Saturday’s 47-44 loss in triple overtime will not be easy to accept for the Boise State football team and its fans.
The Broncos nearly knocked off No. 20 Washington State on the road with their backup quarterback leading the charge during the final three quarters and the extra session.
But four turnovers led to three Cougars touchdowns, enabling them to erase a 21-point deficit in a span of just 6 minutes, 16 seconds to force overtime. It was Washington State’s largest fourth-quarter comeback since 1984. Still, it’s becoming clear the Broncos have a tough defense, an inconsistent offense and a much-improved kicking game.
“I told the team, I thought they came out and played with some guts. I thought we fought,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We came in here, we were ready to play, but it comes down to the little things. ... The turnovers become key.
“We weren’t able to finish on our terms the way we wanted to.”
Here is our report card for Saturday’s game.
Junior quarterback Brett Rypien started strong, completing 7 of 8 passes, including a game-opening touchdown drive. But he was hounded by a speedy Washington State defense, getting sacked three times in the first quarter. The last sack knocked him out of the game 14:17 into the contest.
In Rypien’s place, senior Montell Cozart played excellent for two quarters, but after his 47-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson 7 seconds into the fourth quarter, he struggled for the most part. Cozart was 12-of-20 for 161 yards with two touchdowns and a very costly interception. He led the team with 72 rushing yards.
Cozart was 3-of-9 for 33 yards in the final 8 minutes of regulation and overtime. He was sacked once and the interception, on a head-scratching shovel pass with 5:51 to play, was run back for the Cougars’ second touchdown on defense.
“That’s a tough one,” said Harsin, whose team was 5 of 14 on third down. “We’ve got to eliminate the turnovers. At the quarterback position as well, you get hit, you’ve got to hang onto the ball. Running backs get hit, you’ve got to hang onto the ball. Anybody that has the ball on our team, we’ve got to take care of it and got to hang onto it. We can help our guys out by not giving those shots.”
The Broncos were excellent for most of Saturday’s game, holding the prolific Washington State offense without a touchdown the first 52 minutes of regulation. They forced three turnovers and prompted the Cougars to pull senior Luke Falk for a series, then knocked him out of the game on a sack that led to Curtis Weaver’s 55-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Backup Tyler Hilinski was 25-of-33 passing for 240 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. In the final minutes and in overtime, the Cougars’ ability to wear down a defense showed, and the Broncos’ other facets of the game did little to help.
Boise State had five sacks and held the Cougars to 22 rushing yards. The Broncos missed some early tackles, but settled in and kept Washington State from turning short passes into long gains.
“We could tackle better, but when it comes down to it, we did what we needed to do,” said junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who had 16 tackles and two sacks.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
The return game (4 yards on punt returns, 16-yard average on kickoffs) wasn’t impressive like it was in the opener against Troy. But what made special teams again provide some highlights was junior kicker Haden Hoggarth. The walk-on was 3-for-3 on field goals, including a pair of high-leverage ones in overtime from 29 and 37 yards. Punters Joel Velazaquez and Quinn Skillin averaged 36 and 56 yards per punt, respectively.
But a game-changing miscue on special teams turned the game around. Washington State punter Kyle Sweet’s short kick hit cornerback Reid Harrison-Ducros on the back with 2:51 to play and was recovered by the Cougars. Four plays later, Washington State tied the game at 31-31.
“That was costly,” Harsin said. “Why it happened, I don’t know that. You’re down there doing your job and the ball hits you. I thought how we kicked the ball, Joel kicked it well, Haden came in and did a great job. He was very clutch.”
Washington State dropped one spot in The Associated Press Top 25 to No. 21, and held at No. 22 in the USA Today coaches’ poll. Boise State received three points in the AP poll and one point in the coaches’ poll, 10 and 21 spots outside of being ranked. Here’s how I voted in the AP poll:
5. Penn State
8. Oklahoma State
9. Ohio State
11. Florida State
12. Virginia Tech
17. Washington State
18. Miami (Fla.)
19. South Florida
21. Kansas State
25. South Carolina
New Mexico at Boise State
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN (Dave Flemming, Brock Huard, Laura Rutledge)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 1-1 (lost to Washington State 47-44 in 3OT); New Mexico 1-1 (lost to New Mexico State 30-28)
Series: Boise State leads 7-1 (beat Lobos 49-21 in Albuquerque last year)
Vegas line: Boise State by 17.5
Kickoff weather: Low 70s, partly cloudy