BOISE STATE 16, WASHINGTON 13
The Boise State football team used a dominant first half and stingy defense to beat former coach Chris Petersen and the Washington Huskies on Friday night at Albertsons Stadium.
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The Broncos led 16-0 at halftime but didn’t secure the victory until Cameron Van Winkle’s 46-yard field goal fell wide right with 15 seconds left in the game.
The Huskies rallied with a 17-yard punt return to set up a field goal, a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown and a blocked punt that set up a field goal. Their two scoring “drives” netted 21 yards.
“We just relied on all of our hard work in the offseason,” Boise State senior safety Darian Thompson said. “In the huddle before we would take the field, we were saying thinks like: ‘This is what we work for. We want the game on our shoulders.’ We were able to perform and come through.”
Boise State sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley, in his first start, was 16-for-26 for 129 yards with an interception and two sacks.
“I was really comfortable,” Finley said. “I’ve been practicing for eight months now. I was expecting to be the starter and I was practicing like I would be the starter.”
Sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols, also making his first start, contributed 89 rushing yards, 24 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
The Broncos rushed for 185 yards. Tailbacks accounted for 207 of the team’s 337 yards.
“That experienced offensive line, they’re great,” McNichols said. “They get off the ball. They create holes for us. It makes it easier for us.”
McNichols touched the ball 27 times. He got 32 touches all of last year.
“It was great,” he said. “They featured me so I just took what they gave me. Playing running back full time is a lot better because I can just put my mind to one thing and focus on it.”
Petersen left frustrated that his team came so close to an upset but couldn’t finish the job. He hugged many of his former players on the field after the game.
“It’s a little different situation when you come back and play against so many of these coaches that are like brothers to us — that’s probably been the hardest,” Petersen said. “Last year and the year before we had great communication back and forth. Probably about eight months ago, the communication stopped. Hats off to the Broncos, awesome college environment, they have a really good team, play very hard, well-coached. My hat’s off to them.”
— On the difference in the offense in the second half: “We weren’t very good on early downs in the second half. We need to be better on the early downs or we put ourselves behind the chains. One, you’re competing against percentages. Two, you’re putting a lot on your quarterback to try to get you the yards.”
— On QB Ryan Finley: “We saw tonight Ryan run the ball and use his legs. You can see the athletic ability he has and I really thought that was some of his better moments. I thought he played really well tonight. We missed a couple shots in there, just a little bit; those will be made at some point. For the most part, his reads, what he went through, his competitiveness on the sideline, his leadership, I thought they were very good.”
— On overcoming adversity: “We lost the turnover battle, that’s usually not a good thing. And we didn’t win the special teams. You’re talking about your team had a lot of grit to win the game when it came down to it. We’ve got to be more balanced. That’s just a matter of watching and learning from what we did in this game.”
— On special teams problems: “We weren’t in some very good situations in this game but we were able to respond and we were able to find a way to win. We had a couple sacks on that last drive. We push them out of an opportunity to score a touchdown and put the field goal unit in a tough spot.”
— On facing Chris Petersen and his former co-workers: “It was a little bit different, probably for me in particular. ... I told him good luck (after the game). I told him I appreciate him. I told those other guys on the staff good luck. I want to see those guys succeed and do well. It was fairly normal at the end of the game. I’m sure we’ll have an opportunity to talk about this, and even talk about the game. It may not happen during the season, it may happen at the end of the year, but we might be able to ask what they saw.”
— On not greeting Petersen at midfield before the game: “I’ve shook his hand before. ... Usually that happens. In this case, it was probably more this is the first game and we’re kind of watching our guys.”
— On whether the defense bailed out the offense: “In our words, I wouldn’t say bailed out, I would say doing their job. I thought our defense was flying around. I thought our guys stepped up on the defensive side. They’re the unit that we leaned on in the second half when the special teams weren’t going our way.”
— On the punt team errors: “Obviously when you have a touchdown return on your punt team, we didn’t cover it properly. We didn’t keep it contained. ... The block was a miscommunication. We had plenty of numbers to handle what they brought. ... That particular player saw two guys that didn’t communicate and split them and put his hands up and made the block.”
QB Ryan Finley
— On two different halves for offense: “We’ve got some stuff to clean up on offense. First game, you’re going to have some struggles like that. We stayed pretty resilient and didn’t make too many mistakes down the stretch. Obviously our defense carried us through the game. Our defense played unbelievable.”
— On the tailbacks: “Those guys did a really nice job running behind an experienced line like that. That was definitely promising.”
— On Washington’s missed field goal: “I didn’t watch it. I heard the crowd. It was pretty exciting.”
— On short passes: “They covered pretty well. I’m just taking what they give me. If that’s the underneath stuff, that’s what it is.”
RB Jeremy McNichols
— On the tailbacks: “With Jay (Ajayi) being gone, everybody is like, ‘Who’s going to replace him?’ That just makes us hungrier. We want to go out there and make a name for ourselves.”
— On the reception: “The people are awesome. Appreciate them. It’s a great place to play college football.”
— On freshman QB Jake Browning: “This is a really hard environment to throw anybody into the first time, let alone a freshman. I thought he did some good things, I know there’s a lot of little things he’s going to tweak right away to help him out. Really need to put this tape on to see. I thought he got out of there a couple times, threw balls away where he had nothing, that was good. He ran a couple times and I think he can run a little bit more. I think we and he will continue to progress and get better.”
— On rushing for 29 yards: “Knowing how good their defense is, I still thought we were going to run it better than we did. We didn’t run it worth anything tonight. We’ll have to put the tape on — a lot of guys in blue jerseys, I’m sure. We never really could get into a rhythm in the first half long enough to stay on the field. The run game’s about rhythm.”
BSU — Jeremy McNichols 7 run (Tyler Rausa kick blocked). Key plays: The Broncos converted three third downs and a fourth down on the drive. McNichols had a 16-yard run, tailback Kelsey Young added a 23-yard catch and quarterback Ryan Finley scrambled for 4 yards on fourth-and-2. Drive: 16 plays, 92 yards, 6:14. Boise State 6, Washington 0
BSU — McNichols 1 run (Rausa kick), 10:26. Key plays: Tailback Devan Demas ran for 13 yards on second-and-12 and McNichols took a lateral for 19 yards on second-and-10. Young added a 9-yard run. Drive: 13 plays, 80 yards, 5:19. Boise State 13, Washington 0
BSU — Rausa 24 field goal, :02. Key plays: McNichols converted a third down with an 8-yard reception. Finley added a 7-yard scramble but the Broncos ran out of time in the red zone. Drive: 11 plays, 43 yards, 2:34. Boise State 16, Washington 0
UW — Cameron Van Winkle 40 field goal, 3:10. Key plays: The Huskies took over at the Broncos’ 26-yard line after a poor punt but nickel Mercy Maston broke up a third-down pass to force the field goal. Drive: 4 plays, 4 yards, 1:24. Boise State 16, Washington 3
UW — Dante Pettis 76 punt return (Van Winkle kick), 1:37. Boise State 16, Washington 10
UW — Van Winkle 27 field goal, 7:29 Key plays: Wide receiver Jaydon Mickens blocked the Broncos’ punt but the defense forced a throwaway on third down. Drive: 6 plays, 17 yards, 2:21. Boise State 16, Washington 13
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First quarter: Boise State took a 6-0 lead with a 16-play, 92-yard drive on its second possession of the game. Sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols, making his first career start, ran for 16 yards to give the Broncos some room to work and added 11 yards on a swing pass on third-and-10. Senior tailback Kelsey Young, a Stanford transfer, kept the drive alive with a 23-yard reception on third-and-3 near midfield. The Huskies missed him coming out of the backfield and he was wide open. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley, also making his first start, scrambled for 4 yards on fourth-and-2 at the Washington 25. McNichols converted another third down one play before he ran wide right for a 7-yard TD. Washington picked up two first downs in the quarter but squandered its best scoring chance with a false start on fourth-and-2. That forced a punt.
Second quarter: The Broncos expanded their lead to 13-0 with 10:26 left in the first half. Junior tailback Devan Demas gained 13 yards on second-and-12 after losing 2 yards and a shoe on the previous play. That sparked a 13-play, 80-yard drive capped by McNichols’ 1-yard scoring run. Boise State squandered opportunities to blow the game open after that. Senior safety Darian Thompson intercepted Washington quarterback Jake Browning to give the Broncos the ball on the Washington 24, but McNichols was stopped on fourth-and-1. Finley threw an interception in Huskies territory on the next possession and on the final drive of the half the Broncos appeared to mismanage the clock. They settled for Tyler Rausa’s 24-yard field goal on second down. Boise State running backs accounted for 181 of the 254 yards in the first half. Washington only gained 56 yards.
Third quarter: The Broncos’ offense went to sleep as they came out of the halftime break and the Huskies got back into the game with special teams. Washington’s Cameron Van Winkle kicked a 40-yard field goal after a short punt and good return set the Huskies up in scoring position and sophomore wide receiver Dante Pettis returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown to make it 16-10 with 1:37 left in the quarter. The Broncos had just one first down on their first three possessions of the half but Finley’s 15-yard scramble on third-and-9 gave them momentum as the quarter ended.
Fourth quarter: Washington pulled within 16-13 with 7:29 left in the game. Van Winkle kicked another field goal after the Huskies blocked a punt that went 8 yards to the Boise State 27-yard line. The Broncos put together a potential game-clinching drive late in the quarter but had to punt after a 1-yard completion on third-and-3. Washington took over at its 35-yard line and Browning led a nice drive that reached as far as the Boise State 19-yard line. A sack by defensive tackle Justin Taimatuia forced the Huskies to try a field goal. Van Winkle’s 46-yard attempt sailed wide right with 15 seconds left.
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SIX BRONCOS OUT FOR GAME
The six: offensive lineman Travis Averill and cornerback Raymond Ford (suspensions); wide receiver Rick Smith, defensive tackle Tutulupeatau Mataele and wide receiver D.J. Dean (injuries) and tight end Chase Blakley (season-ending injury). Blakley tore an Achilles’ tendon in practice, coach Bryan Harsin said. The other five are expected to play next week at BYU, Harsin said.
BROWNING GETS START FOR UW
Washington selected true freshman Jake Browning as its starting quarterback, announced on the team radio broadcast about a half-hour before kickoff.
Browning, who joined the team in January, set or tied national high school records for TD passes in a season (91) and career (229).
He has been compared to former Boise State great Kellen Moore, whose knowledge of the game before he moved to campus and interest in meetings as soon as he arrived set him apart.
“Jake has been a lot like that,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said in April.
THOMPSON STRIKES AGAIN
Boise State senior safety Darian Thompson recorded his 15th career interception in the second quarter. He is tied for fourth in school history. Since the Broncos joined the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1996, only cornerback Gabe Franklin has more picks (18, 2001-04).
RED ZONE STREAK ENDS
Boise State scored touchdowns on its first two red-zone possessions of the season,extending its streak from last year to 49 straight possessions with points, including 40 touchdowns. But the streak ended in the second quarter when tailback Jeremy McNichols was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Washington 15-yard line.
TWO NOSE TACKLES START
Boise State started senior nose tackles Armand Nance and Justin Taimatuia. They had been competing for a starting job, but both started with Mataele on the sideline. Mataele was injured in the second fall scrimmage, Harsin said.
NOT QUITE A RECORD
The sellout crowd was announced at 36,836 — 28 people short of the stadium record set for the 2012 game against BYU.
“Our crowd was fantastic,” Harsin said. “It was loud. It made it difficult. When a young quarterback comes into our place, that’s how it should be. That made a difference in my opinion with some of (Browning’s) performance in that environment.”
Boise State wore all blue. Washington wore all white. ... ESPN pushed kickoff back five minutes to 8:26 p.m. ... Boise State’s game captains were cornerback Donte Deayon and defensive end Tyler Horn. ... Linebacker Darren Lee carried the Hammer. ... Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady served as the honorary captain. ... Washington won the coin toss and deferred. ... True freshman cornerback Tyler Horton and true freshman wide receiver Akilian Butler played. ... Sophomore Tommy Stuart and true freshman Brett Rypien took snaps with the second team during warmups. The Broncos haven’t named a backup quarterback. ... Boise State improved to 8-3 vs. the Pac-12 since 2006.
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Former Boise State football coach Chris Petersen walked into the Varsity Center with his team just after 6 p.m. Friday. A group of Boise State fans showed up to cheer for him but Petersen stayed on the side of the group opposite the fan line. He did give a brief wave. Some of his assistants who worked at Boise State exchanged greetings with a few people.
Petersen didn’t go onto the field during early warmups. Some of his assistants were out and traded greetings with people they knew in Boise. Boise State special teams coach Kent Riddle and Washington special teams coach Jeff Choate chatted for a while at midfield. Between them, they have 13 seasons as the Broncos’ special teams coach.
Petersen made his first appearance on the field at 7:32 p.m. He received cheers from the crowd.
He and Boise State coach Bryan Harsin never interacted on the field before the game.
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Our coverage plan is a little different this year. I’ll be spending 100 percent of my time on our live/digital coverage of the game — so I’ll be even more active than usual updating this blog and interacting with fans on Facebook and Twitter (@IDS_BroncoBeat).
Late in the game (or earlier if you’d like), we’ll be collecting fans’ brief takeaways from the game. We’ll run the best ones in Sunday’s paper and in the blog post with my takeaways from the game. To participate, tweet with the hashtag #bsutake, respond to the Facebook post soliciting opinions or email email@example.com.
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Stories of note: