Boise State vs UConn

Boise State had a tough time being consistent rushing last season and, against a good Troy front, got little going last week (67 yards apart from QB Chase Cord’s 44-yard TD). But the line is more experienced, and running back Alexander Mattison is healthy.

Saturday could provide some relief — UConn may start four freshmen on the line and allowed 296 yards on the ground to UCF on Aug. 30.

“There’s always stuff we can work on,” Boise State guard John Molchon said. “I know there were a couple penalties that hurt that yardage. We always want to increase that statistic.”

Advantage: Boise State

When the Broncos pass the ball

Let’s put it simply — Brett Rypien dreams of matchups like this. The Broncos, coming off a 305-yard, four-TD performance from their senior quarterback, are coming in hot. UConn was torched by a veteran quarterback in its opener and could start a defense entirely comprised of freshmen and sophomores.

The Huskies allowed 356 yards and five TDs to UCF’s McKenzie Milton. No team allowed more passing touchdowns last season. Boise State, even minus starter Octavius Evans, answered some doubts with five receivers having multiple catches or a touchdown against Troy.

”I think it’s more fun that way. I think it makes us more difficult to defend,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.

Advantage: Boise State

When the Huskies run the ball

With a mobile quarterback, UConn started well with 220 yards rushing on 46 attempts. Running backs accounted for 63 yards on 24 carries. But the Huskies will not be meeting an easy test Saturday in the Broncos, who allowed 124 yards in the opener and were 17th against the run last season. If senior defensive tackle David Moa returns, that’s an even tougher road for UConn.

“They may not have scored the points to show it … but we are taking them as a serious threat,” junior nose tackle Sonatane Lui said.

Advantage: Boise State

When the Huskies pass the ball

Having a scrambling quarterback can frustrate a rush defense, and buy time to get receivers open. QB David Pindell had a solid start to the season, completing 65.9 percent of his passes with a touchdown and an interception. Six receivers had multiple catches.

Boise State had five sacks at Troy, while UConn did not allow one against UCF. The Broncos’ pass defense was decent, as Troy completed 70.6 percent of its passes, though they got an interception. The Broncos could be without multiple starters, which could help UConn.

“He’s got some style,” Boise State senior quarterback Tyler Horton said of Pindell. “At the same time, their receiving corps, they were out there making plays, on the same page. When he’s scrambling, they’re moving.”

Advantage: Push

Special teams

Boise State has a veteran group, but it struggled in the opener, dropping two punts, missing a field goal and being subpar punting to the Trojans. Sophomore punt returner Avery Williams may not go, so CT Thomas, Khalil Shakir and Akilian Butler could factor there.

“One area I wasn’t very pleased with was our special teams,” Harsin said.

UConn was below average in most special teams units last season but has made its lone field goal attempt. Kickoff returner Keyion Dixon averaged 25.2 yards per return. Special teams is a focus for the Broncos this week, so a turnaround wouldn’t be a shock.

Advantage: Boise State

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BOISE STATE

Durrant Miles, DE

One game in, and the 6-foot-5, 261-pound senior gives offenses even more to worry about in addition to the STUD ends. Miles had two sacks at Troy, matching his total from all of last season, the second creating a fumble that Tyler Horton returned for a touchdown.

“Durrant had a huge offseason. … We’re excited about what he’s doing,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said.

Jalen Walker, CB

Ready at a moment’s notice, Walker stepped in and played well in the Las Vegas Bowl when Horton was hurt. At Troy, he recovered a fumble, broke up a pass and had three tackles as the No. 3 corner. If Avery Williams’ elbow keeps him out, Walker will play a much larger role Saturday.

“He’s been working hard, preparing, he had a good training camp,” cornerbacks coach Jeff Popovich said. “We’re looking forward to seeing him play if we’re counting on him on an every-snap basis.”

Sean Modster, WR

Before the Troy game, the senior’s best game was an 82-yard performance against BYU on Oct. 6, 2016. He more than doubled that with 167 yards on seven catches, scoring twice. Against a porous pass defense, he could have another big day.

“Looking back at it, I did a pretty good job contributing to the team, and it feels good I was able to,” Modster said. “… Hope that continues.”

UCONN

Kyle Buss, WR

He had just one catch last season, but the former walk-on, who went on scholarship in the spring, had a big start to his senior season. Buss had seven catches for 113 yards in the opener Aug. 30.

“He can make plays,” Harsin said.

A transfer from Robert Morris, an FCS school, Buss had 742 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2015 before taking 2016 off to take care of his sick mother.

David Pindell, QB

The senior likely will provide the UConn offense’s biggest challenge to the Broncos, a dual threat coming off a big game against UCF. Pindell threw for 266 yards and rushed for 157 yards, scoring a touchdown on the ground and throwing for another.

“He does a great job of extending plays,” Avalos said. “Don’t get me wrong either, he can throw the ball … There are some things on their film that are definitely going to pose some challenges for us.”

 

Tyler Coyle, S

With 10 tackles against UCF, Coyle is the Huskies’ leading tackler. Despite being just a sophomore, he also is one of the team’s most experienced players, starting nine games last season and leading the team with two interceptions. Coming off a blowout loss, the defense has ratcheted up the intensity.

“Practice reps now are — they’re outrageous,” Coyle told the Hartford Courant. “But we can handle them.”