Bronco Beat

Game recap: New Mexico stuns Boise State 31-24 as last play falls just short

Bryan Harsin, post-New Mexico

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin's press conference after the New Mexico game.
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Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin's press conference after the New Mexico game.

NEW MEXICO 31, BOISE STATE 24

The New Mexico football team scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and held off a last-second scare to stun Boise State on Saturday night at Albertsons Stadium.

The Lobos, who were 30-point underdogs, won 31-24.

It was the Broncos’ first home loss since 2012, snapping an 18-game home winning streak. The Broncos are 96-5 at home since 2000.

“That’s one of the worst feelings, really,” senior linebacker Tyler Gray said. “Me, the whole team, we’re going to be sick to our stomach for a while.”

New Mexico (6-4 overall, 4-2 Mountain West) now has control of its destiny in the Mountain Division race. The Lobos can qualify for the conference championship game by beating Colorado State and Air Force the next two Saturdays in Albuquerque.

If the Lobos lose a game, Boise State (7-3, 4-2) still can win the Mountain by beating Air Force on Friday in Boise and San Jose State the following week on the road.

The key stretch in the game was early in the fourth quarter after Boise State erased a two-touchdown deficit and tied the game at 17-all. Quarterback Austin Apodoca threw an 81-yard pass to Delane Hart-Johnson and Richard McQuarley followed with a 1-yard touchdown run for a 24-17 lead with 13:44 left in the game.

Three plays later, Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien fired a strike off the body of freshman wide receiver Sean Modster. The ball popped loose and cornerback Cranston Jones intercepted. The Lobos scored three plays later for a 31-17 lead.

Boise State pulled within 31-24 with 2:16 left in the game. After a failed onside kick, the Broncos forced a punt and got the ball at their own 10-yard line with 1:17 left. They eventually had the ball at their own 40 with 1 second left. Rypien threw to wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, who lateraled to wide receiver Austin Cottrell. Cottrell got to the 4-yard line before he was tackled by safety Markel Byrd.

“Everything kind of paused at that moment,” Boise State senior safety Darian Thompson said. “Great effort by those guys. A couple yards short.”

Said Byrd: “That last play was crazy, the whole game was crazy. It’s a great atmosphere here in Boise. Since I’ve been in college, I’ve never been in a game like this. I just had an opportunity to make a tackle for us to win and I just did my best trying to make the tackle.”

New Mexico coach Bob Davie said the Lobos’ penalties (16 for 135 yards) and the Broncos’ fans made the game interesting at the end.

“The atmosphere at halftime, they were so excited and so energetic,” he said of his team. “I said, ‘Listen, calm down a little bit,’ and there in the fourth quarter you could tell we hadn’t been in this position a whole lot. ... We probably turned the corner as far as that (aggressiveness, resiliency, toughness), and we saw it coming early in the season, we just couldn’t consistently do it.”

Some notable numbers from the game:

— Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien set school records with 41 completions and 75 attempts. He threw for 506 yards. The 75 attempts are the most in the nation this season.

— Sperbeck set school records with 20 catches and 281 receiving yards. He has 1,210 yards this season, so he only needs 6 more to break Titus Young’s school record for a season. The 20 catches and 281 yards are the most in the nation this season.

— The Broncos ran 114 plays to New Mexico’s 52. The Broncos outgained the Lobos 638 to 413 and were 9-for-23 on third down while the Lobos were 0-for-10. The difference? Boise State had four turnovers to New Mexico’s two and New Mexico scored 24 points on five red-zone trips while Boise State scored 10 points on six trips.

Dave Southorn’s full game story

Dave’s sidebar on Thomas Sperbeck

BSU Takes

Game stats

NOTABLE QUOTES

Bryan Harsin

— On the dropped passes and other offensive mistakes and whether he saw a performance like this coming: “I didn’t expect the amount of dropped balls that we had. We had a couple that were tipped for picks. ... On the offensive side, in the opponent’s red zone, we didn’t take advantage of that. We were down there ... and didn’t finish with touchdowns in those situations. It really comes down to that. We put ourselves in position. Statistically, yards-wise and all that, it shows up that we moved the ball. But we didn’t do it in the key situations, and that’s really the ultimate reason why I don’t think we won the football game. I thought the defense played well. They hit us on a few plays. They’re going to make some plays. We needed to keep ourselves in position on the offensive side and we just didn’t do that.”

— On the final play: “It’s a play like we’ve seen in a few games in college football that you’re giving your last effort, whatever it takes. (Thomas) Sperbeck did a great job. I thought Austin Cottrell did everything he could. The guy made a play. You’re hoping that you can get one less guy down there (on defense) and he made the play and it’s a credit to New Mexico. They played well. They won the game. ... But ultimately, the goal is not to be in that situation. You go back to the beginning of the game — we probably shouldn’t have put ourselves in that situation, but we did.”

— On QB Brett Rypien: “Statistically, I care about the win, ultimately. We didn’t play well enough to win the game. There were some opportunities — I don’t know exactly why — I just know we didn’t hit some of the throws or we didn’t catch some of the throws. Whatever it was, it’s still not good enough to win the game.”

— On WR Thomas Sperbeck: “He played well. He did. He made plays. ... He’s clutch in the majority of the situations he’s in. He’s been that way all year long.”

— On throwing deep on fourth-and-short in the fourth quarter: “Probably had some other throws that we could have hit in that situation. The thought behind that was to stay aggressive. ... It was a good concept. We chose that and we didn’t get it. We probably had some other opportunities to get that first down and we didn’t.”

— On the replay booth not overturning New Mexico’s first touchdown: “What I saw and what I think everybody saw is it looked clear he stepped out of bounds. I had one view, they had several, and that’s their call.”

— On the loss: “Disappointed for our players, disappointed for our fans, disappointed for our coaches. We lost a game. We still have a lot to keep playing for. Everybody wants to throw things out and all of a sudden we’re looking toward next season. We’re not. We’ve got to get better. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We can get better as a team, better as a staff. That’s our mentality. We think completely different than everybody else.”

— On the Broncos’ rash of poor starts over the past three seasons: “I don’t really know the answer to this. I know this: I know that we get everybody’s best game. Whatever the A-game is of every team, we get it. Now that’s no excuse. We have to have our A-game. We expect to bring our A-game every game as well. ... Why we fall behind? It would probably be turnovers, more than anything. ... One thing we can’t do is not give credit to the teams that we play and how they prepare. Everybody wants to do that and just assume they’re not very good. They’re a good team.”

Boise State wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck's press conference after the New Mexico game.

WR Thomas Sperbeck

— On the dropped balls by the receivers: “It looks like we were trying to catch a lot with our body and that’s on the wide receiver group. Brett’s putting the ball there. We just need to bring them in.”

— On the comeback: “We definitely felt like we were in it the whole time. One thing we did a good job of was keeping our energy up the whole game.”

— On the misfires on vertical passes: “We were just a little off. We just need to hit those shots like we do in practice. One play it’s me, the other play it’s (Rypien). We just need to connect.”

— He said on the last play he had the option of pitching to wide receiver Chaz Anderson or throwing a lateral to Austin Cottrell.

— On the loss: “It’s definitely not a good feeling and not a feeling I ever want to get used to. I don’t think anyone on the team ever does. We just need to bounce back and get ready for Air Force.”

Boise State safety Darian Thompson's press conference after the New Mexico game.

S Darian Thompson

— On the game: “When it comes down to it they made plays more than we did tonight. They were the better team tonight.”

— On the defense: “When you’re playing against an option team like that, it’s critical that you keep your eyes in the right spot. They made a couple of big plays because we had guys not looking in the right spot.”

— On whether the team was rusty after the bye: “Rusty? No. I don’t believe rust is the word. I do believe we had a great two weeks of practice. I guess when the lights came on, we weren’t ready to perform.”

— On the final play: “I was just watching. Everything kind of paused at that moment. Great effort by those guys. A couple yards short.”

Boise State linebacker Tyler Gray's press conference after the New Mexico game.

LB Tyler Gray

— On New Mexico’s big plays: “That’s that offense. They really live off of those explosive plays. You’ve got to have everybody doing their job. It usually comes down to your eyes.”

— On losing at home: “That’s one of the worst feelings, really. Me, the whole team, we’re going to be sick to our stomach for a while.”

SCORING SUMMARY

NEW MEXICO

7

7

3

14

31

BOISE STATE

0

3

7

14

24

FIRST QUARTER

UNM— Jhurell Pressley 74 run (Zack Rogers kick), 3:52. Key play: Pressley broke a tackle as he dashed down the left side of the field, shed Darian Thompson as the safety tried to grab him from behind, took a few strides going sideways down the boundary and cut back to the middle of the field. The play withstood replay review even though it appeared Pressley’s heel touched out of bounds. Drive: 2 plays, 80 yards, :51. New Mexico 7, Boise State 0

SECOND QUARTER

BSU— Tyler Rausa 32 field goal, 14:51. Key plays: Tailback Jeremy McNichols opened the drive with a 33-yard run and wide receiver Chaz Anderson made catches for 11 and 9 yards for first downs. But on third-and-10 at the 15, Anderson dropped a pass that might have gone for a touchdown. Drive: 10 plays, 63 yards, 4:01. New Mexico 7, Boise State 3

UNM— Lamar Jordan 19 run (Rogers kick), 12:28. Key plays: Pressley escaped pressure up the middle by breaking wide right for a 40-yard gain. Tailback Teriyon Gipson add an 8-yard run. Drive: 5 plays, 75 yards, 2:23. New Mexico 14, Boise State 3

THIRD QUARTER

UNM— Rogers 33 field goal, 11:21. Key plays: Safety Markel Byrd intercepted a pass that hit wide receiver A.J. Richardson in stride and deflected to him. Wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck made a touchdown-saving tackle. The Lobos didn’t get a first down. Drive: 4 plays, 7 yards, 1:58. New Mexico 17, Boise State 3

BSU— McNichols 25 run (Rausa kick), 9:50. Key plays: Sperbeck made a 7-yard catch and drew a face-mask penalty and turned a crossing route into 23 yards on third-and-5. Drive: 5 plays, 75 yards, 1:31. New Mexico 17, Boise State 10

FOURTH QUARTER

BSU— McNichols 18 pass from Rypien (Rausa kick), 14:48. Key plays: Backup tailback Kelsey Young carried on five straight plays after McNichols was shaken up, pushing the Broncos into the red zone. The TD came on a screen pass on third-and-14. Drive: 13 plays, 76 yards, 5:02. New Mexico 17, Boise State 17

UNM— Richard McQuarley 1 run (Rogers kick), 13:44. Key play: On second-and-17 from his own 18-yard line, quarterback Austin Apodoca hit wide receiver Delane Hart-Johnson on a deep ball. Hart-Johnson went out of bounds at the 1-yard line for an 81-yard gain. Drive: 3 plays, 75 yards, 1:04. New Mexico 24, Boise State 17

UNM— Gipson 4 run (Rogers kick), 12:09. Key plays: Cornerback Cranston Jones intercepted a pass that deflected off receiver Sean Modster. Apodoca hit running back Daryl Chestnut for a 30-yard gain. Drive: 3 plays, 30 yards, :54. New Mexico 31, Boise State 17

BSU— Jake Roh 28 pass from Rypien (Rausa kick), 2:16. Key plays: Sperbeck made catches of 13, 11 and 12 yards. Drive: 5 plays, 59 yards, :37. New Mexico 31, Boise State 24

• • • 

QUARTERS SUMMARY

First quarter: Boise State squandered an opportunity to build a big early lead. On its first drive, quarterback Brett Rypien threw a pass over the middle on third-and-4 from the New Mexico 9-yard line. Cornerback Isaiah Brown poked the ball away from receiver Chaz Anderson and linebacker Ryan Langford intercepted the deflection. On the next drive, Rypien missed open tailback Jeremy McNichols for what might have been a touchdown. Kicker Tyler Rausa missed a 22-yard field goal on the next play. New Mexico seized the momentum moments later when Jhurrell Pressley darted down the left sideline, made a couple of defenders missed, took a few sideways strides down the sideline as his body turned and escaped for a 74-yard touchdown. He appeared to step out of bounds but the replay booth didn’t overturn the call. In-game analysis: The Broncos had every chance to dominate the quarter. They easily could have been up 14-0 but the passing game was a little off.

Second quarter: The Broncos opened the quarter with a 32-yard field goal by Rausa, but only because Anderson dropped a third-down pass that might have gone for a TD on the previous play. New Mexico responded with another touchdown. Pressley broke a 40-yard run and quarterback Lamar Jordan beat a confused Boise State defense for a 19-yard TD run. The Broncos drove into the red zone again on the next drive but McNichols fumbled a pitch on first-and-goal at the 2-yard line and New Mexico recovered. The Broncos failed on fourth-and-4 at the New Mexico 34-yard line on their next drive. New Mexico could have taken a commanding lead in the final minute of the half but on third-and-13 at the 14 linebacker Ben Weaver made a diving interception. New Mexico linebacker Maurice Daniels also dropped what could have been a pick six earlier in the quarter. In-game analysis: The Broncos’ passing game, which needed to be sharp against the Lobos’ attacking style of defense, was off throughout the first half. Rypien missed several throws — some that were close enough to be caught, others that weren’t close at all — and receivers flat dropped several other passes. The defense played better than last year in Albuquerque but still struggled with the option. Halftime stats: Boise State outgained New Mexico 284-220. New Mexico ran for 160 yards. Boise State was 5-for-10 on third down. New Mexico was 0-for-4. Rypien was 16-for-29 for 213 yards with an interception and two sacks. McNichols had 17 carries for 80 yards and a fumble. Wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck had seven catches for 141 yards. Pressley had four carries for 121 yards.

Third quarter: The Broncos’ defense came up big in the quarter. Rypien threw an interception on a ball that should have been caught by wide receiver A.J. Richardson. The defense forced a field goal. The Broncos, down 17-3, went down the field in five plays for a McNichols touchdown run and the defense made another stop. Late in the quarter, New Mexico reached the Boise State 33-yard line but safety Darian Thompson forced a fumble and defensive end Tyler Horn recovered.

Fourth quarter: The key stretch in the game was early in the fourth quarter after Boise State erased a two-touchdown deficit and tied the game at 17-all. Quarterback Austin Apodoca threw an 81-yard pass to Delane Hart-Johnson and Richard McQuarley followed with a 1-yard touchdown run for a 24-17 lead with 13:44 left in the game. Three plays later, Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien fired a strike off the body of freshman wide receiver Sean Modster. The ball popped loose and cornerback Cranston Jones intercepted. The Lobos scored three plays later for a 31-17 lead. Boise State pulled within 31-24 with 2:16 left in the game. After a failed onside kick, the Broncos forced a punt and got the ball at their own 10-yard line with 1:17 left. They eventually had the ball at their own 40 with 1 second left. Rypien threw to wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, who lateraled to wide receiver Austin Cottrell. Cottrell got to the 4-yard line before he was tackled by safety Markel Byrd.

• • • 

NOTEBOOK

McNichols ties Mountain West record

Boise State sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols tied a Mountain West record by rushing for a touchdown in his ninth straight game Saturday night against New Mexico. He scored on a 25-yard run in the third quarter.

McNichols has rushed for a touchdown in every game in which he has appeared. He added an 18-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

McNichols has rushed for at least 100 yards in five straight games.

Rausa misses chip shot

Boise State senior kicker Tyler Rausa hadn’t missed a field-goal attempt from inside 50 yards in the first nine games of the season but he missed wide right from 22 yards in the first quarter Saturday. Rausa had been 16-for-16 from inside 50 yards.

Rausa made a 32-yarder in the second quarter, his 18th field goal of the season. That’s tied for the fifth-most in school history. Tyler Jones holds the school record with 24 in 2004.

Lineup changes for Broncos

Boise State shifted junior nickel Chanceller James to safety and started three linebackers against New Mexico’s option offense. Junior middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with an injury. Junior Ben Weaver and senior Tyler Gray also started at linebacker. True freshman Tyler Horton made his second start at cornerback, where the Broncos still are missing senior Donte Deayon (knee).

Red-zone stumbles

Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien threw an interception at the goal line in the first quarter — the Broncos’ first red-zone turnover since the Air Force game on Sept. 27, 2014.

Rausa’s missed field goal added another missed opportunity in the red zone. Then in the second quarter, McNichols dropped a pitch and New Mexico recovered on the Lobos’ 1-yard line.

Quick hits

Boise State wore its black uniforms with the orange logo on the helmets and orange facemasks. ... Tight end Jake Hardee and James were single-game captains. ... A moment of silence was held before the game in honor of the victims of the Paris attacks. ... Linebacker Darren Lee and his wife welcomed a daughter, Adalyn Rose, on Nov. 6. Lee carried the Hammer on Saturday. ... New Mexico won the coin toss and took the ball. ... Attendance: 32,780. ... Boise State senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes left the game with an apparent leg injury in the first half and didn’t return.

• • • 

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

Brett Rypien proves ‘hidden spark’ for Broncos

Game breakdown

Key matchup

Boise State players to watch

New Mexico players to watch

Mountain West power poll

Backup WRs shine in key moments

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

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