Having fallen to the fourth spot in the most recent BCS standings, the second-ranked Boise State Broncos try to earn back some respect this weekend as they take on the Hawaii Warriors in a Western Athletic Conference bout in Idaho.
Earning seven first-place votes in the AP poll, the Broncos continue to make a name for themselves and raise their visibility on a national scale, even though the squad gave up an unusually high number of points in their 49-20 victory over Louisiana Tech at home last week. The triumph extended BSU's overall win streak to 21 games, longest in the nation at present, while their 19-game conference win streak is also tops in the country and is just one of three such double-figure streaks. Add to that a home win streak that stretches for 29 games and, needless to say, the Broncos are a tough matchup on their blue turf.
As for the Warriors, they are just a handful of votes away from breaking into the AP's Top-25 themselves. Hawaii is tied for the sixth-longest win streak in the country at six games, thanks to a 45-10 romp over Idaho in Honolulu last Saturday. The win was the seventh in the last eight outings for the program, their only losses this year coming against USC in the home opener and at Colorado when, after recording their first, first-half shutout on the road since 2005, they fell apart versus the Buffaloes in a 31-13 final.
With their win versus Idaho the Warriors not only moved out to a 5-0 mark in conference play, they made themselves bowl eligible and consequently accepted an invitation to take part in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The postseason acceptance marks the seventh time in the last nine years Hawaii has extended its season by one game.
"I felt really bad that we missed (qualifying) for the bowl last season finishing one game short," said Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin after the win against Idaho. "And that was our main goal (this year). And now, winning this game opens a whole new set of goals. Now we can (focus) on the WAC Championship."
As far as the all-time series is concerned, Boise State has taken eight of the 11 meetings between the two schools, including a 54-9 thrashing last season out in Honolulu.
Bryant Moniz was again the star of the show for the Warriors last weekend as he not only converted 27-of-38 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns, he also placed second on the team with 43 rushing yards and a TD on seven attempts, showing another side of the UH offense that has not been fully profiled. Receiver Greg Salas continued his assault on the Hawaii record books as he reeled in 11 passes for 168 yards.
Defensively, the Warriors rocked Nathan Enderle in the pocket, holding the signal-caller to 207 yards passing while sacking him three times and intercepting two passes. Granted, the squad did allow backup Brian Reader to record a passing score, but that was during a time of desperation and the defense had not prepared to see Reader to begin with.
In the last two games the Hawaii defense has been substantial, allowing Idaho and Utah State a combined 17 points. Take away the USC blowout when the Trojans dropped 49 on the Warriors, and the points allowed by Hawaii (22.3 ppg) are far more manageable.
Moniz is gunning for WAC Offensive Player of the Year, but competing against Kellen Moore of Boise State and Colin Kaepernick of Nevada won't be easy. However, Moniz is in charge of the top passing offense in the country, averaging close to 400 ypg and he himself is the top player in terms of total offense with an average of 373.4 ypg. Last year Moniz was a bit player in the meeting against the Broncos, converting just 5-of-11 passes for 40 yards, so he certainly has something to prove this time around as he takes the 11th-best scoring offense (39.2 ppg) into battle.
Kellen Moore ended up playing more than just his usual two quarters last week when he and the Broncos took down the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs by 29 points. Moore finished the night 20-of-28 for 298 yards and a pair of touchdowns, not to mention catching a TD of his own on a gadget play near the goal line. Tyler Shoemaker caught six passes for a career-high 124 yards and Doug Martin had 21 carries for a career-best 150 yards and two scores as the Broncos generated 468 yards of total offense.
"I think sometimes our expectations are so high for ourselves that if things don't go perfect you feel like you have a lot of stuff to correct," Moore said after the victory. "But we got a win...I think most people will take that."
It was somewhat unusual to see a Boise State opponent force its way down the field and into the red zone as much as the Bulldogs, but for the most part the defense came alive at the right time and shut down any possible scoring threats for the most part.
"Hopefully they never get in there, that's what we would like," said safety Winston Venable of the team's red zone defense. "But if they do you're always hoping they just put three on the board or you can get a stop...there were definitely big plays by our defense and thats what we're supposed to do."
There's no one else in the WAC that's as strong as Boise State on defense, even after the Bulldogs made some key advances deep into BSU's half of the field. The Broncos rank first in the league and third in the country overall with just 236.4 ypg allowed and are permitting a mere 13.4 ppg, which is also third in the nation entering play this week. Attacking the line of scrimmage has been a specialty of the Broncos, the team placing third in the country in tackles for loss (8.43 per game) and fourth in sacks (3.43 per outing).
Were Moore to play all 60 minutes of every game, there's little doubt that he would have incredible passing numbers this year, but as it stands he has the passing attack ranked third in the conference and 11th in the nation with 301.6 ypg. Moore's passing efficiency of 188.3 is head and shoulders above the rest of the QBs in the nation and with 10.42 yards per attempt he is the only signal-caller with an average in double figures. Still only a junior, Moore is now tied with Ryan Dinwiddie for the most passing TDs in school history with 82 and has tossed at least two scores in every game this season and in 27 of 34 career outings.
LaTech showed that the Broncos defense wasn't quite as solid as the stats might indicate and if the Warriors study they too might find the same cracks in the BSU armor. However, with Moore being fresh and ready to go an entire game, this is a matchup that should still favor the Broncos.