The closest 28-point victory ever?

From the “closer than the score indicates” department comes Boise State’s 55-27 win at UNLV. From the “closer than the score indicates” department comes Boise State’s 55-27 win at UNLV on Halloween afternoon. But give the Broncos this: they know how to finish, putting up four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away. Three of them came after the Rebels—yet again—had pulled to within a touchdown of BSU. Where would the Broncos have been without Brett Rypien and his varied cast of receivers? Rypien set a new Boise State and Mountain West record for single-game passing yards by a freshman with 469. That’s No. 4 overall in the Bronco record book. Rypien did it on 52 attempts, becoming the first Boise State quarterback ever to reach the 50-attempt plateau twice (he threw 50 times in the loss at Utah State).

There were a bunch of firsts in the UNLV game—in addition to Rypien’s first career touchdown reception from Thomas Sperbeck in the first quarter. Jake Hardee, the one-time walk-on tight end out of Bishop Kelly, had his first career TD catch, too, a 44-yarder on a fourth down in the second quarter. Sean Modster’s first two career catches came within three plays on that same drive after Chaz Anderson was injured. They were significant, as both went for first downs. Shane Williams-Rhodes, who has already thrown for a touchdown, scored the first TD of his senior season on a fourth quarter reverse. Anderson, of course, came back in the game, and he recorded the first 100-yard game of his career on his 54-yard fourth-quarter touchdown catch. And Tommy Stuart capped the afternoon with his first career touchdown.

The game was not without its warts, especially on defense for Boise State. UNLV quarterback Blake Decker could have either been rusty or rested-and-ready, and he was the latter after missing 2½ games due to a shoulder injury. Decker threw for 357 yards on a Bronco secondary that is feeling the effects of being nicked up. Of course, that unit didn’t get the usual assistance from the Boise State pass rush. Decker threw 50 times on Saturday, and he wasn’t sacked once (though he was rocked a few times). And you have to give credit to Rebel wide receivers Devonte Boyd and Aaron Criswell. Those guys are pretty good, combining for 16 catches and 221 yards. The Broncos’ bye week is finally here—a chance for healing and tweaking before New Mexico comes to town.

Bryan Harsin got to celebrate his 39th birthday yesterday by (presumably) reflecting on Boise State’s 18th consecutive winning season—he’s been a part of 14 of them. Those are sometimes taken for granted around here, and that’s unfortunate, because it’s a heckuva streak. This is Boise State’s 48th season as a four-year school, and the Broncos have had winning seasons in 42 of them. There have been just five losing seasons, one .500 campaign (back when there were ties), and 21 10-win seasons. Boise State can still shoot for a 22nd one of those this year. Harsin also got this birthday present: a commitment from Derriyon Shaw, a defensive end from Las Vegas. Shaw, a highly-recruited 6-2, 225-pounder, took his official campus visit the weekend of the Wyoming game. Harsin, of course, can’t talk about him until the first Wednesday in February.

The big news in the Mountain West over the weekend was Hawaii’s firing of coach Norm Chow yesterday. The Rainbow Warriors were embarrassed 58-7 by Air Force Saturday night, dropping Chow to 10-36 overall and 2-7 this season. The defeat also clinched Hawaii’s fifth consecutive losing season. But the most distressing statistic may have been the attendance for the Air Force game—15,118 in 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium. Some wonder whether UH can ever get its fan base back. Here’s hoping Warrior football survives. Elsewhere, Utah State maintained its advantage in the Mountain Division with a 58-27 rout of Wyoming, and San Diego State is now 5-0 in conference after rolling over Colorado State, 41-17.

In the first half Saturday night, Idaho was following the storybook script it seemed to be creating in October. The Vandals outgained New Mexico State 369 yards to 148 and went to the break with a 23-7 lead. Then came an inexplicable second-half meltdown. The Aggies rolled up 493 yards and 48 points after the intermission, including a touchdown in overtime, to shock Idaho 55-48. The Vandals actually blew a 23-point lead, as they scored the first TD of the third quarter. The game ended on an OT interception by NMSU defensive back Terrill Hanks, who caught a Matt Linehan pass tipped by a teammate by wedging it between his ankles. Idaho isn’t eliminated from bowl contention, but its hopes are on life support.

It’s been a season full of heartbreakers for the College of Idaho. Montana Western delivered another one Saturday at Simplot Stadium, edging the Coyotes 27-23. This time a Yotes rally fell short after they had pulled to within four points with 3½ minutes to play. The setback overshadowed record-setting days by a pair of C of I standouts. Quarterback Teejay Gordon had the top passing yards performance in school history, throwing for 371 on the 10th-ranked Bulldogs. And former Borah High star Tyler Higby had the best numbers by a Coyote wide receiver since 1969, hauling in 10 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown. The loss was the Yotes’ fourth this season by eight points or less.

Tonight, it’s the rubber match of the three-game series between the Idaho Steelheads and the Utah Grizzlies. Each team won on the other’s home ice over the weekend, with the Grizzlies picking up a 4-1 win Friday night at CenturyLink Arena and the Steelheads answering with a 3-1 victory Saturday night in West Valley City. Tonight’s game will be in the latter location. Friday’s loss wasn’t for lack of offensive push by the Steelies. Utah goalie Ryan Faragher made a whopping 47 saves in the game while the Grizzlies were managing just 15 shots of their own. Idaho got a great goaltending performance in return Saturday night when Philippe Desrosiers turned back 34 Utah attempts. Rob Linsmayer scored twice against former Steelheads goalie Chris Rawlings in that contest.

Troy Merritt was in contention after the first two rounds of the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but he wasn’t over the weekend. Still, it was a solid jump forward for the former Boise State star after he missed the first two cuts of the PGA Tour’s new season. After slipping to a 72 Saturday, Merritt carded a final-round four-under 68 yesterday and finished in a tie for 21st, earning $78,400. That’ll cover expenses.

In hoops, the Idaho Stampede open training camp today, with their initial roster finalized following Saturday’s D-League Draft. The Stampede selected 6-9 forward Jeff Ayres out of Arizona State with the first overall pick, followed by former Kansas standout Travis Releford, a 6-6 guard, in the second round. Among the other notables on the 17-man roster is former Boise State foe J.J. Obrien, the 6-7 forward out of San Diego State. Also, sixth-ranked College of Idaho opened its regular season Saturday night with an 88-59 romp over the University of Victoria at the Quinn Classic in LaGrande. Former Melba Mustang Joey Nebeker led the way with 18 points for the Yotes, who poured in 18 three-pointers on the night.

The day before Brett Rypien made some Boise State and Mountain West history, fellow true freshman Allie Ostrander logged some of her own. Ostrander became just the second freshman in history to win the Mountain West individual women’s cross country title Friday, and she did it by more than 15 seconds at the conference meet in Reno. The pride of Kenai, AK, follows in the footsteps of Bronco great Emma Bates, who won the championship the past two years. But Ostrander’s season has been something else. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes over the next few years. In team standings, by the way, the Boise State women finished second and the men third.

This Day In Sports… November 2, 1974:

Hank Aaron, who many people still consider to be baseball’s all-time home run king, is traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Dave May. In April of that year, Aaron had passed Babe Ruth on the career homer list with number 715. He would play his final season in Milwaukee in 1975, ending up with 755 career round-trippers.

(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.