The Boise State Broncos began their résumé building early. In the race to represent the Group of 5 in a New Year’s Six bowl, Boise State blasted what was expected to be a tough Troy squad 56-20 on the road. The Broncos’ top competition and reigning G5 leader UCF also made a statement, beating the Connecticut Huskies 56-17 in East Hartford. Things won’t get any easier for UConn as it travels across the country to face Boise State on the blue turf in a Week 2 non-conference matchup.
Connecticut at Boise State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 10:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Boise State -31
Three Things to Watch
1. The quarterbacks
You probably know about Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien by now. After all, Rypien is in his fourth season as the Broncos starter, and after a 305-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Trojans, he now has more than 10,000 career passing yards and 64 touchdowns to his credit.
But you might not yet know UConn quarterback David Pindell, who was one of few bright spots for the Huskies in Week 1. Pindell, a 6-foot, 195-pound senior, made his fifth career start in the loss to UCF. A dual-threat playmaker, Pindell completed 27-of-41 pass attempts against the Knights for 266 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and he added 157 rushing yards on 22 carries. Pindell’s athleticism also paid dividends in his attempts to evade oncoming pass rushers: Connecticut didn’t allow a sack last week.
2. Big-play receivers
If the Huskies are going to take a step towards bowl eligibility, they can’t rely on Pindell alone. Fortunately, receiver Kyle Buss showed some big-play ability in the season opener. Buss, a 6-foot-1 senior, made just one reception for four yards in 2017. He’s already Pindell’s top target early in 2018, grabbing seven passes for 113 yards, including a 46-yarder. Adding Buss to a veteran group of wideouts headlined by 2017 leading receiver Hergy Mayala should give UConn fans reasons to be optimistic about the offense.
Likewise, Boise State got a big game from a relative newcomer. Senior Sean Modster recorded 43 receptions across his first three seasons with the Broncos, and he ranked fourth on the team last year with 32 catches (including three TDs) and 335 yards. But Modster has shown that he’s capable of stepping up to replace the production of departed star Cedrick Wilson. He hauled in seven passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns against Troy, including a 54-yarder that increased Boise State’s halftime lead to 35-7. Modster has now recorded a reception of at least 50 yards in each of the last three seasons.
3. Defensive playmakers
Boise State made headlines in Week 1 for its new Turnover Throne, and we can now properly call defensive back Tyler Horton the king of the Broncos’ secondary. Horton recovered two fumbles against Troy and returned both for touchdowns. The first, a 55-yard return, stretched the Broncos’ lead to 42-7 early in the third quarter. His second, an 11-yarder in the fourth quarter, put the game away after Troy had fought back to within three scores. The senior cornerback also contributed four tackles in the victory, and he earned Mountain West Player of the Week honors for his efforts.
But Horton wasn’t the only Boise State defender to make a big play in the win. Idaho graduate transfer Tony Lashley also took his turn on the throne after an interception. The Broncos also recorded five sacks, two of them by senior Durrant Miles, who has already tied his production from 2017. Curtis Weaver, who had 11 sacks a year ago, picked up his first of the new campaign, as did Desmond Williams. Linemen Kayode Rufai and Jabari Watson also shared a sack.
The final score was obviously lopsided, but Connecticut showed some flashes of promise against UCF. Pindell can make plays with both his arm and his feet, and he has playmakers available in Buss and Mayala, as well as running back Kevin Mensah. The problem is that Boise State is even more talented offensively with Rypien, Modster and multi-purpose ball carrier Alexander Mattison, a 1,000-yard rusher and 200-yard receiver as a sophomore who gained 56 yards on the ground and scored a touchdown in the opener. Plus, the Broncos — who returned nine starters on defense (a number that doesn’t even include the ultra-productive Weaver and Lashley) — are capable of big things on the other side of the ball as well.
UConn might make things interesting for a quarter or two, but Boise State looks like a team on a mission to play in a front-line bowl game.
Prediction: Boise State 49, Connecticut 14
— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.
(Top photo courtesy of broncosports.com)