Avery Williams and the special teams of the Boise State Broncos had the cure for those football blues on Thursday night.
Williams blocked two punts, the special teams scored three touchdowns, and the Broncos (3-1) rolled to a 52-21 victory over the Colorado State Rams on Thursday night.
Showing no ill-effects of last Friday’s dismantling by the BYU Cougars, the Broncos arrived with fire and desire right from the start against the Rams (1-2). A couple of stumbles early in the second-half — including a Williams fumble on a kick return — made this game a bit closer than it should have been. Overall, however, the Broncos were efficient in picking up their third Mountain West win.
Williams, who returned a kick for a score earlier this season against Air Force, had two punt blocks. The first one he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. His second block was picked up by DJ Schramm, who returned it for a touchdown.
KeKaula Kaniho added to the special teams haul with a 91-yard touchdown return off a blocked field goal by Scott Matlock.
Not to be outdone, offensive lineman Nick Crabtree got into the scoring mix. Crabtree was the lucky recipient of a Khalil Shakir fumble, which popped into Crabtree’s hands while he was standing in the end zone.
Quarterback Hank Bachmeier made his return to the lineup. The sophomore completed 16-28 of his passes for 202 yards, throwing one touchdown.
CT Thomas had quite the game, hauling in six catches for 103 yards. Thomas was “Mr. 3rd down” as he converted five third downs (4 receptions, 1 rush) into first downs. Shakir had four receptions for 47 yards and also carried the ball four times for 51 yards
Boise State was again without George Holani and struggled to get much momentum in the ground game. Danny Smith saw his first action of the year, toting the ball 10 times for 33 yards.
Overall, it was a workmanlike effort by the Broncos, who return to action Nov. 21 at Hawai’i.
An electrifying Boise State Broncos start
Undermanned — with 14 players out related to COVID-19 (9 positive cases, 5 for contact tracing) — there was a curiosity as to just how well the Broncos would do.
#BoiseState will be THIN in the middle.
Both of their nose tackles are OUT tonight. Keeghan Freeborn and Scale Igiehon won’t play, and the same goes from true freshman Herbert Gums
— Jay Tust (@KTVBSportsGuy) November 13, 2020
The defense answered the call with three consecutive three-and-outs to open the game. Williams scored his touchdown less than one minute into the game.
After another Colorado State punt, the Broncos pulled out a little trickery, with Williams throwing a cross-field pass to Kaniho. Kaniho took off down the sideline for a nice return but fumbled, giving the ball back to Colorado State.
A third punt ensued and the Boise State offense finally got on the field. Bachmeier was 4-5 for 38 yards on the drive, which resulted in a 5-yard touchdown reception by Riley Smith.
Towards the end of the first quarter, the Rams were looking to cut into the Bronco lead when the field goal was blocked. The return by Kaniho put Boise State up 21-0 after the first quarter.
Colorado State was able to cut the lead to 21-7 thanks to a one-yard sneak by quarterback Patrick O’Brien. The Broncos responded with a drive of their own, highlighted by a receptions of 19 and 33 yards by Thomas and a 28-yard run by Shakir. A two-yard touchdown run by Andrew Van Buren capped off the drive.
Van Buren picked up his second touchdown of the game when he took the option pitch from Bachmeier on 4th-and-goal. The two-yard score put the Broncos up 35-7 with 3:48 left in the half.
On the Rams next series, Shane Irwin picked up a sack and Ezekiel Noa pressured O’Brien into incomplete pass on third down. This led to another blocked punt and Schramm’s touchdown, putting the Broncos up 42-7 at halftime.
A second-half of “just enough”
Colorado State mixed things up after Boise State received the opening kickoff and went three-and-out. The Rams brought in backup quarterback Todd Centeio, who immediately brought some energy.
Centeio, more of a scrambling quarterback, moved the ball down the field and threw a 21-yard touchdown to Trey McBride to bring the score within 42-14.
One play after Williams fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, A’Jon Vivens ran it in from 17-yards and suddenly the Rams were within three scores at 42-21.
It was as close as the Rams would get the rest of the game.
Boise State responded with a 38-yard field goal by Jonah Dalmas and, later, Crabtree’s score.
Riley Whimpey had 13 tackles for the Broncos, including three tackles-for-loss. Kaniho added eight tackles while Irwin had 7 tackles and two sacks.
JL Skinner added an interception in the second quarter and the Broncos held the Rams to 1-15 on third down.
The Rams actually outgained the Boise State Broncos 315-291 so there’s still plenty to work out. But in this shortened, offbeat season, a win is a win and after last week’s drubbing, it’s sure nice for Boise to pick-up a 31-point victory.