BOISE, Idaho (AP) — No fans were on hand to witness Boise State’s 42-13 season-opening win over Utah State on Saturday evening, but if they had, they would have felt like they had seen this game before.
Hank Bachmeier threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns and George Holani rushed for 100 yards and had a pair of scores to power the Broncos to another dominating performance against the Aggies.
Boise State won its home opener for the 11th straight time and hasn’t dropped a conference opener since 1999.
Utah State continued its abysmal record against the Broncos, losing for the 17th time in the last 18 matchups.
Despite the game taking place in an empty stadium with less atmosphere than a spring game, Boise State brought plenty of intensity on defense and sprinkled in its trademark pizzazz on offense.
“The opportunity to compete and go out and just play another opponent was exciting,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We were just trying to keep it as normal as we could without fans and all that energy. That was a challenge and I think our guys handled that really well. We were prepared mentally to play and we had a fast start in the first half.”
By every metric, Boise State started fasted, beginning with the defense.
The Broncos held Utah State to 45 yards in the first half, keeping Utah State quarterback Jason Shelley under constant duress.
Meanwhile, Bachmeier shined in his return after an injury-mired 2019 season. He utilized his full complement of receivers, completing passes to eight different players. Khalil Shakir led the corps with seven receptions and a pair of touchdowns, including a 52-yard scoring strike.
“We had our moments, but we allowed the big plays to take place,” Utah State coach Gary Anderson said. “And that’s what a good quarterback does. (Bachmeier) took the check downs when they were there and some of those turned into big plays. He played like a savvy seasoned veteran.”
After falling behind 28-0 at halftime, Utah State tried to scratch its way back into the game. The Aggies cut the lead to 28-7 on a 1-yard TD run by Jaylen Warren late in the third quarter before capitalizing on a botched Boise State punt. Utah State recovered a loose ball that was punted into the back of a Bronco kick protector on the Boise State 21 and scored six plays later.
But Boise State flexed its offensive muscles and put the game away by scoring on its next two possessions.
Utah State: After watching quarterback Jordan Love go to Green Bay in the first round of the NFL draft, the Aggies were hoping Utah transfer Jason Shelley would provide immediate help at the position. But after his lackluster performance against the Broncos, Utah State coach Gary Anderson should prepare for an adjustment period that might last longer than he would like.
Boise State: Despite losing all four starters along their defensive front, the Broncos managed to trot out another formidable unit in the opener. Even without fifth-round NFL draft pick Curtis Weaver, Boise State pressured the quarterback along with making it difficult for Utah State to run between the tackles.
Boise State implemented strict COVID-19 protocols, ensuring that Albertsons Stadium was virus free. Aside from an environment devoid of fans, all game-day personnel, athletes, coaches, and media members admitted to the stadium had to procure a negative COVID-19 test. The only fans shown in the stands on the televised broadcast were players who didn’t dress out.
JUST IN CASE
After Bachmeier’s struggles with injuries last season, Boise State added USC transfer Jack Sears to the mix. Sears was inserted into a handful of drives and was 2-of-3 passing for 11 yards and rushed twice for eight yards.
Utah State will host San Diego State next Saturday.
Boise State travels to Air Force on Saturday.
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