Boise State was one batted pass away from extending its 10-game winning streak Saturday night. Now Boise State knows how Nebraska feels. Through all their shortcomings Saturday night at BYU, the Broncos were one batted pass away from extending their 10-game winning streak, moving up again in the rankings, and keeping their long-shot dreams of a College Football Playoff berth alive. Instead, former Eagle Mustang Tanner Mangum connected on another final-minute heave, and Boise State is left to lick its wounds with a 1-1 record after a crushing 35-24 loss in Provo. Now, with games at UCLA and Michigan on the horizon, it’s the Cougars who can still harbor those playoff hopes. And who’s to say Mangum can’t lead them there? Four of his completions covered an astronomical 231 yards—57.7 yards per attempt—including the 35-yarder to Mitch Juergens that won the game with 45 seconds left.
The Boise State defense did a good job on Mangum’s other 24 pass attempts on the night. On those, he averaged just 3.3 yards per attempt. But inexplicably, Bronco defenders got lost on three of Mangum’s four bombs. The first one came less than a minute into the game and put the spotlight on his strong right arm. You’ve got to be good to be lucky and be lucky to be good. The breakdowns were not because of BYU’s tall receivers against Boise State’s small cornerbacks. In fact, Donte Deayon’s first of his two interceptions was a classic, the 5-9 Bronco standout against the Cougars’ 6-5 Nick Kurtz—No. 5 against No. 5—and Deayon went skyward to come down with it. But no amount of leaping ability was going to do for Deayon and his teammates when Cougars were running free 10 yards beyond the coverage.
Everybody wondered what the Boise State offense would be like Saturday night after the tale of two halves against Washington. It helped the Broncos recover nicely from the shock of Mangum’s first touchdown bomb. Field position was flipped midway through the first quarter when BSU got on the board with its first touchdown. But despite getting into BYU territory on their next five drives, the Broncos managed just the Tyler Rausa field goal that ended the first half. The offense was crisp and efficient in the third quarter, rolling up 160 yards, capped by Jeremy McNichol’s dandy TD on the 29-yard screen. But the defense needed some help in the fourth quarter, and the offense managed just 12 yards and zero first downs. Not very Bronco-esque. Quarterback Ryan Finley made some progress, but his three interceptions were killers.
On a positive note, what was all this talk of Shane Williams-Rhodes disappearing? Coach Bryan Harsin wasn’t just blowin’ smoke the past couple of weeks when talking about the need to get the ball in SWR’s hands. After zero catches versus Fresno State in the Mountain West championship game and Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl last December—and just two receptions for 16 yards against Washington—Williams-Rhodes made 11 grabs for 107 yards at BYU. Some hearts skipped on the Bronco sideline late in the first half when he was injured on a reverse, but he was back for more in the second half. SWR now has 183 career receptions for 1,552 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Boise State brought different players—linebackers and defensive backs—on delayed blitzes, contributing to four sacks of Mangum and helping hold the BYU running game to minus-18 yards on 24 attempts over the first 40 minutes of the game. Maybe if the Broncos’ rush defense had held up for 60 minutes, we’d be talking a different story today. Beginning with Adam Hine’s 21-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, the Cougars amassed 90 yards on 15 carries the rest of the night, including Hine’s 19-yard run on third down on BYU’s final drive.
The polls no longer contain Boise State and do contain BYU, to no one’s surprise. The Cougars debuted all the way up at No. 19 in the AP Poll and got onto the Coaches’ list at No. 22. BYU is the only ranked non-Power 5 school this week. Among teams receiving votes from Group of 5 conferences, there are two head of the Broncos now in the AP Poll, Temple (who upended Cincinnati Saturday) and Toledo (who stunned Arkansas). Boise State is eighth in line to get into—back into—the AP Top 25, and ninth in line in the Coaches Poll.
Here’s that Sun Belt measuring stick. Arkansas State lost at USC last week by 49 points—Idaho fell to the Trojans Saturday night by 50. USC racked up 434 yards in the first half and 738 for the game in routing the Vandals 59-9. Not that it would have made much of a difference, but the Idaho offense was hampered by the absence of wide receivers Dezmon Epps (due to suspension) and David Ungerer (due to injury). Quarterback Matt Linehan turned to Trent Cowan for Idaho’s only touchdown of the night, a 10-yard pass in the third quarter. Jacob Sannon led the Vandals with seven catches for 79 yards.
It was another tough one to stomach for the College of Idaho Saturday at Montana Western. The Bulldogs connected on a five-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds left in the game to down the Coyotes in Dillon, 24-20. That came after Yotes kicker Hartvig Bondo had made up for his miss at the end of last week’s loss to Pacific, hitting a 26-yard field goal with 2½ minutes remaining to give the C of I a 20-17 lead. Montana Western rushed for 299 yards as J.D. Ferris, who caught the winning touchdown, ran for 164 yards and a TD on 19 carries. That offset a solid defensive effort by former Mountain View standout Nate Moore, who had two interceptions.
Dallas is about as happy as Tyrone Crawford’s bank account today. The Cowboys rallied past the New York Giants 27-26 last night on a Tony Romo-to-Jason Whitten touchdown pass with seven seconds left in the game. And Crawford celebrated his new six-year, $45 million contract with his first sack of the season, a first-quarter takedown of Eli Manning. Crawford and fellow former Boise State star DeMarcus Lawrence each had three tackles in the dramatic win. Other defensive standouts among ex-Broncos: Shea McClellin led Chicago with eight tackles in the Bears’ 31-23 loss to the Packers, and Jamar Taylor made nine stops in the Dolphins’ 17-10 win over Washington.
Boise State’s second men’s basketball commitment of the 2016 recruiting class is Justinian Jessup, last season’s Colorado 4A Player of the Year. Jessup, a 6-4 guard and small forward, averaged 17 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as a junior, helping Longmont High to the state 4A championship game after an undefeated regular season. He scored 13.6 points per game as a sophomore.
It was a bogey-filled third round that kept Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge from a high-echelon result over the weekend at the Hotel Fitness Championship in Ft. Wayne, IN. Aldridge, who already possesses a PGA Tour card for the 2015-16 season, struggled to a 7-over 79 Saturday in the first leg of the Web.com Tour Finals. He rebounded with a three-under 69 yesterday and tied for 66th.
This Day In Sports…September 14, 2010, five years ago today:
Former USC star Reggie Bush becomes the first winner in the 75-year history of the Heisman Trophy to forfeit the award. Bush had been declared ineligible for the season during which he won the Heisman, 2005, after an NCAA investigation revealed he and his family improperly accepted cash and gifts from sports agents while he played for the Trojans. Southern Cal had been hit with severe penalties by the NCAA, including a two-year bowl ban and loss of scholarships, and had removed virtually all traces of Bush from its campus.
(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.)