Eric Sachse nailed his only field goal, a 39-yarder in the second quarter. Boise State's average field position was the 38-yard line; Colorado State's was the 25. Bigger picture: Boise State's special teams, now that the regular season is complete, have been a lot more productive and consistent this season after last year's well-publicized troubles.
Boise State's defense allowed a touchdown on the opening possession of the game, and the game was tied at 14 in the second quarter. Colorado State had the ball near midfield in the fourth quarter trailing just 31-24 before the defense came up with a game-clinching stop. Bryan Harsin and Zak Hill deserve a ton of credit for how they've dealt with the quarterback position, and in particular how they've won three straight games with a third-stringer in Jaylen Henderson. Boise State's 11-1 regular season record hasn't happened since 2011, and the 8-0 Mountain West mark is a first in program history. It wasn't the blowout some wanted, but Boise State's coaches helped them overcame a small crowd and dead atmosphere to win on the road.
Boise State finishes 8-0 in Mountain West play for the first time in school history. Impressive. More impressive: Doing it with three starting QBs. The coaches continue to play a game with Hank Bachmeier, Chase Cord and Henderson, but it's working. All three are available, coach Bryan Harsin has said. All three could have played Friday, according to television reports. Didn't happen as Harsin and coordinator Zak Hill continue to play cat-and-mouse with curious fans and opposing defenses. At this point, who cares? It's working and Harsin should win his first MW Coach of the Year award. Overall, Boise State was a little flat, a little sleepy Friday - inside a cold and quiet stadium. The effort is on players, not coaches.
Boise State didn't really need style points because the only way they'd sneak into the Cotton Bowl at this point would be a second loss for both Cincinnati and Memphis. Cincinnati lost Friday, so the Broncos will need Memphis to fall next week in the AAC title game to move ahead of them and into the top Group of 5 spot. Still, the Broncos looked better in each of the two previous games than they did Friday. A couple encouraging things? The defense had two interceptions and a made a big stop in the fourth quarter, and Jaylon Henderson looks like he wants to hang on to the starting QB job the rest of the season. Boise State should be a big favorite in the Mountain West title game against Hawaii next week. A win likely means a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl.
Boise State's chances of playing in the Cotton Bowl have looked better. Memphis beat Cincinnati on Friday and is the strength of the American Athletic Conference and the Group of 5 race, with another set of rankings to be released Tuesday night. Memphis will lead Boise State going into the final week of the season - and needs to beat Cincinnati again for the Cotton Bowl berth. Makes you wonder about the Oct. 19 game at BYU. If Henderson had started, instead of Cord, would the conversation be much different today? Will Boise State end up in the Las Vegas Bowl against Washington State?