Coach Gary Andersen promised second-string quarterback Andrew Peasley would see some time along with starter Jason Shelley this season. Perhaps hoping to catch Boise State unprepared, the coach brought the sophomore in five minutes into the second quarter of the Mountain West foes' season opener Saturday night.
The move did little to unsettle the Broncos. Instead, they were the ones keeping their opponent off balance on offense during their 42-13 win in an empty Albertsons Stadium in Idaho.
Hank Bachmeier, the sophomore quarterback who completed his first seven pass attempts of the game, connected with seven different receivers in the first half and eight for the game. That included a 52-yard scoring strike to Kahlil Shakir and 17-yarder to George Holani, who also ran in the Broncos' first TD, as Boise seized a dominant 28-0 halftime lead.
Boise State 42, Utah State 13
• Senor RB Jaylen Warren runs for career highs in touchdowns (2) and carries (23) while shouldering the load for USU in the second half
• The Aggies had just one first down in the first half, compared to 17 for Boise, but they converted 11 to the Broncos' eight in the second half.
• Starting QB Jason Shelley was 14 of 27 for 92 yards and connected with five receivers in his Utah State debut.
Boise State piled on two more TDs in the second half, including an 18-yard pass from Bachmeier to Shakir with 8:29 to play. Bachmeier finished 20 of 28 for 268 yards and three scores.
“He took the check downs when they were there. And some of those check downs turned into big plays with the lack of tackling and all things that come with it, which we help our kids get better at,” Andersen said. “But he’s a seasoned player. He makes good decisions, doesn’t make mistakes.”
If any Aggie caught Boise by surprise, it was senior running back Jaylen Warren.
Simply put, Warren put his team on his back in the second half. The 5-foot-8, 215-pound tailback did the yeoman’s work in a nearly seven-minute touchdown drive in the third quarter, carrying the ball eight times — including five straight — for 49 yards and the 1-yard touchdown. Warren also scored USU’s second touchdown on a 2-yard dive and racked up a career-high 23 carries for 89 yards.
Shelley, making his debut for the Aggies after transferring from the University of Utah in July, completed 14 of 27 passes for 92 yards. Peasley didn’t return to the game after that first appearance and finished with one run for 2 yards.
Andersen said the performance of both quarterbacks had to do with Boise’s concerted effort to stop the run option and some holes in the Aggies' offensive line.
“It was tough sledding in there from a protection standpoint,” he said. “You know, when you’ve got guys whistling around your ear in 1.5 seconds, Peyton Manning in his prime is gonna have a hard time making some things happen.”
Several players expected to be key for the Aggies missed Saturday’s game for undisclosed reasons. Among them were safety Troy Lefeged Jr., kick returner Savon Scarver and kicker Connor Coles. That took some experience away from a team that didn’t start with much to begin with.
Senior linebacker Cash Gilliam attributed that youth and a lack of communication to the Aggies' rough first half. But with each quarter on the field, he said, the novelty is rubbing off.
“I feel like we got to see how much of a ceiling we really do have as a whole. I feel like we’ve got a high ceiling. We’re just barely scraping the surface," Gilliam said. "We had lot of young guys that had to step up, a lot of guys making their first start and things of that nature. So I feel like next week we’ll be more settled in and ready to compete at a high level from the get-go.”
Next week’s game won’t be much easier for the Aggies. San Diego State will come to Logan on Saturday, Oct. 31, for a 7:30 p.m. game at Maverik Stadium. The Aztecs were predicted to win the West Division in a conference poll in July, before divisions were eliminated just for this COVID-19-disrupted season. A poll released this month by MWWire.com had SDSU finishing second to Boise this season. The Aggies were ninth of 12 teams in that poll.
USU currently plans to fill the stadium to 20% of its capacity.