LAS VEGAS – Pac-12 versus Mountain West, not much of a contest – not in the way analysts predicted either.
Entering the game as seven-point underdogs against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday, the Boise State Broncos showed the experts how to ground the Oregon Ducks.
For the majority of the ballgame, Boise State owned Oregon at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Aside from a 45-second meltdown at the end of the first half, the Broncos dominated the action and rolled over the Ducks for a 38-28 victory – giving Boise State a perfect 4-0 record in Las Vegas Bowls.
After forcing the Ducks to go three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, the Broncos began their march.
Boise State picked up consecutive first downs from senior running back Ryan Wolpin – one through the air and the other on the ground – gaining another chain-mover on third down with a pass from junior quarterback Brett Rypien to senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson to the Oregon 28-yard line.
Wilson caught another first-down ball from senior quarterback Montell Cozart to the Oregon 13.
Facing 4th-and-2 from the Oregon 5, Boise State left the offense on the field and completed a pass to senior tight end Alec Dhaenens to the 1-yard line.
Following a run for no gain, the Broncos set up in a tricky formation – splitting four guys to the right, each spinning in unison just before the snap – Wolpin taking a quick screen pass and punching across the goal line.
The extra point by junior Haden Hoggarth gave Boise State a 7-0 lead with 8:17 remaining in the first quarter.
Oregon went three-and-out once again on the ensuing drive, Boise State earning big stops and big pressure by junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and a great open-field tackle on a pass to the left by sophomore safety Kekoa Nawahine.
The Broncos went straight down the field after the punt, gaining the bulk of the drive’s yardage on a 50-yard bomb on a post route to junior receiver Sean Modster.
However, the drive came crashing down from the 2-yard line, Oregon senior cornerback Arrion Springs intercepting a pass with a remarkable one-handed snag in the end zone for a touchback.
Leave it the BSU defense to make a big play in response.
From Oregon’s own 43, Vander Esch made a perfectly-timed wallop on a reception, jarring the ball loose – Boise State junior defensive end Jabril Frazier making the recovery at the Oregon 32.
The Broncos needed just three plays to cash in, Wilson making a grab across the middle and taking it the rest of the 20 yards after the catch for a 26-yard TD.
Hoggarth’s PAT put the Broncos on top 14-0 with 1:21 remaining in the first.
The Ducks were grounded once again on the following drive, putting the ball on the ground.
Freshman safety Kekaula Kaniho came on a blitz and forced Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert to fumble, the Broncos taking over at the 27-yard line with a recovery by sophomore linebacker Tyson Maeva.
Boise State was unable to capitalize, committing a false start from the 20 and missing a 42-yard field goal to start the second quarter.
The Broncos forced another punt and methodically constructed a 12-play, 62-yard drive and took a 17-0 lead with a 39-yard field goal by Hoggarth with 8:59 remaining in the half.
Oregon’s offense was completely shut down in the first half, Boise State forcing another turnover with an interception by freshman safety Jordan Happle.
The Broncos went three-and-out for the first time and punted, but the defense turned in another gem.
Kaniho undercut a route along the sideline and took the pick-six 53 yards to the house, the ill-advised/poor throw caused by great pressure up the middle by freshman defensive end Curtis Weaver.
Following the PAT, Boise State led 24-0 with 5:11 on the clock.
Boise State forced another punt after a big sack by Vander Esch, and the Broncos moved the ball to the Oregon 10 with 54 seconds remaining in the half.
Then things got quirky; quickly.
Instead of playing for a field goal and going to the locker room with a 27-0 lead – remember the statue of liberty?
Boise State dusted off the old playbook and pulled out the famed call that gave the Broncos their biggest win in program history over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
It worked better the first time around.
The fake-pass, behind-the-back handoff smacked the running back right in the facemask and Oregon sophomore linebacker Troy Dye picked up the loose ball and galloped 81 yards for a touchdown with 37 seconds on the clock.
The extra point by senior kicker Aidan Schneider put the Ducks on the board, trailing 24-7.
The Broncos did not take a knee and go to the locker room, they went deep.
Rypien launched a 65-yard strike to Wilson down the right sideline, but he was dragged down at the Oregon 6.
Run? Nope. Kick? Nope.
Boise State tried throwing a hitch to the outside, the ball floating and underthrown – going the other way.
Senior cornerback Tyree Robinson picked off the pass in the end zone, crossing the goal line on the other end – 100 yards later, new contest.
The PAT pulled the Ducks to within 10 at 24-14 without the Oregon offense ever crossing midfield in the first half.
Boise State answered its first taste of adversity with a touchdown.
The Broncos took the opening kick of the third quarter and went 75 yards in 12 plays, the bulk of the drive coming in a 30-yard chunk on a ridiculous, diving catch by Wilson as he worked back to the football.
From 13 yards out, Rypien capped the drive with his second touchdown pass of the game, coming on a short throw in the left flat to Dhaenens – who made a great recovery after being hit – spinning free, picking up a block by Wolpin and bouncing to the outside and diving at the pylon.
With 9:41 remaining in the third, BSU built a 31-14 lead after the PAT.
The Boise State defense remained solid, while the Oregon defense warmed to the task of keeping the Broncos in check – the remainder of the period consisting of punts.
The Broncos punted for the third-consecutive time to start the fourth quarter, and the Ducks finally posted an offensive touchdown – going 78 yards in eight plays.
The drive was capped by a 24-yard pass from Herbert to sophomore Brenden Schooler.
With 10:07 on the clock, Oregon pulled to within 10 at 31-21 following the extra point.
The teams traded punts once again, and Boise State essentially drove the nail in Oregon’s coffin when it had to.
Starting from their own 14 with 7:35 remaining, the Broncos went 86 yards in 11 plays and chewed up more than five minutes off the clock.
Freshman CT Thomas made a big catch on 3rd-and-9 for 22 yards to the 37.
An 11-yard run by freshman Robert Mahone gave the Broncos another set of downs near midfield.
The back-breaker was provided by Wilson on a 41-yard pass from Rypien on 3rd-and-7 to the Oregon 7.
Boise State gave the rock to Wolpin three times in a row, finally punching through on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 with 2:22 on the clock.
Following the PAT, Boise State led 38-28.
The Ducks went 75 yards in four plays, beginning with a 67-yard strike from Herbert to sophomore receiver Dillon Mitchell.
On 4th-and-goal from the BSU 8, Herbert fired a bullet to freshman Jaylon Redd for the final score.
The PAT pulled the Ducks to within 10 with 1:12 remaining but Oregon’s onside kick was recovered by the Broncos – giving Boise State a 38-28 victory.
The Broncos finished the season with an 11-3 record, while the Ducks dropped to 7-6.
In his final game in blue and orange, Wilson was named the Las Vegas Bowl MVP – catching 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown.
Vander Esch put on a show for the pro scouts – tying for the game high with 12 tackles (10 solo), making three tackles for losses, recording a sack and forcing a fumble – begging the question; will the junior suit up again for the Broncos next season or enter the NFL draft?
The Broncos tallied their fourth victory in the Las Vegas Bowl in four tries, the first under head coach Bryan Harsin.
Boise State won the Las Vegas Bowl three years in a row from 2010 through 2012 under now-Washington coach Chris Petersen.