If not for an uncharacteristic fourth-quarter collapse in the second game, Boise State would be undefeated, likely ranked and in the early conversation about teams that could be in line for a Group of Five bid to one of the big-money bowl games. Instead, there are more complaints than praise about how the Broncos have looked in getting to 2-1 headed into Friday's home game against Virginia.
If not for an uncharacteristic fourth-quarter collapse in the second game, Boise State would be undefeated, likely ranked and in the early conversation about teams that could be in line for a Group of Five bid to one of the big-money bowl games.
Instead, there are more complaints than praise about how the Broncos have looked in getting to 2-1 headed into Friday's home game against Virginia.
It's the first time in the regular season that a team from the ACC has ventured West to face the Broncos. Boston College played Boise State in 2005 in the MPC Computers Bowl. But it's not an unfamiliar trip for Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall, who went to Boise a number of times when he was the head coach at BYU.
"They prefer to get out in front in kind of shock and awe and gadget or trick or momentum or tempo or something unique and different," Mendenhall said. "They really play hard and play fast at the beginning of the games there. Doesn't mean they don't finish well, but the game plan, and they settle into more normal football as the game goes."
But that high-powered, shock and awe that Mendenhall referenced has been missing so far as Boise State's offense has mostly slogged through the first three weeks. The Broncos scored 24 points in wins over Troy and New Mexico and let a 31-10 lead slip away in the fourth quarter of their triple-overtime loss to Washington State.
The Broncos will likely use two quarterbacks against Virginia. Brett Rypien is expected to return after missing last week's game with an injury, but he might not even be the starter. The Broncos started Montell Cozart last week and he saw extensive time the week before against Washington State.
Virginia (2-1) will be on the road for the first time in 2017 after opening the season with wins over William & Mary and UConn, sandwiched around a loss to Indiana. It's the second straight year the Cavaliers have ventured West. They lost at Oregon last season.
Here are other things to watch when Boise State hosts Virginia:
MOA CONSTRICTOR: Boise State may be without standout defensive tackle David Moa against the Cavaliers. Moa was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace last Saturday. Authorities say Moa was involved in a disturbance outside a night club. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said any punishment would remain internal.
"Obviously disappointed. . We'll handle it internally and make sure that we learn from it and grow," Harsin said.
TAKEAWAYS: Virginia has a 4-1 advantage in takeaways through three games, but the number is somewhat misleading. The Cavaliers have fumbled seven times, and recovered all seven.
RUN FOR SOMETHING: Boise State has not done well in replacing do-everything running back Jeremy McNichols.
Through three games, the Broncos are averaging only 146 yards rushing and 3.7 yards per carry. It doesn't help that Cozart is the Broncos' leading rusher with 179 yards. Alexander Mattison is the top running back with 155 yards in three games but he had just 10 yards on six carries against New Mexico.
"We did not run the ball real well. We had our opportunities and we need to be more physical," Harsin said. "Every single guy, all 11 guys, quarterbacks are included on this ... we need to do a much better job. We've said that. We've said that for three games and it needs to be fixed."
GIVING O THE BALL: After carrying the ball just three times last season and not at all in the first two games, the Cavaliers gave Olamide Zaccheaus four carries last week and he gained 47 yards, including a 27-yard run.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: The Friday game concludes a wonky first month for the Broncos. After opening with a Saturday home day game — a rarity — Boise State played at Washington State late on a Saturday night in a game that went to triple overtime, had a quick turnaround for the Thursday game against New Mexico and now hosts Virginia on a Friday.
The Broncos don't mind not playing on Saturday. They have won 13 of the past 18 non-Saturday games since the start of the 2014 season and are 8-1 at home in those games.
"You go out to Boise State, there's blue turf, they have really nice uniforms, they have good tradition out there," Virginia wide receiver Andre Levrone said. "It's a football town in Boise, Idaho, but at the end of the day, it's a football game."