HUNTINGTON — It has been 25 years since Marshall and Boise State met on the field. That meeting came when both were powerhouses facing off in the 1994 Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) semifinals in Boise, Idaho.
As both teams prepare for their second meeting, it’s impressive to see how far each has come during the quarter century prior to their 9 p.m. Friday clash at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, which will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Boise State comes into the contest ranked No. 24 nationally after knocking off Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida, in the season opener. The Broncos rallied from 18 down to do so.
Marshall is pegged as one of the favorites to win Conference USA and is a team to watch for within the Group of Five ranks for a potential New Year’s Six bowl.
It makes for an exciting nationally televised matchup on the brand new blue turf in Boise.
“To have the opportunity to play on national television against a team of that caliber is tremendous,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said.
While Marshall is excited for the game, the challenge against Boise State is a daunting one. The Broncos have won 17 straight home openers and have never lost to a Conference USA team in the regular season. Boise State also is coming home after rallying from a 31-13 deficit to top the Seminoles 36-31.
The comeback came on the strength of the Boise State defense and a methodical offense that produced more than 600 yards, led by the emergence of true freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier. Bachmeier withstood pressure early, taking several big hits from the Florida State defense, but was undaunted as he finished the game 30 of 51 for 407 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Bachmeier’s poise under heat got the attention of Marshall’s coaching staff.
“He delivered balls under pressure,” Marshall defensive coordinator Brad Lambert said. “He really took some shots. His helmet came off a couple times and he left the game, came right back in and delivered some really nice balls. I thought his composure was extremely good.”
Bachmeier’s success in the aerial attack was aided by a solid ground game that was led by running back Robert Mahone, who rushed for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Defensively, Lambert said the Herd will have to stop the run and attempt to force Boise State to be one-dimensional. Marshall allowed just 56 yards rushing on 27 attempts last week in its 56-17 win over VMI.
On the offensive side, Marshall must overcome a Boise State defense that allowed just 63 yards over their its nine drives in the win over FSU, producing seven punts, a forced fumble and a turnover on downs. Of the seven drives that ended in punts, five were three-and-outs.
For Marshall to see success against Boise State, the Thundering Herd must take what the defense allows and not make mistakes. Despite the lopsided opening win, the Herd lost the turnover battle last week, which Holliday mentioned during his weekly press conference.
“You can’t lose the turnover battle in a game like this and expect to win,” Holliday said. “You have to take care of the ball.”
Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green threw a career-high four touchdown passes in just over one half of playing time, but the best aspect for the Herd offense was the inclusion of 11 different receivers into the mix.
Freshman Corey Gammage led the way with five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Against the Broncos, Marshall needs to balance out its offense — something it did well against VMI — to move the chains and sustain drives against a Boise State defense that prides itself on not allowing the opposition to do so.
Running backs Tyler King and Brenden Knox each had just 10 carries in the opener, so they should be fresh for Friday night.