Boise State Football

Without two key linebackers, Boise State defense keeps Lobos at bay

Around Boise State for the better part of the last year, the word “option” was one that caused a slight shudder.

The Broncos lost both games last season against option-based offenses in consecutive weeks, starting with a stunning 31-24 loss at home against New Mexico on Nov. 14, 2015. They got another crack at the Lobos on Friday, and responded with a resounding effort.

New Mexico, which came into the game No. 2 in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 347 rushing yards per game, ran for 382 but only had two runs over 20.

Running back Teriyon Gipson, who was leading the nation with 12.9 yards per carry, did not play with a hamstring injury.

The Lobos threatened to make it scary when Tyrone Owens went untouched on a 62-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that tied it 7-7, but no other drive got inside the Broncos’ 30-yard line until the fourth quarter.

“The triple option always poses a tough challenge for any defense, especially for us the past couple years. We haven’t done very well,” senior linebacker Tanner Vallejo said. “If you know anything about this team, we always want a challenge, especially this year. You can feel it around here.”

With New Mexico senior quarterback Austin Apodaca (collarbone) out, the passing game was no threat at all. The Lobos completed nine passes against the Broncos last year for 218 yards, an average of 24.2 yards per completion. On Friday, the Lobos were 4-of-15 passing for 39 yards with a touchdown coming with 20 seconds to play, and an interception by senior cornerback Raymond Ford to end the first half.

And the Broncos did it without two key linebackers.

Junior Joe Martarano (Fruitland High) and sophomore Leighton Vander Esch (Salmon River) did not make the trip. Martarano missed the second half of the season opener Sept. 3 at Louisiana, sat the next two games with a knee injury, then played in a backup role Saturday against Utah State. Vander Esch played in the first four games and has 12 tackles.

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said the pair is “dinged up,” but does not expect them to have long-term injuries.

Vallejo, who missed the second half of a Sept. 24 win at Oregon State and all of the Utah State game, started and had four tackles, including a tackle for loss on the Lobos’ first possession.

The Broncos began working on the option in the spring, and in fall camp, hoping it would set into players’ minds and be easier to recall when the time came to prepare for game week.

“I think some of the extra time we spent showed up,” Harsin said. “The guys did their jobs each and every play. They were disciplined. They hit us on one, you don’t blow everything up now and say, ‘We don’t know what’s going on.’”


Junior running back Jeremy McNichols ran for 54 yards on 21 carries, with a long of 9 on a second-quarter touchdown. He also added a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that put the Broncos up 49-7.

With the defense focusing on McNichols, it enabled sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien to throw deep, hitting nine passes of 15 yards or more.

McNichols rushed for more than 100 yards in 11 of his previous 13 games before Friday. The team had 65 yards on 29 carries.

“All week in film, we saw a lot of man coverage with no safety help. ... They were trying to stop Jeremy a lot, so their safeties were playing a lot in the run game, which left us one-on-one on the outside,” Boise State junior receiver Cedrick Wilson said.


Boise State senior cornerback Jonathan Moxey missed the first half of Friday’s game serving a mandatory suspension after drawing a targeting penalty late in Saturday’s win over Utah State.

Though Harsin said he wishes there was an appeal, it could not be overturned, so Moxey had to stay in the locker room the first two quarters. The team came back with a 42-7 lead.

“Everyone was yelling, ‘Free Mox,’” Vallejo said. “He was ready to go. I think he’d been in there doing jumping jacks.”

Moxey played in the first series of the third quarter, but played sparingly after with the game well in hand.


Last year after winning in Boise, the Lobos came out from the locker room to take a team photo on The Blue.

The Broncos said this week it initially didn’t set well, but understood it’s a big deal to win at Albertsons Stadium. After the game Friday, Rypien said, “We weren’t really worried about that too much.”

Wilson, who joined the team in January, said the celebration, not necessarily the photo, was a motivator.

“I think a lot of guys didn’t really like how the Lobos celebrated last year when they won, so it was kind of a chip on our shoulder,” Wilson said.


Sophomore receiver Akilian Butler dropped a punt return for the second straight week and was replaced by Wilson in the second quarter. ... Senior defensive end Sam McCaskill, senior linebacker Darren Lee and sophomore STUD Jabril Frazier each had a sack. ... Boise State wore what it has for all three road games this season: white helmets, white jerseys and white pants. New Mexico wore white helmets with the school’s letterwinner logo with red jerseys and pants. ... Boise State won the coin toss, as it has in all five games, and elected to receive the opening kickoff. ... It will be a day later than usual to find out how the Broncos moved in the polls, which were pushed back to Monday after the Georgia-South Carolina game was moved to Sunday.

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_BroncoBeat

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