Tyler Horton's Pick Six Keys 31-28 Win by the Boise State Broncos

Bronco defense gives up 480 yards passing in narrow win...

BOISE, ID--In a game that came down to the final play tonight at Albertson's Stadium, it was Tyler Horton's 85-yard interception for a touchdown in the game's first few minutes that spelled the difference in Boise State's 31-28 cliffhanger over Washington State.  Boise State recorded its eighth win over a Pac-12 team in the last nine years.

In front of the fourth-largest crowd in Boise State history (36,163), the Cougars took the opening kickoff and drove 57 yards in 12 plays to the Bronco 23.  But on third-and-nine, Horton jumped the route and his first career interception ended in a Boise State touchdown.  It was a 10-14-point turnaround on the game's initial drive and not only put the first points of the contest in Boise State's column but enabled the Broncos to lead from that point on.

Brian Losness, USA TODAY SPORTS

Two possessions later, Bronco quarterback Brett Rypien propelled his team down the field with 4-of-4 passing for 56 yards, finding senior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck for 13 yards to the WSU 13.  Running back Jeremy McNichols took it from there, gaining the final 13 yards including a one-yard touchdown in which he seemed to fly through the air to put the Broncos up 14-0.

USA TODAY SPORTS

Rather than try to put pressure on the quarterback, the Boise State defense played a three-man front for much of the night against Washington State's Air Raid attack, giving WSU standout Luke Falk five and six seconds to find a receiver on nearly every pass attempt.  Part of that lack of pressure was due to the three-man rush, but even when the Broncos rushed four, they ran into a stone wall that was the Cougar offensive line.

Falk burned the Broncos with a career-high 55 completions in 71 attempts (77%) for 480 yards and four touchdowns, his 16th career 300-yard passing game and ninth over 400 yards.  Falk tied Ryan Leaf with his 59th career TD pass, fourth-most in WSU history.

The 480 yards given up through the air by the Boise State defense was the eighth-most in 48 seasons of Bronco football at the four-year level. However, although Boise State gave up those yards, for most of the night they negated the big-play tendencies of the Air Raid and forced Falk to throw short.

Falk's field day at the hands of Boise State shattered existing records for both completions and attempts by a Bronco opponent, breaking records of 50 completions given up to New Mexico State on 66 attempts in 2006

In the first half, however, it was a bend but don't break theme for the Broncos as six Washington State trips into Bronco territory resulted in just seven points.   Two of those drives onto the Bronco side of the field ended in punts.  With 6:30 left in the half, the Cougars drove to the Boise State 23 and went for the conversion on fourth-and-three.  However, a false start forced Cougar coach Mike Leach to send in his field goal unit.  Erik Powell lined up for a 39-yard try, but Sam McCaskill got his mitts up to thwart that threat.  It was Boise State's first blocked kick since the 2014 Mountain West Conference championship game.  

With 3:12 remaining in the half, Shalom Luani picked off a Rypien pass at the WSU 47 and returned it to the Bronco 25.  Five plays later, Falk connected with running back Jamal Morrow for a 10-yard scoring strike.

Boise State responded with a 59-yard drive, which included a highlight reel catch by Cedrick Wilson to the Cougar 14.  With six seconds left, Tyler Rausa booted a 31-yard field goal to send the Broncos into the locker room with a 17-7 lead.

The Broncos used just four plays to extend that lead to 24-7 with 8:20 left in the third.  McNichols broke free for a 21-yard run on the opening play of the drive and two plays later, Sperbeck raced past the Cougar secondary to haul in a 47-yard touchdown toss from Rypien.

Falk went 8-out-of-10 passing to take the Cougars down to the Boise State 13, but linebacker Ben Weaver stopped WSU again when he tackled Falk on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one.

Washington State began to gain momentum when they forced the Broncos into a three-and-out and Kaleb Fossum's 12-yard punt return put WSU in business at their own 47.  Two plays later, Tav Martin, Jr. snared a 50-yard pass from Falk to cut the lead to 24-14.

(Jeremy McNichols, Bronco junior running back)

Rypien connected with McNichols for 18 yards and Sperbeck for 14 before Wilson came down with another great catch of 36 yards to the Cougar 7 on the final play of the third quarter.  McNichols ran it up the gut to begin the fourth with the game's deciding touchdown as Boise State scored for the final time to lead 31-14.

Falk again methodically moved the Cougars down the field, never touched as he chipped away at the Bronco defense with 6-of-8 passing, connecting again with Morrow for a 14-yard scoring play.  With 11:34 remaining, it was Boise State 31, Washington State 21.

Boise State drove the ball to its 45, but Sean Wale had to come on to punt, and his high kick resulted in a fair catch at the 24.  Washington State was pinned back on the 14 after a holding call on the play.

Washington State again penetrated Bronco territory, facing a third down-and-one on the Bronco 45.  First, safety Chanceller James made a beautiful read to come up and tackle Gabe Marks for no gain and then Durrant Miles and Leighton Vander Esch combined to stuff Morrow on fourth down, marking the second time the Broncos took over on downs in the second half.

With 5:12 left and his team facing a 10-point deficit, Luani again picked Rypien's pocket, stepping in front of another pass at the Washington State 49.  Luani returned the ball to the Bronco 33 and on the next play, Falk hit Marks in the end zone and Boise State's once seemingly insurmountable lead was cut to 31-28.

Bronco head coach Bryan Harsin then called on his running game, and McNichols toted it six times and chewed up clock to advance the ball to the Cougar 18.  But a bonehead hit by tight end Chase Blakley after the play not only set the Broncos back 10 yards but stopped their biggest ally, the clock.  Instead of a second-and-six with the clock running, it was a drive-killer, and two plays later, Charleston White intercepted Rypien's pass intended for Wilson in the end zone.

Falk was able to complete passes of eight yards to Morrow and eight and nine yards to Marks, but, facing a fourth-and-one on the Washington State 45 with four seconds left, Falk had to drop back and let it fly in an attempt to hit Martin at about the Bronco 20.  But cornerback Raymond Ford expertly swatted the ball down to the turf and the Bronco players rushed the field to congratulate him.  

Boise State wrestled another significant monkey off its back with the victory over Washington State.  Heading into the game, the Cougars were the only school in their history that Boise State had played a minimum of four times without posting a win.

The Broncos have now won 22 consecutive non-conference home games dating back to a 2005 loss to Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl and 49 consecutive regular season non-conference games.  Boise State also stretched its streak to 15 straight victories in home openers.  The last time Boise State lost either a home opener or a home game to a team outside of their conference came in 2001 when Washington State scored a come-from-behind win in 2001.  The Cougars nearly did that again tonight.

Rypien fell one yard short of his second 300-yard passing game of the season, finishing 19-of-35, to move into eighth place all-time with 15 200+ passing games.  With 314 career completions in two years, Rypien is seven away from tying Taylor Tharp (2004-07) for 10th in the Bronco record book.  

McNichols led the Bronco ground game with 116 on 22 carries and two touchdowns.  McNicholls (1,660 yards) passed Boise State greats John Smith (1,623 yards from 1972-1975) and Fred Goode (1,581 from 1975-1978) for 17th place on the Bronco career rushing list.

McNichols, who also had three catches for 25 yards, passed NFL great Doug Martin for fourth place in career receiving yards by a running back.  McNichols now has 738

Sperbeck, who was honored prior to the game for being selected to the All-Blue Team for Boise State for the last 30 years, hauled in seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown, while Wilson grabbed three for 85.  Sperbeck, now with 2,592 career receiving yards, continues to climb the ladder up the Bronco all-time list, passing Lou Fanucchi (2,554 yards) this week for seventh place. 

Shelby Ransom

(Senior linebacker Ben Weaver in an earlier BroncoCountry.com interview.  Photo by Shelby Ransom.  All rights reserved.)

Weaver led a stellar effort by the Bronco linebackers, as he (15 tackles), Tanner Vallejo (14) and Darren Lee (10) combined for 39 tackles.  Weaver passed four former Broncos, including NFL players Gabe Franklin (2001-2004), Rick Woods (1978-1981) and George Iloka (2008-2011), to move into 29th in career tackles.  Vallejo is now 34th on that list.

Boise State limited WSU to 40 yards on the ground, but it was the Cougar aerial game that had the Broncos sweating bullets.

Martin, Jr. caught 12 Falk passes for 158 yards (both career highs) and a touchdown, while Marks had 10 receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown, Morrow grabbed eight for 53 yards and two scores and Isaiah Johnson-Mack had seven catches for 30.  Marks upped his total to 247 career catches, seventh in Pac-12 history.

As exciting as the Bronco win was, it is a win that needs to be kept in context.  Boise State scored 31 points tonight, while their opponent gave up 45 points the week before to an FCS school, Eastern Washington.  

WSU prevailed in nearly every statistic except the all-important final score, including time of possession (37:58 to 22:02 for the Broncos), total offense (520 to 420), first downs (26 to 21), total plays (91 to 61), passing yards (480 to 299), third-down conversions (11 to 3) and punt return yards (35 to a negative 2 for Boise State).  But, just as double-digit penalties hampered the Cougar effort last week the loss to Eastern Washington, Washington State was whistled for 10 more tonight for 79 yards.

Boise State advanced to 2-0 with the victory while the Cougars slipped to 0-2.

Since 2006, Boise State is 9-3 against Pac-12 schools and 13-5 against teams from big-money conferences, including four wins in a row. 

Washington State hosts Idaho next Saturday while the Broncos catch their breaths in a bye week before traveling to face Oregon State.

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Career Receiving Yards:

1.    Titus Young (3,063) 2007-2010

2.    Matt Miller (3,049) 2011-2014
3.    Austin Pettis (2,838) 2007-2010

4.    Ryan Ikebe (2,751) 1993-1996

5.    Don Hutt (2,728) 1970-1973

6.    Thomas Sperbeck (2,592) 2013-current

7.    Lou Fanucchi (2,554) 1999-2002

8.    Terry Hutt (2,354) 1973-1974/1976-1977

8.    Mike Holton (2,354) 1972/1974-1976

10.  Mike Wilson (2,300) 1990-1993

11.  Jay Swillie (2,161) 1999-2002

12.  Eric Andrade (2,097) 1983-1984/1986-1987

13.  Jeb Putzier (2,050) 1998-2001

14.  Tyler Shoemaker (2,031) 2008-2011

15.  Al Marshall (2,007) 1969-1972

16.  Jeremy Childs (1,999) 2006-2008

17.  Kim Metcalf (1,990) 1980-1984

18.  Winky White (1,977) 1987-1990

19.  Kipp Bedard (1,971) 1979-1981

20.  Shane Williams-Rhodes (1,953) 2012-2015

21.  Drisan James (1,810) 2003-2006

21.  T.J. Acree (1,713) 2001-2004

23.  Tim Gilligan (1,670) 2000-2003

24.  John Smith (1,608) 1972-1975

25.  Sheldon Forehand (1,586) 1989-1992

26.  Billy Wingfield (1,530) 1998-1999, 2001-2002

27.  Jarret Hausske (1,511) 1991-1994

28.  Kyle Efaw (1,269) 2008-2011

29.  Terry Heffner (1,264) 1987-1990

30.  Lawrence Bady (1,197) 2003-2004

31.  Jerard Rabb (1,158) 2005-2006

32.  Geraldo Boldewijn (1,154) 2010-2013

33.  Kirby Moore (1,137) 2009/2011-2013

34.  Chaz Anderson (1,092) 2013-current

35.  Lonnie Hughes (1,086) 1977-1978

Career 100+ Yards Receiving Games:

1.    Ryan Ikebe (13) 1993-1996

2.    Mike Holton (11) 1974/1974-1976

2.    Don Hutt (11) 1970-1973

4.    Titus Young (10) 2007-2010

4.    Thomas Sperbeck (10) 2013-current

6.    Tyler Shoemaker (8) 2008-2011

6.    Austin Pettis (8) 2007-2010

6.    Lou Fanucchi (8) 1999-2002

6.    Mike Wilson (8) 1990-1993

6.    Terry Hutt (8) 1973-1974/1976-1977

11.  T.J. Acree (7) 2001-2004

11.  Rodney Smith (7) 1997-1998

11.  Kim Metcalf (7) 1980-1984

11.  Al Marshall (7) 1969-1971

11.  Matt Miller (7) 2011-2014

Career Receiving Yards By a Running Back 

1.    Brock Forsey (1,050) 1999-2002

2.    Jeremy Avery (790) 2007-2010

3.    Jay Ajayi (771) 2012-2014

4.    Jeremy McNichols (738) 2014-current

5.    Doug Martin (715) 2008-2010

6.    John Smith (673) 1972-1975

7.    David Tingstad (537) 1989-1992

8.    David Hughes (531) 1977-1979 (+ 1980 yards)

9.    Jeff Carpenter (491) 2003-2005

10.  K.C. Adams (490) 1994

Career Rushing Yards

1.    Cedric Minter (4,475) 1977-1980

2.    Ian Johnson (4,183) 2005-2008

3.    Brock Forsey (4,045) 1999-2002

4.    Jay Ajayi (3,796) 2012-2014

5.    Chris Thomas (3,437) 1987-1991

6.    Doug Martin (3,431) 2008-2011

7.    Rodney Webster (3,034) 1980-1983

8.    Jeremy Avery (2,932) 2007-2010

9.    D.J. Harper (2,779) 2007-2012

10.  David Mikell (2,268) 2000-2003

11.  Jon Francis (2,172) 1984-1985

12.  Terry Zahner (2,052) 1977-1980

13.  Lee Marks (1,889) 2002-2005

14.  David Hughes (1,826) 1977-1980

15.  Chris Jackson (1,805) 1986-1987

16.  Eron Hurley (1,697) 1995-1998

17.  Jeremy McNichols (1,660) 2014-current

18.  John Smith (1,623) 1972-1975

19.  Fred Goode (1,581) 1975-1978

20.  K.C. Adams (1,275) 1994

Career Completions:

 1.    Kellen Moore (1,157) 2008-2011

2.    Bart Hendricks (650) 1997-2000
3.   Tony Hilde (629) 1993-1996
4.    Ryan Dinwiddie (622) 2000-2003
5.    Jared Zabransky (610) 2003-2006

7.    Grant Hedrick (475) 2011-2014

6.    Joe Southwick (439) 2010-2013

8.    Jim McMillan (382) 1971-1974
9.    Mike Virden (324) 1989-1990
10.  Taylor Tharp (321) 2004-2007
11.  Hazsen Choates (316) 1983-1986

12.  Brett Rypien (314) 2015-current  

13.  Gerald DesPres (281) 1981-1984

14.  Joe Aliotti (278) 1979-1980

15.  Eric Guthrie (275) 1968-1971

16.  Travis Stuart (248) 1991-1992

17.  Duane Halliday (225) 1987-1990

18.  Greg Stern (209) 1974-1976

19.  Hoskin Hogan (186) 1977-1978

20.  Jeff Mladenich (186) 1991-1992

Career 200+ Yards Passing Games:

1.    Kellen Moore (46) 2008-2011

2.    Bart Hendricks (28) 1997-2000

3.    Tony Hilde (26) 1993-1996

4.    Ryan Dinwiddie (24) 2000-2003

5.    Jared Zabransky (21) 2003-2006

6.    Grant Hedrick (15) 2011-2014

7.    Jim McMillan (13) 1971-1974

8.    Brett Rypien (12) 2015-2016

9.    Joe Southwick (11) 2010-2013

9.    Mike Virden (11) 1989-1990

11.  Taylor Tharp (10) 2004-2007

11.  Eric Guthrie (10) 1968-1971

13.  Vince Alcalde (9) 1986-1987

13.  Hazsen Choates (9) 1983-1986)

15.  Travis Stuart (7) 1990-1992

16.  Gerald DesPres (6) 1981-1984

16.  Joe Aliotti (6) 1979-1980

18.  Tim Klena (5)1981-1982

Career

1.    Scott Russell (415) 1987-1990

2.    Quintin Mikell (401) 1998-2001

3.    Carl Keever (397) 1982-1984

4.    Korey Hall (394) 2003-2006

5.    Andy Avalos (355) 2001-2004

6.    Ray Santucci (333) 1978-1981

6.    Brian Smith (333) 1992-1995

8.    Kenny Kuehl (332) 1987-1990

9.    Jim Ellis (331) 1983-1986

10.  Matt McLaughlin (327) 1989-1992

11. Jeron Johnson (325) 2007-2010

11.  Doug Scott (325) 1976-1979

13.  Tim O'Connor (316) 1987-1990

14.  Dan Williams (296) 1977-1980

15.  J.C. Percy (295) 2009-2012

16.  Wes Nurse (294) 2000-2003

17.  Randy Trautman (285) 1978-1981

18. Tim Langhans (272) 1987-1990

19. Bryan Johnson (266) 1996-1999

19. Andy Mitchell (266) 1986-1989

21. Eric Escandon (262) 1991-1993

22. Pete Kwiatkowski (261) 1984-1987

22. Marty Tadman (261) 2005-2008

24. John Walker (256) 1970-1972

25. Bob Macauley (255) 1977-1978

26. Scott Monk (247) 1990-1993

27. Sam Miller (243) 1975-1978

28.  Darian Thompson (242) 2012-2015

29.  Ben Weaver (241) 2013-current

30. Gabe Franklin (239) 2001-2004

31. Curt Hecker (238) 1979-1982

32. Rick Woods (235) 1978-1981

33. George Iloka (232) 2008-2011

34.  Tanner Vallejo 231 (2013-current)

35. Willie Beamon (225) 1977-1978

36. Loren Schmidt (224) 1972-1974

37.  Erik Helgeson (223) 1987-1990

38. Ron Davis (221) 1973-1974

39. Glenn Simonton (220) 1981-1984 

40.  Ross Farris (218) 1996-1999

41.  Kyle Gingg (215) 2005-2008

42.  Marcus Koch (213) 1982-1985

42.  Kauhi Hookano (213) 1973, 1975-1976

44.  Ron Davis (211) 1973-1974

       Kirk Strawser (211) 1975-1976

46.  Phil Bartle (200) 1983-1986

47.  Mike Dolby (195) 1983-1986

48.  Michel Bourgeau (190) 1980-1983

49.  Chris Carr (188) 2001-2004

49.  Stefan Reid (188) 1993-1994

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