Bronco Beat

Game recap: McNichols carries Boise State football to road win

Boise State tight end Holden Huff (85) scores a first-half touchdown against San Jose State.
Boise State tight end Holden Huff (85) scores a first-half touchdown against San Jose State. jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

Football: Boise State 40, San Jose State 23

SAN JOSE, Calif. —Boise State sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols broke tackles to score three touchdowns in a 12-minute stretch late in the game Friday afternoon to lead the Broncos to a 40-23 victory against San Jose State.

McNichols, the national leader in touchdowns, caught a pass inside the 5-yard line and dragged a defender to the pylon for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:51 left in the third quarter. The Broncos led 16-10 at that point.

On Boise State’s next play, McNichols met linebacker Frank Ginda in the hole, shed the tackle attempt, broke to the left and dashed down the sideline for an 88-yard touchdown run — the longest run in school history.

Later in the fourth quarter, McNichols ran through Ginda again on a 19-yard TD run that gave the Broncos a commanding 33-16 lead.

McNichols finished with 20 carries for 192 yards, six catches for 40 yards and three total touchdowns. He has 23 touchdowns this season. He also extended his Mountain West record with 11 straight games with a TD run and tied a conference record with his seventh straight 100-yard rushing performance.

San Jose State quarterback Kenny Potter was 28-for-41 for 336 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 46 yards. But he threw a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions when the Spartans needed to score quickly to get back into the game.

Boise State (8-4 overall, 5-3 Mountain West) likely is headed for the Poinsettia Bowl. San Jose State (5-7, 4-4) missed a chance to get bowl-eligible.

Full game story

BSU Takes: Offensive tweaks pay off

Game stats

San Jose State quotes

McNichols delivers career-best performance in win

On an inconsistent team experiencing an up-and-down season, Boise State sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols has been the safest bet in town.

Every game, he scores. Every week since Mountain West play began, he rushes for at least 100 yards.

And so it should have come as little surprise that even though he had 38 rushing yards in the first three quarters Friday afternoon that he exploded for 154 in the fourth quarter.

McNichols finished with a career-high 192 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards and three total touchdowns. He leads the nation with 23 total touchdowns this season, holds a Mountain West record with 11 straight games with a rushing touchdown (every game he has played in this year) and has tied a Mountain West record with seven straight 100-yard rushing games (every MW game he has played in this season).

“He’s a beast, man. I could see it in his eyes before the game that he was out here to get some,” said true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien, who is one of McNichols’ roommates. “He went off tonight.”

McNichols’ first touchdown gave the Broncos the lead late in the third quarter. He caught a pass inside the 5-yard line and carried linebacker Christian Tago to the pylon for the score.

“An unbelievable individual effort,” Rypien said.

On the Broncos’ next play, McNichols darted through a gaping hole, ran through the tackle attempt of linebacker Frank Ginda, cut to the sideline and outran the defense to the end zone. The 88-yard run was the longest in school history.

“We’re coming out and thinking we’re going to drive the ball down, this is going to be another long drive, and he just busts one 88 yards,” Rypien said. “It’s huge.”

McNichols — with help from the offensive line, tight ends and wide receivers (Chaz Anderson got a shout-out from the coaches) — carried on all four plays of a 59-yard touchdown drive later in the quarter. He ran through Ginda on that TD run, too.

“We just physically dominated them with our O-line and the running game,” McNichols said. “That’s how we finished.”

Said San Jose State defensive tackle Tony Popovich: “They scored three touchdowns on missed tackles alone, so that was on the defense. We can’t really deny that.”

Basketball: Michigan State 77, Boise State 67

The Broncos (3-3) fell to the No. 3 Spartans on Friday afternoon in the second day of the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, Calif.

More on the basketball game.

Poinsettia Bowl courts Boise State

Poinsettia Bowl selection committee member Dean Ridgway attended the Boise State-San Jose State football game Friday with a message: The Poinsettia Bowl wants the Broncos (8-4).

“All we can do is put our preference in,” Ridgway said. “We’ve already let the conference know we want Boise State.”

The Mountain West has final say on bowl selections. However, if the Las Vegas Bowl — which owns the Mountain West’s No. 1 pick — takes BYU, then the Poinsettia Bowl gets the No. 1 pick and can take the team it wants.

The Poinsettia Bowl is at 2:30 p.m. MT Dec. 23 in San Diego. The opponent will come from the Mid-American Conference. Toledo, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois are possible opponents.

The Poinsettia preference was boosted by Boise State’s win over San Jose State. A loss could have sent the Broncos to the hometown Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

“As long as they handle their business here today, we have a very strong interest in them,” Ridgway said. “I don’t think it will get muddied up that much.”

Boise State lost to TCU in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl.

“We’ve been in some first-class bowl games and that’s one,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “I’ll never forget that. Nothing but great things to say about it.”

Added linebacker Ben Weaver: “Going to San Diego would be pretty fun.”

NOTABLE QUOTES

DE Kamalei Correa

— On the finish: “The main mojo of this week was to really focus in the fourth quarter and to finish, because the last couple weeks, we really haven’t finished in the fourth quarter. We lost by seven points in both the previous games. That was just our main emphasis this week and I feel we did a really good job of finishing this week.”

— On the win: “It always feels good to win a game. These past two weeks haven’t been what we wanted. But we came out and executed, we finished and I feel like we did our job tonight and came out on top. But I give San Jose a lot of credit, they’re a good football team. We just came out on top.”

LB Ben Weaver

— On defending SJSU QB Kenny Potter: “He’s a heck of a quarterback and can scramble well. He made it rough on us trying to contain him. I think towards the second half we started doing some play calls we maybe haven’t prepared for and I think it helped us towards the end of the game help contain him and get a little pressure on him.”

RB Jeremy McNichols

— On the run game: “Coach Harsin came to me and he wanted me to ... go more downhill and he was telling me that throughout the whole game. He just said, ‘You’re going to get two or three yards in the first half, on those early runs, but then later on those runs will open up for you. It was all him.”

— On needing the win: “It’s all about the guys in the locker room. Nobody pays attention to the outside media and stuff. Coach Hars really preached to us we’re a family inside those doors. We do love the fans, but those guys that go out on the gridiron with us are the most important.”

QB Brett Rypien

— On fewer blitzes from SJSU: “We hit them a couple times when they did bring pressure. Usually defenses, when you burn ’em with the blitz, they start backing off a little bit. That was big early in the game.”

— On the second half: “That’s a huge morale-booster, especially coming off two losses and we’re down at halftime again. But the whole focus this week was just to finish. Coming out of halftime we knew we had to get a drive going. We didn’t score, but we didn’t panic. That was the biggest thing. I think the last couple games we panicked a little bit when things didn’t go our way and i thought we stayed relaxed today and everybody did their job and we all executed.”

— On past panic: “When adversity hit, I felt like we didn’t — and especially me — I didn’t do a good job of rallying the guys and finishing especially. So that was big for us tonight. To come out and just keep fighting all game.”

Coach Bryan Harsin

On offense: “We had a few drives in there that were 15- or 16-play drives. One of the goals in the game was to have extended drives. We talked about on the offensive side just playing offense. We want to strike, we want to score, we want to put points on the board, but we want to play offense. We want to be able to help our defense out a little bit. If we can extend some drives and we can continue to keep the ball in our hands, that doesn’t put our defense out there and i think we’ve done that too much in the previous two games. We’ve had some three-and-outs. We’ve got to allow our defense an opportunity to make their adjustments, to regroup and also to give them some field position. That, to me, was a huge key in the game tonight, those extended drives.”

— On defending San Jose State tailback Tyler Ervin (11 carries, 52 yards): “We won that battle and that was exactly what we were setting out to do.”

— On the team: “I haven’t talked about the negative. I know what we have to do when it comes to the game. We have thousands and thousands of more people that are positive about this football team than negative and unfortunately with social media everybody has a voice. I don’t listen to that and i suggest other people shouldn’t either. but we didn’t have to show anything other than we had to go out and play and execute and find some mojo. And that’s exactly what we did. And i love that about this team: We found a way to win. That’s something, when your back’s against the wall, to me that’s when it’s most difficult and you really shine is when people are pushing against you maybe and our guys didn’t listen to any of that. They kept believing and fought and they went out and won this football game on the road. I hope that continues. I hope we play with that mojo, I hope we continue that confidence, because we’ve had it, and like I’ve said before, you can lose that a little bit but that’s not what we’re trying to get done. We’re trying to continue believing in each other and what we’re doing. This team is strong, this coaching staff is strong, this culture is strong and it showed up today.”

SCORING SUMMARY

BOISE STATE

0

9

7

24

40

SAN JOSE STATE

3

7

0

13

23

FIRST QUARTER

SJSU — Austin Lopez 20 field goal, 6:55. Key plays: Tailback Tyler Ervin broke a 40-yard run on the first play and tight end Billy Freeman rumbled 21 yards on a throwback screen, but end Kamalei Correa sacked quarterback Kenny Potter to help stall the drive. Drive: 7 plays, 67 yards, 3:27. San Jose State 3, Boise State 0

SECOND QUARTER

BSU— Holden Huff 12 pass from Brett Rypien (Tyler Rausa kick failed), 14:56. Key plays: Rypien was 7-for-7 on the drive, including a 13-yard strike to wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck on third-and-13. The TD pass came against a heavy blitz. Drive: 15 plays, 84 yards, 6:58. Boise State 6, San Jose State 3

SJSU— Freeman 35 pass from Potter (Lopez kick), 2:33. Key plays: Potter completed an 8-yard pass on third-and-5, scrambled for 9 yards on third-and-8 and stepped up against pressure to find Freeman on fourth-and-6 for the TD. Drive: 11 plays, 82 yards, 5:43. San Jose State 10, Boise State 6

BSU — Rausa 25 field goal, :00. Key plays: Backup tailback Kelsey Young took a screen pass 18 yards, Sperbeck drew a pass interference penalty and sophomore tight end Alec Dhaenens made a 4-yard catch on fourth-and-2. Tight end Jake Roh was stopped short of the first down on third-and-10 to force the field goal. Drive: 13 plays, 67 yards, 2:33. San Jose State 10, Boise State 9

THIRD QUARTER

BSU— Jeremy McNichols 5 pass from Rypien (Rausa kick), 2:51. Key plays: McNichols gained 11 yards on two carries to dig out of a hole, Sperbeck made a high catch for 13 yards, wide receiver A.J. Richardson contributed a 21-yard catch and Sperbeck ran for 19 yards on a broken trick play. Sperbeck also drew a pass interference penalty on third-and-6. On the two-point try, Sperbeck caught the ball in the end zone but the Broncos were flagged for a pick and had to kick the PAT. Drive: 14 plays, 97 yards, 6:41. Boise State 16, San Jose State 10

FOURTH QUARTER

BSU — McNichols 88 run (Rausa kick), 14:05. Key play: McNichols met linebacker Frank Ginda in the hole, shook him off, darted wide to the sideline and outran the defense. Drive: 1 play, 88 yards, :13. Boise State 23, San Jose State 10

BSU — Rausa 31 field goal, 10:37. Key plays: Linebacker Ben Weaver intercepted a pass for the third straight game. McNichols gained 15 yards on a rush and a reception. Drive: 6 plays, 23 yards, 1:56. Boise State 26, San Jose State 10

SJSU — Hansell Wilson 13 pass from Potter (Tyler Ervin rush failed), 8:29. Key plays: Potter hit wide receiver Tim Crawley for a toe-dragging, 17-yard catch on fourth-and-4. Potter’s TD pass was just over the fingertips of cornerback Donte Deayon. Drive: 10 plays, 75 yards, 2:08. Boise State 26, San Jose State 16

BSU — McNichols 19 run (Rausa kick), 6:21. Key plays: McNichols carried on four straight plays, including a 34-yard run, after a nice kickoff return by Terrell Johnson. Drive: 4 plays, 59 yards, 2:03. Boise State 33, San Jose State 16

SJSU — Crawley 3 pass from Potter (Lopez kick), 2:55. Key plays: Wilson made a 17-yard catch on third-and-6 and Potter ran for 16 yards on fourth-and-11. Drive: 14 plays, 83 yards, 3:21. Boise State 33, San Jose State 23

BSU — K. Young 34 run (Rausa kick), 2:15. Key play: San Jose State’s onside kick went out of bounds. Drive: 2 plays, 44 yards, 0:40. Boise State 40, San Jose State 23

• • • 

QUARTERS SUMMARY

First quarter: Boise State was driving as a fast quarter ended. The two quarterbacks were a combined 12-for-12, which kept the clock moving. San Jose State moved the ball well on its two drives but a fumbled snap/sack by defensive end Tyler Horn and a sack by defensive end Kamalei Correa forced a punt and a short field goal. The Broncos rolled down the field on their second drive as the offense used the pistol, swing passes and a heavy does of tight ends. Quarterback Brett Rypien was 9-for-9 in the quarter.

Second quarter: Boise State tight end Holden Huff caught a 12-yard touchdown pass on third-and-7 on the first play of the quarter. Kicker Tyler Rausa missed the PAT, leaving the Broncos with a 6-3 lead. San Jose State followed with a missed field goal and Boise State with a punt. The Spartans drove 82 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Potter kept the march going with an 8-yard completion on third-and-5 and a 9-yard scramble on third-and-8. He found tight end Billy Freeman over the middle for the TD on fourth-and-6. Boise State got the ball with 2:33 left in the half. Rypien engineered a 13-play, 67-yard drive that ended in a 25-yard Rausa field goal. That made it 10-9. The Broncos trail at halftime for the third straight game and just the second time in the past 11 meetings with San Jose State. Halftime stats: Rypien 19-for-24 for 137 yards and a TD. McNichols 9 carries for 27 yards. Sperbeck 5 catches for 32 yards. Potter 10-for-12 for 149 yards and a TD. Ervin 7 carries for 43 yards. San Jose State outgained Boise State 237-168.

Third quarter: The Broncos punted from within San Jose State territory on their first drive. They got the ball on their own 3 for the second drive. Tailback Jeremy McNichols gained 11 yards on two carries, Sperbeck made a 13-yard catch, A.J. Richardson made a 21-yard catch and Sperbeck scrambled for 19 yards on a broken trick play. After some creative red-zone playcalling that included back-to-back runs by backup quarterback Tommy Stuart, Rypien flipped a pass to McNichols in the flat and the Broncos’ top touchdown scorer dragged a defender 2 yards into the end zone for a 15-10 lead. The Broncos’ two-point conversion was wiped out by penalty so they settled for a PAT and 16-10 lead.

Fourth quarter: The Broncos rushed 205 yards in the quarter, including an 88-yard TD run by McNichols, a 19-yard TD run by McNichols and a 34-yard TD run by Kelsey Young.

• • • 

NOTEBOOK

Weaver does it again

Boise State junior linebacker Ben Weaver went through the first 34 games of his career — 26 of them starts — without an interception.

And now he has a three-game interception streak.

Weaver picked off San Jose State’s Kenny Potter in the fourth quarter Friday at Spartan Stadium moments after the Broncos took a 23-10 lead. The turnover resulted in a field goal as the Broncos pulled away for a 40-23 win.

“I guess three years of preparing finally started to pay off a little bit,” Weaver said.

Fellow linebacker Joe Martarano made a one-handed interception later in the quarter — the first of his career and a one-hander. The Broncos now have 22 interceptions this season as a team.

“Joey Martarano might have had one of the most spectacular catches I’ve ever seen by anybody, let alone a linebacker,” coach Bryan Harsin said.

Broncos juggle defenders because of injuries

Boise State started three players out of position on defense because of injuries — including one that happened during warmups.

Senior linebacker Tyler Gray tweaked something before the game, Harsin said, and couldn’t play. The Broncos shifted middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo to nickel/strong-side linebacker, where he played last season. Martarano made his third start of the season at middle linebacker.

Vallejo led the team with nine tackles. Martarano was second with eight. Weaver added four tackles.

“For that linebacker group to play the way they did, that’s a credit to those guys,” Harsin said.

The starting safeties were junior Chanceller James and senior Mercy Maston, who have spent most of the year playing nickel. James has played safety in three straight games but Maston, a former cornerback, is a newcomer to the job.

Maston started over sophomore Kam Miles, who replaced the injured Dylan Sumner-Gardner earlier this season. Maston made seven tackles.

“It was just his chance,” defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said. “I gave Kam a chance last week (against Air Force) and he didn’t play as well as we wanted him to so it was just time for us to give Mercy a chance. He had a good week of practice and I thought he played well tonight. ... I don’t remember anything he did that hurt us.”

Senior safety Darian Thompson (concussion) and senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes (ankle) missed their second straight games. The Broncos have played five straight games without either senior cornerback Donte Deayon (Wyoming, UNLV, New Mexico) or Thompson (Air Force, San Jose State), two defensive stars.

True freshman cornerback Tyler Horton, a key backup, also didn’t play because of injury.

Wide receiver Austin Cottrell left the game with a leg injury and was wearing a protective boot on the sideline.

Quick hits

Boise State wore blue pants, white jerseys and orange helmets. The Broncos lost to Ole Miss and Air Force last year in the debut of the orange helmets and beat Idaho State in them earlier this year. ... The single-game captains were WR Terrell Johnson and DE Sam McCaskill. ... TE Jake Roh carried the Hammer. ... Boise State won the coin toss and deferred. ... Boise State is 12-0 against San Jose State all-time. ... Kicker Tyler Rausa made his FBS-best 23rd field goal of the season. He’s one off the school record of 24, set by Tyler Jones in 2004.

• • • 

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

A season of disappointment

Boise State’s Mr. Consistent: Steven Baggett

SJSU players to watch

BSU players to watch

Key matchup

Bowl projections

Boise State defense eager for conventional game

Boise State O-line ‘hitting a stride’

Boise State offense not ‘broken by any means’

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