September 22, 2017, five years ago today: For the first time, Boise State hosts a team from the ACC during the regular season—and it does not go well. Virginia ran roughshod over the Broncos 42-23, their largest margin of defeat on the blue turf in 16 years.The Cavaliers held Boise State to 30 yards rushing, offsetting 13 catches and 209 yards from Broncos star Cedrick Wilson. The loss broke Boise State’s streak of 24 straight victories over non-conference opponents at Albertsons Stadium as Bronco Mendenhall, in his second year as Virginia’s head coach after 11 seasons at BYU, finally notched his first win in Boise.
It was hard to fault Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien. Two weeks earlier, he had been knocked out of the game in the first quarter at Washington State, and he had missed the previous week’s win over New Mexico. With absolutely no running game, he was hung out to dry while he was passing for 285 yards with an interception. Sure, a number of his throws were behind receivers, including several of Wilson’s 13 catches, but Rypien was also plagued with a handful of drops.
Defensively, big plays and quick-strike drives killed the Broncos. If you dissect Virginia’s 440 yards of total offense, much of it was not that bad. But Cavaliers quarterback Kurt Benkert hit on passes of 64, 31,30 and 27 yards, and there were runs of 56 and 25 yards. This loss felt big at that time. A lot of fans were writing off the Broncos. But the turnaround was quick, especially on defense. The following week, Boise State traveled to BYU and beat the Cougars 24-7. Then the Broncos took on No. 19 San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium and smothered the Aztecs 31-14.
They recovered to go 11-3 with a Mountain West championship and a win over Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. It was similar to the defeat at the end of September in 2014, when Boise State lost ugly at Air Force. The Broncos didn’t lose another game that season, rolling to a Mountain West title and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Arizona.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)