BOISE, Idaho--Running back Jeremy McNichols ran for 166 yards in his return to the lineup and quarterback Brett Rypien completed 13 of his first 14 passes as Boise State coasted to a 34-14 Homecoming win over Wyoming last night in Albertsons Stadium. It was the worst loss of the season for the Cowboys.
The Broncos, who suffered a 52-26 defeat last week to Utah State, became bowl eligible for the 18th-straight season and now find themselves tied for the Mountain Division lead with the Aggies and Air Force. All three teams sport 3-1 records in the Mountain West Conference. The Aggies were humiliated by San Diego State 48-14 Friday night. Boise State has the best overall record in the conference at 6-2 with an undefeated record against the Resource Five, thanks to wins over Washington (16-13) and Virginia (56-14).
Rypien bounced back from a harrowing experience last weekend in which he was pressured throughout the game to throw for 211 yards and three touchdowns against Wyoming.
"Tonight, (Rypien) hung onto the ball. He did a better job in the pocket. He stepped up and was aggressive that way," Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. "Those are things you want to see the next week when you play -- you want to see those mistakes being corrected. And he did that. It's just a continuation of his growth."
Rypien threaded the needle on a 13-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck for a 7-0 lead. Tyler Rausa connected on a 39-yard field goal to advance the Bronco lead to 10-0. On Wyoming's next possession, defensive end Tyler Horn, in pursuit of Cowboy quarterback Cameron Coffman, intercepted a throw at the Wyoming 46 and rambled 45 yards along the Bronco sideline to the one-yard line. McNichols plunged over the goal line on the next play to advance the lead to 17-0 in the first quarter.
"The back came up, we knew he was cutting a lot, he didn’t cut me, and he kind of let me go free," Horn said. "I saw the quarterback’s eyes, read it, and he threw it to me. It was good to catch it and run. I was pretty tired when I caught it. I was just thinking hold onto the ball. I felt him close in on me fast. He has a lot more speed than I do. I just saw the end zone; saw Kamalei was blocking the quarterback, so I just ran as fast as I could."
With 7:37 remaining in the half, Rypien found McNichols in the right flat for a four-yard touchdown pass as the Broncos built a 24-0 lead.
Wyoming scored their first points with one minute left before halftime as Coffman hit Jake Maulhardt from 15 yards out. It was the first offensive touchdown the Broncos have given up at home this season, ending a streak of 214 minutes and 34 seconds. The last offensive touchdown Boise State gave up in Albertsons Stadium was in the Mountain West Championship on December 6, 2014. The touchdown also ended Boise State's overall shutout streak at home at 156:32, with the last score given up at Albertsons Stadium being a 28-yard field goal by Washington's Cameron Van Winkle in the season opener on September 4.
Rypien and Sperbeck connected again in the third quarter. Despite pass interference that wasn't called and two Cowboy defenders, Sperbeck hauled in the pass for a 36-yard scoring play for the Broncos' final points.
Wyoming lost Coffman, who left the game with an injury to his right shoulder. Backup quarterback Nick Smith guided the Cowboys on an 11-play, 83-yard drive punctuated by Smith's six-yard TD run for the final margin.
McNichols, who sat out the Utah State game for precautionary measures after suffering a concussion against Colorado State, came back strong, carrying the ball for a career high 33 times and hauling in seven passes for 36 yards. Jeremy's two touchdowns brought his season total to 16, second-best in the Football Bowl Subdivision to Baylor's Corey Coleman.
"We wanted to come in and run the ball, but whatever coach calls going through the game, we go with it," McNichols said. "It hurt just watching that game last week. So, I came in with a chip on my shoulder and wanted to help the team tonight."
In doing so, McNichols outperformed Brian Hill, the #4 rusher in the country coming into the game. Hill, who came into the game averaging 140.7 yards per game, was held to 76 yards on 23 carries but eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Wyoming managed just 233 yards, its lowest output of the season.
"He’s been huge," Sperbeck said of McNichols. "He’s been playing lights out. It opens up the pass game, and the pass game opens up the run game. We just build off of each other. J-Mac’s a tough kid, you guys see it. He fights for every yard he gets. We appreciate that a lot."
Wyoming fell to 1-7 overall and 1-3 in the conference, with their only win coming at the hands of Nevada.
"I think we're still a few classes away, but we're getting there," said Wyoming coach Craig Bohl. "Our players have proven to be resilient. They continue to play hard even when we get down like we were."
Sperbeck caught six passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns, including a highlight reel catch along the east sideline in which he tapped the ball to himself and hauled it in, all the while keeping his feet inbounds. Sperbeck's two TD receptions increased his Mountain West-leading touchdown reception total to seven.
"Thomas has really made some spectacular catches," Harsin said. "I go back to one of the first catches we’ve seen him make against Air Force. That to me right there, that’s not anything that we worked on. That’s something he has that not many people do."
Rypien finished 22-28 passing for 228 yards and three touchdowns, his third game with three passing touchdowns in five starts. Rypien passed former Bronco great Tony Hilde (1,461 passing yards in 1993) and is now behind only Kellen Moore (3,486 yards in 2008) for season passing yards by a freshman.
Linebacker Joe Martarano started in place of an injured Tanner Vallejo and was one of the Broncos' leading tacklers with six. "It’s a good feeling," Martarano said. "You prepare every week for that chance, so whenever you get that chance you can make the best of it. I felt like I had a pretty good game. There’s always stuff to work on."
Boise State travels to UNLV for a game next Saturday against the improved Rebels.