Monday, October 31, 2016.
In his pregame interview with Voice of the Broncos Bob Behler, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl was asked what it would take for his team to beat Boise State Saturday night in Laramie. Replied Bohl, “It’s essential that we be at least plus-two in the turnover category.” Guess what? The Cowboys were plus-two in their 30-28 upset of the Broncos, right? Not exactly. A fumble by the offense that goes through its own end zone is not recovered by the defense, so it doesn’t count officially as a turnover. But that doesn’t change the fact that the non-turnover was the worst turnover of the season for Boise State. The Broncos’ Achilles heel finally brought them down.
Boise State suffered the indignity of losing a game on a safety when Brett Rypien was sacked by Chase Appleby with 1:25 left, knocking the ball loose and sending it bouncing out of the back of the end zone. Turnovers. We wondered after the BYU game if Jeremy McNichols would ever fumble again. He did. At the time on their first possession, the Broncos were moving through the Wyoming defense like a knife through butter—52 yards on five plays on that drive before the fumble. Rypien’s lone interception of the night came when Thomas Sperbeck tripped over a defender and fell down. Turnover, er non-turnover, No. 3 was killer.
The script for Boise State’s 2016 season was flipped Saturday night. The Bronco defense has been doing a great job of game-planning for opposing offenses, and it was okay at Wyoming. But it had no answer for the Cowboys’ grit on key third downs—especially that of quarterback Josh Allen—and could not get stops when they needed them most. And props to the Cowboys for their offensive game-planning. While Brian Hill got his yards, 146 of them, Allen dinged Boise State for 274 passing yards and three touchdowns as his receivers were finding dead spots in the Bronco secondary. Especially impressive was their use of tight end Jacob Hollister, who had six catches for 144 yards and two TDs—24 yards per grab. Monstrous for a tight end.
Really, the turning point in the game—even though Wyoming didn’t win it until the end—came midway through the second quarter. Earlier, Boise State had stopped the Cowboys at the one-yard line, then marched 99 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead. The Pokes answered with a TD, but the Broncos responded with a 75-yard march to make it 21-7. A team with less intestinal fortitude may have started to wilt. Wyoming, however, worked its way down for a field goal, then intercepted Rypien and went 35 yards in two plays to narrow it to 21-17. From there it was game on. Wyo coach Craig Bohl said this win ranked right up there with any during his 14 years as a head coach, and that includes three FCS national championships at North Dakota State. Fans in Laramie stormed the field, and this time it seemed appropriate.
McNichols had a phenomenal first half at Wyoming and passed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for the season, although he’d gladly trade in his 143-yard, two-touchdown night if he could have that first-quarter fumble back. I’d say he atoned for that when he performed the incredible balancing act in the second quarter, using his free hand to keep himself upright on a run that turned into a 40-yarder and keyed Boise State’s 99-yard touchdown drive. McNichols becomes the sixth Bronco in history to log multiple 1,000-yard seasons. Career rushing leader Cedric Minter had three, followed by McNichols, Jay Ajayi, Doug Martin, Ian Johnson and Brock Forsey. Pretty good company. This is the eighth straight season Boise State has had a 1,000-yard rusher.
Even though there is a scenario that would still get it into a New Year’s Six Bowl (like two years ago after the loss at Air Force), Boise State now just has to hope for one that would give it a shot at the Mountain West championship. Until that happens, the polls don’t matter anymore. For the record, the Broncos dropped 11 spots in both polls but were able to stay in at No. 24. Undefeated Western Michigan, ranked No. 17 in AP and No. 18 in the Coaches Poll, is now the team that controls its own postseason destiny.
Big plays in all three phases of the game by Eastern Oregon did in College of Idaho in a 48-14 loss in the Coyotes’ home finale Saturday at Simplot Stadium. The Mountaineers struck with a 75-yard touchdown pass on their first possession and added a 100-yard kickoff return later in the first quarter to take a lead they would not relinquish. The Yotes were driving in Eastern territory to start the fourth quarter trailing 34-14. A touchdown there, and you never know what could happen. But the Mountaineers gave C of I a final gut-punch with an 83-yard pick-six. Yotes quarterback Darius-James Peterson did what he could, tying a school record with 30 rushing attempts. Peterson ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
The Boise State men’s basketball team got its first taste of live action Friday night, dispatching Lewis-Clark State 85-53 in an exhibition at Taco Bell Arena. Coach Leon Rice saw what he wanted and expected out of James Reid, the senior transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock. Reid scored the Broncos’ first seven points, including back-to-back three-pointers. Senior Nick Duncan put up only five shots but led Boise State in scoring with 14 points, thanks to threes and free throws. Meanwhile, College of Idaho’s season started for real at the Quinn Classic in LaGrande. The Coyotes split—beating Trinity Western 75-53 and falling to Bethesda 97-83. The Yotes were led in scoring in both games by junior college transfer Aziz Leeks.
The Idaho Steelheads have been trying to get some momentum going, and they may have some now after taking the final two games in their series against Reading over the weekend. The Steelheads got some good goaltending in CenturyLink Arena. In their 3-2 shootout win Friday night, Branden Komm rejected 32 of 34 Royals shots on goal to earn his first win of the season. Komm was also perfect in all four rounds of the shootout as rookie Will Merchant sealed it at the other end for Idaho. Saturday night it was Landon Bow making 39 saves in 40 attempts to record his second victory. The Steelies are on the road at Rapid City Wednesday night.
It was the Boise State men who made the noise at the 2016 Mountain West Cross Country Championships at Falcon Crest Friday. The Broncos won the team title, and Yusuke Uchikoshi claimed the individual crown with a big finish. Boise State’s Corey Ihmels was named MW Cross Country Coach of the Year. The Boise State women were third, with sophomore Brenna Peloquin finishing fourth individually. Also, the inaugural Onward Shay! Boise Marathon drew more than 1,200 runners yesterday despite the rain. In the full marathon, Meridian’s Rachel Thesing was the women’s champion with a time of 3:36:43, and Spokane’s Sean Linder took the men's laurels at 2:44:43.
This Day In Sports…October 31, 2004:
The longest winning streak in NFL history comes to an end at 21 games when Pittsburgh brings down New England, 34-20. Rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw two first quarter touchdown passes as the Steelers built an 18-point lead, and the game was never in doubt. The Patriots’ run had encompassed their Super Bowl XXXVIII championship—they’d recover from this setback to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.
(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.)