Rain drizzled upon Scott Stadium all night Friday, never materializing into a downpour.
Instead, Boise State provided the storm, a deluge of points, right from the first snap of the game, further dampening the mood of Virginia’s home crowd in a 56-14 win over the Cavaliers.
The harbinger of what was ahead came on 298-pound defensive tackle Justin Taimatuia’s 21-yard interception return 14 seconds into the game, and continued all game long behind an opportunistic defense and a stellar first start for freshman quarterback Brett Rypien.
“We needed to have one of these games,” junior linebacker Ben Weaver said.
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Friday’s win for Boise State (3-1) against the ACC squad was the second in school history in a “Power Five” team’s home stadium and the largest margin of victory ever against one, besting their 32-point margin against Arizona State in the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl. It is the second time in school history the Broncos have beaten two Power Five schools in one season (2010 was the other).
Taimatuia’s rumble into the end zone off an ill-advised Matt Johns pass kicked off a terrific night for the Broncos’ defense, which forced five Virginia (1-3) turnovers, created a safety and scored another touchdown on senior nickel Mercy Maston’s 25-yard interception return in the third quarter, which made it 46-14. Coach Bryan Harsin said he doesn’t give out game balls typically, but Friday he did, giving it to the defense.
“The first play of the game, you score — that’s exactly it. That’s what we were trying, and JT got it done,” said Harsin, whose team led 17-0 with 7:07 elapsed. “Any time a D-lineman scores, that’s a big deal. It doesn’t matter how far, who it is, or what team.”
On the three turnovers in which the Bronco defense didn’t score, the Boise State offense turned them into points, getting a pair of field goals from junior kicker Tyler Rausa and a touchdown on the ensuing drives.
“After our first play from scrimmage, it all went downhill,” Virginia coach Mike London said.
As if Rypien needed much help.
Much-hyped upon his arrival and thrust into a big role after sophomore Ryan Finley’s ankle injury last week, Rypien provided no doubt that he was ready, providing hope not just for the future, but for the present. Rypien completed 24-of-35 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, his last completion a 64-yard touchdown to junior receiver Thomas Sperbeck with 10:26 to play.
Rypien was 10-of-11 in the second quarter, completing his first 10 passes, among them a 10-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Jeremy McNichols with 8:26 to halftime, the first of his career. Boise State took a 29-14 lead into the half, after which Rypien led a pair of scoring drives that essentially put the game out of reach for Virginia.
“I was impressed with his operation, I was impressed with him in the huddle, I was impressed with him after a negative series ... he was very focused tonight,” Harsin said.
Many of Rypien’s teammates were not surprised by his first full game, seeing the potential every day.
“He was an ultimate leader out there, you could tell,” Weaver said. “... our offense is extremely complicated, seeing him out there and run it the way he did, make the decisions he did in some of the situations he was in, it was real exciting.”
“He’s a baller; he shows up to practice at 6 a.m., watching film, he’s the last one to leave,” McNichols said.
Sophomore quarterback Tommy Stuart, like Rypien, also made his debut last Friday against Idaho State. He attempted one pass against the Cavaliers, completing a 37-yard strike to sophomore receiver Austin Cottrell in the fourth quarter, and appearing in just a few plays prior.
An aspect not immediately noticeable in the stats was the young quarterback’s ability to show poise in the pocket facing a blitz or a defensive end on the pass rush. Offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said Rypien “handled the moment beautifully.” But of course, this is football, and there’s always plenty to work on. The Broncos were 3-for-14 on third down conversions, for example.
“When we watch tape on Monday, he won't be walking out of there thinking he’s a superstar,” Drinkwitz said.
Boise State outgained Virginia 447-273, with Sperbeck the top receiver, contributing five catches for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Virginia was held to 40 rushing yards. Junior running back Taquan Mizzell, who was held to 2 rushing yards on seven attempts, but had a 45-yard touchdown reception, called Boise State “the best team we’ve played.” The Cavaliers have also faced UCLA and Notre Dame.
“Really, we hadn’t felt like we showed what type of team we really are on the road,” senior cornerback Donte Deayon said.