No. 24 Boise State back to prove-it mode against San Jose State
Boise State has likely seen its opportunity at snatching a Cotton Bowl invitation slide away and has work to do just to reach the Mountain West conference title game.
The No. 24 Broncos were outworked by an upstart Wyoming squad last Saturday to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. And the 30-28 loss to the Cowboys means Boise State (7-1, 3-1) has to make up two games on Wyoming (6-2, 4-0) just to be the Mountain Division champ and qualify for the conference title game.
The Broncos will begin the task of trying to overtake the Cowboys when they host San Jose State on Friday night (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN 2). The Spartans (3-6, 2-3) are winless against Boise State in 12 previous meetings.
There's also this tidbit: San Jose State last defeated a ranked team on the road on Nov. 1, 1980 when it upset a No. 10 Baylor squad led by future Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary.
Spartans coach Ron Caragher is well aware of the challenge of duplicating that feat as Boise State has won 100 of its last 106 home games.
“They've got good players across the board, a well-balanced football team,” Caragher said at a press conference. “We're going to need to play on a very high level for four quarters.”
San Jose State figures to encounter an irritated batch of Broncos still smarting from the loss to Wyoming.
But dwelling on the defeat could prove more harmful and the Boise State players insist they won't have the costly loss on their minds.
“It's time to move on,” sophomore defensive end Durrant Miles told reporters. “Obviously, we can't go back and change it, as much as we'd love to, but all we can do is move forward.”
Senior weak-side linebacker Ben Weaver echoed similar thoughts as the Broncos try to patch up the issues that led to them allowing a season worst for points.
“All we can do is focus on ourselves and focus on going 1-0 this week with San Jose State,” said Weaver, “and correcting this game and doing all we can to win this next game and continue to win.”
Boise State also needs to work on its turnover margin — which is tied for 122nd nationally. The Broncos have committed 13 turnovers and forced only four.
The deciding play in the loss to Wyoming was when quarterback Brett Rypien fumbled and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a safety with 1:25 remaining.
“We just didn't come up with enough plays and we didn't win the turnover battle,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We've been talking about it's just a matter of time, if you don't do that, you put yourself in a tough position.”
Rypien has thrown just six interceptions but three have come in the past two games. He has passed for 2,359 yards and 15 touchdowns with his favorite target being senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck, who has 55 catches for 890 yards and seven touchdowns.
Sperbeck needs one reception to become the fifth player in Boise State history to reach 200 career catches.
Broncos running back Jeremy McNichols leads the nation with 18 total touchdowns (14 rushing, four receiving) and he has scored at least once in 20 consecutive games. The junior rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns against Wyoming to raise his season total to 1,058 yards — sixth-most nationally.
Boise State has allowed an average of 26.7 points over its past three games. Weaver matched his career high of 16 tackles against Wyoming and leads the team with 72 tackles, while sophomore defensive tackle David Moa leads Boise State with 6 1/2 sacks.
San Jose State is taking care of the football much better than the Broncos. The Spartans have gone 12 quarters without committing a turnover since a miscue in the fourth quarter against Hawaii on Oct. 8.
“It's no coincidence we've won the turnover battle the last three weeks and won two of those three games,” Caragher said. “We always preach to our guys that we need to protect the football. I'll take a sack any day over just throwing the football up for grabs. That's a streak we're going to look to build upon.”
Senior quarterback Kenny Potter has passed for 1,544 yards and 11 touchdowns against six interceptions. Senior receiver Tim Crawley has caught 34 passes for 389 yards while sophomore wideout Tre Hartley stretches the field with 33 receptions for 572 yards.
San Jose State's defense allows 35.1 points per game but has received solid play from junior cornerback Andre Chachere (team-leading three interceptions) and senior defensive end Nick Oreglia (team-high 8 1/2 tackles for losses).