Boise State’s big opportunity at a massive nonconference win fizzled Saturday as the offense could not score enough to keep pace with Oklahoma State, the defense could not get a stop, and the special teams ... yikes.
A 44-21 loss may temporarily hamper a claim as the top Group of Five contender, but Boise State likely won’t see anyone near the Cowboys’ caliber for a while. Boise State coach said the defeat could be evenly spread across the team, and there is no shortage of criticism for all in a 23-point loss.
The Broncos (2-1) will have some time to think about all that went wrong as they have a bye week before returning to action Sept. 29 at Wyoming to open Mountain West play.
“I think a loss is always tough, but it’s really about how you respond,” Boise State senior wide receiver A.J. Richardson said. “We came to their house, things didn’t go our way, credit to them, that’s a good football team. ... We have this bye week to get everyone healthy. Our goals are still intact.”
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There is no sugar-coating it — the Broncos’ offensive line was brutal, yielding seven sacks and failing to get anything going in the run game. It was a little too reminiscent of last year’s home loss to Virginia, the last time they had fewer rushing yards than Saturday’s 34.
After allowing just one sack in the first two games, the line was overmatched by Oklahoma State’s speed, allowing the most sacks in a game in more than a decade.
“We didn’t come off the ball like we’ve done ... you can’t have that negative hit,” Harsin said. “Our backs saved us a decent amount, from what I saw, of some major negative plays by just breaking a tackle initially and trying to get back, get a couple yards out of it.”
What did work offensively for the Broncos was what happened when quarterback Brett Rypien had time to throw. He was 39-of-56 for 380 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He hit nine different players for passes, seven with at least three catches — sophomore receiver CT Thomas led with eight and the tight ends had 10 combined.
Unable to run the ball, Boise State faced 22 third downs, and converted 11. The Broncos also were 3-of-4 on fourth downs.
Oklahoma State’s first two drives netted just 15 yards, but the Cowboys scored on their next six offensive possessions, keeping drives moving with third-down conversions (7-of-13) and a balance the Boise State offense lacked.
The Cowboys were held to 246 yards passing, their second-fewest since the start of the 2017 season. However, QB Taylor Cornelius somehow managed to be a running threat (two TDs) and RB Justice Hill had a 53-yard run in the fourth quarter to give him a 123-yard day.
Boise State had three sacks but did not create a turnover, unable to make a play to stem the consistent momentum of Oklahoma State.
“Those opportunities were there, we didn’t take advantage of it, they did, they made some pretty good tackles on their defense,” Harsin said. “Add that to the list of things we need to spend the next two weeks on.”
SPECIAL TEAMS: F
A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. A weak spot in the opener at Troy, the Broncos improved in week 2, then took a giant step back Saturday.
Two blocked punts (one returned for a touchdown and the other quickly turned into a touchdown) is enough to warrant a failing grade. When the Broncos got a punt off, they averaged 39.3 yards per punt, and Haden Hoggarth missed his only field goal from 26 yards out thanks in part to a poor snap from Nicholai Pitman.
“We pride ourselves on that and we didn’t get it done,” Harsin said. “Apparently we have to be better. Apparently we’re not as good as we think we are in those areas. ... It’ll happen again, unless it’s fixed. That’s the bottom line. Once you open the door, everybody sees that on teams and you better fix that problem in a hurry.”