Broncos, 21—Aggies, 10.
It wasn’t the savage, vengeful bloodletting that was expected (hoped?), but a win is a win.
Boise State welcomed Utah State to Albertson's Stadium in front of a crowd of 36,602—the 4th largest in school history.
At the outset of game 1 on the 'Vengeance Is Ours' tour, Boise State won the toss and elected to receive. The first drive stalled at midfield, but it was already a win, of sorts, as TE Jake Roh was finally back on the field.
On the ensuing Utah State drive, the Broncos defense bent a little before breaking the Aggies on a McCaskill TFL that was immediately followed by Leighton Vander Esch decapitating a Utah State ball carrier short of the first down marker. USU punt.
Key takeaways from this defensive series:
1) Although Joe Martarano would take the field later in the half, Darren Lee got the start at middle linebacker.
2) No sign of Tanner Vallejo. Washington State wide receivers breathed a sigh of relief, despite being a state away, and well into a beatdown of the Oregon Ducks.
Midway through the first quarter, after a few possession changes, the Broncos got on the board with a 61 yard gadget pass from Cedrick Wilson to Jeremy McNichols. Wilson is clearly gunning for emergency QB consideration, in the event of a Patriots-esque QB-ocalypse.
From there, the game then kind of devolved into a punt-y slogfest for awhile. In the interest of sparing our readers the monotony that was most of the first half, we'll go 'quick-hit' style to summarize. After the BSU score:
Moxey can't quite corral a tip-drill pick and USU settles for a field goal. 7-3, Broncos.
USU posession, McCaskill sack, USU punt. The punt, however, is muffed by Akilian Butler, aka, AK-81 (say that 10x, fast). USU recovered, but their drive was stalled by the Moa Constrictor and McCaskill on third down to force a FG attempt--which missed.
Then it was halftime. Mercifully. Brett Rypien only had 38 passing yards in the first half, and aside from the 61 yard reception, McNichols only had 33 yards on the ground. The first half was all defense, but Boise State's defenders didn't disappoint. Sacks and tackles-for-a-loss were abundant. McCaskill led in both categories with 1.5 and 2.5, respectively.
Utah State opened the 2nd half with a 45 yard QB keeper, but a Jabril Frazier sack pulled them out of FG range 2 plays later, and the Aggies were forced to punt.
After an AK-81 (I'm making this nickname happen!) fair catch, the Broncos finally got the ball moving. A few runs moved the chains, and then a Sperbeck, SC Top 10-worthy one-hander put the Broncos in Aggie territory. After an Aggie timeout, McNichols took a swing pass into the red zone, and a Ryp-to-Sperbeck connection was made a play later in the northwest corner of the endzone.
After 10 plays and 85 yards it was 14-3, Broncos.
Immediately after receiving the kick, USU threw a 38 yard pass to cross midfield. Two plays later, the Aggies maintained their 3rd down struggles and failed to convert another, making them 1-11 on third down. Punt.
The teams traded possessions for a few drives, neither able to get much going.
After a USU punt, an Aggie defender drew a targeting penalty on the coverage for diving headfirst at Butler's head, before the ball got to him. For carrying on the proud tradition of sportsmanship by the Utah schools, he was ejected.
Boise State had the ball on the USU 39 to start the third quarter. After a few holding penalties, the Broncos got out of their own way and Rypien found Wilson wide open in the back corner of the end zone on 3rd and 17 for a 36 yard TD
On the ensuing possession, USU false started its way to a 3rd and 32. They gained 14 on 3rd down and then picked up a 1st on the 4th down attempt, due to a Bronco P.I. The drive, some-crazy-how, ended with an Aggie passing TD.
The rest of the fourth quarter was more back and forth by both teams, with the most excitement coming via a highly questionable targeting penalty on BSU cornerback, Jonathan Moxey. After the replay, it was very difficult to see how it could have been upheld, but it was. Because it was was a 2nd half ejection, per NCAA rules, Moxey will now be forced to sit out the first two quarters of the next game. In the postgame press conference, and when he wasn’t busy answering reporters’ cell phones, Coach Harsin confirmed that the play would be one of the handful that is sent into the conference weekly for review. So Moxey could, potentially, have his 2 quarter suspension overturned.
The game ended on a Utah State pass completion in the Bronco red zone. The Aggie comeback attempt coming up very short.
It was certainly not the display of offensive firepower some expected, and it was far from a blowout, but it was a solid win over a division foe. Despite the low score, Boise State has still not trailed yet this season, and there were plenty of other positives for the offense. For the third straight week, Rypien didn't throw a pick, the offense was much better in the second half, and after the slow start, McMichols did actually end up with 226 all-purpose yards—132 on the ground. The defense also continues to be very impressive in Andy Avalos’s first year as defensive coordinator. Next week the Broncos are on the road, and will get this season's first test against a triple option (shudder) offense at New Mexico. So, have a barf bag handy then.
In the meantime...