If you are a fan who likes to experience a wide range of emotions during a game, the Boise State Broncos certainly delivered for you on Saturday.
Despair and frustration early developed into a feeling of hope and confidence. Hope and confidence eventually translated to pure elation as the Broncos defeated Florida State 36-31 in Tallahassee to open up the 2019 season.
And boy was the game a doozy as the Boise State Broncos came back from 18 down with 23 unanswered points in the win.
The offense racked up over 600 yards of total offense. And true freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier showed toughness and determination beyond his years. Despite six sacks and being hit on multiple occasions, Bachmeier threw for 407 yards and had poise in the pocket.
Bachmeier’s second-half was where he truly shined, connecting on 17-23 for 215 yards and his first career touchdown pass, an 11-yard strike to Khalil Shakir.
Nine different receivers caught passes from Bachmeier. Shakir led the team with eight receptions, while Akilian Butler and CT Thomas each had five. Thomas totaled 103 receiving yards and continued to be king of the third down reception, converting first downs on multiple occasions.
Running with ease, plus a special kicker
The running game was also in fine form, with the top three running backs all making valuable contributions. Starter Robert Mahone had the best game of his career, carrying the ball 24 times for 142 yards. Mahone had two touchdowns, one in each half.
He also took a shovel pass 27 yards on the game’s final scoring drive, his only reception of the game.
Andrew Van Buren and George Holani both had their moments as well. Van Buren, despite a fumble on the first series of the game, finished with 5 carries for 19 yards and also had two receptions. He also had a touchdown reception called back because of downfield blocker penalty.
Holani, a true freshman, had meaningful carries in the fourth quarter, totaling 70 yards on the ground. He also had 2 receptions for 33 yards, though a costly fumble nearly put the solid day in the rearview. Luckily, Garrett Collingham made the recovery to continue Boise State’s drive.
Plays later, Mahone’s second score, a one-yard run, gave the Broncos their first lead with 12:44 left in the game. The extra point by graduate transfer Eric Sachse gave the Broncos a 33-31 lead as they battled back all the way from a 31-13 deficit.
Sachse was also perfect on field goal attempts, tying a school record with five made field goals. His final one, a 30-yard make, cushioned the Broncos lead and provided the final margin of victory.
The offensive line paved the way for a grand total of 214 running yards. Pass protection was a little shaky at times, but given the talent of their opponent, did more than enough to aid in this victory. John Molchon also had a huge fumble recovery in the fourth quarter to save field position.
One downside is John Ojukwu left the game and was later seen on the sidelines on crutches.
Defense: Cold and hot
Many of the mixed emotions felt in this game were directed at the play of the defense, with good reasons.
Early on, Florida State had their way on offense. It took only 43 seconds and four plays to find their first score, a 38-yard run by Cam Akers.
After a Sachse field goal, Florida State did even better, taking only one play to find the end zone. James Blackman found Tamorrion Terry on a bubble screen, with Terry taking it 75-yards to the house.
The defense found a bit of footing in the second quarter, holding Florida State to a field goal. Still, trailing 24-6 things did not look too promising.
This was followed by a Bachmeier interception and dread set in. Instead, Kekaula Kaniho forced a fumble that was scooped up by David Moa. Moa returned it to Florida State’s 40, setting up Mahone’s first touchdown run 7 plays later.
After giving up another huge play, a 58-yard touchdown pass from Blackman to Keyshawn Helton, it looked like it was going to be a long day for the Broncos defense.
From that point on, however, the defense came to play.
Sacks by Chase Hatada and Curtis Weaver. A forced fumble by Riley Whimpey which was recovered by Kekoa Nawahine. Improved secondary play by Avery Williams and Jalen Walker. These were just a few moments that stood out in the second half.
After falling behind 31-13, the Boise State Broncos defense forced seven punts, one turnover, and had a fourth-down stop to end the game. They held Florida State to 68 total yards in the second half and 1-12 on third-down conversions, overall.
A victory to savor, that’s for sure. A win over a storied program.
That’s quite a way to start the 2019 season. Now, we can all breathe.
For the next six days, at least.