The first half of Mario Cristobal‘s Oregon debut has been one to forget. A Ducks offense that averaged north of 50 points a game with starting quarterback Justin Hebert running point has been held scoreless as No. 25 Boise State holds a most unconventional 24-14 lead at the break at the Las Vegas Bowl.
The Broncos opened a three-and-out to open the game, then rolled down the field, going 67 yards in 13 plays and concluding with a nifty 1-yard Ryan Wolpin run.
Boise State forced another three-and-out on Oregon’s next possession and again moved into scoring territory when the Ducks scored their best play of the game, as cornerback Arrion Springs baited Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien into throwing an end zone interception.
It didn’t matter, though, because Oregon running back Tony Brooks-James was forced into a fumble by the Broncos’ Leighton Vander Esch, and Rypien erased his mistake with a 26-yard scoring strike to Cedrick Wilson.
The first quarter closed with another minus-territory fumble, as this time Hebert lost the ball as he was being sacked at his own 21 but Boise State could not capitalize when Haden Hoggarth missed a 42-yard field goal.
After another Oregon punt, Hoggarth pushed Boise’s lead to 17-0 by converting a 39-yard field goal at the 8:59 mark of the second quarter.
Hebert followed up his fumble with two consecutive interceptions, with the second pick being returned 53 yards for a touchdown by Kekaula Kaniho, pushing the lead to 24-0 with 5:11 left in the first half.
Boise State had a chance to close the half with a 31-0 lead, but instead let Oregon back in the game with two disastrous plays inside the final minute. First, a Statue of Liberty play backfired when Rypien’s exchange bounced off Alexander Mattison‘s face mask and Oregon’s Troy Dye picked it up and raced 86 yards for the Ducks’ first touchdown with 37 ticks left in the half. Then, after a 67-yard completion to Wilson, Rypien’s pass into the end zone was intercepted and returned for a 100-yard touchdown by Oregon’s Tyree Robinson with seven seconds left, giving Oregon 14 defensive points in a 30-second span.
And now both teams reconcile with a 24-14 halftime score despite Oregon not running a single play in Boise State territory. The Broncos hold a 295-77 edge in total yardage, a 17-4 advantage in first downs and forced four Oregon turnovers.
Rypien hit 12-of-24 passes for 222 yards with a touchdown and two picks, Wolpin led all runners with 10 carries for 34 yards and a touchdown, and Wilson has been the best player on the field with six grabs for 133 yards and a touchdown. Hebert completed 10-of-15 passes for only 43 yards and two interceptions, and the Ducks mustered just 34 yards on 16 rushes.