Well, Boise State won the coin toss at least.
Other than that and a slim early lead, it was a meltdown of epic proportions. A calamity. An unmitigated disaster.
All apply to No. 21 Boise State’s shocking display of ineptitude in its 52-26 loss at Utah State on Friday night.
Eight turnovers, a 35-point halftime deficit, a blowout loss to a Mountain West rival — all things on which Boise State is usually on the other side.
“I guess when the kickoff happened, we just weren’t ready to play,” Boise State safety Darian Thompson said. “We did everything the same as we usually do, locker room seemed fired up before the game, but when it started, they just came out with more fire.”
But the recently dominant Broncos were nowhere to be found at Maverik Stadium. Hopes for a New Year’s Six bowl were all but dashed, a 12-game winning streak against the Aggies ended, and now Boise State is looking up at Utah State in the Mountain Division standings.
Coming into Friday’s game, Boise State (5-2, 2-1) had allowed only six turnovers all season long. It defeated its prior four opponents by a combined 204-24. Freshman quarterback Brett Rypien, who had just one interception in 104 passes coming into the game, was intercepted three times and lost two fumbles.
Utah State (4-2, 3-0) only needed 334 total yards for the rout, getting short fields all night, picking up its first win over a ranked team at Maverik Stadium since beating No. 25 Fresno State in 1991.
“It’s huge, I’ll make no bones about it,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said. “... the road to the Mountain West championship goes through them. Until someone knocks them off the throne, it’s theirs.
“... maybe the greatest win in this program’s history ... .”
It’s hard to imagine that the Broncos actually led at one point, even if it was 3-0.
That’s when everything went careening downhill.
Seven of their next nine possessions in the first half resulted in either a fumble or an interception. According to ESPN, the septet of giveaways were the most by a Football Bowl Subdivision team in a first half in 10 years. Three Utah State drives started inside the Boise State 25-yard line, and the Aggies provided one last gut punch on a 90-yard Marwin Evans interception return as time expired in the second quarter for a 45-10 edge. It was Boise State’s biggest halftime deficit since trailing 42-0 at Louisiana Tech on Oct. 3, 1998.
“It was crazy,” said Utah State quarterback Kent Myers (four total TDs). “I just kept getting the ball with a short field. We wanted to seize those opportunities and hurry up and score.”
Utah State stretched a 7-3 lead, the Broncos’ first deficit since Sept. 12, to a 24-3 advantage by turning three straight Boise State turnovers into points. The Aggies had an interception that seemingly ended a Bronco drive, but Boise State senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes stripped cornerback Jalen Davis on the return and recovered the fumble. Boise State took advantage, capping it off with a 1-yard Kelsey Young touchdown with 3:12 until the half.
It could have been more interesting when Boise State had the ball at midfield late in the second quarter, down 24-10 and due to receive the second-half kickoff (a product of the big coin toss victory). But junior running back Devan Demas was drilled by Evans soon after taking a handoff, losing the fumble at the Broncos’ 46-yard line. Two plays later, Utah State had a touchdown pass and truly began to run away with it. The Aggies scored 21 points in the last 85 seconds of the first half.
“Every time we had a chance to kind of build and get some (momentum) in our favor, something happened like that, a negative play,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
And even when things seemed to go right, they ended up wrong for the Broncos.
On Boise State’s first possession of the second half, Rypien hit junior receiver Thomas Sperbeck down the seam for a 32-yard completion ... which ended with a Sperbeck fumble, stripped by Utah State cornerback Jalen Davis and recovered by Aggie linebacker Kyler Fackrell.
The Broncos’ eight turnovers were the most since by a Boise State team since it had 12 at Montana on Oct. 28, 1989, and the second-most ever for a Mountain West team, trailing only Wyoming’s nine against San Diego State on Nov. 17, 2001.
“It’s hard to pick a favorite,” Wells said. “Being able to take those turnovers on our end of the field and turn them into touchdowns was big. Those picks were key. There are so many to try to think about.”
Young added another 1-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, and Demas had a 3-yard touchdown run with 3:02 left in the third quarter for Boise State, which was without sophomore running back Jeremy McNichols, who entered the game with an FBS-best 14 touchdowns.
The Broncos did not get a first down until the second quarter, picking up only 105 yards in the first half. Rypien was 25-of-50 passing for 299 yards, 221 coming in the second half with the game no longer in doubt. Sperbeck had his third 100-yard game of the season, hauling in six passes for 156 yards.
“It wasn’t mistake-prone, we didn’t hang onto the ball,” Harsin said. “... ball bounces funny sometimes.”
Both teams were just 5-of-16 on third-down conversions, but the Aggies converted a third-and-15, a third-and-6 and a third-and-9 on their first three scoring drives.
Boise State will attempt to pick up the pieces at home next Saturday, when it takes on winless Wyoming, which hosts Nevada on Saturday.
“It kind of sucks it’s not in our hands anymore, but we’re going to play as hard as we can every game,” Boise State senior center Marcus Henry said.