Despite all of the noise surrounding it in recent months, the Baylor football team once again lived up to its billing as an offensive juggernaut. Boise State ended up on the wrong end of the Bears’ firepower.
True freshman quarterback Zach Smith threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns for Baylor, leading the Bears to a 31-12 win over Boise State in the Cactus Bowl on Tuesday night.
The Broncos made seven trips inside the 30-yard line, but came away with 12 points.
Sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien turned the ball over three times for Boise State (10-3). He completed 32-of-51 passes for 305 yards and a late touchdown to Cedrick Wilson.
Baylor (7-6) wide receiver KD Cannon had a Cactus Bowl record 226 yards and a pair of first half touchdown receptions, becoming the first opposing player with 200 or more yards receiving against Boise State since 2011.
Running back Jeremy McNichols, who announced his intentions to enter the 2017 NFL Draft earlier in the week, had 46 rushing yards. He entered the game with 1,663 yards and 23 touchdowns, good for fifth and third in the country, respectively.
Boise State- Cedrick Wilson 28 pass from Brett Rypien (Two-point no good) 1:20. Key plays: Cedrick Wilson’s 11th touchdown grab of the year capped off a quick drive that saw Brett Rypien complete 3-of-4 passes for 65 yards. Drive: 5 plays, 70 yards, 0:50 elapsed. Baylor 31, Boise State 12
Baylor- Ishmael Zamora 14 pass from Zach Smith (Chris Callahan kick) 10:03. Key plays: The Bears calmly marched down the field on a 12-play drive after recovering a Brett Rypien fumble. The drive was Baylor’s third of 10 or more plays in the game. Smith’s third touchdown pass of the night was a back-breaker for the Broncos. Drive: 12 plays, 71 yards, 3:38 elapsed. Baylor 31, Boise State 6.
Baylor—Chris Callahan 34 field goal, 3:18. Key plays: Baylor converted four first downs on the monster drive, and had a 22-yard pass from Zach Smith to Pooh Stricklin immediately after a 15-yard penalty to get to the Boise State 29, gaining back momentum immediately. Drive: 21 plays, 78 yards, 5:55 elapsed. Baylor 24, Boise State 6.
BSU—Tyler Rausa 26 field goal, 0:11. Key plays: A kickoff out of bounds by Baylor’s Drew Galitz gave the Broncos the ball at their own 35 to start. Quarterback Brett Rypien’s 2-yard sneak on fourth-and-1 to the Baylor 22 kept the drive alive. Boise State had a first down at the Baylor 11, but two incompletions and a 2-yard pass made it settle for the kick. Drive: 15 plays, 56 yards, 4:08 elapsed. Baylor 21, Boise State 6.
Baylor—JaMycal Hasty 5 run (Chris Callahan kick), 4:19. Key plays: In one of the finest acting performances you’ll see, Baylor punter Drew Galitz feigned contact on a fourth-and-5 punt from the Bears’ 21, getting the 5-yard flag against A.J. Richardson. The Bears then moved methodically, facing just one third down on their way to finishing the long drive. Drive: 15 plays, 99 yards, 4:21 elapsed. Baylor 21, Boise State 3.
Baylor—KD Cannon 68 pass from Zach Smith (Chris Callahan kick), 12:14. Key plays: Smith was 4-for-4 on the drive, which had yet another Baylor penalty, but no matter: Cannon got ahead of cornerback Jonathan Moxey, who couldn’t strip the ball, and Cannon ran unabated into the end zone. He had 168 yards after the score. Drive: 5 plays, 81 yards, 1:20 elapsed. Baylor 14, Boise State 3.
BSU—Tyler Rausa 24 field goal, 13:40. Key plays: Boise State converted three third downs on the drive, and quarterback Brett Rypien converted a fourth-and-4 with a scramble to the Baylor 24. He also hit tight end Jake Roh for 12 yards to get to the Baylor 9 on third-and-7, but there was a 7-yard loss by Jeremy McNichols on the next play. Drive: 17 plays, 57 yards, 7:13 elapsed. Baylor 7, Boise State 3.
Baylor—KD Cannon 30 pass from Zach Smith (Chris Callahan kick), 5:53. Key plays: Despite two penalties on the drive, the Bears drove mostly at will, getting started at their own 19 after Travon Blanchard intercepted Brett Rypien. On the first play, Smith hit Cannon for 49 yards. On the score, which was on third-and-25, Cannon leaped over cornerback Jonathan Moxey in the end zone. Drive: 6 plays, 81 yards, 2:21 elapsed. Baylor 7, Boise State 0.
Bryan Harsin’s postgame quotes
All right. Well, first of all, congratulations to Baylor. They played extremely well. That was a good football team. We knew that coming in. And we didn't really even talk about their record because we knew what type of football team they had.
Disappointed, obviously. Wanted to come in here and play better. And certainly thought that we prepared to do that and it didn't show tonight. I did think that our guys played hard; we just didn't come out with some of the things we needed to execution-wise when it was all said and done. That responsibility falls on me making sure that these guys are prepared.
But still very proud of this team and told those guys that in the locker room. Proud of the senior group. We've had a tremendous group of young men that are seniors right now that we're going to miss.
And you started looking around that room, there's some hard guys to replace. At the same time, we've got a team coming back that we've got to learn from this moving forward, and find a way to be better in the end when it's all said and done.
But proud of our coaches and players. Disappointed that we didn't get the win tonight. But certainly did see our guys go out there and fight. Just came up short there at the end. So, with that, open it up for questions.
Q. The red zone struggles again, second game in a row, four trips inside the red zone you get six points. How tough was that?
COACH HARSIN: You saw it. Your question answers itself. It's really tough. When you're playing a team, doesn't matter who you're playing, you're trying to score points when you get in the red zone. We didn't do that. The field goals, they're only going to last so long.
You've got to find ways to get six points on the board, and we didn't do that tonight.
Q. Surprised at all, I think a lot of people maybe not you guys, but a lot of people expected Baylor to come out slow and uninspired. It seemed like they looked motivated. Maybe you came out slow. The start of the game, were you surprised at all about how that went?
COACH HARSIN: Was I surprised that Baylor played hard and do they have good players? No, not at all. I thought we started fast. We had a turnover early on in the game.
And that's a fast start for us, too. So I thought both sides came out ready to play. But no, we didn't think that Baylor was not going to come out there and show up. We thought we'd come out and play as well, which we did early on.
Q. Tough sledding on the ground for Jeremy. I think 46 yards, 19 carries. What were they doing, I guess, for him not to have much success?
COACH HARSIN: I don't think it was him. They did a good job up front. They moved their "D" line and they got on some edges. But I thought he ran hard. We just got behind. We had to get into position, too, where we had to throw it a little bit more.
We were not able to run it as much as we would like to. But I thought when he did run it -- early on they did a good job. I thought we settled in, found a few concepts that were working well for us and he was running physical.
And then we needed to throw the ball a little bit to get ourselves back into field position and try to get some touchdowns. But they did a good job with their safeties at times where we couldn't get to them and some of the wide receivers. But I thought he ran really hard and did a good job tonight in pass protection as well.
Q. Have you all played against a faster receiver than KD Cannon? And how difficult was it to contain him?
COACH HARSIN: Well, yeah, he's one of the most elite wide receivers in the country. He's one of those top players. We've seen some really good ones.
And I thought our guys did a good job. He's going to make plays. You can't double cover him the entire time.
There are other guys on the team that can go out there and play, but he's certainly a great player and a guy that you gotta make sure that you know where he's at all the time. And he made some plays tonight and made great catches.
But we've anticipated it and we've seen some great players too on the perimeter. I thought our guys battled well against him and knew what they were getting into.
Q. How costly were the two interceptions from Brett? You were driving both times?
COACH HARSIN: We talk about turnovers all the time, right? Whether it's a fumble or in special teams or an interception, either way they're all costly. And we had some opportunities there. And they also made plays, too.
Without going back and just watching exactly what happened, Baylor also went up and made some plays. They did a good job on the defensive side, which they've got good players. But it certainly slows you when you have those turnovers and you're taking points off the board, regardless.
And your defense has got to go back out in the field.
Q. Do you feel like the game kind of turned a little bit on the roughing-the-punter call that may or may not have happened? It seemed like after that they got some momentum back.
COACH HARSIN: That was a big penalty. I'm not going to comment on the call itself. But it was a momentum-changer, yes. I thought our defense did a good job. We got a stop in there.
And then we had an opportunity to get the ball back, probably with fairly decent field position as well. And that penalty came up and it gives them a first down.
So anytime -- that's a possession taken away from you when you do that. And the defense had played well in that drive. So that opportunity did hurt us.
Q. Do you think the defense played well enough to win this game? And comment on that effort and how the offense had to play based on how many points you had to score?
COACH HARSIN: Yeah, you know, overall no because we didn't win the game. I wouldn't say anybody on our team -- special teams, offense or defense -- because we didn't win the football game.
Certainly the offense did not put up the points that we hoped they would. And this is an entire team. If we start breaking it down by phase and somebody did this, somebody did that, that's not what we're about.
So we should have put up more points. We wanted to put up more points. We had some opportunities there. Was hoping in the special teams area we could get some more field position.
I thought we had some good opportunities there with returns. We slipped on a few. But overall this is a team game. So we didn't win the game. That happens to fall on the team. Happens to fall on me, and you gotta give Baylor credit, too, they came out and played well.
Q. You look at the guy on your left and on your right. What will you remember most about this senior class?
COACH HARSIN: Yeah. Well, I said it. There's a lot and too much for me to talk about right now.
It's a fantastic group. It really is. And these guys, they came here to play in games like this. They came here to play under the expectations that we have. And these guys have left a legacy not just on the football field but with this team, with these young players, with this coaching staff, with this program.
This has been a group of guys now that -- I've been doing this for a while and this senior class is really special. And so when I said that, you look around there, and yes, every year you're going to lose a group of seniors.
This one's going to be a tough one not only because of what they did on the field, but because of who they are and what they've brought. And we had adversity this season. We've had some things happen to us that have not been favorable. And these guys never once flinched or folded. And they would come back and try to lead this football team just like we did after the Air Force game into this one.
And that's what these guys have brought to this program is that. And they'll continue that. When they go on and play or they go on and do whatever they do, this is the mentality that this group of seniors have.
▪ Boise State quarterback commit Chase Cord, who lives in nearby Peoria, is on hand for the game. Cord finished his senior season recently as the Arizona state record holder with 137 touchdown passes. He tore his ACL last December, but returned with a strong final year. He said the knee feels healthy, and plans on running track this spring.
▪ Senior offensive lineman Travis Averill has been the team’s most consistent lineman the last three years, coach Scott Huff said. Off the field, he’s just as responsible, with a soon-to-be 2-year-old son, Rome, and will be getting married in July. He said fellow seniors Mario Yakoo and Steven Baggett will be among his groomsmen.
▪ It is fitting that 10 years after the famed Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, the Broncos are back in Phoenix. They also aren’t the only ones who were influenced by that game. I spoke to Baylor senior wide receiver Lynx Hawthorne about playing the Broncos.
“It goes back to my childhood watching them for really the first time in that game,” Hawthorne said. “They’re a well-known team, anyone that keeps up with football, especially during bowl season, always is going to see Boise State in there.
“My dad's a coach, growing up in Texas, rooting for Big 12, we were kind of pulling for OU, but something inside me, I always liked the underdog: I kept thinking they might pull it out. It was unforgettable for a sixth grader in a small town in Texas, so I’m sure there’s a lot of people that feel the same.”
Links to our pre-Cactus Bowl coverage:
BOISE STATE BOWL HISTORY (11-5 overall)
1999 Humanitarian Bowl - Boise State 34, Louisville 31
2000 Humanitarian Bowl - Boise State 38, UTEP 23
2002 Humanitarian Bowl - Boise State 34, Iowa State 16
2003 Fort Worth Bowl - Boise State 34, TCU 31
2004 Liberty Bowl - Louisville 44, Boise State 40
2005 MPC Computers Bowl - Boston College 27, Boise State 21
2007 Fiesta Bowl - Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42, OT
2007 Hawaii Bowl - East Carolina 41, Boise State 38
2008 Poinsettia Bowl - TCU 17, Boise State 16
2010 Fiesta Bowl - Boise State 17, TCU 10
2010 Las Vegas Bowl - Boise State 26, Utah 3
2011 Las Vegas Bowl - Boise State 56, Arizona State 24
2012 Las Vegas Bowl - Boise State 28, Washington 26
2013 Hawaii Bowl - Oregon State 38, Boise State 23
2014 Fiesta Bowl - Boise State 38, Arizona 30
2015 Poinsettia Bowl - Boise State 55, Northern Illinois 7