Boise State out to avenge Lobos' 2015 upset
One of the more stunning outcomes of the 2015 season occurred when Boise State hosted New Mexico.
The Lobos were 30.5-point underdogs and were expected to be another easy home victory for the Broncos. However, New Mexico walked on to the blue turf in Boise, played the better game, and departed with a surprising 31-24 victory.
Nobody within the Boise State program has forgotten that stunning defeat or the aftermath. The No. 19 Broncos will try to avenge the astonishing loss when they visit the Lobos on Friday night in Albuquerque, N.M. (9 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).
Last year's surprise victory was New Mexico's only win over the Broncos in seven meetings. The victory -- considered perhaps the biggest in school history -- was savored by the Lobos, as nearly all of the players returned to snap photos on the field with the New Mexico state flag to commemorate the achievement.
Turned out it was Lobos coach Bob Davie who called for the impromptu photo session. So naturally, the players were only too happy to oblige.
"Boise is always the top of the Mountain West and always the team to beat," New Mexico senior middle linebacker Dakota Cox said at the Mountain West media day. "It was huge for our program to get that win.
"We all got really excited, and we wanted to take a picture to mark (what) we've been working for and to finally cross over that plateau where we're not that little brother that can be pushed around in games and we're actually going to win those games now."
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin acknowledged that his squad hasn't forgotten what occurred.
"As far as the picture goes, we don't control what they do or the decisions they make," Harsin said. "It was up to them to do that.
"It's certainly been seen. ... We're not talking about revenge. We just have to go out there and do our jobs and execute. That's really what it is."
The Lobos (2-2, 1-0) will again be facing a tall task as they try to make it two straight upsets of the Broncos (4-0, 1-0).
Boise State has defeated two Pac-12 teams, Washington State and Oregon State, and is one of two teams nationally that has yet to trail this season -- No. 10 Miami is the other -- but also feels it hasn't come close to reaching top form.
The Broncos defeated Utah State 21-10 last Saturday as their stellar defense outperformed their more-publicized offense.
"We're still not there yet. We have a long way to go to where we are clicking," said sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien, who has passed for 1,024 yards and six touchdowns. "I don't feel like we're there yet, but I definitely see improvement. We have a lot of different pieces that we can use moving forward."
Rypien isn't the only flashy component of the Boise State offense, as junior Jeremy McNichols has become one of the most versatile running backs in the West.
McNichols has rushed for 504 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and he has three scoring receptions among 16 catches. He has 10 career 100-yard rushing games, including a 128-yard effort against New Mexico last season.
The Broncos also feature senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck, who set single-game school records of 20 receptions and 281 receiving yards in the loss to the Lobos.
On defense, Boise State is allowing just 72.0 yards per game on the ground, which ranks third in the nation. It's a figure that will be tested by New Mexico's run-based attack.
Harsin sees that as a crucial element in his team's success.
"I know my background is offense, but I'm all about the defense," Harsin said. "If you're going to be a successful football team, you play very good defense."
Sophomore nose tackle David Moa (5 1/2 sacks) and senior defensive end Sam McCaskill (4 1/2) have combined for more than half of Boise State's 17 sacks. Senior weak-side linebacker Ben Weaver has a team-best 37 tackles.
The Broncos will be without senior cornerback Jonathan Moxey for the first half. Moxey was suspended for the half after being ejected for targeting during the second half against Utah State.
New Mexico is averaging 347.0 yards per game on the ground -- which ranks fourth nationally -- while averaging 38.8 points per game.
Senior tailback Teriyon Gipson has 399 rushing yards and five touchdowns to go with a spectacular 12.9-yard average per carry. Sophomore running back Tyrone Owens has rushed for 308 yards, and junior reserve Richard McQuarley has 202 yards and a team-best seven rushing touchdowns.
Cox (21 tackles) is the leader of the defense, but senior defensive end Garrett Hughes is enjoying the biggest season with four sacks.
The Lobos are allowing 32.8 points per game, and Davie is concerned about the unit after a poor performance last Saturday in a 48-41 win over San Jose State.
"I just thought we'd be playing at a higher level right now defensively," Davie said. "I know we all feel that way across the board in this building."