Know Wyoming’s foe: Boise State Broncos
LARAMIE -- If it seems like George Holani has been in the Boise State backfield, well, forever, he has been.
The 5-foot-11, 208-pound running back is in his fourth season on The Blue. He's only a junior, too.
In just nine games this fall, Holani has eclipsed the 100-yard mark five times, including a 157-yard outburst in a 40-20 victory over Fresno State inside Albertsons Stadium. The California product has rushed for 845 yards on just 165 carries. That's an average of 5.1 yards per carry. He has also scored 10 touchdowns.
Holani is currently the third-leading rusher in the Mountain West, behind only Brad Roberts of Air Force (1,241 yards) and UNLV's Aidan Robbins (852 yards).
"I'm really impressed with him," Wyoming defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said. "He had some injury things before but you can really tell he must feel good. He's explosive. He looks really, really good right now. What he's doing is popping on the video right now, which is just not good to see. But he's a really good player.
"He's got really good vision. He's got good feet. I think his burst and acceleration are clearly better than what they were a year ago. So he presents a big challenge."
In his career against the Cowboys -- three games -- Holani has produced mixed results. In last season's 23-13 victory in Boise, the then-sophomore carried the ball 20 times for 102 yards. Blanketed by a mid-December snow storm in Laramie, Holani finished with just three rushing yards on as many carries in 2020. He did catch four passes out of the backfield for 19 yards and a touchdown.
Holani rushed the ball 11 times for 30 yards the year prior. He snagged five passes for 31 yards. He also lost a fumble as the Broncos escaped with a 20-17 overtime win.
What makes Holani so hard to contain? Easton Gibbs boiled it down to one word -- Versatility.
"You really have to find different ways to attack him because he's not just a power back or just an elusive guy," Wyoming's middle linebacker said. "He just kind of brings everything to the table. So it's definitely a different aspect you have to prepare for."
MORE UW FOOTBALL NEWS FROM 7220SPORTS:
Oscar Giles, the Cowboys' first-year defensive tackles coach, could be without the services of interior starters Cole Godbout and Jordan Bertagnole in Saturday night's critical first-place matchup with the Broncos.
Stopping the visitor's running game is a must. Boise State ranks third in the Mountain West Conference, averaging nearly 181 yards per game on the ground. It's not just Holani that the Pokes have to worry about, either.
Ashton Jeanty has carried the ball 95 times and amassed nearly 500 rushing yards. He's also found the end zone six times. Quarterback Taylen Green can also tuck it and bolt. The 6-foot-6 signal caller has 294 rushing yards to his credit. He has also scored six touchdowns.
Gavin Meyer and Caleb Robinson, you're up.
"He has a natural ability to cut back inside if he sees something there," Giles said of Holani. "He doesn't go down easy. We have our hands full. We have to do a good job of getting off blocks and getting to the ball carrier, but it's got to be more than just one person making a tackle.
"The quarterback and the running backs pose some challenges. We have to gang tackle."
Wyoming and Boise State are set to kickoff at 5 p.m. Mountain Time inside War Memorial Stadium. The winner will take over sole possession of first place in the Mountain Division with just one week remaining in the regular season. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
Here are some other things you need to know about the Broncos:
* Head coach: Andy Avalos (2nd year at Boise State) 14-8 overall record
* Offensive coordinator: Dirk Koetter (1st year); Defensive coordinator: Spencer Danielson (2nd year)
* Record in 2021: 7-5 overall, 5-3 in Mountain West play
* Offense in 2022: Average 30 ppg, 373.3 ypg (180.8 rush, 192.5 pass)
* Defense in 2022: Allow 17.3 ppg, 263.9 ypg (107 rush, 156.9 pass)
* Key Returners - Offense: Taylen Green (QB - 102-155, 1,300 yds, 7 TD, 4 INT; 45 rush, 294 yds, 6 TD), George Holani (RB - 165 rush, 845 yds, 10 TD), Ashton Jeanty (RB - 95 rush, 490 yds, 6 TD), Stefan Cobbs (WR - 27 catch, 360 yds, 2 TD), Latrell Caples (WR - 32 catch, 322 yds, 3 TD), Billy Bowens (WR - 22 catch, 311 yds, 3 TD), Riley Smith (TE - 18 catch, 155 yds, TD)
* Key Returners - Defense: DJ Schramm (LB - 74 tackles, 0.5 sack, FF), JL Skinner (S - 52 tackles, 3 PBU, 2 INT) Ezekiel Noa (LB - 47 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 PBU, INT, 3 FF), Scott Matlock (DT - 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks), Rodney Robinson (S - 32 tackles, 2 INT)
* Overview: Through the first four weeks of the season, Boise State didn't look like Boise State, Coming off a rare 7-5 campaign in 2021 and starting the year at 2-2, including a blowout road loss at UTEP, it appeared head coach Andy Avalos could be entering hot-seat territory. He canned his offensive coordinator and pulled former Boise State head coach Dirk Koetter off the golf course to call plays. He did more than that. After Hank Bachmeier, the Broncos' longtime signal caller, hit the NCAA Transfer Portal, Koetter installed freshman Taylen Green into the lineup. He let the kid run, too. Green rolled up 105 rushing yards on just eight carries. He scored two touchdowns in a 35-13 victory over visiting San Diego State. Turns out, the rookie can throw, too. Since he was inserted under center, Green has thrown for 1,300 yards and seven touchdowns, prompting Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl to draw comparisons to a young Josh Allen. Boise State now features the top-scoring offense in the Mountain West. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos definitely look like the Broncos of old. Wyoming's upcoming foe owns the No. 1 defense in the conference, allowing just 263.9 yards per game. No one stops the run better than Boise State. Only Air Force is better against the pass. Opponents aren't converting third downs, either. The Broncos, led by safety JL Skinner, have allowed just 42-of-138 on that money down. Oh, by the way, Boise State also has the second-best placekicker in the league in Jonah Dalmas. He has booted through 16 field goals on 19 attempts. He, along with UW's John Hoyland, were both named semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award.
* Thoughts on Boise State: "Wow, what a great football team. First of all, I'd like to credit coach Avalos. I thought, you know, he's been in that leadership position for just a couple of years. He was an excellent player at Boise and had spent a lot of years as an assistant coach. He came back and he made some in-season decisions. Typically, those usually are crash-and-burn decisions. This one has been a home run. You know, coach Koetter actually had recruited coach Avalos and was living in the area, his son is on the team and He was serving as a consultant, playing golf. They brought him out of the bullpen, to say. You know, the quarterback, Green, is not average or good, he is an outstanding quarterback, reminiscent of a young Josh Allen. From a guy who recruited Josh and coached Josh, that's a pretty bold statement on my part, but I've seen him throw the ball, flick it 68 yards. He's 6-foot-6. He's got a good completion percentage. He's unbelievably mobile, he's aggressive and his height and his leverage allows him to make plays and throws that I would not allow our quarterback to make, simply because he's so rangy he can do things that it really stresses you. They've got Holani, who has been there forever. I mean, forever and a day. He's a great running back. They've got a great one-two punch at the running back position. Their offensive line is (filled with) big guys and strong guys, but they move well. They're on point and they're assignment based. You know, when coach Koetter took over, I think they streamlined some things up front. I looked at some of the plays and things like that and what they're doing right now. They're on point, they ID things correctly, they have gap schemes and they have elements of quarterback run. They're able to throw the ball with good receivers, capable receivers. They're very explosive. They score a lot of points. Defensively, you would expect them to be great on defense and they are. Coach Avalos, while they have a coordinator, I know he spent a great deal of time making sure that the defense is right. They're always in the right spot, they play with great technique, they pursue hard and they tackle Well. Skinner is another guy I think is going to be a high draft choice. I mean, he's 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and runs all over. The backers are down hill. The kicking game, they cover well. Holani is now a punt returner, so another challenge there. You've got two really good football teams playing a really important game late in November and it's exciting for our program. Our coaches, we've all been working hard. It'll be fun to be around our players today." - Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl