Turnover circus complete with shock-and-awe

One item that stood out in Boise State’s 31-27 win at Nevada Saturday night was turnovers, and the startling things that happened right afterward. And the Broncos wouldn’t be 4-2 without them. One play after Sonatane Lui recovered a first-quarter Wolf Pack fumble on the Boise State 12-yard line, John Hightower peeled off an 88-yard touchdown run, equaling the longest run in school history. After Brett Rypien threw his first interception of the night, Nevada was in the end zone in two plays. But one play after Rypien’s second pick, Tyler Horton intercepted Nevada’s Ty Gangi and returned it 99 yards for a TD, tying the second-longest pick-six ever by a Bronco.

Rypien’s response to adversity in the Nevada game was something to behold. It started with the 37-second, 55-yard drive that allowed Boise State to end the first half with a field goal. Rypien was 9-of-17 for just 80 yards with two interceptions to that point. From there through the second half, he was 17-of-21 for 219 yards with two touchdowns and one pick that wasn’t his fault. Rypien began the second half with 12 straight completions. His last strike of the game was probably the most important one—the eight-yard completion to CT Thomas on fourth-and-8 with just over three minutes left in the game, earning a first down with an inch to spare. Whereas the moxie never kicked in versus San Diego State the week before, Rypien’s resilience on Saturday night was money.

Time of possession is commonly dismissed as an overrated stat. That was not the case Saturday night at Mackay Stadium. One of the Broncos’ greatest clock-chewing drives in recent memory came in the fourth quarter, when they got the ball at their own 15-yard line with 8:26 left and didn’t give it back until all of six seconds remained in the game. It was 17 plays of agony for the Wolf Pack, a steady drip-drip-drip of short runs and an occasional pass, the biggest one the aforementioned one from Rypien to Thomas, as the clock kept eroding. All told in the fourth period, the Broncos had the ball for 13½ minutes and 27 plays and the Pack for 1½ minutes and five plays. That was a finish.

The news on Boise State quarterback Chase Cord is hugely disappointing—for him, first and foremost. Cord, Brett Rypien’s backup, had been standing up to his first taste of college football trial-and-tribulation after the Broncos’ loss to San Diego State. Then he tore his ACL in practice last week and will likely miss not only the rest of this season, but spring football and summer conditioning next year as well. Sincere best wishes to Cord. The backup job now falls to Jaylon Henderson, the junior college transfer who has played only against UConn, when he rushed four times for 30 yards and didn’t attempt a pass. The goal would be to preserve true freshman Riley Smith’s redshirt year if possible (although he could appear in up to four games this season).

Old-school Idaho fans might call it the “Vandal Factor.” Disaster struck just when it looked like Idaho had seized momentum late at Montana State Saturday. David Ungerer had scrambled for a touchdown on what was supposed to be a wide receiver throw back to quarterback Mason Petrino with just over three minutes left in the game, but Cade Coffey missed the extra point, and the Bobcats prevailed 24-23. With Colton Richardson injured, Petrino went all the way at QB, but his 21 completions accounted for just 162 yards. The Vandals’ longest plays of the day were an 18-yard pass from Petrino to Ungerer and an 18-yard run by Isaiah Saunders, who scored Idaho’s other two TDs. The Vandals have been rudely welcomed back to the Big Sky—they’re now 1-3 in conference play.

College of Idaho feels about as good as a 2-5 squad can feel after taking down Montana Tech, NAIA’s 25th-ranked team, 23-20 in overtime on the road Saturday. The Coyotes not only beat a team that thumped them 36-16 in their home opener last month, they did it amidst snow flurries and temperatures in the 20’s. And hey, it was the Yotes’ first win in Butte since 1922. Darius-James Peterson was the difference again in C of I’s second straight victory, rushing for 15 yards and eight yards for the winning touchdown after being backed up with a second-and-20 at the Orediggers’ 23 in OT. DJP was just 12-of-24 through the air on the day, but his throws covered 223 yards and two TDs.

They’re going to start calling this “just another day at the office” for Leighton Vander Esch. The former Boise State star, now an NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate for Dallas, logged another 11 tackles—seven of them solo—in the Cowboys’ 40-7 blowout of Jacksonville yesterday. Vander Esch now has 31 tackles (23 solo) in the past three games since replacing the injured Sean Lee. Tyrone Crawford had two tackles and half a sack in the victory, while DeMarcus Lawrence had just one stop. Lawrence is dealing with a torn labrum that NFL.com reports he has been playing with for two years. Meanwhile, Darian Thompson made his Dallas debut but didn’t register any stats.

Tough travel to start the season for the Idaho Steelheads, and tough on the scoreboard, too—until the very end of the trip. The Steelheads opened with a 2-1 shootout loss at Wichita Friday night. Then they hopped right over to Tulsa, where they were defeated 2-1 Saturday and before rallying late to win 5-4 in a shootout yesterday after A.J. White had tied it up on a goal with 6:18 left in the game. The Steelies announced Friday that Dallas had reassigned goalie Philippe Desrosiers from the AHL’s Texas Stars to Idaho. Desrosiers started the opener and allowed one goal in regulation; then yesterday versus the Oilers he was touched for four goals. This will be the third season Desrosiers has played for the Steelheads. Last season he was 23-9-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average.

Other weekend notes: After struggling Thursday and Friday at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, Troy Merritt won’t be coming home empty. The former Boise State standout turned in a pair of 67’s over the weekend to tie for 54th and earn $14,280. Bronco women’s soccer star Raimee Sherle scored her Mountain West record 19th goal of the season yesterday as the first-place Broncos edged Colorado College 1-0 on a snowy, 20-degree day in Colorado Springs. The Broncos are now 13-2-1. And Colby Blaine became the first College of Idaho men’s basketball coach since Marty Holly in 1981 to win his first game, as the Coyotes opened the season with a sweep of their two games at the Quinn Classic in LaGrande. The Yotes routed New Hope Christian 88-64 and Salish-Kootenai 128-94.

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October 15, 2011: Ignoring the suddenly swirling talk of an invitation to the Big East, Boise State plays its first conference game in the Mountain West and demolishes Colorado State, 63-13. The Broncos rolled up a school-record 742 yards of total offense, as Kellen Moore completed his first 18 passes and Doug Martin rushed for a career-high 200 yards and three touchdowns. The day before the game, the Mountain West and Conference USA had announced a plan to merge in football amidst rumors that the Big East was about to invite Boise State and Air Force. Earlier in the week, TCU had reneged on its plan to move to the Big East, accepting an invitation to the Big 12.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)