Bronco Beat

Game recap: Boise State football finishes with flourish at UNLV

Bryan Harsin, post-UNLV

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin talks to the media after the UNLV game.
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Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin talks to the media after the UNLV game.

BOISE STATE 55, UNLV 27

Full game story from Dave Southorn

Sidebar: Big game for the tight ends

LAS VEGAS — The Boise State football team scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium to pull away from feisty UNLV 55-27.

The Broncos rolled up 705 offensive yards, the fourth-most in school history. True freshman quarterback Brett Rypien set Mountain West and Boise State freshman records with 469 passing yards, also the fourth-most in school history.

Junior wide receivers Thomas Sperbeck (10 catches, 163 yards) and Chaz Anderson (seven catches, 106 yards, TD) took advantage of the Rebels’ man coverage on the outside. Tailback Jeremy McNichols rushed for 122 yards, including a 40-yard TD in the fourth quarter.

Rypien was 35-for-52 for 469 yards and two touchdowns without a sack or a turnover. He also caught a touchdown pass.

“I just can’t wait to see what comes next with that guy,” Anderson said.

UNLV threw for 387 yards against Boise State’s defense but the Broncos held on a key drive in the fourth quarter inside the 10-yard line.

Senior safety Darian Thompson grabbed his 19th career interception in the fourth quarter — giving him sole possession of the Mountain West record.

Boise State improved to 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain West. UNLV is 2-6, 1-3.

The key stretch for the Broncos came early in the fourth quarter, when Anderson made a 16-yard catch on third-and-12 with the Broncos protecting a seven-point lead. The catch was ruled incomplete but the replay booth overturned the call.

On the next snap, Rypien threw deep to Anderson for a 54-yard TD.

“You’re always trying to drive that nail in the coffin and create that separation, especially late when it’s a tight game and maybe get some momentum,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “... And from there we started to separate more.”

NOTABLE QUOTES

Bryan Harsin

— On UNLV: “I thought those guys did a nice job and they came out firing on offense. Their quarterback that they got back, (Blake) Decker, he played really well.”

— On the offense: “We made big plays in the pass game. We utilized some throws attached to some runs that we were able to hit and guy swere making plays afterwards. I thought Brett (Rypien) was just seeing the right things that he needed to see to throw the football and complete passes.”

— On the defense: “We thought going into the game we’d be a little bit better on the defensive side but Darian (Thompson) finishes up as the career leader in interterceptions, has an interception in the game. Ray (Ford) has an intercception in the game. So we did win the turnover battle. The thing I told the team was at halftime, why it felt a little tight, was we weren’t winning the turnover battle. So we had to come out and find a way to get that done.”

— On WR Chaz Anderson’s third-down catch and TD catch on back-to-back plays: “Huge. And we were going to have that (third-down play) reviewed. We felt like he was in. He said he was in. He was, and then to come right back and hit the touchdown, you’re always trying to drive that nail in the coffin and create that separation, especially late when it’s a tight game and maybe get some momentum. ... And from there we started to separate more.”

— On defenses playing man coverage: “When they’re doing that, they’re also loading the box. So it’s a little bit they’re outnumbering you in one area and you’ve got to be able to take advantage of it. It’s not complicated. It’s one on one outside and it really comes down to the guys running and throwing is what happens. We protected the quarterback well tonight. That helped. I think we’re doing a better job in that area and he’s getting more comfortable in that area and he’s able to see what he needs to see.”

— On the tight ends’ big day (six catches, 106 yards, TD): “We felt like they would be a bigger factor with some of the matchups. Also, just utilize our tight ends. They’ve been practicing well. We’ve kind of had these plays in the game we just haven’t got to, so they’ve been carried over for a few weeks.”

— On rushing for 232 yards: “It was balanced. Coach Drink did a good job of really I think keeping them on their heels. When you get into a game like that where both offenses are really kind of moving the ball and somebody’s going to stall and you can feel maybe a little bit of tightness, they weren’t like that. They were getting the ball to Shane (Williams-Rhodes), getting the ball to Chaz, getting the ball to the backs — it was good balance. It kept them trying to figure out where we’re going with the football.”

— On the pass defense: “I thought their players competed very hard on the offensive side. Their quarterback made the difference. ... We cut a few guys loose in some situations but we competed. We didn’t complete every play but we were competing. We need to do a better job of that. There were some opportunities in there we probably could’ve taken advantage of. These guys were fighting. ... UNLV is better than their record. They’re faster. They had the bye week. The freshness from their team showed today and I thought our guys battled and fought.”

— On Rypien: “Today was another example of his maturity and getting better as a player, even physically. He’s getting better, that’s the bottom line. You’re seeing the guy improve as he goes. ... There’s not a lot of coaching as far as what he didn’t see. He sees it. He understands. He can coach himself. It’s more about what we’re going to do next. He gets what we’re trying to accomplish. ... I like the way he played today. I thought in a game that was a little bit tight, he was very aggressive and he threw some big-time balls out there and we were able to go out and get them.”

S Darian Thompson

— On the interception record: “I give all thanks to the Lord. I know without him none of this would be possible. I also give thanks to my teammates, because a lot of the time they put me in position to be able to make the play. Some of the guys knew right when it happened, that was the record. Other guys soon thereafter found out. It’s all nothing but love. They’re all happy for me. I’ve got a great team here.”

— On the defense: “I believe the front seven did well. They did very well. As far as the defensive backs, needs some work. We did not come out physical enough, I believe, ready to challenge the receivers like we should have.”

— On the bye: “We feel good. We like where we’re at going into this bye week. We need it to get guys healthy, get guys back on the field, and also to make corrections, just get ready to go the rest of the season. We have option teams coming up, two of them, that gave us trouble last year, so to have this extra week to prepare for them is going to be great.”

TE Jake Hardee

— On his first career touchdown: “Long time coming. It’s something I dreamed about since I was a little kid. For Coach Drink to call that and for the guys to get me a touchdown was great. I was talking to my guys, just praying, ‘Please don’t call it back. Don’t put me down on the 1.’ ”

— On the tight ends’ big day: “When they drew up those plays for us, we were ready to answer the bell.”

WR Chaz Anderson

— On whether he thought he was in bounds on the third-down catch: “Coach Hars actually came to the sideline and asked me if I caught it. And knowing me, I said, ‘Definitely.’ I wasn’t 100 percent sure but once we saw the replay I was pretty confident that was a completion.”

— On the ensuing deep ball: “There was the holding call before and the refs called it off. For Coach Drink to give me another shot was pretty cool. I had a lot of confidence and a lot of fire in me because the refs waved the flag off.”

— On the fourth quarter: “It was a lot of determination in that offensive huddle and our leaders really stepped up. We should feed off that later in the season.”

—On Rypien: “I just can’t wait to see what comes next with that guy. We’re getting a lot more comfortable, even though we were comfortable in the past — so with the games to come, we have much more excitement.”

— On hobbling off the field earlier in the game: “I just tweaked my ankle. We taped it a little bit, got it warmed up and then we were onto the next.”

DC Marcel Yates

—On the defense: “I’ve had better days. You know what, we battled, man. I didn’t think we played too well on the back end. They obviously had way too many passing yards. I think this is the first game we felt the effects of having two starters out, Donte Deayon and Dylan Sumner-Gardner, but they battled. It started to get a little tough for me because at the same time we’re struggling in the back end, you don’t want to go so soft that you give up the run. ... With all that being said, we only gave up 20 points. ... We can live with that.”

— On the defense: “We’ve played nine games in a row. I think we’re beat up. I think this bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. ... I’m happy to get on the plane with a win and have a bye week to get ready for the two teams that are our nemesis on defense, Air Force and New Mexico.”

— On needing a bye: “We need it, but that’s no excuse because coming into the game I thought we had a great week of prep and I thought we played hard and fast. It’s all about making plays and we needed guys to make plays. We actually had guys in position at times to make plays and just didn’t make the plays. ... We’ll look at the film and get that fixed.”

OC Eliah Drinkwitz

— On attacking man coverage with deep throws: “We feel like we have some really good players and if people want to continue to play us man and continue to disrespect us like that, we’re going to attack and that’s what we did.”

— On WR Thomas Sperbeck: “Somebody has a quote that says Sperbeck is like a Frisbee-catching dog or something and that’s unbelievable because that’s exactly what it is. If you throw the ball anywhere around him that sucker goes and gets it.” He was referring to a quote in our Saturday cover story.

— On Rypien: “Brett just continues to play within himself. I got on him a little bit in the third quarter about trusting himself and really playing and letting it loose and he did that in the fourth quarter and it was really good.”

— On Hardee’s TD (Drinkwitz coached tight ends last year): “One of the great moments in my young career so far was watching Jake Hardee make that catch —just an unbelievable kid who works hard every day and he had to make a great catch and a great play to finish. I’m just so proud of him to get in the end zone. ... Jake Roh stepped up. He’s banged up and beat up and for him to come out and he made a really good third-down conversion and Holden (Huff) had some catches so I’m proud of those guys.”

— On that third-quarter conversation with Rypien: “I just thought he was being conservative. He was underthrowing some balls and trying to be perfect. I said, ‘Quit trying to be perfect and cut it loose.’ That’s what he did in the fourth quarter. He hit Chaz on that deep post and I really felt like that changed the entire momentum of the game, kind of got the monkey off our back, and I’m proud of him for doing that.”

— Even with all the yards and points, the Broncos made some big mistakes on offense (Jeremy McNichols’ fumble for a UNLV TD, some missed throws): “There could be a lot better performance. The stinking fumble, and we did some things that are really uncharacteristic of us that really gave them life. But with that being said, I challenged those guys. That’s a defense that hadn’t given up more than 38 points to anybody. I mean UCLA struggled against them. Michigan struggled against them. Some really good programs.”

— On Rypien: “He’s executing his job at a high level. I’m proud of him for that. And we’re going to have to continue to build. He’s going to have to continue to build. He’s going to have to get better during the bye week. He’s a good player and we’re happy he’s playing for the Broncos.”

— On the bye: “We’re beat to crap. Can’t wait for a bye week, and then we have to keep going. There’s no stopping. Nobody feels sorry for the Broncos.”

— On the third-down completion to Anderson: “I knew 100 percent up there in the box he was in. That’s why we were saying, ‘Slow it down.’ We said if they didn’t (review it), we were going to challenge it. We felt confident about that. It was a huge catch, it was a great catch, great read by Brett. We have a yes-no (read) to the boundary and it was a yes and he took it.”

SCORING SUMMARY

BOISE STATE

10

14

3

28

55

UNLV

3

14

3

7

27

FIRST QUARTER

BSU— Tyler Rausa 25 field goal, 9:30. Key plays: Tailback Jeremy McNichols gained 13 yards on a screen pass and 15 yards were added because of a personal foul. On first-and-goal at the 9-yard line, though, the snap hit motioning tight end Alec Dhaenens for a 2-yard loss. Drive: 12 plays, 72 yards, 3:37. Boise State 3, UNLV 0

BSU— Brett Rypien 4 pass from Thomas Sperbeck (Rausa kick), 3:51. Key plays: Sperbeck made a 19-yard catch and ran 11 yards on a keeper from the wildcat early in the drive. Tight end Jake Roh added a 21-yard catch on a corner route. The TD came on third-and-goal, with McNichols giving the ball to Sperbeck on a reverse. Drive: 11 plays, 79 yards, 3:22. Boise State 10, UNLV 0

UNLV— Nicolai Bornand 20 field goal, :48. Key plays: Wide receiver Aaron Criswell made a 35-yard catch down the sideline in tight coverage on a throw from quarterback Blake Decker. On the next snap, wide receiver Brandon Presley threw a 30-yard pass to wide receiver Devonte Boyd on a double pass. The Rebels reached the 1-yard line but the defense held. Drive: 9 plays, 72 yards, 3:03. Boise State 10, UNLV 3

SECOND QUARTER

BSU— Jake Hardee 44 pass from Rypien (Rausa kick), 13:13. Key plays: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Sean Modster made a 10-yard catch on third-and-9 — the first catch of his career. The touchdown came on fourth-and-2 as Rypien suckered the defense with a great fake handoff. Drive: 10 plays, 75 yards, 2:31. Boise State 17, UNLV 3

UNLV— Fred Wilson 1 fumble return (Bornand kick), 11:51. Boise State 17, UNLV 10

BSU— Kelsey Young 2 run (Rausa kick), 8:52. Key plays: Young broke a 15-yard run, Roh gained 7 yards with a third-and-1 reception on play action and tight end Holden Huff made a 24-yard grab. Drive: 8 plays, 72 yards, 2:55. Boise State 24, UNLV 10

UNLV— Eric Noone 0 fumble recovery (Bornand kick), 6:28. Key plays: Boyd made a leaping catch while surrounded by five defenders for a gain of 29 yards. Criswell added a 22-yard catch and tight end Andrew Price made a 19-yard grab. On the touchdown, running back Xzaviar Campbell fumbled reaching for the goal line but Noone, an offensive lineman, recovered. Drive: 6 plays, 75 yards, 2:24. Boise State 24, UNLV 17

THIRD QUARTER

BSU— Rausa 44 field goal, 9:23. Key plays: On second-and-6 from the UNLV 27-yard line, Rypien threw deep to Sperbeck. The receiver had a step but the ball was underthrown. Defensive back Tim Hough got in the way enough to prevent the reception. Rypien threw incomplete on third down, too. Drive: 7 plays, 33 yards, 2:04. Boise State 27, UNLV 17

UNLV— Bornand 27 field goal, 5:34. Key plays: Keith Whitely busted an 18-yard run. The Rebels had first-and-goal at the 9 and tried three passes that went nowhere. Drive: 10 plays, 65 yards, 3:49. Boise State 27, UNLV 20

FOURTH QUARTER

BSU— Shane Williams-Rhodes 9 run (Rausa kick), 14:22. Key plays: McNichols made a terrific move in the open field for a 28-yard gain and Williams-Rhodes darted 13 yards down the sideline on a screen. Drive: 5 plays, 50 yards, 1:31. Boise State 34, UNLV 20

UNLV— Campbell 11 run (Bornand kick), 11:12. Key plays: Boise State defensive tackle Armand Nance was flagged for hands to the face on an incomplete pass. Criswell made a 17-yard grab on a back-shoulder throw on third-and-6. Drive: 7 plays, 75 yards, 3:10. Boise State 34, UNLV 27

BSU— Anderson 54 pass from Rypien (Rausa kick), 9:48. Key plays: Anderson made a 16-yard catch on third-and-12 as his knee hit the turf inside the sideline. It was ruled incomplete but the replay booth switched the call. On the next play, Rypien threw a bomb to Anderson for the TD. Drive: 4 plays, 68 yards, 1:18. Boise State 41, UNLV 27

BSU— McNichols 40 run (Rausa kick), 5:53. Key play: Rypien hit Sperbeck on a streak for 40 yards on the play before the TD. Drive: 4 plays, 95 yards, 1:45. Boise State 48, UNLV 27

BSU— Tommy Stuart 2 run (Rausa kick), 2:37. Key plays: Young ran on five straight plays for 64 yards, including a 35-yarder. Drive: 6 plays, 66 yards, 3:05. Boise State 55, UNLV 27

• • • 

QUARTERS SUMMARY

First quarter: The Broncos put together two long drives on their only two possessions of the quarter. True freshman quarterback Brett Rypien came out firing on the opening drive, hitting wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck for 7 and 9 yards and tailback Jeremy McNichols for 13 yards. The drive stalled when the snap hit motioning tight end Alec Dhaenens on first-and-goal at the 9-yard line, so Tyler Rausa hit a field goal. The drive covered 12 plays and 72 yards. The second drive ran for another 11 plays and 79 yards. Tight end Jake Roh made a nice catch on a perfectly thrown corner route for 21 yards. On third-and-goal at the 4, Sperbeck took the ball from McNichols on a reverse and threw to Rypien for the TD. UNLV answered on the ensuing possession, with help from a trick play of its own. A double pass gained 30 yards to the 15-yard line. After reaching the 1, the Rebels settled for a field goal. In-game analysis: The Broncos, despite playing their ninth straight game and dealing with many injuries, came out sharp and energetic. The playcalling was creative, helping deal with the Rebels having a bye last week. The coverage in the secondary had some holes at time but UNLV quarterback Blake Decker couldn’t exploit that consistently.

Second quarter: Boise State took a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter on a 44-yard completion from Rypien to tight end Jake Hardee on fourth-and-2. Rypien made a great fake handoff and hit Hardee, who was wide open. Hardee fought off a defender down the sideline to score his first college touchdown. The game turned moments later when the Broncos were stuck inside their own 10-yard line. McNichols fumbled and defensive back Fred Wilson recovered for a touchdown to make it 17-10. The Broncos answered with an eight-play touchdown drive, capped by backup tailback Kelsey Young’s TD run, but UNLV’s passing attack took the field in chunks on the next drive. On first-and-goal, the Rebels fumbled but the officials ruled forward progress was stopped. On second-and-goal, running back Xzaviar Campbell fumbled as he reached for the goal line but offensive lineman Eric Noone recovered for the touchdown. UNLV had one chance to tie but had to punt. Boise State drove into scoring range late in the first half but Rausa missed a 50-yard field goal attempt. In-game analysis: A week after a run-first game plan, the Broncos went pass-first (and second and third) against the Rebels. Rypien was 23-for-35 for 292 yards and a TD in the first half. The Broncos had 11 receivers touch the ball, including Rypien. The tight ends were a major factor with four having catches. But the pass defense struggled to contain Decker and his receivers. Decker was 13-for-22 for 164 yards. Halftime stats: Boise State outgained UNLV 341-215 with 296 passing yards. The Broncos were 4-for-8 on third down and 1-for-1 on fourth down. UNLV was 2-for-7 on third down. Sperbeck made seven catches for 99 yards. McNichols only had 13 rushing yards on nine carries. Boyd had six catches for 97 yards.

Third quarter: Both teams were able to move the ball but settled for a field goal each.

Fourth quarter: The teams traded touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, with UNLV getting back within 34-27. The Broncos quickly faced a third-and-7 on the next possession, which became third-and-12 after a false start. Rypien threw to Chaz Anderson along the sideline. Anderson made a sliding catch just in bounds. The play was ruled out of bounds but the replay booth switched the call to a catch. Rypien threw a deep ball to Anderson on the next play for a 54-yard TD. The Rebels drove inside the 10 on the next possession but Decker threw incomplete on fourth down. The Broncos quickly drove down the field for a TD, capped by McNichols’ 40-yard run.

• • • 

NOTEBOOK

New uniform look for Broncos

Boise State celebrated Halloween on Saturday at UNLV with a new uniform combo. The Broncos added orange facemasks and an orange Bronco-head logo to their black helmets. They also wore white jerseys and orange pants.

The Broncos found out about the new helmet design in the locker room before the game. All they were told during the week was to wear orange shoes.

“They’ve all been guessing,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “... I thought it looked great. We thought at first when we talked about it we were going to play at night, so we had the lights, but coming out in the day time it really popped.”

The helmets were a welcome sight for a team at the end of a nine-game run without a bye.

“It keeps guys fresh,” Harsin said. “It’s exciting. They walk in there, they’re still kids, they get fired up on stuff like that.”

Thompson breaks MW record

Boise State senior safety Darian Thompson intercepted UNLV quarterback Blake Decker in the fourth quarter to take sole possession of the Mountain West career record.

Thompson’s fifth interception of the season was the 19th of his career. He had been tied with former Utah star Eric Weddle at 18 for three weeks.

“I give all thanks to the Lord,” Thompson said. “I know without him none of this would be possible. I also give thanks to my teammates, because a lot of the time they put me in position to be able to make the play. Some of the guys knew right when it happened, that was the record. Other guys soon thereafter found out. It’s all nothing but love. They’re all happy for me. I’ve got a great team here.”

Said defensive coordinator Marcel Yates: “I hope he takes the record to another level. I’m rooting for him to go over 20.”

Maston doesn’t make trip

Boise State senior nickel Mercy Maston, a key backup, didn’t make the trip to Las Vegas for undisclosed reasons.

Junior right tackle Mario Yakoo returned to the starting lineup after missing the Wyoming game with an injury. Junior middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo and redshirt freshman backup defensive end Jabril Frazier sat out again with injuries.

Junior cornerback Raymond Ford made his first start with senior Donte Deayon still out. Ford grabbed an interception in the fourth quarter.

Rypien continues QB catching tradition

Boise State true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck in the first quarter.

Every full-time starting quarterback since Jared Zabransky (2004-06) has made a catch during his career except for Taylor Tharp (2007). Quarterbacks with touchdown catches include Grant Hedrick (from Matt Miller and Sperbeck last year), Kellen Moore (from Austin Pettis in 2010) and Bart Hendricks (from Andre Banks in 2000).

Fumbles go UNLV’s way

There were three fumbles inside the 5-yard line on the south end of Sam Boyd Stadium in the first half. UNLV recovered two of them for touchdowns — one each on offense and defense. On the other fumble, the UNLV runner’s forward progress was deemed to have stopped before the ball came loose. Boise State had recovered that fumble; the Rebels recovered their own fumble for a TD on the next play.

Quick hits

Wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck and cornerback Jonathan Moxey were the Broncos’ single-game captains. ... Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch carried the Hammer. ... UNLV won the coin toss and took the ball. ... Boise State kicker Tyler Rausa missed a 50-yard field goal late in the first half. That snapped his streak of 16 straight makes from 51 yards and in. ... The Broncos started in their three-linebacker alignment without a nickel. ... Backup QB Tommy Stuart scored the first TD of his career in the fourth quarter.

• • • 

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, 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 sports@idahostatesman.com.

• • • 

LINKS

Thomas Sperbeck has unexplainable knack for the spectacular

Game breakdown

Key matchup

Boise State players to watch

UNLV players to watch

Kickoff changes have desired effect

Martarano gets up to speed

Decker’s return gives UNLV a boost

CB Raymond Ford seizes second chance

Vander Esch adds to impressive depth at linebacker

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

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