One turnover is cause for celebration, but how about a season’s worth in a single game?
The Boise State defense doubled its takeaway total from all of last season to help the Broncos crush UTEP on Friday night at Albertsons Stadium.
Freshman safety Seyi Oladipo grabbed two interceptions, redshirt senior linebacker Ezekiel Noa had two fumble recoveries, redshirt senior safety Tyreque Jones added a pick, and redshirt junior defensive tackle Scott Matlock had a second-quarter fumble recovery.
It all added up to a 54-13 win for Boise State, which had just three total takeaways during the 2020 season.
“They did an unbelievable job, and we were close to getting another one there with Seyi at the end,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said. “… We’ve just got to keep taking opportunities to attack the ball, take it from the other team, take it out of the air when we can.”
Boise State’s turnover-fest got started in the second quarter when defensive end Shane Irwin and Demitri Washington combined on a strip-sack of UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison. Matlock recovered the fumble on the UTEP 3-yard line, and the Broncos were in the end zone one play later.
Next came Jones’ second career interception, and when Jones went down with an injury later in the quarter, Oladipo replaced him and managed his first career interception less than a minute later. The 5-foot-11, 194-pounder’s pick set up a touchdown drive that gave Boise State a 41-13 lead going into the locker room.
Oladipo came up with another interception of Hardison early in the third quarter, and nearly had a third on a pass breakup in the fourth quarter.
“That was a really, really good performance for his first time getting a lot of playing time,” Avalos said. “… Now from here where we go, how we handle that, how we handle the success tonight for a young player like that, is always something that we’ve gotta make sure that he is aware of. If we want to continue to have nights like tonight, then we gotta make sure that we keep perspective and we keep growing.
“He is a really physically talented player, but he’s a smart player as well. We’re really excited about his future. He about had three interceptions, too. I was already going the other way there at the end. I guess two was enough for him, though.”
Both of Noa’s fumble recoveries came in the third quarter, after being forced by JL Skinner. Skinner led the Broncos in tackles for the second straight game, with nine.
“You could tell by the look in his eye prior to the game that he was gonna have a good game, and he did,” Avalos said of Skinner. “… He was all around the ball all night, and when you’re that type of an impact player, you get some credibility with your teammates.”
The Broncos had not forced six turnovers in a game since 2013 in a win over UT-Martin. Boise State also kept its opponent without a touchdown in the first quarter for the second straight game. It marks the first time since 2016 that the Broncos have not allowed a first-quarter TD through two games.
Did you see that?
Senior receiver Khalil Shakir added a few more impressive grabs to his ever-growing highlight reel.
Shakir had not one but two one-handed receptions against the Miners. The first went for 31 yards along the Broncos’ sideline on their third play of the game. The second was a 36-yard reception in the second quarter.
The Murrieta, California, product finished with a game-best 166 yards on seven receptions, with 161 yards and six catches coming in the first half alone. It was his seventh career 100-yard game.
Shakir credited his offensive line and quarterback Hank Bachmeier for the acrobatic catches, but his teammates wouldn’t let him pass off the credit he was due.
“I don’t know how he made a couple of those catches, I am not even gonna lie to you guys,” Skinner said. “ … Sometimes Shak just does what Shak does. I don’t even have an explanation for that.”
Big 12 speculation returns on day conference expands
A report from Dennis Dobbs of CBS Sports surfaced Friday afternoon, suggesting that the Big 12 isn’t done expanding, and Boise State and Memphis are its next targets. A second round of expansion isn’t likely to happen before 2024, though.
Boise State Athletic Director Jeramiah Dickey declined to comment on the Big 12’s interest in the Broncos. He said he’s had no communication with anyone from the conference in recent weeks, but he made it very clear that he believes Boise State deserves an invitation.
“Like many other schools, we belong to be in the conversation now,” Dickey said. “From an athletic and academic standpoint, I do believe we deserve a seat at the table, and I’m going to continue to sing that from the mountaintops.”
The Big 12 Board of Directors voted unanimously Friday morning to extend invitations of membership to UCF, BYU, Houston and Cincinnati. All four accepted, and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Friday that BYU is expected to join in 2023, and the other three by 2024.
The Big 12 was left with eight members after Oklahoma and Texas announced at the end of July that they’re leaving for the SEC. A second round of expansion would leave the conference with at least 14 teams.
Having BYU — an FBS Independent since 2011 — be part of the initial wave of expansion is probably a good thing for Boise State. The Broncos joining would give the Cougars a regional rival, and at least one conference game that didn’t require extensive travel.
The football teams at Boise State and BYU have developed a strong rivalry, having faced each other nine years in a row. The Broncos are 5-4 in those games, but they’ve lost the past two, including a 51-17 setback in Albertsons Stadium last season.
Cobbs injured, Whimpey flagged for targeting
Boise State will have to play the first half of next week’s matchup against Oklahoma State without starting linebacker Riley Whimpey. And receiver Stefan Cobbs will be a question mark, too.
Whimpey was flagged for targeting on a tackle of UTEP running back Ronald Awatt with 6:37 remaining in the third quarter. The disqualification means he’ll also be ineligible for the first half next week against the Cowboys.
Cobbs was injured in the second quarter and was later seen on the Broncos’ bench with a boot on his left foot.
Igiehon takes leave of absence
Boise State will be without nose tackle Scale Igiehon for the foreseeable future.
The senior has taken a leave from the program, a spokesperson for the team confirmed about 45 minutes before kickoff on Friday.
“Boise State senior Scale Igiehon will take a leave of absence from the Broncos’ football team while dealing with a personal matter. No additional details will be released at this time,” according to an official statement.
Igiehon transformed his body the past couple of years, going from a 348-pound high school senior to a 290-pound specimen, who looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman.
He didn’t play in last week’s season opener at UCF until the third quarter and finished with just one tackle. On Tuesday, defensive line coach Frank Maile said Utah transfer Jackson Cravens is the starter at nose tackle.
Boise State also said one player was out against the Miners because of COVID-19 protocols, which could mean a positive test or contact tracing.
Two Broncos out vs. UTEP
The Broncos were without two starting offensive linemen against the Miners.
Right guard Jake Stetz — one of seven super seniors on the field for the Broncos — was inactive after he left the season opener in the second quarter with what looked like a shoulder or arm injury.
Redshirt junior Garrett Curran got the start at right guard against UTEP, with Texas Tech transfer Will Farrar at left guard.
Sixth-year senior Donte Harrington started at center for the second week in a row. Redshirt junior Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez was inactive for the second straight game with an undisclosed injury.
This is Idaho, not Ohio
Fox Sports 1 announcer Alex Faust actually opened Friday’s broadcast by saying, “From the capital city in the state of Ohio …”
Faust acknowledged his mistake at the start of the second half.
Team captains Shakir and Kekaula Kaniho were joined by Bachmeier and Noa as game captains. … Boise State won the coin toss and deferred. … Boise State was led onto the field by linebacker Brandon Hawkins, who carried the Dan Paul Hammer. … RT Ben Dooley carried the American flag and NT Jackson Cravens carried the Bleed Blue flag. … Attendance for Friday’s home opener was 35,518. It’s the largest crowd for a home opener since 2016 and the third-largest for an opener in program history. … Boise State has now won 20 consecutive home openers. … The Broncos scored on three straight snaps in the second quarter. The last time the Broncos scored on three consecutive offensive plays was Oct. 29, 2004, vs. Hawaii.
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