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Broncos set to host New Mexico in conference opener Thursday

Boise State led by 21 points in the fourth quarter last Saturday in Pullman before an interception returned for a touchdown and a fumbled punt fueled a crazy comeback for Washington State. The Broncos eventually lost the game in triple overtime.

The Boise State football team will look to rebound from last week’s fourth-quarter collapse at Washington State when they host New Mexico on Thursday night at Albertsons Stadium.

Kick off is set for 6 p.m. MT and the game will air nationally on ESPN.

Boise State led by 21 points in the fourth quarter last Saturday in Pullman before an interception returned for a touchdown and a fumbled punt fueled a crazy comeback for Washington State. The Broncos eventually lost the game in triple overtime.

Thursday’s game with New Mexico marks the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams. The game brings extra importance for the Broncos, who haven’t been to the Mountain West title game since 2014.

Boise State has struggled within the division the past two years. They are just 5-5 against teams from the Mountain Division since 2015, and have lost to four of the five teams. They lost just two regular season games last year – and both were divisional road games.

The Broncos have put extra emphasis and importance on winning the Mountain Division and getting back to the title game this year, and that goal starts with the matchup with New Mexico.

Here are three things to watch when the Bronco and Lobos meet on The Blue…

QUARTERBACK SITUATION

The status of Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien for Thursday’s game against New Mexico is uncertain after he left last week’s game against Washington State due to an injury in the first quarter.

The quick turnaround for a Thursday game likely means Rypien won’t play, but official word from Boise State likely won’t come until just before kickoff.

Backup Montell Cozart, a graduate transfer from Kansas, played well in relief of Rypien against Washington State but had an ill-advised shovel pass in the fourth quarter that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

Cozart would start against New Mexico if Rypien is unable to play.

TRIPLE OPTION TROUBLE

Boise State has struggled to defend the triple option in recent years. They’ve lost to triple option teams four times in the past three years, including a 2015 loss to New Mexico in Boise. The Broncos nearly lost to New Mexico in 2014 as well.

The Broncos are 1-3 against the triple option the past two seasons.

Making things tougher is the short turnaround to Thursday’s game. The Broncos would have preferred to have a full week to study up and practice defending the option, but lost two days due to the made-for-TV game.

Boise State also has a lot of young players on defense that don’t have much experience playing against the option.

With Rypien likely out, Boise State’s offense may struggle to put up a lot of points. That puts plenty of pressure on the defense to conquer the triple option and slow down New Mexico’s offense.

PROTECTING THE BLUE

New Mexico won as 30-point underdogs the last time they played in Boise in 2015. It was a stunning loss for the Broncos, who had been 59-2 at home dating back to 2006 prior to the loss.

The Lobos came back onto the blue turf after the game and took a team photo to commemorate the victory. That didn’t sit well with some players and fans, but New Mexico coach Bob Davie defended his decision.

“I think that it was something neat for our kids to have and hold on to,” Davie said. “I think it was done out of respect for winning there. I’m sure they will use it and put it on their bulletin board and all that, but more power to them.”

Boise State returned the favor with a 49-21 win in Albuquerque last year, but this will be the first meeting in Boise since the Lobos’ stunning upset.

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