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Boise State back from bye week, set for tough road matchup at BYU

Boise State running back Robert Mahone (34) drives to the outside during a rushing play against Virginia on Sept. 22 (Chris Bronson/Idaho Press-Tribune)

Two teams badly in need of a win will meet Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium when Boise State visits BYU for an 8:15 p.m. primetime matchup on ESPN.

The Broncos (2-2) are coming off an ugly home loss to Virginia prior to their bye week, while the Cougars (1-4) committed seven turnovers at Utah State in losing a fourth straight game.

Boise State is searching for momentum ahead of arguably its biggest game of the season next week at San Diego State. BYU has five of its final seven games on the road after Friday’s game with Boise State, and still needs six wins to assure themselves a spot in a bowl game.

It’s the perfect backdrop for the latest installment of what’s becoming a growing rivalry between the two teams.

Boise State tight end Jake Roh called it “somewhat of a rivalry”. Many of his teammates and coaches had no problem taking it a step further.

“This is a great game for the region, a great rivalry game,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “No matter where it’s played, it’s always a tough, hard-nosed football game. Obviously going on the road into a hostile environment like that is very tough.”

The home team has won each of the previous five meetings in this series dating back to 2012, which was the first of a 12-year deal between the two schools. Boise State and BYU will play annually through 2023.

Boise State’s last two trip to Provo have not gone well. The most recent trip in 2015 is one the Broncos would love to forget after Eagle High product Tanner Mangum’s 35-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left stunned the Broncos.

The Broncos hung on for a 28-27 win in Boise last year despite committing five turnovers. David Moa’s blocked field goal in the final seconds was the difference for Boise State.

Boise State is coming off a bye week that they hope will prove beneficial after a sluggish 2-2 start. The Broncos have problems across the board but most noticeably on offense, where they rank just 68th in scoring offense (29.8 ppg) and 101st in total offense (351.3 ypg).

The ground game will be an emphasis Friday for Boise State. The Broncos had just 30 rushing yards against Virginia and rank 104th among all FBS teams with an average of just 117.0 rushing yards per game.

BYU is dealing with a rash of injuries at the quarterback position. Mangum has been out for the past month due to an ankle injury but reportedly has returned to practice this week and could play tonight.

Sophomore backup Beau Hoge started against Wisconsin and Utah State but was injured during last week’s game against the Aggies and didn’t return. Koy Detmer Jr. replaced Hoge and didn’t have much success.

Boise State is preparing for all three to play tonight.

“We know they can all run and they all like to move and extend plays, so we’ll be ready for whoever it is,” sophomore safety Kekoa Nawahine said.

Both teams have unhappy fans and high expectations they are struggling to live up to early in the season. One will start to move their season in the right direction with a win tonight. The other will face even more questions and scrutiny with a loss.

And that only adds to the magnitude of a game that has already produced a number of classics the past five years.

“It’s always a battle for us,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Always a good game.”

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