Boise State’s 52-26 loss at Utah State Friday night was as ugly a defeat as the Broncos have had this century. It was a train wreck—a perfect storm of ineptitude. Boise State’s 52-26 loss at Utah State Friday night was as ugly a defeat as the Broncos have had this century, worse than the 38-6 beating at Washington in 2013 and at least as painful as the 48-13 drubbing at Georgia in 2005 and the 45-14 loss at Rice in 2001. Boise State’s seven first-half turnovers were the most in a half by an FBS team in 10 years, and the eight total were the most in the FBS this season and the most by a Bronco team in 26 years. Thomas Sperbeck stripped at the end of a 38-yard pass play? Are you kidding me? It was that kind of night. Give the Aggies credit; they were really ready to play. “It’s huge, make no bones about it,” said USU coach Matt Wells. “I have a deep respect for Boise. This may be the greatest win in program history. I don’t know, but it is right up there.”
It was Brett Rypien’s day of reckoning. Reasonable minds figured that Rypien would face a freshman moment sooner or later this season. This was it. How about his numbers at the end of the first quarter: 3-for-6 for minus-2 yards and two lost fumbles. Rypien connected on only 25 of his 50 throws for the game. He did cover 299 yards, thanks to his deep strikes to Sperbeck. But Rypien had three interceptions and zero touchdowns and was sacked four times, and his pass efficiency rating was a miniscule 88.2. How he bounces back from this kind of adversity will define his season.
Did Boise State miss Jeremy McNichols at Utah State? That is just a smidgen of went wrong, but—oh, mama. McNichols’ activation was a gametime decision after he warmed up in uniform; then the standout running back returned to the field in street clothes. That backup Kelsey Young gained only 60 yards on 20 carries (albeit with two touchdowns) was attributable to an inspired and prepared Utah State defense. But Young came up short on difference-making plays. On the Broncos’ first two possessions, Young slipped on a swing pass , losing six yards, and dropped another Rypien pass. Then Young missed a block on one of Rypien’s fumbles. McNichols was really missed in the passing game. Young’s catch for minus-six yards was his only one of the night.
Utah State looked a lot like Boise State in Logan. Dominant defense, playmaking offense. The pedal always to the metal, feeding off a rabid home crowd. In fact, one of the Aggies’ stars originally intended to be a Bronco. Wide receiver Hunter Sharp, who had seven catches and two touchdowns Friday night, was set to join the Boise State program in 2012, but he didn’t qualify academically out of California’s Palmdale High School. So he enrolled at Antelope Valley College, got his grades up, starred on the football field, and landed at Utah State. Friday night’s win made it all worthwhile.
Is the sky falling at Boise State? We learned a year ago after the loss at Air Force that it wasn’t, and it isn’t now. What we saw Friday night is not representative of who this team is. That perception was reflected in the polls—hey, the Broncos still received votes. The problem is, they don’t have the margin for error they did last year in the race for a New Year’s Six bowl. First, Utah State has to lose twice now in conference play (and Boise State, of course, has to win out). The Broncos need a lot of help there. But beyond that, there’s much stronger competition for the guaranteed Group of Five spot this year. The AAC now has three teams in the Top 25: Memphis, Houston and Temple. And undefeated Toledo looks like it’s going to stay that way. Boise State has to make a goal adjustment for the rest of the season.
In the Mountain West, you can start with Wyoming, Boise State’s guest in Albertsons Stadium this Saturday night (on ESPN2, by the way). After a miserable 0-6 start, the Cowboys snapped their nine-game losing streak with a 28-21 win over Nevada in Laramie. New Mexico took a major step toward bowl eligibility by rallying for a 28-27 win over Hawaii. The Lobos are tied for second-place in the Mountain Division now with the Broncos and Air Force, which lost 38-23 at Colorado State. In the West Division, San Diego State has taken control after a 30-7 win at San Jose State. The Aztecs are 3-0 in the division, every other team has at least two losses. And beleaguered Fresno State showed some heart in breaking its five-game losing streak, coming from behind to top UNLV Friday night, 31-28.
Idaho has had enough bad breaks during its years of football futility to fill a film library. But the Vandals had one go their way Saturday when Troy’s Jed Solomon saw his 32-yard field goal attempt bounce off the upright with 33 seconds left in the game, sealing a 19-16 Idaho win. It was the Vandals’ first road victory in four years, snapping a streak of 24 straight road losses. Idaho kicker Austin Rekhow had the answers on this day, kicking four field goals of his own. The Vandals’ only touchdown came on a four-yard run by backup quarterback Jake Luton. The Idaho squad didn’t spend very much time in Troy—it didn’t arrive until a couple hours before kickoff. The Vandals’ charter out of Spokane was delayed by mechanical problems and didn’t leave until 3:30 Saturday morning.
The College of Idaho is alive again, riding a two-game winning streak after dropping Rocky Mountain College 38-17 Saturday at Simplot Stadium. It was the Teejay Gordon-Marcus Lenhardt show, as the duo connected for three touchdowns, one of them breaking a 17-17 third-quarter deadlock. Gordon’s 21 completions tied a school record held by Lon Troxel in a 1969 win over Whitman. Lenhardt, the sophomore from Eagle High, finished with eight catches for 143 yards—the yardage was the most by a C of I player since Cisco Limbago notched 169 in that same 1969 contest against Whitman. And props to the crowd. The Yotes had another solid day at the gate, drawing 4,275.
By the time the first 20 minutes had elapsed Saturday night in CenturyLink Arena, the Idaho Steelheads had scored nine goals in four periods against Rapid City. But officials didn’t call the game because of too much Steelheads offense. By the time the second and third periods had been played, the Rush had clawed back to knot the game 4-4—the tying goal came with one second left in regulation. Then Rapid City won it two minutes into the first 3-on-3 overtime in either team’s history. So the 5-4 OT defeat, coupled with Friday night’s 5-1 rout, leaves the Steelies 1-0-1 after opening weekend. Eric Hartzell and Philippe Desrosiers split the games between the pipes for Idaho, with Hartzell allowing one goal and making 22 saves Friday, and Desrosiers allowing the five goals while stopping 28 shots Saturday.
This type of thing has happened to Graham DeLaet before. But it was a disappointing way for the former Boise State star to open the 2015-16 PGA Tour season. DeLaet went into the final round of the Frys.com Open two shots off the lead yesterday in Napa, CA—and finished seven back after posting a five-over 77. Things were fine for DeLaet until a bogey on the sixth hole and a double-bogey on the eighth. He added three more bogeys on the back nine and ended up tied for 32nd. Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge, in his first PGA Tour event in six years, was uncannily consistent. Aldridge made the cut while shooting four straight one-under-71’s and finishing tied for 55th.
The only shame of this year’s Boise State cross country season is that the sixth-ranked women don’t have a home meet. Because Allie Ostrander has been making history on the road. Ostrander, the true freshman phenom from Kenai, AK, won the prestigious Wisconsin adidas Invitational Friday in 19:19.5, breaking the course record by an impressive 12 seconds. The mark was was previously held by seven-time NCAA Champion Abbey D’Agostino. Chadd Cripe had a nice profile of Ostrander in the Sunday Statesman. She passed up a chance to be a distance runner at Oregon? What a get for the Broncos.
This Day In Sports…October 19, 1996:
One of the highlights of Capital High grad Jake Plummer’s outstanding senior season at Arizona State, as the fifth-ranked Sun Devils notch a thrilling 48-35 double-overtime win over USC in Tempe. The Trojans led much of the day before ASU scored the game’s final 20 points. A touchdown pass from Plummer to Keith Poole sent the game to a second OT—then, after the Sun Devils opened the second overtime with a touchdown, Courtney Jackson returned a USC fumble 85 yards to end the game when the Trojans took their turn. Arizona State was the first team in college football history to win an overtime game by 13 points.
(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.