When the tough gets going, so does the Boise State defense.
The Broncos have proven to be at their best when the situation is at its worst. After stopping five Washington State drives in its own territory Sept. 10, Boise State was just as tough at Oregon State on Saturday.
Boise State lost fumbles twiecen the first half. One was recovered at the Broncos’ 22-yard line, another at the Beavers’ own 49. Oregon State managed just 5 combined yards on the ensuing drives, resulting in a missed field goal and a punt.
“We put them in some really tough spots, and they kept stepping up,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
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Oregon State failed in its only fourth-down conversion attempt, in the third quarter, when the Beavers were trying to cut further into a 31-17 lead that had been a 24-point advantage. The Broncos have stopped six of the eight fourth-down plays opponents have attempted this season against them.
Boise State allowed 287 yards, and just 67 yards in the first half. With the Broncos’ offense struggling, they got what Harsin said “was something we wanted” when linebacker Darren Lee stripped receiver Seth Collins and ran it back 19 yards for a touchdown with 3:33 left to play, essentially sealing the win.
“At the end of the day, you have to have that mentality. If you’re not willing to go out there and put it down on the line every play ... that’s how we pulled that one off,” Lee said.
All game long, Boise State was voracious in its attack, picking up six sacks, led by sophomore defensive tackle David Moa’s 2.5. Lee added 2.5 tackles for loss, including a sack. The Broncos had 11 tackles for loss and allowed 96 yards rush (2.7 yards per carry).
“Just having people like D-Lee, Sam (McCaskill), Ben Weaver, it just makes me feel a lot more comfortable, especially going against tough opponents the last three or four weeks,” Moa said. “Washington State, they really questioned us in our pass rush, and (Saturday), Oregon State was a really good run team, so I feel like we got better against the run,”
Boise State’s offense had 77 yards in the final two quarters, going three-and-out in its first four drives out of the break. That’s an issue that will be harped on this week, but the Broncos are confident the defense, which outscored the offense in the second half 7-0, can handle the adversity that comes its way.
“Our defense did a great job in the second half,” senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck said.
The Broncos are tied for No. 1 in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 4.33 sacks per game, tied for sixth in rush defense (72.3 yards per game) and tied for seventh with 9.7 tackles for loss per game.
WILSON SHOWS OFF HIS ARM
Junior receiver Cedrick Wilson was recruited to Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College as a quarterback out of Memphis, but moved to receiver before his freshman season. Obviously, the Broncos’ coaches were well aware, and unleashed it for the first time Saturday when Wilson hit junior tight end Alec Dhaenens with a dart of a pass for a 23-yard gain in the first quarter.
“I think he caught it, took a three-step drop, licked his fingers before and all that. He went straight quarterback right there,” Harsin said with a smile. “He’s another weapon.”
Sperbeck, who has completed 6-of-11 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns in his career, could only sit back and appreciate it.
“I think I was fired from my play,” Sperbeck said.
Broncos back in AP Top 25
For the first time since last October, the Boise State football team is ranked.
The Broncos made their Associated Press Top 25 debut Sunday, checking in at No. 24. It is their first ranking since the Oct. 11, 2015, poll.
Boise State received 163 points, 17 behind No. 23 Florida and 21 ahead of No. 25 Georgia. The Broncos (3-0) are coming off a 38-24 win at Oregon State on Saturday and host Utah State at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in their Mountain West opener.
In the Coaches Poll, the Broncos are two spots outside the top 25 with 126 points, 16 behind No. 25 Texas.