With a 21-point lead on No. 20 Washington State with about 8 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Broncos appeared to be headed for another signature upset.
Then a pair of late mistakes in regulation let the Cougars back in the game and led to their eventual 47-44 victory in triple overtime.
Boise State backup quarterback Montell Cozart — who took over in the first quarter for an injured Brett Rypien — attempted a shovel pass as he was being tackled with under 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Broncos up 31-17.
Washington State linebacker Peyton Pelluer stepped in front of that pass for the pick six, pulling the Cougars within 31-24 with 5:51 remaining.
“The next thing you know it was in my hands, and I was just running as fast as I could, directing traffic,” Pelluer said. “Hunter Dale, Isaac (Dotson), and Nnamdi (Oguayo) laid out good blocks, so props to those guys and the rest of the defense for making that happen.
“It was kind of a blur but definitely a fun experience.”
Just when it looked like the Broncos’ defense had the win sealed by forcing a WSU punt with 2:51 to go, another mistake let WSU back in the game.
The Cougars’ punt rolled off the back of Boise State’s Reid Harrison-Ducros, and the fumble was recovered by Washington State’s Dillon Sherman on the BSU 24.
Four plays later, the game was tied 31-31 with 1:44 on the clock after a 6-yard TD pass from backup WSU QB Tyler Hilinski to running back Jamal Morrow.
Washington State eventually pulled out the home win on Hilinski’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Morrow in the third overtime.
“I mean shoot, I was just playing football out there surrounded by a great group of guys,” Hilinkski said. “They told me they had faith in me, and I was just ready to do my job.”
QB shuffle continues for BSU
A tough night for Boise State starting quarterback Brett Rypien led to more playing time for backup Montell Cozart on Saturday night at Washington State.
Rypien left the game with an undisclosed injury late in the first quarter, giving way to Cozart, a graduate transfer from Kansas.
Rypien led the Broncos on a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on Boise State’s opening possession, but that’s where the good news ended.
On BSU’s second possession of the first quarter, Rypien was sacked by Washington State linebacker Frankie Luvu and defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa.
The ball came loose, and safety Robert Taylor scooped up the fumble for a WSU touchdown.
“That’s a tough one. We’ve got to eliminate the turnovers,” BSU coach Bryan Harsin said. “At the quarterback position as well, you get hit, you’ve got to hang onto the ball. Running backs get hit, you’ve got to hang onto the ball. Anybody that has the ball on our team, we’ve to take care of it and got to hang onto it.”
But the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Luvu wasn’t done yet.
Near the end of the first quarter, Luvu broke through the Broncos’ offensive line, tagging Rypien for a bone-crushing 6-yard loss. Rypien’s head bounced off the turf twice on the hit, and he briefly bent down, resting his hands on his knees.
Rypien then went to the sideline and sat on the bench with his helmet off for the remainder of the first half.
Cozart, who came in for one play earlier in the game, took over at QB. The drive ended in a punt, and Cozart came over to Rypien on the sideline and gave him a high five.
When the Broncos returned to the field after halftime, Rypien had traded his uniform for warmup pants, a long-sleeved shirt and ballcap.
Cozart finished 12-for-21 for 161 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also led the Broncos in rushing with 14 carries for 72 yards and another score.
If Rypien has a concussion, recovery protocol guidelines may keep him from being cleared in time for Boise State’s Mountain West opener Thursday at home against New Mexico.
Harsin did not provided an update on Rypien’s injury in a postgame press conference.
“He wasn’t able to come back in the game. I don’t know everything moving forward, so I won’t comment on that,” Harsin said. “It was tough because he was hit, and he was hit solid.”
Emphasis on turnovers improves
The Boise State defense produced a total of nine turnovers in 2016.
Just two games in to the 2017 season and the Broncos have six.
After forcing three turnovers against Troy in the opener (one interception, two fumbles), the Broncos pounced on Washington State for three more.
Junior cornerback Tyler Horton grabbed his second career interception — and second in the redzone — with a pick of Luke Falk on the BSU 3-yard-line on Washington State’s first possession of the game.
Junior defensive end Durrant Miles was the beneficiary of teammate Tyson Maeva’s tip for an interception in the third quarter, and freshman Curtis Weaver scooped and scored on a WSU fumble in the third.
“It was good for Curt. You could tell he was fighting to get all the way there. He was almost falling on his face,” linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said. “That just shows we were giving it everything we had on defense and I mean, when you pick the ball and run down the field like that and you can barely run, it just shows we were fighting out there.”
Idaho natives lead defensive effort
Two Idaho products paced the Broncos in tackles against Washington State, setting career bests in the process.
Salmon River High graduate Leighton Vander Esch had a game-leading 16 tackles (10 solo), including two sacks. His previous career best was nine at Air Force last season.
Rocky Mountain High grad Kekoa Nawahine notched 12 tackles (seven solo).
“I think we take a lot of pride in it, the way we executed, the way we communicated out there on the field,” Vander Esch said. “We did what we needed to do, I mean obviously we need to tackle better, but you look at film and I feel like we did a great job.”
Kicker Hoggarth unfazed under pressure
Junior kicker Haden Hoggarth, who had been out of college football for two seasons before he walked on at Boise State, made all three of his field-goal attempts against WSU.
Hoggarth hit from 34 yards out in the second quarter and made field goals of 29 and 37 yards in first and third overtimes, respectively. He was also 5-for-5 on PATs.
“Haden came in and did a great job,” Harsin said. “He was very clutch tonight.”