No. 21 Boise State came into Friday night’s game in Logan riding a 12-game winning streak against Utah State. If they’re going to make it a baker’s dozen against their Mountain West foes — and remain in the Group of Five picture — they’re gonna have to do it coming from behind. From way, way, waaayyy behind.
Through two quarters of play, a stunned Broncos squad finds itself down 45-10 to the home-standing Aggies. In the Broncos’ last four games, all wins, they’d allowed a combined 24 points. The only game in which the defense had allowed more than 14 points this season came in a Week 2, a 35-24 loss at BYU.
To say that the Broncos’ offense has been off its game — and the Aggies’ defense on its — would be an understatement. Boise came into the game 10th nationally in scoring offense (40.7 ppg) and 19th in total offense (482.3 ppg); the Aggies held the Broncos to negative first-quarter yardage and didn’t allow a first down until a couple of minutes were gone in the second quarter.
The key sequence of the half, and perhaps the game as well as the Broncos’ postseason, came late in the first and on into the second quarter, with Boise trailing 7-3 at the time.
USU’s Jake Thompson hit on a 51-yard field goal that seemingly would’ve been good from 71 yards out with 3:17 left in the opening quarter. On the ensuing possession, true freshman Brett Rypien was sacked on a third-and-seven and fumbled, with the recovery giving the Aggies the ball at the Broncos’ 11-yard line. Three plays later, Kent Meyers hit Hunter Sharp from 10 yards out for a touchdown. On Boise’s next play from scrimmage, another Rypien fumble on a strip-sack was again recovered by USU at the opponent’s 15; three plays after that, LaJuan Hunt scored on a four-yard run.
So, in a span of 3:48, the Broncos saw a four-point deficit balloon to 21 at 24-3 thanks to two costly turnovers. A third turnover, Rypien’s first interception of the game, on the drive after Hunt’s touchdown didn’t hurt the Broncos on the scoreboard as the Aggies were forced to punt for the first time since very early in the first quarter.
The Broncos actually turned it over on four straight possessions, but the Aggies fumbled a second Rypien pick back to Boise. The visitors then turned that turnover flip-flop into a positive — a Kelsey Young one-yard run — to seemingly give the Broncos some much-needed momentum heading into the locker room.
Unbelievably, and after forcing a three-and-out with 2:30 minutes left that gave them the ball just shy of the 50 with a chance to add to the momentum, the Broncos handed the ball back to the Aggies on a Devan Demas fumble with 2:09 left in the quarter. A 39-yard touchdown run by Meyers a minute later stripped the Broncos of any momentum they may have gotten from the Young score.
But wait, there’s more. Seriously.
On the very next possession, with just 1:12 left in the half, a Rypien pass completion to Chaz Anderson was in turn fumbled, with USU recovering at the 20-yard line. For those keeping score at home, that’s six turnovers for the Broncos — four lost fumbles, two interceptions.
One play later, USU put what could have been the final nail in Boise’s coffin as Meyers hit Sharp on a 21-yard touchdown catch.
But wait, there’s more. Seriously.
With :11 seconds to play, Rypien threw his third pick of the game, which Marwin Evans returned 90 yards for a touchdown as the final seconds ticked off the clock. And that pick came on the play right after another Rypien fumble recovered by the Aggies was instead ruled as an incomplete pass.
So, if you’re keeping a final score at home, that’s seven turnovers, five for which Rypien was directly responsible. In the Broncos’ first six games, they had turned the ball over six times combined.
They do get the ball first to start the second half, so that have that going for them, which is nice.
One final note: The FBS record for turnovers in a game is 13 (five fumbles, eight interceptions) by Georgia vs. Georgia Tech back on Dec. 1, 1951. Hey, it’s something to shoot for at least.
One final non-turnover note: in other Group of Five action, undefeated and 24th-ranked Houston has taken a comfortable 28-7 lead on the road into the half against 2-3 Tulane. UH quarterback Greg Ward Jr., who came into the game as the only FBS player averaging 200 yards passing and 100 yards rushing, has totaled 263 yards of offense — 213 passing, 50 rushing.