Many in Boise State’s largest crowd of the season probably pondered the comforts of home during a chilly, rainy start to Saturday night’s game at Albertsons Stadium.
But those who stayed were eventually able to get warmed up, jumping up and celebrating an offense that finally started to click in the second half of a 24-14 win over Wyoming.
The Broncos scored 21 of their points in the final 21 minutes, getting their first home win since Sept. 14 by scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns to put the game away.
“We felt like, if we get to the fourth quarter, we’re going to win the game,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
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For Boise State (5-2, 3-0), it was a cathartic victory, avenging a loss to Wyoming last season and putting up a far better showing than in the last home game, a 42-23 loss to Virginia on Sept. 22.
Junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said “knowing how our last game went here, that’s not us.” Boise State outgained Wyoming 145-22 in the fourth quarter Saturday.
“It was good for us, we’ve been really harping on finishing in the fourth quarter. ... It showed up tonight,” Vander Esch said.
If recent performances weren’t enough, the 35,565 in attendance had to expect an offense that wasn’t exactly going to light up the scoreboard. Heck, on Monday, even offensive coordinator Zak Hill acknowledged that “it may not be as fun to watch.”
What transpired in the first 30 minutes was a true test of patience, as Boise State trailed 7-3 at the halftime break, having amassed just 118 total yards on 25 plays.
“You have three points in a half, you’re obviously not fired up about that,” Harsin said. “... It felt like the offensive staff, the coaches had a really good plan going into the second half.”
Sure enough, Boise State was ready to step up to the challenge. The Broncos covered 71 yards on 18 plays in 9 minutes, 44 seconds on the first drive of the third quarter, capped off by a 4-yard Montell Cozart touchdown run.
“That was Boise offense, being able to control the game,” Cozart said. “... That was great, that’s what we needed coming out of halftime. I don’t think we had done that all year.”
Wyoming (4-3, 2-1) answered with a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead, but the Broncos took the lead for good on another 4-yard Cozart scoring run with 10:40 to play. Just 2:05 later, Cozart hit senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
Boise State led Wyoming 21-7 late in the third quarter last year in Wyoming, but fell 30-28.
“We’re not going to lay down, we’re not going to give up, we’ve been preaching finish, finish, finish, and that’s what we did,” sophomore running back Alexander Mattison said. “Last year, we didn’t finish and that’s something that really ate at us.”
Said Wyoming safety Andrew Wingard: "That was tough. I was sick to my stomach giving up 21 points in the second half."
Beating the Broncos last year gave the Cowboys a little bit of confidence, and Wingard wasn’t afraid to let it be known this summer in Las Vegas at the Mountain West Football Media Summit, saying “I definitely think they are different than they used to be."
“As far as redemption and motivation, enough was said through media days, I didn’t have to say a word,” Harsin said.
As the Broncos cycled Cozart, the senior transfer from Kansas, and junior Brett Rypien at quarterback throughout the night, Wyoming was led by its potential NFL pick, junior Josh Allen. But the BSU defense didn’t let him do much.
Allen finished 12-of-27 passing for 131 yards and one touchdown, but he was intercepted by sophomore safety DeAndre Pierce and redshirt freshman cornerback Avery Williams. He ran for 62 yards and a touchdown, but he was sacked four times.
“I thought Josh did take a lot of hits, but we need to come up with a couple more plays,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “To come in here and win, you need to play really well. I thought we played OK. If you come in here and play OK, you’re going to get beat.”
Mattison had 91 yards rushing to lead Boise State, giving him 337 yards during the Broncos’ three-game winning streak. Wilson caught all five passes intended for him for 66 yards.
Cozart rushed for 52 yards and was 6-of-7 passing for 73 yards and a touchdown, while Rypien was 12-of-17 passing for 104 yards.
Next up for Boise State is an 8 p.m. Saturday kickoff at Utah State (4-4, 2-2). The Broncos can move to 3-0 in the Mountain Division with a win, a step forward after going 5-5 in the division the previous two seasons.
“Every game counts, but they’re the ones that count toward our goal up there,” Vander Esch said, pointing to the Broncos’ top goal of winning the Mountain West. “... Our goal is still intact and we’ve got to move on every week and know that’s our focus.”
More on BSU
Go to IdahoStatesman.com or Facebook.com/BoiseStateSports for much more on Saturday night’s game, including analysis, player and coach interviews, stats and video. Also, check Monday’s print edition for stats, standings and stories.