If Brett Rypien was guilty of underestimating the speed of junior college transfer John Hightower in Boise State’s season opener, he made sure to take advantage of it Saturday night against UConn.
Rypien hit Hightower with a 67-yard touchdown pass for his first reception in the first quarter as the 6-foot-2, 183-pound speedster gave 34,515 fans at Albertsons Stadium a taste of the potential damage he could do at receiver over the next two seasons.
“John is very special in space ... and he definitely showed Bronco Nation that tonight,” Boise State senior receiver A.J. Richardson said.
Hightower totaled a game-leading 119 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the 62-7 victory, also scoring on a 55-yard end-around in the second quarter that saw him zig zag his way past the entire UConn defense.
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He easily covered more than 100 yards on the play, running in motion from the left sideline for the pitch to the right sideline and then back to the left sideline and into the end zone for the score.
“We know the guy can roll. We’ve seen his speed, and we were just excited to see when it was going to happen, and it happened tonight,” Boise State running back Alexander Mattison said. “He made a move down there on the field and then cut it all the way back and it was just chaos on the sideline. Everyone was going crazy.”
In the season opener at Troy, Hightower had just two catches for 15 yards. Rypien said after the game that he “underestimated his speed on a couple throws.”
In addition to playing football at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Mississippi, Hightower also ran the 400-meter hurdles in track. He finished fourth in the event at the 2016 NJCAA national championships.
“We worked a lot this week on some deep balls and just trying to get the timing down,” Rypien said. “It’s always a really good feeling when you’re on your back and you hear the crowd go wild and you’re like, “Yes, I completed it,” and then he’s in the end zone.
“I knew he was going to be in the end zone, because he’s going to run away from anybody.”
BSU offense goes bonkers
Senior running back Skyler Seibold’s 6-yard run with 11:23 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Boise State a new program record for offensive yards in a game.
The Broncos amassed 818 yards, surpassing the previous record of 742 set at Colorado State on Oct. 15, 2011. The Mountain West single-game record is 822, which the Broncos would have tied if not for taking a knee to run out the clock.
“We put up 800 yards of offense, but there’s probably still a lot that we can work on,” Rypien said. “I can think of a few plays right now that we’re going to need to get better at and that we’re going to need to be more dialed in for next week.”
Boise State passed for 418 yards and rushed for 400. The rushing total is the sixth-most in school history.
And for the first time in Bryan Harsin’s five seasons, Boise State dropped 60 or more points at home. The Broncos had 514 yards and 41 points by halftime.
Attendance up for opener
The 34,515 fans on hand for Boise State’s 2018 home opener at Albertsons Stadium was nearly 3,000 above the team’s 2017 opener on the Blue.
Boise State beat Troy 24-13 last season in front of 31,581 fans in a day game. The largest home crowd of 2017 was 35,565 for Wyoming on Oct. 21 — capacity for Albertsons Stadium is listed at 36,387.
“I thought we got off to a really good start. We kind of had to settle in after the first drive,” Rypien said. “I think everybody had a little bit of jitters, especially myself. I was feeling the energy of the crowd out there for sure.”
The 34,515 at this year’s home opener would have been the second-largest crowd for all of 2017.
Cross country: Boise State sweeps opening meet
The Broncos put together a near perfect performance in their first cross country meet of the 2018 season, sweeping the individual and team titles at the Sundodger Cross Country Invitational on Saturday at Lincoln Park in Seattle.
The men posted a perfect team score of 15 points — claiming the first seven spots — for the first time since 1998, and the women finished with 17 points.
Boise State’s Yusuke Uchikoshi won the men’s 8-kilometer race in 24 minutes, 17.20 seconds, while Allie Ostrander raced to her sixth career cross country victory in the women’s 6-kilometer race in 20:21.70.
“I’m really excited with the way both groups competed today,” Boise State coach Corey Ihmels said. “They followed the race plan very well by getting out hard and staying as a pack. They closed well, and I was really proud of how they started the season. I asked everyone to get out of their comfort zone for this race, and for the most part they executed that plan.”