The second half was fairly aggravating. It was certainly an uneven performance by a team that played the first half with its hair on fire. But nobody’s going to turn down a 38-24 road win over a Pac-12 school. It was Boise State’s first-ever victory over Oregon State in Corvallis, and it puts the Broncos at 3-0 for the first time in five years. Jeremy McNichols was the one who put on a show. The junior running back notched his first 200-yard game, rushing for 208 and three touchdowns while scoring another on a shovel pass. McNichols now extended his Mountain West-record streak of games with a rushing touchdown to 15. His 70-yard TD dash was impressive enough, but his dive to the pylon from six yards out in the first quarter was a thing of beauty.
Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien is going through a sophomore slump of sorts. It’s nothing serious, and nothing he can’t break out of. But man, has his accuracy has been off. When Rypien completed his first six passes against Washington State two weeks ago, his completion percentage shot up to 71.8 percent on the young season. That was 71 minutes into the campaign. Since that moment, in 109 minutes of game time, Rypien has connected on fewer than 50 percent of his throws (32-of-65). To be sure, his yardage has been good—he’s averaging 287 yards per game. And because of that, his pass efficiency rating is not terrible. It’s about average at 134.2. Still, that’s 72nd in the country. Not very Rypien-esque. And the worst memory of his true freshman season is about to come to a boil again, as Utah State comes to town this Saturday.
As field position got worse and worse in the second half due to Boise State’s inability to get a first down, the Bronco defense had to dig in deeper. Redshirt freshman walk-on quarterback Conor Blount surprised Boise State by marching Oregon State 82 yards for a touchdown on his second drive after entering the game in the third quarter. Blount guided the Beavers to a field goal on the next possession, narrowing the Bronco lead to 14 points. Then the defense produced a three-and-out, saw Gabe Perez make a big stop on a third-and-six pass completion, and stalled another OSU drive before Darren Lee’s effort play of the day—of the season so far. Lee ripped the ball out of receiver Seth Collins’ hands and took it in 19 yards for a touchdown, the first of his career. Does anybody play harder than the eight-time Hammer-carrier?
Yes, Boise State has plenty to work on as it goes into conference play this Saturday. But the Broncos get to do it as an unbeaten team with a No. 24 ranking in the AP Poll. They cracked the Top 25 yesterday, making this the 15th straight season they’ve been ranked in a major poll at one time or another (including preseason polls). San Diego State jumped to No. 19 during its bye week and debuted at No. 24 in the Coaches Poll (Boise State is second in line to get in on the “others receiving votes” list). The Broncos and Aztecs are the only Group of 5 teams ranked other than Houston, which is No. 6 in AP and No. 7 on the Coaches’ list.
Outside of Boise State’s victory, it was a sorry weekend in the Mountain West. The conference lost all six of its other non-conference tilts, including the three against Power 5 opponents. Nevada couldn’t hold its at at Purdue, falling 24-14, Colorado State fell 31-24 at Minnesota, and San Jose State was waxed 44-10 at Iowa State. Elsewhere, Fresno State frittered away a 31-0 second-quarter lead and lost 48-41 to Tulsa in overtime, and UNLV and Wyoming absorbed losses to Idaho and Eastern Michigan, respectively. Air Force and Utah State opened Mountain West play Saturday night, with the Falcons sending the Aggies to the blue turf this week with a 27-20 loss.
About that Idaho-UNLV game. The 33-30 overtime win at Sam Boyd Stadium couldn’t have come at a better time for the Vandals, who got a touchdown pass from Matt Linehan to Callen Hightower to end it. For the Rebels, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. “Bottom line, this is a team we’re supposed to beat,” second-year coach Tony Sanchez said after his team dropped to 1-3. “I’m beyond frustrated. I’m embarrassed. I’m p***ed off. I’m sick to my stomach right now. This is about as angry as I’ve been since I’ve been sitting in this chair. We’ve got to get better. At some point we’ve got to find ourselves in this program.” For its part, Idaho finds itself at 2-2 for the first time in six years.
College of Idaho had the tables turned on it Saturday afternoon. After a landmark 20-7 win at Eastern Oregon the week before, the Coyotes were defeated by the exact same count by Rocky Mountain College at Simplot Stadium. And it happened in basically the same way for the victors in both. The Bears feasted on turnovers like the Yotes had in LaGrande, forcing six C of I cough-ups. Two of them came inside the RMC five-yard line. Rocky smothered the Coyotes’ passing game, holding it to 129 yards with four interceptions. The Bears held C of I star tight end Marcus Lenhardt to one catch. The Yotes are now 2-2.
We’ll see if Jay Ajayi can ride this into something positive. There are still doubters. The former Boise State star didn’t even start for Miami against Cleveland yesterday, but he scored the winning touchdown in overtime on an 11-yard scamper around left end as the Dolphins won 30-24. Kenyan Drake was the starter, gaining 37 yards on nine carries. Ajayi finished with seven totes for 28 yards. NFL.com writer Marc Sessler called Ajayi “enigmatic” after the game and said he ”might not be long for Miami even after the winning touchdown.”
The death yesterday of Arnold Palmer hit the sports world hard. At some point during his 87 years, he touched virtually every corner of America, making golf a mainstream sport. His visit to Hillcrest Country Club in the Skins Game for College Golf in 2000 is still one of the all-time highlights of the Albertsons Boise Open. He was 71 at the time, but “Arnie’s Army” came out in full force. Palmer also appeared at a charity event for Albertsons with Johnny Miller at Hillcrest in 1974. He was the symbol of more than one era in sports. It kind of feels like it did when John Wooden passed away.
A couple campus notes: The first win of Boise State sophomore Brenna Peloquin’s cross country career was a big one. Peloquin won the prestigious Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis Saturday, beating Michigan’s Erin Finn by 11 seconds. The Broncos finished fourth as a team. Boise State won the meet last year as Allie Ostrander, who didn’t run Saturday, finished second. Also, after a punishing run of one-goal losses in non-conference play, the Boise State women’s soccer team is 2-0 in the Mountain West after sweeping Wyoming and Colorado State. Freshman phenom Raimee Sherle out of Rocky Mountain High scored the winning goal in both wins, with yesterday’s versus CSU coming in overtime.
This Day In Sports…September 26, 1998:
One of the most storied drives in Boise State football leads to a 31-28 upset of Utah in Salt Lake City. With 2:08 left, quarterback Nate Sparks replaced Bart Hendricks, who had a pretty good night. Coach Dirk Koetter had a hunch. The Broncos had the ball on their own one-yard-line, trailing 28-24. Sparks marched BSU 99 yards, capping the drive on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Smith with 45 seconds left.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.