LOGAN, Utah--Utah State's defense overpowered the Boise State offensive line to hit, hurry and harass Bronco quarterback Brett Rypien and the Bronco running backs all night en route to a 52-26 victory tonight.
The matchup was every bit the mismatch it appeared to be on paper, pitting the nation's #31 defense in tackles-for-loss against the #107 offensive line in tackles-for-loss allowed. The Aggies took full advantage to force seven turnovers in the first half to build an insurmountable 45-10 lead going into the locker room.
Boise State struck first when Shane Williams-Rhodes returned a punt 38 yards to the Utah State 34. Although the Bronco offense could not generate a first down, placekicker Tyler Rausa's 46-yard field goal attempt was true. But after that, the Broncos' first three rushing attempts netted zero yards, and the Aggies sprang to a 10-3 lead.
USU rushed four, five and six players per down, and it paid off all evening. With Boise State facing a third-and-seven at their own 28, Ricky Aliifua burst through and sacked Rypien for a loss of 17 yards. As Aliifua brought the true freshman down, he threw him over his body, and Rypien fumbled before touching the ground. Aggie quarterback Kent Myers found Hunter Sharp on a third-and-nine play as Utah State went ahead 17-3.
An Aggie tackle-for-loss followed by another sack of Rypien, this time by linebacker Nick Vigil, resulted in another fumble. Four plays later and shortly after the opening of the second period, USU took advantage of another short field as LaJuan Hunt ran it in from four yards out. The score read Utah State 24, Boise State 3.
After the Broncos mounted one of their only sustained drives of the half to the Utah State 38, Torrey Green picked off a tipped pass that kept the Broncos from narrowing the margin. Rypien was intercepted again on Boise State's next drive by Jalen Davis, who returned the ball 16 yards to the Bronco 49. But Williams-Rhodes stripped the ball and recovered it. Kelsey Young ran six times for 28 yards on the ensuing Bronco drive, dashing over from one yard out to narrow the lead to 14.
The Boise State defense proceeded to do its job, holding Utah State to a three-and-out, putting the Broncos in position to make up for previous mistakes. Instead, they made more. Add consecutive fumbles by Devan Demas and Chaz Anderson which led to Aggie touchdowns and a 90-yard pick six by Marwin Evans as time expired in the opening half, and the rout was on.
The loss was among the worst performances in Boise State history. The 52 points given up were the most-ever by a ranked Bronco team, and the most given up by the Broncos in regulation since a 63-28 loss to Louisiana Tech in 1998. The rushing yards (34) and average yards per carry (1.1) were the lowest in 15 years. The eight Bronco turnovers were the most since Boise State joined the FBS in 1996 and the most since committing 12 (10 interceptions, two lost fumbles) at Montana on October 28, 1989.
Utah State outgained Boise State 334-333, but the storyline in this one was turnovers, early and often.
Despite the pressure he faced, Rypien hit 25-of-50 passes for 299 yards, but he was intercepted three times and fumbled twice. Young picked up 60 yards to lead the Bronco ground game, but his gains were nearly offset by the 45 yards lost by Rypien on four sacks.
Meyers threw for 157 yards and a career high three touchdowns and added 63 yards rushing and a touchdown, while Sharp caught two of those TD passes. Devante Mays also gained 63 yards on the ground on 11 carries, nearly all of that on a 48-yard run with the score already 45-17. Vigil, Utah State's leading tackler, had 14 for the Aggies, while Kyler Fackrell had 11. Fackrell forced one fumble and recovered two, while Vigil had one of each.
Wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck had six receptions for 156 yards for Boise State, his second consecutive game over 150 yards receiving.
Utah State advanced to 3-0 in the Mountain West Conference and 4-2 overall and assumed the frontrunner role in the Mountain Division. The last Bronco team to lose to the Aggies was the 1997 team in Boise State's second year as a major college football team.
Boise State, ranked #20 going into the game, fell to 2-1 in conference and 5-2 overall. The Broncos, who like Utah State had a short week after last Saturday's game, now has plenty of time to think about what went wrong. The Broncos host Wyoming next Saturday at 8:15 p.m. in Albertsons Stadium.