BOISE, Idaho – When the Boise State football team took the field Saturday against Nevada at Albertsons Stadium, the Broncos were led by a local face.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Benton Wickersham of Elko carried the “Bleed Blue” flag, unleashing a louder-than-usual cheer from BSU and Nevada fans alike, Elko County traveling a swarm of supporters to the rivalry game.
The contest was a close battle in the first half, but the Broncos pulled away from the Wolf Pack and won by a final score of 41-14.
Nevada received the opening kick and marched 75 yards in 13 plays.
Junior quarterback Ty Gangi opened the drive with a 13-yard pass to freshman receiver McLane Mannix.
Facing 4th-and-1 from its 47-yard line, Nevada left the offense on the field and went with a wildcat formation. Sophomore running back Kelton Moore took the snap and kept the drive alive with a three-yard carry.
Mannix caught his second pass for another first down to the BSU 37, and runs by Moore and Gangi set up the Wolf Pack at the Broncos’ 17.
Moore picked up another chain-mover on an eight-yard tote, capping the 6:15 march with a four-yard carry up the middle.
Sophomore kicker Spencer Pettit knocked home the point after, giving Nevada a 7-0 lead.
Boise State began its first drive from the 27-yard line, going to the air early.
Senior Cedrick Wilson caught two passes from junior quarterback Brett Rypien, gaining 14 yards and eight yards.
Rypien fired another first-down throw to freshman CT Thomas at the Nevada 37, and Wilson moved the ball to the 29 on his third reception – coming from senior QB Montell Cozart.
Cozart moved the sticks with a three-yard carry, and the Broncos broke out some trickery on 2nd down.
BSU ran a reverse to Wilson, who set and fired down the right sideline to Rypien out of the backfield to the Nevada 11.
Senior tight end Alec Dhaenens moved the ball to the Nevada 3 with an eight-yard catch, but the Wolf Pack stiffened against the run and forced a field goal.
The 20-yard boot by junior Haden Hoggarth pulled the Broncos to within four at 7-3 with 3:58 remaining in the first quarter.
Nevada’s second drive ended with a turnover.
On 3rd-and-8 from the Wolf Pack 39, Gangi’s pass was picked off by Boise State by sophomore safety Kekoa Nawahine, who returned the ball 13 yards to the Nevada 37.
The Broncos picked up first downs with throws from Cozart to Thomas and Rypien to junior A.J. Richardson to the Nevada 13.
On 2nd down, sophomore Alexander Mattison turned BSU’s takeaway into points.
He found the left edge and great blocking, giving the Broncos a 10-7 lead following Hoggarth’s PAT with 1:42 on the clock.
The Wolf Pack answered, making their second 75-yard march of the ballgame.
Gangi completed a 26-yard pass to senior receiver Wyatt Demps down the right sideline on the final play of the first quarter.
Moore carried for nine yards on two runs, receiving the next snap from the wildcat on 3rd-and-1.
Boise State plugged the middle on the option read but lost outside contain and Moore, who found nothing but blue turf in front of him down the left hash.
He ran 34 yards all the way to the Broncos’ 3, the drive capped by a one-yard, play-action pass from Gangi to freshman Trevion Armstrong.
Pettit’s kick gave the Wolf Pack a 14-10 lead with 12:42 remaining in the half.
The momentum swung in a big way on the ensuing kick.
Nevada tried to catch Boise State sleeping and nearly recovered an onside kick, but the Broncos jumped on the loose ball – wasting no time in making the Wolf Pack pay.
On the second play of the drive, Rypien went deep down the middle into double coverage.
Wilson made a circus catch as he came back to the ball for a 44-yard TD.
Following the PAT, BSU led 17-14 with 11:50 on the clock.
On 3rd-and-10 from the Broncos’ 45, the Wolf Pack saw the game begin to slip away.
Gangi’s pass was picked off by freshman defensive end Curtis Weaver, who dropped back into coverage, returning the interception to the Nevada 47.
Boise State faced 3rd-and-9 from the Nevada 24, but Rypien threw a 21-yard pass to senior running back Ryan Wolpin between the linebacker and defensive back down the right sideline on a wheel route to the Wolf Pack 3.
Wolpin was rewarded with consecutive carries, punching the second home from a yard out.
The extra point was good and pushed the Broncos to a 24-14 advantage with 5:35 remaining in the half.
The Boise State defense forced the first punt of the ballgame on Nevada’s next possession, taking over on the 25-yard line.
BSU went 75 yards in seven plays, sparked by the passing of Rypien and the receiving of senior tight end Jake Roh.
Roh caught his first ball of the drive for 19 yards to the 41-yard line, Richardson reeling in an 18-yard pass from Rypien to the Nevada 26.
From the 25, Rypien went down the seam, Roh making a remarkable grab for a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Hoggarth’s PAT gave the Broncos a 31-14 lead at the break.
The Broncos received the second-half kick and essentially put Nevada on notice that an upset was not going to happen.
Turning from receiver to passer once again, Wilson launched his second long toss of the game.
Cozart threw a bubble screen to Wilson and took off down the middle of the field, Wilson sending a picture-perfect ball to Cozart for a 31-yard catch and run to the Wolf Pack 28.
Rypien rushed up the gut for 14 yards and a first down to the 6-yard line, Mattison tallying his second touchdown of the night on a great cutback from right to left – outrunning the backside pursuit.
The extra point gave the Broncos a 38-14 lead with 11:03 on the clock.
Mattison opened BSU’s final scoring drive after a Nevada punt with a 13-yard carry, hurdling a defender.
Dhaenens gave the Broncos another first down with a nine-yard catch at the Nevada 38, but the Broncos missed out on a big play from another great catch by Wilson down the left side for 32 yards.
BSU was penalized for an ineligible receiver downfield.
The Broncos had to settle for a field goal from Hoggarth, banging home the final points of the contest from 40 yards with 12:48 remaining.
Nevada’s next drive ended with a ridiculous interception by junior cornerback Tyler Horton on the left sideline, going parallel with the ground while being ripped down from behind at the Boise State 6.
The Broncos improved to 7-2 (5-0 in Mountain West-Mountain) with a 41-14 victory, dropping Nevada to 1-8 on the season and 1-4 in the Mountain West-West.
Boise State led the battle of total offense 479 yards to 302, the bulk of the Wolf Pack’s offense coming on two 75-yard drives in the first half.
Rypien finished 20-for-27 for 258 yards passing, throwing two touchdowns.
Mattison packed the ball 64 yards on 12 carries, scoring two rushing TDs.
Moore led the Wolf Pack with a game-high 106 rushing yards on 17 carries, including a touchdown.
Wilson topped BSU with a game-high 80 receiving yards on five catches, reeling in a TD.
Roh finished with four catches for 67 yards and touchdown grab.
Gangi closed the game 24-for-37 for 160 yards and a touchdown, but he threw three interceptions.
Demps led Nevada with 61 yards receiving, catching six balls.
Sophomore defensive back DeAndre Pierce led the Broncos with 10 tackles, followed by seven from junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
Junior cornerbacks Akhi Muhammad and Asauni Rufus each tallied seven stops for the Wolf Pack.
Nawahine, Weaver and Horton came up with the only takeaways of the game, each coming on interceptions for the Broncos.
Wickersham finished with two tackles for Boise State.
Boise State will play its next game on the road at 8:30 p.m. MST on Saturday against Colorado State (6-4 overall, 4-2 in MW) in Fort Collins, the game broadcast on CBS Sports Network (Channel 158 on Dish Network and Channel 221 on DirecTV).
Nevada will host San Jose State (1-9 overall, 0-5 in MW) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mackay Stadium in Reno, streaming live online on ESPN3 through the WatchESPN app.