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September 20, 2012
(AP) -- Boise State had plenty of time to prepare for its first game as an unranked team in four seasons.
It won't have to wait long to take the field again after moving back into the Top 25.
The 24th-ranked Broncos go for a 19th consecutive September home win Thursday night when BYU plays its first game since falling out of the AP poll.
Coming off a 17-13 road loss to then-No. 13 Michigan State on Aug. 31 - the team's 51st consecutive game as a ranked team - Boise State won its 11th consecutive home opener Saturday, 39-12 over Miami of Ohio.
The game was the Broncos' first as an unranked team since Sept. 20, 2008.
"We were really frustrated after that first performance," sixth-year senior D.J. Harper, the Mountain West Conference co-offensive player of the week, said after setting career highs with 162 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. "We knew we kind of got embarrassed. The coaches were on us about that. We knew we could do a lot better than that."
Led by Harper, who rushed for three scores, caught a TD pass and ran for a 2-point conversion, and junior Joe Southwick's career-best 304 passing yards, the Broncos (1-1) nearly tripled their yardage output from the opener with 599.
Boise State, though, could benefit from a quicker start Thursday when it plays its first game on four days' rest since losing 27-7 to then-No. 20 Fresno State on Nov. 10, 2005.
"We've kind of always been that team that when we get it rolling we can get some things done," said coach Chris Petersen, whose squad trailed 9-8 on Saturday before Harper's 1-yard scoring run with 1:43 left before halftime. "But it was probably good for us to go through that, stumble on ourselves a little bit, because we're going to have some tight games as we know down the road so it's good for those kids to have to battle through those things."
A 24-21 loss at Utah on Saturday might help BYU (2-1) down the road, but it's hard to tell what the impact will be of two missed field goals in the final seconds.
"Right now, all I feel is heartache," said senior quarterback Riley Nelson, who rallied the Cougars with two fourth-quarter TD drives.
Nelson, though, needs to be better after getting picked off, losing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and leading an offense that amassed a season-low 312 yards.
BYU also committed a season-high 12 penalties with five fumbles - one lost.
"Our team didn't play clean enough football to win. I really like their heart and how they fought back and played to the very last play, but we had too many mistakes," said coach Bronco Mendenhall, whose team reached No. 21 after a 45-13 victory over FCS opponent Weber State on Sept. 8.
As disheartening as the loss was, the Cougars' defense continues to impress, giving up 241.0 yards per game - ninth in the FBS - with and average of 4.33 sacks, which is ranked fifth.
Linebackers Kyle Van Noy, tied for fifth in the nation with 4 1/2 sacks, and Spencer Hadley (3 1/2) will face a Broncos line that's one of four in the FBS without a sack allowed.
Harper could face his most challenging test of the season - BYU is giving up 53.0 rushing yards per game - so Southwick might need to throw the ball more to sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller, the team leader with nine receptions and 125 yards.
BYU junior wideout Cody Hoffman has back-to-back 100-yard games after catching eight passes for 120 yards and a TD versus Utah.
Boise State has won the first two matchups between these teams, posting a 28-27 victory Sept. 24, 2004, in the only meeting at Bronco Stadium.