It’s often hard to find only one contributing factor to a loss, especially when that loss is an upset. That’s bad news for the Boise State Broncos, who fell to 7-1 (3-1 Mountain West) this past weekend when the Wyoming Cowboys stunned them in Laramie.
Most will point to the safety inside the final two minutes as the moment that lost the game for the Broncos, and technically most would be correct. That was the defining play of the game, the lightning bolt that propelled the Cowboys to victory.
Tied at 28 after a Wyoming touchdown pass with 6:42 to go in the game, the two teams exchanged punts before Boise State got the football back with 1:38 to go in the fourth quarter on its own 10. On 2nd and 10 from that very spot, Wyoming’s secondary made it tough for Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien to find a passing lane, and redshirt junior defensive lineman Chase Appleby was able to stunt around to the outside of the pocket and flush Rypien, who subsequently fumbled the ball out of the back of the end zone on contact:
— Wyoming Cowboy FB (@wyo_football) October 30, 2016
It was the turning point occurrence of the evening, a point of no return. It was the play that got all the attention on the highlight shows afterward; it will be remembered in Laramie and Boise for quite some time.
Yet, as big a play as it was, it doesn’t tell the whole story of the game.
Boise came into the game ranked No. 13 with a few big wins under its belt, mainly over Pac-12 opponents Washington State, Oregon State and independent power BYU.
The Broncos always seem to be on the outside looking in as a serious national championship contender. Unless they schedule a few Top 25 opponents, their MWC slate doesn’t allow them the strength of schedule to make a championship push. With that being the case, Boise State needs to be perfect in order to at least have a chance. With that being the case, Boise State can’t allow a good but not great Wyoming team to beat it — at least if it wants to remain in the national picture.
For all intents and purposes this loss will be the death knell for any grand plans Boise had this season. Yes, the Broncos can still compete to win the MWC and play in a good bowl game, but any thoughts of a New Year’s Six bowl may have gone out the window on Saturday.
The game within the game led to Boise’s demise, not just one safety at the end.
Boise State allowed Wyoming sophomore quarterback Josh Allen to have one of his best games of the season. He threw for only 145 yards the week before against Nevada and didn’t throw a touchdown, but BSU gave up 274 yards and three touchdowns to him, only picking him off once when more plays could have been made against him.
Allen produced his best yardage total of 2016 and he was complemented by a very strong running game. Junior running back Brian Hill rushed for 146 yards on 28 carries (5.2 yards per carry), and Allen was able to get in on the rushing fun as well, picking up 53 yards of his own on 11 attempts.
Boise State’s defense also didn’t have an answer for tight end Jacob Hollister, who put up 144 yards and two touchdowns on six catches.
To put Hollister’s game in perspective, consider the following: His previous high in catches was three against Nevada, and he had caught only two touchdowns all season until the Broncos came to town. Hollister effectively doubled his output against Boise’s defense; he was one of the main reasons Wyoming was in position to win on a late safety.
Two turnovers by Boise State compared to one from Wyoming was another.
The Cowboys were able to pick off Rypien late in the second quarter to set up Hollister’s second touchdown, which came with 52 seconds to go in the half and put Wyoming down just four heading into the locker room (21-17). The Broncos also fumbled the ball twice, losing one on their first drive of the game. At that time it may not have seemed to set the tone for the game, but when all was said and done it did.
Remember, Wyoming’s winning safety was caused by Rypien losing the football in the end zone. The Cowboys applied pressure and did what they were supposed to do, but a week after a turnover-laden performance against BYU, Rypien and BSU couldn’t clean up their act, a problem which hounded them last season.
In a game in which one play stood out as the turning point, larger patterns and unbroken bad habits led to Boise State’s season-defining loss.