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David Hall | The Virginian-Pilot | September 22, 2017

Virginia knows it has to keep up with Boise State early to compete

  Once Boise State finds the end zone, the Broncos normally return again and again.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall is intimately familiar with Boise State's mo'.

The Broncos, college football's winningest team since 2000 and one of its most recognizable outside the Power 5, are notorious for using any means necessary to get points on the board early in games.

Trick plays, gimmicks, tempo changes — nothing, Mendenhall said, is off the table.

Combine that with a cross-country trip and the hostile, blue-tinted environment of Albertsons Stadium, and the Cavaliers face an uphill battle when they visit Boise State on national TV Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

Mendenhall faced the Broncos four times in his 11 seasons at Brigham Young, winning twice at home and losing twice in Boise. The second-year Virginia coach knows what his team is up against, calling Boise State's approach "shock-and-awe."

"You have to start fast and you have to be resilient, especially early, to play well there," Mendenhall said.

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The Cavaliers (2-1) are coming off a record-setting 38-18 win over outmanned Connecticut. UVA put up 626 total yards in that game, including quarterback Kurt Benkert's school-record 455 passing yards.

But Boise State is no UConn. The Broncos (2-1) have spent at least a week in the AP Top 25 for each of the past 15 seasons, and they're coming off a 10-3 season that included a loss to Baylor in the Cactus Bowl.

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin doesn't mind that his team is known for getting after it early.

"That's always been a mindset: We want to start fast," Harsin said. "We want to come out there and try to put points on the board and try to slow down whoever we're playing and not let them score."

Playing behind a newly shuffled line, Virginia has shown substantial improvement on offense.

In addition to Benkert's historic numbers, the Cavaliers also rushed for 171 yards against UConn. Benkert was sacked just once, and Mendenhall interpreted the combination as evidence that the line is doing more than just holding its ground.

The players agree.

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"We're communicating really well and we're preparing really well in practice, and the coaches are doing a great job game-planning," said left guard John Montelus, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame. "So I feel that's a big reason why" the Cavs are finding sucess.

UVA's line will face a stepped-up challenge Friday against a defense that has yielded just 98.7 rushing yards per game.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are piling up 340.7 total yards per contest with balance, averaging 194.7 passing yards and 146 rushing yards per game.

Junior quarterback Brett Rypien, who passed for 3,646 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, left Boise State's triple-overtime loss at Washington State on Sept. 9 with a concussion. He missed last week's win over New Mexico, but reports out of Boise indicate that he will likely play against the Cavaliers.

Senior backup Montell Cozart completed 15 of 19 passes for 137 yards in the absence of Rypien, the nephew of Super Bowl XXVI MVP Mark Rypien.

UVA took a page out of the Broncos' playbook with an 18-play, 88-yard touchdown drive to start the game against UConn. That followed pedestrian three-and-outs to open a win over William & Mary and a loss to Indiana.

The Cavaliers, who enter as 12-point underdogs, will look to repeat the success they enjoyed offensively right from the start last week.

"It's just you and your teammates and coaches and whoever else is on that plane with you," said senior receiver Andre Levrone. "So getting off to a fast start, helping keep the defense off the field, sustaining drives -- even drives we don't score on -- helping to flip the field, that will be very beneficial for us." 

This article is written by David Hall from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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