Stefan Cobbs was too busy high-stepping his way back to the Boise State sideline to remember his helmet.
With the Broncos up big in the fourth quarter, the redshirt freshman receiver turned his first career catch into his first career touchdown, zooming through the Portland State defense for a 44-yard score on a pass from backup quarterback Chase Cord.
Cobbs’ touchdown capped a six-touchdown night for the No. 22 Broncos in a 45-10 win over Portland State on Saturday at Albertsons Stadium. His helmet came off at the end of the play.
“That was amazing. If I wouldn’t have got flagged for it, I would have ran on the field,” Boise State safety Tyreque Jones said. “We’re all brothers. You see your little brother score his first touchdown on his first college catch, that’s just a big moment.”
The game itself could prove to be a big moment for more than just Cobbs. As more Broncos get a taste of playing time, they’ll push harder to get on the field again. That makes practices more competitive and the team better as a whole heading into Boise State’s Mountain West opener at home against Air Force on Friday (7 p.m., ESPN2).
Ten players made their Boise State debuts against Portland State.
“For a guy like Stef, that opportunity gives him a taste, gets him more excited, and then you fully expect the guy’s gonna come out and be even better in practice and be more competitive and not settle into his role,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
“Just, ‘Hey, this is what I’ve gotta do, but I still want to keep battling for an opportunity for more plays like that.’ Because he showed he’s capable tonight of making them.”
Cobbs was one of nine Broncos to catch a pass against the Vikings (1-2), while seven players had at least one carry and three guys played quarterback. Between defense and special teams, 21 Broncos recorded at least one tackle.
“It reminds me of when I was in their shoes and the guys that played a lot were excited and jumped for me whenever I got in,” said Jones, who had one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss among his five tackles against PSU. “It actually feels good. You get to let the guys that are gonna be filling in for guys that are leaving, or the guys that are gonna be here after you leave ... you actually get to see them develop and see the work that they’ve put in show itself on the field.”
For the third game in a row, Boise State’s defense was a mixed bag in the opening half and magic in the second.
Junior STUD Curtis Weaver sacked Portland State quarterback Davis Alexander for a 6-yard loss on the second play of the opening drive. The FBS’ active career leader in sacks tied a single-game school record with four against the Vikings. He now has 26.5 career sacks, which ranks third in Boise State history.
Even with four takedowns, Weaver said Portland State’s signal caller was a slippery guy to bring down.
“It’s like ‘Tom and Jerry’ out there,” Weaver said. “I look in his eyes and, next thing, I don’t know where he is. He’s a great athlete.”
Two plays after Weaver’s first sack of the game, PSU receiver Beau Kelly took an option pitch 52 yards to the Boise State 8-yard line. A pair of false starts — courtesy of a loud Albertsons Stadium crowd of 31,068 — temporarily stalled the Vikings’ drive. They eventually settled for a 26-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Cody Williams for a 3-0 advantage with 10:27 on the clock in the first quarter.
The dynamic John Hightower — a junior college hurdler — returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. Hightower finished with a game-leading 79 yards on four receptions, including a 23-yard TD pass from Hank Bachmeier in the second quarter.
“John’s really fast. Did you see the video that our guys put out where he disappeared? That wasn’t special effects,” Harsin joked. “That was actually John Hightower disappearing because he’s so fast.”
Cord took advantage of the most significant playing time of his career, taking over under center on the Broncos’ second drive of the third quarter. After scoring in the first half on a 7-yard run, Cord added TD passes to CT Thomas and Cobbs in the second half. He completed 5-of-10 passes for 103 yards and a QB rating of 202.5 to go with two carries for 36 yards.
“He’s coming off that (ACL) injury, and he’s put the work in,” Harsin said. “I thought tonight, one of the most exciting plays for me to watch was when he pulled it down on the third down and took off and ran (for 29 yards).”
Portland State scored its only TD of the game on a 51-yard pass from Alexander to sophomore receiver Mataio Talalemotu with 2:25 left in the first quarter. The Boise State defense then kept the Vikings scoreless for the final three quarters — their third straight game without allowing a point after halftime. The Broncos have limited their first three opponents to a combined 132 yards in the second half.
“Right now the defense is playing well. Great, keep that mojo going,” Harsin said.