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November 3, 2010

Hawaii-Boise St. Preview

AP) -- Boise State wasn't particularly pleased with its latest performance, but even an imperfect effort hardly mattered as its high-powered offense led the way to a four-touchdown win.

The second-ranked Broncos may finally be facing a team that can keep pace.

The nation's top passing attack has helped Hawaii cruise to a perfect start in the Western Athletic Conference, leaving Boise State with a potentially dangerous challenge Saturday afternoon at Bronco Stadium as it tries to extend its winning streak to 22.

After getting tested in non-conference wins over Virginia Tech and Oregon State, the Broncos (7-0, 3-0) settled into the softer portion of their schedule, outscoring their first three foes in October 164-14 while holding down the No. 3 slot in the first two BCS standings.

Boise State wasn't quite as impressive Oct. 26 against Louisiana Tech, surrendering 394 yards of offense and turning the ball over twice. Even though the Broncos didn't display their typical dominance, Kellen Moore threw for 298 yards and Doug Martin gained 150 on the ground while scoring twice in a 49-20 rout.

("I think sometimes our expectations are so high for ourselves that if things don't go perfect then you have a lot of stuff to gripe about," said Moore, who threw his second interception but still has the nation's top efficiency rating at 188.3. "At the end of the day, we won by plenty of points."

Despite the win, Boise State fell to fourth in the BCS rankings. While other top teams are entering the tougher portions of their conference schedules - providing chances for signature wins - the mediocre WAC doesn't typically allow the Broncos such opportunities.

"We're only paying attention to ourselves. We're not worried about what everybody else says about us," coach Chris Petersen said. "The only thing that is going to influence us is us. Our kids are going to put the tape on and know if we played well or not."

All of a sudden, facing Hawaii (7-2, 5-0) looks like a fairly formidable challenge. The Warriors received 50 votes in the AP poll this week - the most of anyone outside the Top 25 - after winning their first five WAC games by an average of 24.2 points.

As usual, they're winning with offense. Hawaii ranks No. 1 nationally in passing (395.4 yards per game) behind quarterback Bryant Moniz, who leads the country with 25 touchdown passes. The junior threw for 326 yards and three TDs - also scoring on the ground - in a 45-10 thrashing of Idaho last Saturday.

With a chance to shock the nation's No. 2 team and become the front-runner in the WAC race, coach Greg McMackin didn't hesitate to look ahead after Hawaii accepted an invitation to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

"We're real excited about this week," McMackin said. "I think we're peaking right now. ... I know (Boise's) had some time off, and I like playing teams that have byes, so I think it's the right time.

"They're just another team with another set of jerseys."

The Warriors were the last team to beat Boise State during the regular season, a 39-27 victory in 2007 that preceded the Broncos' current 32-game non-bowl winning streak.

But that was at Aloha Stadium. Since joining the WAC, Boise State has won the series' four meetings on the mainland by an average of 30.0 points.

If Hawaii wants to reverse that trend, it's likely going to have to force some turnovers from a team that's given the ball away just nine times in seven games.

Moore has eight touchdowns and no picks in two games against the Warriors, but this team looks capable of frustrating the Heisman Trophy candidate. Hawaii has forced 21 turnovers - including 14 interceptions - during its six-game winning streak.

Since 2006, the Warriors are 33-5 if they intercept a pass and 22-2 if they pick off two or more.

While Hawaii's ball-hawking defense thrives on forcing turnovers, Boise's has generally been tough to move the ball on at all. The Broncos are third in the nation in both scoring (13.4 points per game) and total (236.4 ypg) defense.

Hawaii has been outscored by an average of 55-15 in losing its last five games against top-10 opponents.


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