Bronco Beat

BSU Takes: Sperbeck, McNichols reward Broncos’ trust

jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

It’s Week 8 of our new feature: BSU Takes.

After each game, I post my top takeaways. During the game, I solicit takeaways from fans on Twitter and Facebook. We’ll run a select few — and a shorter version of my story — in the newspaper. But the full version will always be in the Bronco Beat blog with many contributions from fans.

Boise State beat Wyoming 34-14 on Saturday night. You can find our comprehensive, multimedia coverage of the game here and Dave Southorn’s traditional game story here.

MY TAKEAWAYS

1. Rypien-to-Sperbeck is a special combo: Since true freshman Brett Rypien became the quarterback, junior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck has been a one-man highlight reel. He made a juggling, one-handed catch to set up a touchdown and scored two TDs of his own against Wyoming.

Sperbeck’s numbers since Rypien’s debut against Idaho State, a span of five and a half games: 28 catches for 672 yards and seven touchdowns (24 yards per catch). Sperbeck has jumped to 14th in the nation in yards per catch (19.6 for the entire season) and 18th in receiving yards per game (95.8).

“They both understand where the ball is supposed to go and the holes in the defense, so that’s been good,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said.

Coach Bryan Harsin still thinks about the first of Sperbeck’s now-many head-scratching catches last year against Air Force.

Thirteen months later, Sperbeck is on pace to break Titus Young’s school record for single-season receiving yards.

“That’s something (Sperbeck) has that not many people do — a knack for tracking the football and catching the ball, which is not a natural thing to do,” Harsin said. “It’s a combination of Brett giving him a chance ... and he’s really made those plays. That, for a quarterback, also gives you tremendous confidence that it doesn’t have to be picture perfect every single time. That’s where the chemistry is showing up.”

2. A coaching statement: The Broncos’ run game hasn’t been efficient this year. Coaches gave the linemen and tailback Jeremy McNichols every chance to change that with a run-first game plan — and McNichols delivered career highs of 33 rushes, 166 rushing yards, 40 touches (school record) and 202 yards from scrimmage. He scored two more touchdowns, for 16 on the year.

“JMac’s a tough kid,” Sperbeck said. “He fights for every yard he gets and we appreciate that a lot. The plays he makes, it’s kind of unbelievable.”

The Broncos rushed a total of 47 times on 75 plays (62.7 percent). They gained 207 yards, or 4.4 per carry. That’s an improvement on the 3.9-yard average the Broncos had going into the game.

“We wanted to make sure we could run the football and let everybody have an opportunity to settle into that,” Drinkwitz said. “They were giving us quite a bit of two-high safety. When they do that, that’s what you want to do, run the ball. I felt like their game plan was to play back and take away some throws and force us to run it and consequently take some time off the clock. So we obliged, but fortunately we were able to get some points.”

Drinkwitz joked that McNichols’ workload was a result of his fresh legs after missing a game. McNichols didn’t play against Utah State because of a concussion sustained the previous week against Colorado State.

“He’s kind of a security blanket,” Drinkwitz said.

3. It was fun while it lasted: The defense finally surrendered an offensive touchdown at home — two, even. The Broncos played better than the previous week at Utah State but still weren’t quite as dominant as usual as personnel losses begin to add up (three starters out).

Wyoming finished with 233 yards.

“I thought we were better tonight — more disciplined as a defense,” sophomore linebacker Joe Martarano said. “We all prepared hard all week. We put a big emphasis on just going out there and doing our jobs.”

FROM FACEBOOK

Nathan Conley: Ugly. That was an awful team we played. A solid win, but very workmanlike. That's okay, and I don't feel entitled to blowouts.

Christie Behr-Jensen: Great comeback game after last week. The back ups still need work. Nice to have McWeapon back.

William Taylor: Nice comeback after that dismal game we played last week. Can't wait for "Nightmare at Sam Boyd Stadium" when we crush the rebels.

FROM TWITTER

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