Boise, Idaho — Well this game was it (kind of). The last home game for the Boise State Broncos in the 2016-17 season. The Broncos’ goal is to win out and make a NY6 game. Though the Broncos can only control their own games, there is still a big glimmer of hope that they can make it to the Promised Land if they get some help from San Diego State and/or New Mexico. UNLV, while 4-6 heading into this game, has a formidable ground game that looks to establish itself. The young receivers tried to be effective despite depth issues. In a crucial game to keep a lucrative post-season alive, the pressure is on.
On a cold night that could have seen a really odd upset, the Broncos, led by McNichols, rushed their way to an overwhelming, and pretty convincing, 42-25 win over the UNLV Rebels. McNichols had 206 yards on 31 attempts and four touchdowns. Brett Rypien had a bit of an off night 10-20 and 109 yards passing. Thomas Sperbeck led Broncos’ receivers with 47 yards. The Rebels’ Kurt Palandech kept the UNLV in “respectable” range with two rushing touchdowns and rushing yards. He was also 10 for 20, one touchdown and 113 passing yards.
The game opened on a not so great note when, on the second play, a pass to Thomas Sperbeck ended with a fumble by Sperbeck. The Mountain West Conference referees were quite indecisive as to whether, or not, they were going to review the call. Unfortunately they did review and the call went against the Broncos.
The Broncos defense had been able to keep UNLV from doing much on the first drive. Two rushing plays and the Rebels managed negative yards. The third play was a pass that was incomplete. The Rebels showed some guts, though, and decided to go for on the fourth down. And were successful. The bend-don’t-break Broncos defense was able to hold UNLV to just a field goal. Disappointing beginning, but could have been worse. Only being down 3-0 was a blessing.
The second drive for the Broncos was a grind. Quarterback Brett Rypien had to convert two first downs, one of them on a fourth down. The UNLV rush defense made McNichols earn every yard he could get. Short spurts of gains would be followed by swallowed up losses. Chaz Anderson made a crucial third down 12 yard play for a first. In another deflating circumstance, Jeremy McNichols fumbled the ball on the one yard line. Luckily, Bronco John Molchon recovered. Next play a QB keeper by Rypien scored to take a 7-3 lead.
After a three and out by the Rebels, Cedrick Wilson returned the ensuing punt. And did fantastically with a 74-yard return to the Rebel six yard line. As one does, McNichols rushed it in the very next play for the score. The play took seven seconds. The Broncos went from the longest scoring drive of the season, 74 yards 8:18 minutes to one of the shortest. That helped the Broncos increase their lead to 14-3.
On the next defensive series for the Broncos, in a heart-crushing turn of events, Joe Martarano made a tackle, but had his left leg had gotten landed on. The training staff had to put an air cast on his leg to stabilize. The ESPN video crew would not show any of the replays insinuating that it was pretty damaging. Expect for him to be done for the year.
The Broncos forced another UNLV punt. Course, it was a bit of a muffed punt as it was more of a line drive. During the series the Broncos ran a cleverly timed screen for McNichols saw him go for 21 yards. He fumbled, again, but managed to fall on top of it. That would be his second of the night. McNichols would later get rewarded on the series with another touchdown. getting the Broncos up 21-3 gives a little bit of breathing room.
For UNLV’s next possession they had their own grind of 13 plays, 77 yards that ended in a Kurt Palandech touchdown. He was primarily untouched on the attempt. That brought the Rebels back within 11 with a score of 21-10.
At the end of the half, the Broncos moved the ball fairly well. But ultimately stalled in the red zone, unable to capitalize on the momentum going into the half. Though the Broncos had a 21-10 lead momentum seemed fleeting.
The Broncos held UNLV on an immediate three and out. The Broncos then took over on their own 45. McNichols showed that he is worthy of being a “pretty good” back by rushing for nine and then 43 yards in two consecutive plays. The coaching staff decided to share the wealth by letting Alexander Mattison get the next rush. Which turned in for another touchdown. The Broncos started pulling away 28-10 early in the third quarter.
McNichols had been a beast all night for the Broncos. After another UNLV punt (that Cedrick Wilson wanted to return) the Broncos marched down the field. This time McNichols was rewarded with a touchdown. This had stretched the Bronco lead to 35-10.
UNLV would not give up though as they would march down the field in chunks. Whenever it seemed like the Broncos had the Rebels’ number, Palandech would scramble and get just enough to extend the drive. Rebels were 4-4 on third down as the UNLV scored with three seconds in the third quarter to cut into the Boise State lead 35-17.
Both teams struggled on their next possessions. Broncos actually had to punt for the first time in the start of the fourth quarter. While punting is not ideal, waiting until fourth is pleasant. Boise State then held the Rebels to a three and out. On the next possession McNichols rushed for his fourth rushing touchdown of the night. The man, up to tonight, leads the nation with 22 rushing touchdowns (26 total with four receiving TDs) on the season. 42-17 Broncos.
The Rebels did manage to score one more garbage time touchdown, and then proceeded to convert a two-point conversion, to bring the score to a closer 42-25 final.
While the Broncos were never in any “doubt,” per se, having four fumbles is less than ideal. McNichols had another spectacular game, but he got hit quite a few times to cause the drops. Brett Rypien just could not connect with any of the long balls to get any of the passing game rolling. Notching just a shade over 100 yards passing could have led to a worse outcome. Broncos took care of business in a game that needed to be had to make sure they have an opportunity to play in a NY6 game. On to Air Force and ending the year with a triple-option team.