BOISE STATE 51, NEVADA 46
RENO, Nev. — The Boise State football team bounced back from its awful performance against Air Force with a big road win Saturday night at Nevada.
The Broncos won 51-46.
Quarterback Grant Hedrick and tailback Jay Ajayi each produced three touchdowns, safety Darian Thompson grabbed two interceptions and linebacker Tanner Vallejo made a pass breakup at the goal line on a deep ball on Nevada’s second-to-last play of the game.
The Broncos built a two-touchdown lead with help from four interceptions — including a pick six — then fought to hold onto that lead through three key turnovers of their own, including a pick six.
The lead changed hands four times in about 11 minutes in the first half but the Broncos never trailed after linebacker Tyler Gray’s 32-yard interception return late in the first half. Boise State led 23-21 after Gray’s touchdown and later led 37-21, 44-29 and 51-36.
Boise State outgained Nevada 570-462. Hedrick was 26-for-31 for 346 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and he rushed 16 times for 40 yards and a TD. Ajayi rushed 27 times for 152 yards and three scores.
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo was under duress much of the night. He was 23-for-43 for 306 yards and three touchdowns, but he tossed four interceptions and was sacked three times. He also rushed for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
Boise State improved to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain West Mountain Division. Nevada slipped to 3-2, 1-1.
The game drew a sellout crowd of 32,327. It is the last scheduled meeting between the teams until 2017, but they could land opposite each other in the Mountain West championship game.
Matt Miller leads long injury list
Boise State senior wide receiver Matt Miller made the trip to Reno but didn’t play Saturday night against Nevada. Miller didn’t finish the Louisiana game because of an ankle injury. He returned against Air Force but left in the first half with an injury to his left leg. He has been wearing a medical boot since then, including on the Mackay Stadium sideline.
Miller had played and made a catch in every game of his college career. His 44-game streak with at least one catch does not end. He is three short of the Mountain West record. Miller also needs 15 receiving yards to break the school’s career record.
Coach Bryan Harsin didn’t provide any specifics on Miller’s injury. He said he didn’t know whether a broken bone was involved. The Broncos have a bye this week and return to action Oct. 17 against Fresno State.
“We’ll find out more this week,” Harsin said. “We’ve taken all the pressure off his leg at this point. If it’s not better (for Fresno State), then I don’t know what the next step will be.”
Safety Chanceller James, linebacker Blake Renaud, left tackle Rees Odhiambo, safety Jeremy Ioane and wide receiver Tanner Shipley didn’t make the trip because of injuries.
James made a team-high 13 tackles in his first career start at Air Force. Renaud ranked third on the team with 22 tackles on the season. Odhiambo, a starter, missed his fourth straight game. Ioane, a starter, missed his third straight game. Shipley is a reserve.
Starting cornerback Donte Deayon (leg) and starting safety Darian Thompson (concussion symptoms) returned from one-game injury absences to start. Deayon did not finish the game. Redshirt freshman left tackle Archie Lewis, who was relegated to emergency duty against Air Force, also started. Senior cornerback Cleshawn Page, a starter when the season began, played in a backup role after missing three games with a knee injury.
Sophomore Thomas Sperbeck took Miller’s place in the starting lineup.
Boise State redshirt freshman linebacker Joe Martarano of Fruitland High made his first career start. Regular starter Tanner Vallejo played nickel because of the Broncos’ injuries in the secondary. Renaud is the other middle linebacker who usually plays.
Senior Travis Saxton, a former walk-on from Eagle High, also played at middle linebacker. He missed most of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and had not played much this season.
Goodale misses again
Boise State senior kicker Dan Goodale’s struggles on field goals continued Saturday. Goodale missed wide right from 43 yards in the first quarter. In a span of six attempts over three games, Goodale missed wide right three times and had another kick blocked.
Before that, Goodale had made 21 of 22 attempts.
Later in the first quarter, Goodale had a PAT blocked. He has had three kicks blocked this year — two PATs and a field-goal attempt.
Goodale made a 35-yard field goal in the second quarter.
McNichols drops redshirt
Boise State true freshman tailback Jeremy McNichols made his college debut on the opening drive. McNichols was one of the players who was on the bubble to play from the beginning of the season.
McNichols made a quick impact. He made a 13-yard reception on the first drive to set up a field-goal attempt (missed) and zipped 28 yards on a toss play to the left — his first carry — on the third drive to set up a touchdown.
McNichols finished with four catches for 54 yards and one carry for 28 yards — an average of 16.4 yards per touch. He will play tailback and wide receiver, Harsin said.
“I watch the guy in practice and he’s one of our better players and he might be a freshman but it’s time to go,” Harsin said. “We needed to find some more firepower. I talked with him and his family. It’s like: ‘At this point of the year, we’re not going to waste your time. We’re going to utilize you. And here are the things we think you can do.’
“For a true freshman to come in there and do that and have that type of impact, I’m excited to see where we go from here. I’m glad we have this bye week to figure out even more of how do we get this guy in the mix.”
Safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner is the only other true freshman who has played this season.
Pick six for Gray
Boise State junior linebacker Tyler Gray returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown late in the first half, when Nevada led 21-16 and got the ball with a chance to build a two-score lead.
Linebacker Travis Saxton blitzed off the edge on the right side of the offensive formation. Gray, lined up in the middle of the field, slid to the spot vacated by Saxton and stepped in front of quarterback Cody Fajardo’s receiver. Gray easily scored the first touchdown of his career. It also was the Broncos’ third defensive touchdown of the season.
Early in the third quarter, the Broncos grabbed their fourth interception of the game. Fajardo had thrown one previously this season. Safety Darian Thompson (two) and cornerback Donte Deayon recorded Boise State’s other picks.
Boise State wore black pants, white jerseys and black helmets. Linebackers Ben Weaver and Darren Lee were the single-game captains. The Boise State marching band made the trip. It played “America the Beautiful” and the national anthem alongside the Nevada band. Center Marcus Henry carried the Hammer. Nevada won the coin toss and deferred. Boise State has won 13 of the past 14 meetings with Nevada. Thompson recorded two interceptions and now has 11 in his career, including four this year. Tailback Jay Ajayi’s 74-yard run was the longest non-scoring run in school history.
BSU — Jake Roh 3 pass from Grant Hedrick (Dan Goodale kick), 6:54. Key plays: Safety Darian Thompson intercepted Cody Fajardo’s overthrown pass on third down. Boise State QB Grant Hedrick scrambled and hit wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes for a 12-yard gain on third-and-4. The TD also came on third down. Drive: 6 plays, 27 yards, 2:27. Boise State 7, Nevada 0
UN — Fajardo 13 run (Brent Zuzo kick), 5:13. Key plays: Tight end Jarred Gipson gained 28 yards on a short pass and wide receiver Hasaan Henderson made a leaping catch for 30 yards to the Boise State 13-yard line. Henderson was injured on his catch. Drive: 5 plays, 75 yards, 1:41. Boise State 7, Nevada 7
BSU — Williams-Rhodes 4 pass from Hedrick (Goodale kick blocked), 2:11. Key plays: Hedrick hit sophomore wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck for 19 yards on third-and-8. True freshman tailback Jeremy McNichols added a 28-yard run on his first college carry. Drive: 8 plays, 82 yards, 2:58. Boise State 13, Nevada 7
UN — Gipson 10 pass from Fajardo (Zuzo kick), 13:36. Key plays: The replay official overturned a fumble that the Broncos recovered (that appeared to be the correct call) and Fajardo completed passes of 12 yards on third-and-7 and 22 yards on third-and-8. Drive: 11 plays, 75 yards, 3:35. Nevada 14, Boise State 13
BSU — Goodale 35 field goal, 8:59. Key plays: Hedrick threw to Williams-Rhodes on a run-pass option play for 21 yards. McNichols added a 17-yard gain on the fly shovel pass, but tailback Jay Ajayi was stuffed once the Broncos reached the red zone. Drive: 12 plays, 62 yards, 4:32. Boise State 16, Nevada 14
UN — Jerico Richardson 12 pass from Fajardo (Zuzo kick), 6:08. Key plays: Henderson made a 30-yard catch on a jump ball against cornerback Jonathan Moxey on third-and-16. He added a 34-yard catch and run. Drive: 8 plays, 75 yards, 2:51. Nevada 21, Boise State 16
BSU — Tyler Gray 32 interception return (Goodale kick), 3:22. Boise State 23, Nevada 21
BSU — Hedrick 2 run (Goodale kick), 1:32. Key plays: Cornerback Donte Deayon intercepted Fajardo. On the next play, Hedrick hit wide receiver Chaz Anderson on a deep ball for a 55-yard gain to the Nevada 4-yard line. Drive: 3 plays, 59 yards, :45. Boise State 30, Nevada 21
BSU — Ajayi 1 run (Goodale kick), 12:38. Key plays: Thompson grabbed another interception after Gray grabbed and spun Fajardo. Hedrick fired a 23-yard strike to tight end Holden Huff on the next play. Ajayi was ruled down on the touchdown run but the call was changed by the replay official. Drive: 3 plays, 29 yards, 1:03. Boise State 37, Nevada 21
UN — Fajardo 56 run (Richy Turner pass from Fajardo), 10:53. Key plays: Fajardo slipped safety Corey Bell at the line of scrimmage on the keeper and darted untouched the rest of the way. Turner was left wide open on the two-point conversion. Drive: 4 plays, 79 yards, 1:40. Boise State 37, Nevada 29
BSU — Ajayi 26 run (Goodale kick), 4:03. Key plays: Hedrick tossed to Williams-Rhodes for 9 yards on third-and-6 and scrambled for a first down on third-and-4. Roh added a 20-yard catch. On the TD run, Ajayi ran over defensive lineman Dupree Roberts-Jordan at the line of scrimmage, then broke to the left sideline. Drive: 10 plays, 80 yards, 4:06. Boise State 44, Nevada 29
UN — Ian Seau 32 interception return (Zuzo kick), 14:18. Boise State 44, Nevada 36
BSU — Ajayi 2 run (Goodale kick), 13:22. Key play: Ajayi bounced off players and zig-zagged to the right sideline and back to the left sideline on a 74-yard run. Drive: 2 plays, 79 yards, :52. Boise State 51, Nevada 36
UN — Gipson 12 pass from Fajardo (Zuzo kick), 12:04. Key play: James Butler busted a 51-yard run. Drive: 4 plays, 75 yards, 1:18. Boise State 51, Nevada 43
UN — Zuzo 45 field goal, 7:56. Drive: 9 plays, 14 yards, 3:34. Boise State 51, Nevada 46
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