Boise State football: Running game shines in first scrimmage

New Boise State running back Elelyon Noa takes over for quarterback Hank Bachmeier in fall practices.  Noa was on the field for his first game as a Bronco on Saturday.

New Boise State running back Elelyon Noa takes over for quarterback Hank Bachmeier in fall practices. Noa was on the field for his first game as a Bronco on Saturday.

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It’s common for defenses to win scrums at the start of fall camp, but that wasn’t the case in Boise State’s first scrimmage, head coach Andy Avalos said Saturday.

The attack won the day, Avalos told reporters in the lobby of Bleymaier Football Centre, and he was particularly impressed with the running game.

“It was great to see (the offense) operating and pushing different tempos on the pitch,” Avalos said. “Different players were executing, both running and throwing the ball, and they had a very good plan to start the game.”

Here are Avalos’ observations from Scrum #1.

The offense wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as quarterback Hank Bachmeier crafted a 10-play, 75-yard drive against Boise State’s No. 1 defense to open the game . Avalos didn’t say who scored on the drive, but it ended with a touchdown against what should be one of Mountain West’s best defenses.

“That drive was a mix of great execution in the passing game and really good runs right off the bat,” Avalos said. “Being able to come out against the defense and start quickly from the start is a huge plus for our attack.”

Starting running back George Holani didn’t fully participate in the scrimmage, Avalos said. Holani is not injured. The coaching staff just takes extra precautions to keep him healthy. The redshirt junior missed most of the 2020 season with a knee injury and wasn’t healthy until the final four games of last season.

Despite Holani’s absence, freshman running back Ashton Jeanty and former walk-on Tyler Crowe looked impressive. Utah State transfer Elelyon Noa also saw his first live action since joining the program in July. Avalos said a few running backs averaged between 4.5 and 5 yards per carry on Saturday, though he didn’t specify who.

Avalos also said the offensive line did a good job of opening holes on a few of those runs.

“There were times when the ball carriers created something where there wasn’t much to it,” Avalos said, “but there were other times when they were able to put their foot in it. the ground and making vertical cuts.(The offensive line) has shown a great improvement since the spring and summer.

On Noa: “He’ll put his foot in the ground and he’ll straighten up with the rock in his hands,” Avalos said. “All we ask is that the ball carriers be decisive and hit that line of scrimmage.”

Quarterbacks Taylen Green and Sam Vidlak evenly split reps with the No. 2 offense on Saturday. The race to name Bachmeier’s main replacement will continue in the coming weeks, Avalos said.

“(Green) ran and did a good job throwing the ball,” Avalos said. “They’re both doing good things, but next week we have to take a huge leap with these guys in terms of consistency in their decision-making.”

Boise State quarterbacks split the ball on Saturday. There were five receivers who finished with at least two catches, and Avalos singled out redshirt seniors Stefan Cobbs and Billy Bowens as having big outings on Saturday.

Former Borah standout Austin Bolt also made a few plays in Saturday’s passing game. Bolt, the 2020 Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year, moved from tight end to wide receiver this spring.

Tight end Tyneil Hopper had some big catches on third down. Hopper is one of three veteran tight ends on the roster. He’s joined by former quarterback Riley Smith, who has been restricted in practice as he recovers from shoulder surgery but pulled off a nice one-handed catch in practice the last week, Avalos said. Nebraska transfer Kurt Rafdal is in his final year of eligibility, while both Hopper and Smith have the option of returning next season.

Redshirt senior DJ Schramm appears to be gaining ground in the competition to replace five-year-old starter Riley Whimpey at weakside linebacker. He competes against fellow senior redshirt player Brandon Hawkins, former rusher Isaiah Bagnah and redshirt rookie Andrew Simpson.

“DJ has been consistent when it comes to lining up guys and dealing with fits and convergences,” Avalos said.

Avalos has also been impressed this summer and fall with safety Rodney Robinson, who forced a fumble into the scrum on Saturday that was picked up by fellow safety JL Skinner. Robinson is in competition to replace Tyreque Jones, who has moved to nickel.

Weber State transfer George Tarlas leads the defense in sacks this fall, Avalos said, and nose tackle Herbert Gums is becoming more of a force as he is further from the knee injury than he suffered in 2020.

What happens in the coming week will go a long way in deciding who starts in multiple positions, Avalos said. The Broncos have a Sunday off before returning to practice Monday. They will face off again next Saturday.

“What we see coming out of this scrimmage and how we show up on Monday is going to tell us who the guys are that can do this week in and week out,” Avalos said.

Boise State opens the season Sept. 3 at Oregon State.

This story was originally published August 13, 2022 1:47 p.m.

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Ron Counts is the Boise State football beat writer for the Idaho Statesman. He’s from Virginia and covered James Madison University and the University of Virginia before joining the Statesman in 2019. Follow him on Twitter: @Ron_BroncoBeat

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