The Boise State football team beat the triple option on Saturday the same way you beat its antithesis, the run-and-shoot: Outscore it.
The Broncos took advantage of the weapons they have in the pass game with senior quarterback Brett Rypien and his outstanding receivers, got a spark from an improved run game and spent most of the evening marching up and down the field at Falcon Stadium on their way to a 48-38 win at Air Force.
In two previous visits, the Broncos’ offense had sputtered and they had lost despite valiant defensive efforts: 28-14 in 2014 and 27-20 in 2016.
This time, the Broncos generated 530 yards, didn’t commit a turnover, converted 7-of-12 third downs and 1-of-2 fourth downs and allowed the Falcons to lead for just 67 seconds.
Rypien, who was 9-for-26 here two years ago, was 20-for-34 for 399 yards and five touchdowns this time. Most notably, he fired a 35-yard touchdown pass to CT Thomas to tie the score with 5 seconds left in the first half (28-28) and a game-clinching, 61-yard touchdown pass to John Hightower for a 10-point lead with 3:21 to play.
Rypien fired some key throws while being drilled, including the Thomas TD pass. The quarterback needed six stitches in his chin after that one.
“He hung in there,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “The No. 1 requirement for our quarterback is toughness. There’s a reason why — that’s it. He’s just been displaying that all season long.”
Hightower finished with eight catches for 182 yards and three touchdowns, and wide receiver Sean Modster added six catches for 101 yards.
Tailback Alexander Mattison, who has been bottled up much of the season, added a season-best 136 yards and, critically, only absorbed one 1-yard loss on 22 attempts.
The offense covered for a mistake-prone defense that allowed five Air Force receivers to record a play of at least 20 yards. The Falcons were 11-for-16 passing for 242 yards and three touchdowns — throwing for more yards than they rushed for (201, two TDs).
Still, in the second half, the defense stopped the Falcons on three of five drives and held them to a field goal on one of the two scoring drives. The Broncos made adjustments at the half and were fueled, players said, by the offense’s touchdown in the waning seconds of the first half.
The 48-38 final won’t be popular in the defensive coaches’ meeting room but it certainly left the Broncos with good vibes as they departed Falcon Stadium. For the first time, the Broncos won in one of the Mountain West’s most challenging venues. Turns out, all they needed was an old-fashioned shootout.
“We’re better than that (on defense), we know that,” Harsin said. “We’ll play better than that. I know it wasn’t to our standard but I also know we made adjustments and because of those adjustments we were able to win.”
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