— By Bill Cornwell
BOISE, Id. — Marshall has a golden opportunity to gain national attention Friday night as the Herd visits No. 24 Boise State. Both teams are favorites in their respective conferences and among the top Group of Five squads in the country.
The game, which kicks at 9 p.m., is being televised on ESPN2.
Both teams won their opening games. Marshall had little trouble in dispatching VMI 56-17 last Saturday night at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, while the Broncos rallied from an 18-point deficit to win at Florida State, 36-31.
The schools have met only once in the past as the Broncos beat the Herd, 28-24, in the 1994 NCAA Division I-AA Football semifinals, a game played in Boise.
Here are some things to look for when the Herd and Broncos do battle.
1 — Any letdown for Boise State?
The Broncos have long been known as ‘giant killers’, knocking off numerous schools from Power Five conferences over the years. Boise has an all-time record of 16-9 against Power Five schools since 2006 and has at least one Power Five win in five of the last six seasons.
A big question Friday is if the Broncos will still have their minds on what they accomplished against the Seminoles or are they squarely focused on Marshall?
Also consider the Broncos are led by a true freshman quarterback in Hank Bachmeier. The youngster from Murrieta, Calif., threw for more than 400 yards against the Seminoles, playing like anything but a newcomer to this level.
BSU coach Bryan Harsin will try to take some of the pressure off of Bachmeier by utilizing veteran runners such as Robert Mahone, who had 142 yards last week.
2 — Marshall must get off the field
Boise State’s second-half comeback at Florida State was based on the ability to possess the ball and keep it out of the hands of the Seminoles.
The Broncos ran 108 plays in the game, 46 more than FSU.
Marshall’s defense will have to play solid against the Broncos strong running game and prevent Bachmeier from making plays with his arm. Marshall’s offense also has a part to play by sustaining drives and putting points on the board when opportunities present themselves.
Sophomore quarterback Isaiah Green must make plays with his eyes, arm and feet to keep Boise’s offense on the bench. Big plays will also be needed from Herd backs Brenden Knox and Tyler King as well as the team’s receiving corps.
3 — Getting a kick out of the Mountains
Marshall rarely plays at high altitude, but that all changes Friday night when the Herd plays on the ‘smurf turf’ of Albertsons Stadium within view of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Boise is 2,730 feet above sea level, more than 2,200 feet higher than the altitude in Huntington.
That altitude change could be a big boost for the work of Herd placekicker Justin Rohrwasser and punter Robert LeFevre. Rohrwasser was perfect on eight extra point attempts last week vs. VMI and put most of his kickoffs into the end zone.
LeFevre had a 44.7 yard average on three punts against the Keydets. The thin air of a higher elevation could add even more yardage to Rohrwasser and Lefevre’s kicks. The return home could also help Boise State’s junior punter Joel Valezquez, who averaged only 39 yards in four kicks, although one put went for 52 yards.
The Broncos’ kicking game looks solid in the hands of senior Eric Sachse. The transfer from Division III Trinity College tied a school record with five field goals at Florida State.
Marshall’s leading returning receiver, senior Obi Obialo, made the trip to Boise and is expected to play Friday night after missing the season opener against VMI due to injuries sustained in a preseason practices … The Herd flew to Boise on Wednesday, arriving after a four-hour flight which included a refueling stop in Omaha, Nebraska. Herd coaches and training staff are using the extra time to acclimate the Herd to the higher elevation and a two-hour time difference … The miraculous recovery of Marshall junior linebacker Jaquan Yulee continues. Yulee suffered a severe season-ending neck injury in the first half against VMI after colliding with a Keydet player on a tackle. Yulee was taken off the field on a stretcher and underwent neck fusion at Cabell-Huntington Hospital on Sunday. Yulee was released from the hospital Monday, later making a triumphant return to Edwards Stadium, walking into practice as his teammates prepared for Boise State. Despite the severity of his injury, Yulee has vowed on social media that he plans to suit up with the Herd again next season.