B.J. Rains covers Boise State as the beat writer for the Idaho Press. We caught up with him to talk about the Broncos ahead of Saturday’s game.
Davis Potter: Will Tyler Vander Waal taking over at quarterback change how Boise State prepares defensively for Wyoming?
B.J. Rains: Vander Waal I think started against them last year, so they’re a little more familiar with him. It probably doesn’t change much for them. I think that stopping the run has always kind of been their big thing. They’ve been pretty good at it but not great this year. They know that the focus for Wyoming is running the football. I think they’ll obviously focus on that, but I do think it probably makes things a little bit easier for them in terms of the preparation knowing that Vander Waal is more of a guy that’s going to be a pocket passer and not having to worry as much about the quarterback run.
DP: Speaking of QBs, Boise’s Hank Bachmeier missed the BYU game with an injury but returned last week against San Jose State. Is he healthy going into this game?
BR: He was hurt against Hawaii, but he’s back, started and played pretty well in that (SJSU) game. Only had 17 pass attempts. They went run-heavy in that game. They kind of wanted to establish the run in that game because San Jose State is terrible against the run. But he played and actually got dinged up. He left for a couple of plays and actually went in the medical tent, and then the backup, Chase Cord, came in and scored a rushing touchdown on the first play he was in. But then Bachmeier came back in the fourth quarter and finished the game. He’s fine, and I would expect Bachmeier to play the majority of the game.
DP: Bachmeier is completing nearly 63 percent of his passes with nine TD passes and only four interceptions. Has he surpassed maybe even what Boise State expected from him as a true freshman?
BR: I would think he’s exceeded them actually because people like myself weren’t even predicting him to be the starter going into the season. I think a lot of people thought Chase Cord was going to be the starter. He was the backup last year and got some playing time before he tore his ACL, and then I think everybody just kind of assumed as long as he was healthy that Chase Cord was going to be the starter. And then about halfway through fall camp, it became evident that he was still a little limited with the knee. They went with Bachmeier, and their only loss this season was when he was out. He’s 7-0 as a starter and has played really, really well. Led the huge comeback against Florida State in the second half on the road in his first game.
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DP: Do you think Wyoming’s defense will be the best he’s seen to this point?
BR: I think so. The Air Force defense was pretty good, and the BYU defense was pretty good also. But it’s up there. If you look at what they’ve done and some of the teams they’ve slowed down, I certainly think you can make a case for that. Wyoming’s defense has not given up a whole lot of points. In the past, they’ve given Boise State problems. I think they’re probably happy (former Wyoming safety) Andrew Wingard is gone. I know he didn’t have to go up against Bachmeier, but I think Boise State’s happy he’s gone. He was a pest for them. But yeah, they’ve given Boise State problems in the past defensively, and I would expect it may be another slugfest like that on Saturday.
DP: Bryan Harsin promoted Jeff Schmedding from within during the offseason to replace Andy Avalos as Boise’s defensive coordinator. Are there many differences to what the Broncos are doing defensively under Schmedding?
BR: The defense has been interesting. They’ve really struggled to get takeaways. I don’t know if bend but not break is the right term. For the most part, they haven’t been giving up a lot of big plays, but they haven’t been making a lot of big plays on defense either. They had one interception with about a minute left in that (SJSU) game but otherwise not a lot of picks and not a lot of fumble recoveries and they rank near the bottom of the country in creating turnovers. That’s been a big emphasis for them is trying to get more picks. He doesn’t do a lot of stuff differently. He’s a little more aggressive maybe with a little more blitzing, but it really hasn’t paid off yet in terms of big plays. He’s using the nickel a little differently. It’s blitzing more and is more a defensive back kind of making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. But overall I wouldn’t say it’s a huge schematic difference or anything like that.
DP: What’s the strength of this Boise team?
BR: They’ve got a lot of talent at the skill positions I would say. They’ve got three or four wide receivers that you feel confident with any of them. They’ve struggled at times running the ball, but George Holani is a true freshman who’s really kind of stepped up the last couple of weeks and taken over. Now you feel pretty good there. But I would say just the talent of the skill positions players, and then defensively I would say the defensive line is a big strength of theirs.
DP: And the Broncos’ weakness?
BR: They really haven’t had a ton of success running the ball downhill. They’ve had to do a lot of sweeps and getting creative with Wildcat formations and things like that. When they just line up and try to power run the football downhill, they’ve had some problems with that. The O-line has given up some sacks as well, and Bachmeier has taken a lot of big hits and a lot of that is on the O-line. So I would say the O-line is capable of playing very well, but they’ve underachieved a little bit to this point. And then defensively on the back end. San Jose State put up 42 points on them and over 430 passing yards. They gave up some big plays in that game, and they don’t get very many turnovers. So the back seven is probably vulnerable a little bit to the pass based on what you saw in the last game.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter @DavisEPotter