Final score: Boise State 36, Florida State 31
Why the Broncos won: They persevered. Boise State was down 24-6 in the second quarter — and it could have been a lot worse, with Florida State wasting a drive to the 1-yard line (the Seminoles settled for a field goal after two bad snaps) and having two defensive touchdowns wiped out (correctly) by replay reviews. But the Broncos had been matching the Seminoles almost yard for yard in the first half and completely dominated on third down.
The game flipped in the second half, with the Broncos defense making tackles where they whiffed before. On offense, true freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier, inexperienced tailbacks Robert Mahone and George Holani and the veteran offensive line battered the Florida State defense nearly into submission. The Broncos finished with 621 offensive yards and were 10-for-19 on third down (Florida State was 1-for-12). They would have clinched the game on offense if not for an unusual pass-interference call on a short pass to running back Andrew Van Buren for a TD in the fourth quarter (the Broncos kicked a field goal instead).
[Related: Broncos overcome deficit in ‘exhausting’ game; Broncos didn’t want to ‘waste’ big-game opportunity; Hank Bachmeier exceeds expectations; Florida State plans to play in Boise next season; Scoring summary, live blog]
Main takeaway: The Broncos are set up for big things. This was the most daunting hurdle on the schedule — and the Broncos not only cleared it, but they showed they have an offense that is going to be a nightmare for Mountain West teams to handle and a defense that will fight to the last play. The special teams were solid, too — with Eric Sachse making five field goals. The Broncos will face a physical and mental challenge with the short week before playing Marshall on Friday at Albertsons Stadium, but they might not face a more talented team than themselves the rest of the season.
Player of the game: So many choices — but give it to senior offensive lineman John Molchon, who flipped from left guard to right tackle when John Ojukwu got hurt. That offensive line, so maligned in recent years, was the difference in this game. The Broncos rushed for 214 yards and ran 108 plays. But Bachmeier (30-for-51, 407 yards, one TD, one interception), Mahone (169 yards from scrimmage, two TDs) and nickel Kekaula Kaniho (four tackles for loss, sack, forced fumble) are deserving picks, too.
Play of the game: So many choices (again) — but Boise State probably doesn’t come back to win if not for linebacker Riley Whimpey forcing a fumble and safety Kekoa Nawahine recovering with 4:42 left in the third quarter. Florida State still led 31-19 at the time — and had just sacked Bachmeier for a fumble two plays before the Seminoles turned it over themselves.
What’s next: Marshall at Boise State, 7 p.m. Friday at Albertsons Stadium.