With humidity you need to cut through with a machete, heat creating an instant sweat and a morning kickoff a long way from home, Boise State looked downright comfortable Saturday.
The Broncos could not have hoped for a better start to their football season in a 45-10 rout at Louisiana, scoring on four of their first five drives en route to making a fricassee of the Ragin’ Cajuns.
As the final minutes came to a close at Cajun Field, senior defensive end Sam McCaskill stood on the sideline with the starting offensive linemen, watching the second-team offense, and couldn’t help but soak in the moment.
“We were like, ‘Man, it was fun to see another group other than you guys.’ It was awesome. Everyone enjoyed themselves today,” said McCaskill, who had two sacks.
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Following the victory, a raucous celebration commenced when coach Bryan Harsin entered the locker room, capped off with the school fight song. It was Boise State’s first win to open a season in a true road game since 2000.
“It’s big. That was our goal: come in, dominate and get out, and I thought we did that,” sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien said.
Practices last month inside the Caven-Williams Indoor Complex, with the field watered down and the heaters turned up to the max, paid off Saturday. The Broncos (1-0) won the coin toss, elected to receive, and marched 80 yards in six plays, striking first on a 1-yard touchdown run by junior running back Jeremy McNichols just 2 minutes, 11 seconds into the season.
Louisiana (0-1) was outgained 387-97 before it mounted a 49-yard drive to get a field goal that cut Boise State’s lead to 35-3 as the first half ended.
“At least in their minds, they were prepared,” Harsin said. “Then we had the mojo early in the game, and obviously when you’re a player out there, it certainly helps.”
Joy was as abundant as the yardage afterward, in part thanks to some key questions being answered emphatically.
The rebuilt defensive line, which lost all four starters, keyed the dominance on that side of the ball, picking up 3.5 of the Broncos’ five sacks and 5.5 of the 12 tackles for loss.
Louisiana rushed for 81 yards, the team’s third time with less than 99 yards since its 34-9 loss at Boise State on Sept. 20, 2014. Senior running back Elijah McGuire, who rushed for 1,058 yards last season, was held to 46 yards on 14 carries.
“Their running back was one of the better players we’ve seen, and certainly he did a very good job of making guys miss at times, but we contained him,” Harsin said.
Some previously unknown quantities stepped up into larger roles, from junior safety Cameron Hartsfield making eight tackles in his first start, to true freshman running back Alexander Mattison leading the team with 61 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
But the biggest hello came from junior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson. The transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College had 113 yards on seven receptions, scoring on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Rypien on the second possession.
“I think it’s evident we have a lot of playmakers on offense,” Rypien said.
The trusted names came up big again. McNichols scored three touchdowns on 1- and 7-yard runs, plus a 48-yard pass from senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck 34 seconds into the second quarter. Sperbeck took a lateral from Rypien as McNichols slipped out of the backfield and was unabated as Sperbeck, a high school quarterback in Sacramento, hit him perfectly in stride.
“He did a great job selling it, making a lazy route into a good route,” Sperbeck said. “Reminded me of my high school days, but I don’t think I ever threw it that well in high school.”
Rypien completed 22-of-33 passes for 347 yards with two touchdowns, while Sperbeck added 140 yards on six receptions, scoring on a 35-yard screen in the second quarter from Rypien. Senior linebacker Tanner Vallejo led the Broncos with nine tackles.
It’s just a start, but the Broncos had plenty of reason to savor the win, giving them a boost before hosting Washington State in Saturday’s home opener (Albertsons Stadium, 8:15 p.m., ESPN2).
“Definitely felt good, especially traveling all the way here, all the preparation we’ve put in the last eight months,” Sperbeck said. “It felt great to come out here and really prove what we can do.”