By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
The Boise State football team is coming off the fifth-best rushing game in school history — a 407-yard effort against Nevada.
The Broncos will be hard-pressed to get even half that many yards this week against a stout BYU defense. The Cougars allow 3.5 yards per carry and 135.4 rushing yards per game. They have allowed three rushing touchdowns, which is tied for fourth-fewest in the nation.
Last year, Boise State rushed 40 times for 116 yards (2.9 per carry) against BYU.
“They’re tough. They’re real tough. We kind of learned that last year,” Boise State tight ends coach Scott Huff said. “They’ve got good players and they’re putting them in good spots and they’re just executing really well.”
Said sophomore tailback Jay Ajayi: “It all comes down to our line doing a great job on the front and (the tailbacks) making plays on the second level. It’s definitely a big stage for me to just put on a show on the field. I’m just excited for the opportunity to go against a great defense.”
The Broncos rank 21st in the nation in rushing yards at 224 per game. Ajayi is 16th at 109.4 yards per game and tied for first with 12 rushing touchdowns.
Ajayi rushed for 222 yards last week against Nevada. He gained 38 yards on his first eight carries (4.75 yards per carry) and gained 184 yards on his last 16 (11.5).
He likely will need similar patience against BYU.
“Sometimes it doesn’t always happen on the first (carry),” Ajayi said. “That’s just the thing with running back. You’ve got to keep pounding it. One of those times, it’s going to break, and when you get that opportunity, you have to take it.”
That’s exactly what happened last week. Ajayi scored on a 71-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give the Broncos their first lead of the game.
“The line, they just opened a hole,” Ajayi said. “Anybody could have run through that thing. I was just grateful and I made sure I told them all thank you after that play — it was a big play and our team needed that play and I was just happy to make it for our team.”
Backup quarterback Grant Hedrick, who was a key component of the run game last week, will make his first start Friday. Coaches have expressed reservation about running him more than occasionally, though.
Hedrick gained 115 yards on just eight carries against Nevada.
“You’ve seen a little bit of what he’s capable of doing, but you’ve also got to be smart with that guy,” Huff said. “I don’t think we’ll look any different to people. We can’t get that guy hurt.”
NOTES & QUOTES
— BYU sophomore running back Jamaal Williams was recruited by Boise State but was scared off by coaches’ talk about him potentially playing defensive back. He is close to Boise State cornerback Donte Deayon, a high school teammate. That’s who this story refers to as Williams’ brother. “I wasn’t going to play on the defensive side,” Williams told the Deseret News. “I wanted to go to the team that wanted me to play running back. BYU wanted me for the position that I wanted.”
— BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, of Pocatello’s Highland High, on Boise State (he originally committed to Stanford): “I was offered a scholarship to Boise State. Never took an official. … To be honest, I liked Boise State, they have a great program, I respect them and all they accomplished, but it never really appealed to me. I kind of just wanted to go out of state.”
— BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, comparing this matchup to last year’s 7-6 Boise State win: “I am expecting something very different this year. Boise State is completely different offensively than they were a year ago and with an entirely different system. They are scoring a lot more points and I think they are more potent. But I think that we are better as well. I wouldn’t anticipate 7-6. I don’t know what the score will be but it probably won’t be duplicating that one.”
— Mendenhall on his friendship with Petersen: “He is a great friend and a really good person. In the head-coaching world, he is one of the good guys, meaning that I think he has balanced priorities in his life. A really good marriage, a great family and I think he runs his program with a lot of class.”
— The Broncos practiced on grass Tuesday to prepare for BYU’s grass field.
— Boise State will wear black pants, black helmets and white jerseys against BYU.
Monday blog: Southwick injury update
Tuesday story: Weekly notes
Tuesday blog: Broncos lose WR recruit
Tuesday blog: Mountain West Football Report
Wednesday story: BYU QB Taysom Hill
Wednesday story: BYU scouting report
Live chat: Read a replay here
You can follow beat writer Jay Drew at @drewjay.
Boise State at BYU
When: 6:06 p.m. Friday
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470, grass), Provo, Utah
TV: ESPN (Carter Blackburn, Danny Kanell, Allison Williams)
Radio: KBOI (670AM), KKGL (96.9 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
Records: Boise State is 5-2 overall, 3-1 Mountain West; BYU is 5-2 as an independent
Series: Boise State leads 3-0 (last meeting: BSU 7-6, 2012, in Boise)