Defense — not the QBs or new offense — steals the show in Boise State spring game

Boise State safety Seyi Oladipo (23) brings down wide receiver CT Thomas (6) during the spring football game at Albertsons Stadium on Saturday.

B.J. RAINS [email protected]

BOISE — Defensive tackle Scale Igiehon was not the least bit surprised with the one-sided nature of Saturday’s Boise State spring game.

It’s been going on for a while now.

Boise State’s defense had three interceptions and limited the offense to just two touchdowns in a 45-23 modified scrimmage inside Albertsons Stadium to wrap up the first spring of the Andy Avalos era.

“The defense dominated today, as expected,” Igiehon said confidently. “We just have so many pieces and parts to our defense. We have a lot of depth. Our defense is always ready.

“We go into practice with the mentality to create turnovers, pressure and confuse the quarterback and cause havoc against our offense and as you saw today, we did a little bit of that and more is to come.”

A crowd of 5,777 fans watched eagerly to see which quarterback had the lead and what new offensive coordinator Tim Plough’s high-octane offense would look like. But it was the defense that stole the show — picking off Jack Sears twice and Bachmeier once, recording seven sacks and forcing 11 three-and-outs.

Roman Kafentzis and Kaonohi Kaniho had interceptions of Sears, while Seyi Oladipo picked off a long pass from Bachmeier. The three interceptions were as many as the Boise State defense had in seven games during the 2020 season.

Boise State’s offense had a few nice highlights but mostly struggled to move the ball against a Bronco defense that must replace both starting corners from a year ago and didn’t have maybe its best player in Demitri Washington due to his continued recovery from a knee injury.

But the struggles on offense weren’t that surprising given the Broncos installed a brand new offense this spring and the quarterbacks weren’t able to be tackled in the scrimmage. Boise State’s offense is expected to center around a large dose of RPOs (run-pass option), but fans saw very little of that Saturday.

The Broncos mostly ran base stuff on offense — rarely does a team open up the playbook much in the spring game — and the defense was there to take advantage.

“It’s totally to be expected,” Avalos said. “There’s consistency within the defense and things we’ve done here for some time now. We have a lot of returners on defense which is really good, especially up front.

“Those guys have played a lot of football and they have a lot of experience and we’re implementing a new offense. We did some good things, but we shot ourselves in the foot in the pre-snap today.”

As for the battle at quarterback? It would appear Bachmeier has the slightest edge — he took the first reps with the first team offense and had better stats both in Saturday’s game and this spring (according to Avalos).

Bachmeier was 15 for 26 for 158 yards Saturday to go along with a touchdown and an interception, while Sears was 11 of 20 for 146 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

“You can see by their performance today that they are learning a new offense,” Avalos said. “They are neck and neck right there. They both did things well and they both obviously have things they need to improve upon.”

Avalos said they could have flipped a coin as to who started with the top offense, but said Bachmeier’s performance this spring earned him the edge.

“As we sat down and spoke to those guys about Hank’s performance, if we’re going off the stats, to this point has been better,” Avalos said. “But that’s no indication of who is out in front because no one is out in front. These guys need the summer time to keep honing in on the things they need to work on within the offense and get reps at those things.

“That’s only fair to both of those guys as they continue to compete. As we work through the summer and into the early part of fall camp I believe one of them will be able to emerge.”

As for the game itself, there were plenty of other highlights:

• Sears completed a 40-yard pass to Billy Bowens and a 21-yard strike to Stefan Cobbs to set up a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Eiguren.

• Tyreque Jones had a nice tackle near the line of scrimmage to set up third and long, and JL Skinner followed with a pass break-up on the next play to force a punt. Both left the game injured in the second half but Avalos wasn’t concerned about either being anything serious.

• Bachmeier found Cobbs for 24 yards before connecting with Bowens for a 9-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

• Jonah Dalmas made his only field goal attempt, a 40-yarder with the wind at his back.

• Edge rusher Gabe Hunter reached high to knock down a Bachmeier pass attempt with a nifty play.

• Bachmeier hit Maclaine Griffin for a 28 yard gain on a nice play down the sidelines in the third quarter, and the two hooked up again on the very next play for a 13-yard gain and a first down.

A quick check of stats showed George Holani finished with 11 rushes for 56 yards while Bowens had three catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. On defense Riley Whimpey had seven tackles and a sack, while both Jackson Cravens and Igiehon were credited with two sacks.

Sure the offense wasn’t perfect and the defense gave up a few big plays, but overall there was little for Boise State’s players, coaches and even fans to be disappointed about. After a crazy 2020 that included no spring game, a shortened season and few fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday felt much closer to normal.

“It was awesome,” Avalos said. “To be out there and have fans in the stands and to have the players be able to go out there and get some good work in, it was just great. We like to have fun at practice every day, but it was just different to be out there with the fans in the stands and to be able to see the guys work together, work so hard, see the coaches’ hard work come together in this last spring practice, so we enjoyed it.”


Several players didn’t suit up Saturday due to injuries. Among them: CB Markel Reed, QB Andy Peters, STUD Demitri Washington, DT Robert Cooper, OL Donte Harrington, OL Jacob Golden, WR Matt Greenwald, NT Keeghan Freeborn and NT Herbert Gums. … Wide receiver Khalil Shakir, who is recovering from a knee injury, took a few kick and punt returns but didn’t participate in any live action. … Former Broncos Matt Paradis, Alexander Mattison, Tanner Vallejo and Shea McClellan served as honorary captains. … Boise State is slated to open the season Sept. 4 against UCF, but Avalos said it was still possible the game could be moved to Sept. 2 or Sept. 3. He said that announcement might not come until late May.