Sophomore running back a bright spot for Boise State’s uneven offense in Washington loss

Coach Andy Avalos’ search for a season-opening win at Boise State will continue for another year, after the Broncos opened the 2023 season on Saturday afternoon with a 56-19 loss to No. 10 Washington in Seattle.

The Broncos are now 3-6 all-time when opening the season against a ranked opponent. Avalos is 0-3 in his tenure in openers — all road games against tough foes. It was also the most points Boise State has given up in a game since a four-overtime 69-67 victory over Nevada in 2007.

Boise State was a bit of a mystery on offense Saturday, relying on the pass more than the run and putting together just two touchdown drives. Both of those TDs were scored by Ashton Jeanty, a bright spot for the Broncos.

Fellow running back George Holani missed several drives with an undisclosed lower body injury, but returned late in the second quarter. Both he and Jeanty had 10 carries on the game, but many of Holani’s came in the fourth quarter when it was out of reach.

Jeanty, meanwhile, showed his dual-threat potential and had the Broncos’ highlight on offense, taking a screen pass from Taylen Green 50 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. He broke two tackles and left Washington defenders in his wake.

“I think the run game was affected today from the start,” Jeanty said. “Part of our game plan was we knew we were going to have one-on-ones, so we wanted to attack. But at the end of the day, we didn’t accomplish what we needed to, we didn’t win our one-on-ones when we had the chance.”

Jeanty also had a 7-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter to open the scoring, brushing off his man with a firm stiff arm. He finished with 44 yards on 10 carries and had 109 yards receiving on four catches. It was his first 100-yard receiving game in college.

Holani had 51 yards rushing.

“We were throwing the ball more, but was excited to see how Ashton not only ran the ball, how George ran the ball, and ... to be able to see what they’re able to do out of the backfield receiving the ball,” Avalos said.

Boise State quarterback Taylen Green keeps the ball for an 11-yard gain on a third-quarter touchdown drive Saturday. Green struggled throwing the ball, completing just 19-of-39 passes.
Boise State quarterback Taylen Green keeps the ball for an 11-yard gain on a third-quarter touchdown drive Saturday. Green struggled throwing the ball, completing just 19-of-39 passes.

Quarterback Taylen Green’s struggles

Boise State fans can get excited about Jeanty, but there will be a few questions surrounding Green, the redshirt sophomore quarterback who took over for Hank Bachmeier last season.

Green missed several throws on Saturday and threw two interceptions. He was only 19-for-39 for 244 yards passing, and wound up with 31 yards rushing on five carries. Most of those yards came on scrambles, though, not on designed runs.

“We’ve got a lot of talent on this offense. We’ve got a lot of talent on this team in general,” Jeanty said. “Offensively, it came down to execution.”

Green’s highlight throwing the ball was a 40-yard connection in the first half with Stefan Cobbs, when he dropped the ball perfectly into the wide receiver’s arms on the run. Other than that play, the QB’s completions were primarily short dump-offs.

Boise State finished with 28 rushing attempts compared with 47 passing attempts, and eight of those rushing attempts came in what could fairly be considered garbage time. In the first half, seven of the Broncos’ eight drives featured more passes than runs.

“You know, the run game, we ran the ball well, but we didn’t have as many attempts, obviously, as we would like to,” said Avalos, who noted the score had something to do with that.

Avalos said Green is still “a young quarterback” who is “learning, developing and growing with every opportunity he gets.”

“I’ll stand by TG every day of the week,” the coach said.

Not-so-special teams at times

The Broncos had some sloppy special teams play Saturday that didn’t help their cause.

In the second half, sophomore punter James Ferguson-Reynolds hit a booming kick that bounced inside the Washington 10 and ricocheted off the turf toward the Washington one-yard line, where it nearly had stopped. With four Broncos surrounding the ball, it somehow skipped into the end zone for a touchback.

The special teams also botched a two-point conversion that would have made the score 28-20 by having a false start penalty, and senior kicker Jonah Dalmas missed the extra point after the Broncos’ first touchdown. Dalmas later missed a field goal but a running-into-the-kicker penalty gave him a second chance, which he converted.

Three Broncos out with injuries

Boise State had just three players miss the trip to Seattle because of injury.

Projected starting center Mason Randolph, freshman running back Jambres Dubar and sixth-year senior edge Cortez Hogans were out with undisclosed injuries, according to a Boise State spokesperson.

Randolph was not listed on the Broncos’ first depth chart of the season, and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan did not answer a question about his status earlier this week.