Boise State Turns To Freshman QB Against UCLA In LA Bowl

INGLEWOOD, Calif.: Boise State already navigated one major change this season, with interim-turned-permanent coach Spencer Danielson leading the run to its first Mountain West championship in four seasons.

The Broncos will try to handle another when freshman C.J. Tiller starts at quarterback against UCLA in the LA Bowl on Saturday.

“There’s always the part of a true freshman who’s playing his first time where you just never know what you’re gonna get,” Boise State offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said.

Tiller will be the third different starter for Boise State (8-5). Taylen Green transferred to Arkansas following the 44-20 victory over UNLV in the Mountain West title game. Maddux Madsen sustained a season-ending injury in his lone start against New Mexico on Nov. 11.

Tiller took a handful of snaps late in a 45-10 win at Utah State on Nov. 18 but has not attempted a pass in college. He was a consensus three-star recruit coming out of Rancho Cucamonga, California who chose Boise State over Washington State and California.

With a strong running game and an experienced offensive line led by right tackle Cade Beresford, Hamdan believes the support is in place for Tiller to have success.

“We feel between Cade, our veteran offensive line group, the players around them, we’re excited for (Tiller) to go out there and play at a high level, and we’re going to see what he can do,” Hamdan said.

The Bruins (7-5) hope their outstanding defensive line can shut down 1,200-yard runner Ashton Jeanty and pressure Tiller. They will have to do so without All-America and Lombardi Award-winning edge rusher Laiatu Latu, who led the FBS with 21 1/2 tackles for loss and was tied for fourth nationally with 13 sacks but is skipping the game to begin NFL draft preparations.

MAKESHIFT DEFENSE

Latu is the most prominent of multiple player absences on defense for UCLA, which will also be without starting safety Kamari Ramsey and cornerback John Humphrey after they entered the transfer portal.

There is also the little matter of replacing defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn, who went across town to join rival Southern California after overseeing a massive one-year turnaround. Under Lynn, the Bruins led the Pac-12 in rush yards allowed (69.6 yards per game), total defense (299 yards per game), tackles for loss (99) and sacks (41)

Defensive line coach Ikaika Malloe will call plays against Boise State.

TRANSITION TIME

Danielson was named the full-time head coach of Boise State on Dec. 3, and he has been working to fill out his staff. Hamdan is staying on as offensive coordinator, while also adding the title of associate head coach and receiving a contract extension. Defensive line coach Erik Chinander will succeed Danielson as defensive coordinator, though Danielson will call plays against UCLA.

BEST IN THE WEST

The Mountain West has enjoyed plenty of recent success against the Pac-12 in bowl games, a trend it hopes to continue before 10 members of the Conference of Champions depart for other leagues next year, with UCLA off to the Big Ten.

The Mountain West champion is 6-1 in its past seven bowl games against Pac-12, which includes consecutive wins in the first two editions of the LA Bowl and Boise State’s victory in the Fiesta Bowl over Arizona following the 2014 season.

GOLDEN GARBERS

UCLA won one of its final four games, but it was the big one, a resounding 38-20 triumph over the Trojans that likely saved coach Chip Kelly’s job. Not coincidentally, it was the only game down the stretch that quarterback Ethan Garbers started and finished.

Garbers was forced out at Arizona on Nov. 4 because of a lower-body injury that prevented him from playing the following week against Arizona State. In the regular season finale against the Golden Bears, Garbers sustained an upper-body injury on the opening drive and did not return.

Garbers is expected to start against Boise State. He has thrown for 984 yards and nine touchdowns to three interceptions while completing 66.4% of attempts in 10 games.

TO KICK OR NOT TO KICK

If the game comes down to a field goal, Boise State should have far more confidence than UCLA.

Broncos senior Jonah Dalmas made 21 of 24 kicks (87.5%), including 10 of 11 attempts from 40 yards or longer.

The Bruins’ duo of R.J. Lopez and Blake Glessner combined to make 8 of 17 kicks (47%), which tied with Purdue for the worst percentage in the country. They made 1 of 6 from 40 yards or longer.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – Associated Press)

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