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Boise State set to face Virginia in Friday night non-conference battle

The Broncos are looking for a second consecutive win after topping New Mexico 28-14 last week at home, while Virginia is looking to top its win total from all of last season. (Chris Bronson/Idaho Press-Tribune)

The Boise State football team will host Virginia Friday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 in a rare visit by an ACC school to Albertsons Stadium.

The Broncos are looking for a second consecutive win after topping New Mexico 28-14 last week at home, while Virginia is looking to top its win total from all of last season.

The Cavaliers (2-1) went just 2-10 last season, but former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall has them playing better in his second year in Charlottesville.

This will mark the first time in the regular season that an ACC school has visited Albertsons Stadium. Quarterback Matt Ryan led Boston College to a 27-21 win over the Broncos in the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl in the only other visit by an ACC team.

Boise State and Virginia last played in 2015 in Charlottesville in Brett Rypien’s first collegiate start. The Broncos steamrolled the Cavaliers 56-14 thanks to 321 passing yards and three touchdowns from the true freshman.

Here are three things to watch when the two teams meet up on Friday night…

RYPIEN CLEARED TO PLAY

After missing last week’s game against New Mexico due to an undisclosed injury, Rypien was cleared earlier this week to play Friday against Virginia.

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin confirmed Wednesday that both Rypien and Montell Cozart would play against the Cavaliers, but didn’t say who would start.

“Brett has been practicing, he’s been cleared,” Harsin said. “He’s good. He’s been back in the mix and there’s no issue there.”

Rypien was removed from the Washington State game late in the first quarter after hitting his head hard on the turf when he was crushed to the ground by an unblocked Cougar defender.

The ESPN broadcast during the New Mexico game reported that Rypien suffered a concussion, but the school has yet to officially confirm.

Rypien had started a team-high 25 consecutive games prior to missing last week’s game against the Lobos. He struggled in the season opener against Troy, and Cozart was called upon in the second half to finish out the win.

Coaches said prior to the injury that there was no quarterback controversy, but that Cozart had done enough to earn more playing time.

How the two quarterbacks are used Friday will be a key storyline.

BRONCOS RUNNING GAME

Boise State will be looking to get a struggling running game on track Friday.

The Broncos rank No. 88 in the country in rushing offense at just 146.0 yards per game through three games, and their leading rusher is not even a running back.

Quarterback Montell Cozart leads the team in rushing with 31 carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns.

“We’re not going to be able to run the football the way we have the past three games (and win),” Harsin said. “It’s just got to be better.”

Projected starter Alexander Mattison had just six rushes for 10 yards against New Mexico last week. He and senior Ryan Wolpin have combined to average only 3.86 yards per carry.

The Broncos plan to give redshirt freshman Robert Mahone a chance Friday to spark the run game. He has just three carries for 13 yards on the season, but was impressive with both carries against the Lobos. Harsin said he’ll get more action

against Virginia.

Boise State has struggled to run the ball in short-yardage situations as well. They are 0-5 on fourth down through three games.

VIRGINIA’S STRONG OFFENSE

While Boise State’s offense struggled against New Mexico, the same can’t be said for Virginia. The Cavaliers had 626 yards of offense last week against UCONN – their most since 2010.

Quarterback Kurt Benkert completed 30 of 40 passes for a school record 455 yards and three touchdowns. He’s currently No. 3 in the ACC in passing yards (976) and touchdowns (7) and ranks No. 3 nationally with 32 completions per game.

Three different wide receivers had at least 100 receiving yards against UConn. The Cavaliers’ top receiver is Olamide Zaccheaus, who has 26 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns. He has a catch in 26 straight games dating back to 2015.

Virginia has played William and Mary, Indiana and UConn – not the toughest schedule in the world – but it’s clear that the Cavaliers are much improved from last year’s two-win season.

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