By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
Boise State’s linebacker corps will be key in tonight’s game against Fresno State — and the group has been playing well.
Fresno State’s bulky offensive line — four 300-pounders — will be able to create some holes up front in the run game and the linebackers need to plug them, defensive tackle Chase Baker said.
“They have a big O-line that kind of mauls you and we’re going to need our ‘backers to step up,” Baker said, “and I have no doubt they’ll do that.”
Seniors Aaron Tevis and Byron Hout are the starting linebackers. Juniors J.C. Percy and Tommy Smith rotate into the game, playing nearly half the snaps.
“We’re just progressing as a group, in all phases, which is good to see,” linebackers coach Bob Gregory said. “Every kid who’s played is improving.”
Boise State held Fresno to 49 rushing yards last year but allowed 299 yards in 2009.
Boise State offense team manager Floris Mendonca remains suspended from the program but his situation is unrelated to the NCAA-eligibility investigation into Cedric Febis, Geraldo Boldewijn and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Boise State athletics spokesman Max Corbet said.
The reasons for the suspension are a personnel matter, Corbet said, and the school won’t comment further.
The Idaho Statesman reported Mendonca’s suspension Sept. 13. He is from the Netherlands, like the three players, and helped bring Boldewijn and Tjong-A-Tjoe to Boise, where they attended a Boise State camp and decided to play high school football.
At the time of the initial report on Mendonca, Boise State wouldn’t comment on whether his suspension was tied to the players’ cases.
Mendonca’s job is a student position and he receives a scholarship for undergraduate studies.
Fresno State has played the Broncos much tougher at Bulldog Stadium, where Boise State never has won by more than 17 points. The Broncos have won the past two games in Boise by 51 points each.
“When we go to Boise, I remember the last two times we went there, we got there and were playing in pretty cold temperatures,” Fresno State senior defensive tackle Logan Harrell said. “It was freezing and that’s always hard to play in. Playing here and just having home-field advantage and being more comfortable … it’s much easier of a process.”
The No. 5 Broncos will be the highest-ranked opponent to play at Bulldog Stadium.
“It’s a huge game for us and we know what we have to do to prepare for this game,” Harrell said. “It’s going to be the biggest challenge that we’re going to have all year.”
Expect the Bulldogs to come after quarterback Kellen Moore tonight. They blitzed him last year, but it wasn’t particularly effective.
“It’s very important for us to (pressure him),” Harrell said. “Everybody knows that that’s been our main focus for this game.”