It’s Week 9 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 UNLV 55-27 on Saturday in Las Vegas. You can find our comprehensive, multimedia coverage of the game here and Dave Southorn’s traditional game story here.
1. Man coverage doesn’t work against the Broncos. The defenses who have tried to use man coverage on Boise State’s receivers and focus on stopping the run have paid a steep price since true freshman Brett Rypien became the quarterback.
Rypien threw for 321 yards against Virginia in his first career start and a Mountain West freshman record 469 yards Saturday against UNLV in his seventh start while facing defenses that like to leave their cornerbacks on an island. He also has shown a knack for capitalizing on 1-on-1 situations against other opponents.
Junior wide receivers Thomas Sperbeck (10 catches, 163 yards) and Chaz Anderson (seven catches, 106 yards and a TD) torched UNLV’s secondary.
“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,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said.
The big-play passing attack eventually softened the Rebels’ defense enough for the Broncos to run the ball. They rushed for 127 yards in the fourth quarter, including tailback Jeremy McNichols’ 40-yard TD run.
“When they’re (playing man coverage), they’re also loading the box,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “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.”
2. The Broncos’ defense needs the bye the most. Boise State is playing without three defensive starters, including two likely all-conference picks in cornerback Donte Deayon and middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo (the other is safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner). The depleted secondary was an issue against UNLV quarterback Blake Decker, who returned from a 2 1/2-game absence because of injury to throw for 357 yards.
“I’ve had better days,” defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said. “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 (in the secondary), 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.”
3. The offensive line has answered. The oft-criticized line has produced two straight games without a sack while helping sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols extend his streak to four straight 100-yard games.
The Broncos started sophomore Archie Lewis at left tackle in place of injured starter Rees Odhiambo. Junior Mario Yakoo returned to his starting spot at right tackle after missing one game with an injury.
“We protected the quarterback well tonight,” Harsin said. “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.”
Here’s what fans had to say:
Carl Lloyd Russell: I was impressed with Kelsey Young shaking hands with the defender that finally brought him down late in the game. So much better than getting a penalty for shoving each other.
William Taylor: I would call it "Nightmare at Sam Boyd Stadium" with BSU winning.
Paul Eade: Only pulled ahead when Vegas got tired!