New Mexico was forced to turn to its third-string quarterback late in the second quarter of Thursday’s 28-14 loss to Boise State after starter Lamar Jordan went out with an injury. Tevaka Tuioti, the Lobos’ backup QB, didn’t make the trip to Boise for undisclosed reasons.
That meant junior Coltin Gerhart, a graduate transfer from Arizona State, made his debut for New Mexico. Gerhart completed 7 of 13 passes for 67 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also had eight carries for 49 yards in the Lobos’ triple-option attack.
Jordan was injured on a third-and-11 play from the New Mexico 18-yard line when he was hit hard by Boise State defensive end Chase Hatada, who was ejected for a targeting penalty. Hatada led with his helmet.
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Because Hatada’s ejection happened in the first half, he will be eligible to play next week against Virginia.
“I thought it was a poor decision. ... You can’t hit somebody that late,” Harsin said of Hatada’s hit.
This marked the second straight game the Broncos forced a team to turn to their bench at quarterback. Washington State starter Luke Falk was injured on a sack and fumble in the fourth quarter that led to Boise State defensive tackle Curtis Weaver’s 55-yard touchdown return.
Idaho connection gets D rolling
Two Idaho products made key plays on the Lobos’ opening drive to give the Boise State defense early momentum.
Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, a graduate of Salmon River High in Riggins, forced a New Mexico fumble on fourth-and-1, and safety Kekoa Nawahine recovered the fumble and returned it 14 yards to the New Mexico 46.
The turnover led to Boise State’s first touchdown of the game — a 28-yard quarterback draw from Montell Cozart with 9:49 on the clock in the first quarter.
It was Vander Esch’s second forced fumble of the season and the first career fumble recovery for Nawahine, a Rocky Mountain High graduate. Vander Esch, who led the Broncos in tackling for the second straight game with 13, also grabbed his second career interception.
“That man, he’s a hammer. Like what we carry out, he’s a hammer,” BSU free safety DeAndre Pierce said of Vander Esch. “He’s the heart and soul of this defense. ... The man just does it all. Freak of nature is what I see him as.”
The Broncos had two fumble recoveries all of last season and already have three in 2017.
“The defense played lights out,” Cozart said. “They have been carrying us the last couple weeks”
Free safety has huge first half
DeAndre Pierce had a career-leading 10 tackles at halftime, including two tackles for loss.
The 5-foot-11, 174-pound sophomore’s previous career high was six against Washington State last week.
“I just try and use every ounce of my 174 pounds out there,” Pierce said.
Pierce finished the game with 12 total tackles, second only to Vander Esch. Pierce had a game-best eight solo stops and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Attendance drops below 30,000
The announced attendance for Thursday’s game against New Mexico was 28,385.
The last time the Broncos played in front of a crowd fewer than 30,000 at Albertsons Stadium — aside from games played in single-digit temperatures — was Chris Petersen’s debut as head coach on Aug. 31, 2006.
Boise State beat Sacramento State 45-0 that game in front of 29,647 fans.
In 67 of their previous 68 homes games, there have been 30,000 or more fans in attendance. The only exception was a crowd of 27,478 for a Nov. 15, 2014, game against San Diego State when temperatures at kickoff were in the single digits.
Capacity at Albertsons Stadium is 36,387.