MW Notebook: Boise State gets back on track

The Sports Xchange

September 27, 2015 at 6:52 pm.

Sep 25, 2015; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Boise State Broncos wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes (1) runs with the ball as Virginia Cavaliers safety Wilfred Wahee (28) makes the tackle in the third quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 25, 2015; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Boise State Broncos wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes (1) runs with the ball as Virginia Cavaliers safety Wilfred Wahee (28) makes the tackle in the third quarter at Scott Stadium. Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountain West’s ugly start to the 2015 season may not matter if Boise State keeps playing like it has the past two weeks.

The Broncos smashed Virginia 56-14 in a high-profile road game Friday to end the conference’s 21-game losing streak against FBS teams from other conferences.

The Broncos improved to 3-1 with wins against Washington of the Pac-12 and Virginia of the ACC. They have beaten two Power 5 teams during the regular season for the first time since 2010 and they beat a Power 5 team in a true road game for just the second time in school history (Oregon, 2008, was the other).

The loss to BYU keeps Boise State out of the driver’s seat in the New Year’s Six race for now, but if the top teams in the other four Group of Five conferences each have a loss, the Broncos’ resume and brand will put them in a strong position again this year.

AIR FORCE (2-1, 1-0)

Game: Bye

Next: at Navy, Oct. 3

BOISE STATE (3-1, 0-0)

Game: Boise State 56, Virginia 14. Defensive tackle Justin Taimatuia returned an interception for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage to spark the romp at Virginia. The defense scored two touchdowns and a safety to support true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien, who threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns in his first start.

Takeaway: Boise State has looked like a different team since Rypien entered the Idaho State game in the second half. He has run 17 drives and produced 64 points.

Next: vs. Hawaii, Oct. 3


Game: Colorado State 33, UTSA 31. The Rams ended a two-game overtime losing streak with a more difficult than expected victory at winless UTSA. Quarterback Nick Stevens tossed three touchdown passes, star wide receiver Rashard Higgins contributed another 100-yard game and tailback Jason Oden added 143 yards on 30 carries.

Takeaway: This was a must-win for the Rams, who were coming off overtime losses to Minnesota and Colorado and needed some confidence going into a difficult stretch of conference games: at Utah State, vs. Boise State, vs. Air Force. “It was a great night for our team,” first-year coach Mike Bobo said, according to the Coloradoan. “First of all, we won the ballgame. And the second thing is that we were able to win it with some adversity and to finish the game. I told the guys there (in the locker room) I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way than to have to win the game the way we did, to have to conquer some demons.”

Next: at Utah State, Oct. 3

FRESNO STATE (1-3, 0-1)

Game: San Jose State 49, Fresno State 23. Ford Childress became the Bulldogs’ third starting quarterback after an injury to Chason Virgil and suspension to Zack Greenlee. Childress produced just 159 passing yards while San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin rushed for 300 yards and three TDs.

Takeaway: Fresno State’s season is on the verge of disaster with a messy quarterback situation, ineffective offense and defense that is getting gutted on a weekly basis.

Next: at San Diego State, Oct. 3

HAWAII (2-2, 0-0)

Game: Wisconsin 28, Hawaii 0. QB Max Wittek threw for 189 yards and the Warriors rushed for just 15 yards as they were shut out for the second time this season by a Big Ten team.

Takeaway: Hawaii’s defense has shown impressive fight on the road against Ohio State and Wisconsin but the offense continues to struggle, as it has throughout Norm Chow’s tenure. The Warriors didn’t help themselves with penalties: 11 for 100 yards, including penalties that turned a drive to the 1-yard line into a 49-yard field-goal attempt that was missed.

Next: at Boise State, Oct. 3

NEVADA (2-2, 0-0)

Game: Nevada 24, Buffalo 21. Dameon Baber grabbed an interception to end Buffalo’s potential game-winning drive and seal a road victory. Baber is a true freshman who finished with 10 tackles and two picks in his debut. Nevada won the turnover battle 3-0 to offset a woeful passing game that produced 90 yards and was hampered by frequent drops.

Takeaway: Nevada improved to 3-7 in games decided by a touchdown or less during coach Brian Polian’s tenure. Polian admitted the game was “kind of ugly at times,” but it provides a shot of momentum as the Wolf Pack head into conference play and a West Division that is very winnable.

Next: vs. UNLV, Oct. 3

NEW MEXICO (2-2, 1-0)

Game: New Mexico 38, Wyoming 28. New Mexico won its conference opener for the first time since 2005. The Lobos rushed for 302 yards and averaged 6.4 yards per carry. QB Lamar Jordan contributed 147 rushing yards, 107 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Takeaway: Jordan might have solidified his hold on the starting QB job with a big performance as the Lobos have placed a premium on reviving their triple-option attack. If the Lobos can beat rival New Mexico State next week, they can start thinking about a possible bowl run.

Next: vs. New Mexico State, Oct. 3

SAN DIEGO STATE (1-3, 0-0)

Game: Penn State 37, San Diego State 21. For the third straight game, the Aztecs dug themselves a hole with a meltdown right around halftime. This time, they muffed a punt and fumbled while trying to run out the clock, setting up a pair of Penn State touchdowns in the final 1:03 of the half. Penn State added a 71-yard fumble return for a TD in the second half.

Takeaway: San Diego State’s offense continues to struggle, which makes it impossible for the Aztecs to overcome their game-changing mistakes. Tailback Donnel Pumphrey, an expected all-Mountain West player, has hit the 100-yard mark just once in four games.

Next: vs. Fresno State, Oct. 3

SAN JOSE STATE (2-2, 1-1)

Game: San Jose State 49, Fresno State 23. Tyler Ervin rushed for a school-record 300 yards on 42 carries. He also scored three touchdowns. Backup QB Joe Gray added 252 yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-23 passing.

Takeaway: The Spartans ended an eight-game losing streak against FBS teams and showed how much they’ve improved since last year. They lost their previous Mountain West game at Air Force, but that game was close in the fourth quarter. This could be a difficult team to beat in San Jose.

Next: at Auburn, Oct. 3

UNLV (1-3, 0-0)

Game: UNLV 80, Idaho State 8. UNLV set school and Mountain West records with 80 points and a school record with a 73-point victory over the FCS Bengals. The Rebels also set records for points in a quarter (35) and a first half (52). “I think anybody that’s going to turn on the film these next couple of weeks and watch tonight’s game is going to be a little scared to come up against us,” UNLV quarterback Blake Decker said.

Takeaway: UNLV intercepted four passes and now has eight interceptions this season despite playing three teams likely headed to bowls — Northern Illinois, UCLA and Michigan. First-year coach Tony Sanchez has the Rebels trending upward. How much will be determined this week against Nevada in the annual Battle for the Fremont Cannon.

Next: at Nevada, Oct. 3

UTAH STATE (1-2, 0-0)

Game: Bye

Next: vs. Colorado State, Oct. 3

WYOMING (0-4, 0-1)

Game: New Mexico 38, Wyoming 28. QB Cameron Coffman threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns to rally the Cowboys but also tossed a pair of fourth quarter interceptions as the effort fell short. Wyoming fell behind by 21 points in the first half and was unable to contain the New Mexico rushing attack.

Takeaway: Wyoming is in danger of going winless this season, having lost to one of the least-successful programs in the West (New Mexico) and an FCS team.

Next: at Appalachian State, Oct. 3


1. Brett Rypien could be Mountain West’s top QB. The Mountain West might have found its exciting quarterback in Boise State true freshman Brett Rypien, who threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover in his first start on the road against an ACC school, Virginia.

2. Nevada and San Jose State look like West Division contenders. The West is a mess with San Diego State and Fresno State struggling. That opens the door for teams like Nevada and San Jose State to make a run at the division title. Fresno State has won the West the first two years.

3. Fresno State could be home for December. The Bulldogs, who played in the Mountain West championship game last season, have been dreadful so far this year. A blowout loss to rival San Jose State, a team Fresno State used to dominate, was the latest sign that this will be a disappointing year.

4. The streak is broken. The Mountain West’s 21-game nonconference losing streak against FBS opponents ended Friday when Boise State won at Virginia. Nevada topped Buffalo and Colorado State edged UTSA to give the league three nonconference road wins on the week.

5. UNLV is intriguing. The Rebels already had many eyes on them this year because they hired high school coach Tony Sanchez to breathe some life into the program. They showed promise during their 0-3 start against a difficult schedule. But nobody saw Saturday’s 80-point explosion coming. Boise State scored 52 against that Idaho State team a week earlier.