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Logan • It's easy to overlook Boise State's defense.
After all, the Broncos are famous in the world of college football for an explosive, imaginative offense that seems to pump out SportsCenter highlights every week.
This season, however, Boise State has been stopping opponents like few teams in the country. The Broncos rank second nationally in rushing defense (60.7 yards per game), fifth in total defense (259.5) and seventh in points allowed (12.0).
On Friday night at Maverik Stadium, Utah State tackles Boise State in a Mountain West Conference showdown that will leave the winner in the driver's seat for a division championship.
One of the keys for the underdog Aggies will be an ability to establish a running attack, to control the tempo of the game and help prevent it from becoming an end-to-end shootout.
That won't be easy.
"They are a really good defense," said Aggie center Austin Stephens. "They're coached well and they play hard. It's similar to our defense. They run to the football and gang tackle."
In last week's 56-14 win at Fresno, Utah State rushed for 201 yards. Devante Mays carried nine times for a career-high 92 yards and three touchdowns.
"We started kind of slow," Stephens said, "but we got things rolling and played very well. … But it's like every game. There are things to fix and go back to the drawing board for."
Especially with Boise State coming.
The Bronco defense limited Washington to 13 points, Virginia to 14 and BYU to 20 into the final minute.
"We've got to keep rolling," Stephens said. "… From a run-game standpoint, we're starting to find our momentum and that's what we need. We'll need a run game against Boise State. Just like Utah, they have a a very good front seven and are very stout. But we have to run the ball."
Boise State has won 12 straight games against Utah State, including a 50-19 blowout last season. In that game, the Broncos limited the Aggies to 109 yards rushing. They took a 14-0 lead in the opening eight minutes. USU sophomore quarterback Kent Myers is 7-1 as a starter, but the only loss came at Boise.
"We were young last year," Stephens said, "and they were a physical bunch. But this year we're a new team. We have a new identity. We're not the same team. … We'll give them our best shot."
Asked if the Aggies want revenge for the lopsided loss, Stephens shrugged.
"I don't know if that's motivation," he said. "It's a challenge for us and it's all about the front seven on both sides of the football. … The road to the Mountain West championship goes through Boise. We know that. So we're going to be ready to roll."
Stephens is a 305-pound junior from Des Moines. He came to Utah State via Iowa Western Community College. He makes his 20th straight start against Boise State. He's the quarterback of the offensive line.
"My responsibility is just to get everyone on the same page," Stephens said.
Boise State at Utah State
P Friday, 7 p.m. TV • CBSSN