For the last decade, Boise State has attempted to put its name into the upper echelon of college football by scheduling tough opponents and then laying waste to those programs who have bigger budgets, bigger players and bigger everything.
Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Georgia and TCU (a 2010 Fiesta Bowl victory) are some of the programs that had learned the hard way that when playing the Broncos, they aren’t your average non-Power 5 school.
Oklahoma State wasn’t about to join the list of Boise State’s upset victims.
The Cowboys dominated on both sides of the ball on Saturday and used supreme special teams to dispatch Boise State 44–21 in a battle of top-25 teams with playoff aspirations.
Early on, Boise State took advantage of the zone coverage offered by Oklahoma State’s 4-2-5 scheme installed by new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, with Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien completing short throws on crossing routes before going deep to John Hightower on a 31-yard bomb early in the second quarter.
But the depth and talent of the Oklahoma State defense quickly became apparent, as Rypien was harrassed all day, even though he went 19-of-25 for 172 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Rypien, the active FBS leader in passing yards, finished with 318 and three touchdowns. But he was sacked seven times and hit a half dozen more times.
The story of this game was the special teams. In the first quarter, Boise State missed a 26-yard field goal that ricocheted off the uprights, wasting a scoring chance after eating up more than seven minutes of clock.
With score tied at seven in the second, Quinn Skillin’s punt was blocked by Amen Ogbongbemiga deep in Boise State territory, leading to a Taylor Cornelius one-yard touchdown run three plays later.
A 34-yard one-handed touchdown grab by A.J. Richardson on Boise State's first possession of the third quarter trimmed the lead to 20–14, but the Broncos got no closer than that.
Oklahoma State again got its hands on a punt after the Broncos went three-and-out. A switch at punter didn’t matter as Joel Velazquez had his punt blocked by Jarrick Bernard, and Zacharias Green scooped up the pigskin and returned it 13 yards to put the Cowboys up by 20.
Oklahoma State entered the game averaging 56 points, and now has won three straight games over top-25 teams.
Taylor Cornelius, making just his third start for Oklahoma State in place of record-setting QB Mason Rudolph, went 15-of-26 for 244 yards and a touchdown. Cornelius, who had 30 yards rushing in first two games, carried the ball 16 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns, the final one from six yards out with four minutes remaining to put Boise State away for good.
There were many questions for the Cowboys to answer when the season began: a new quarterback, for starters, and the usual uncertainty about a defense that had been a major letdown in previous seasons. They opened the 2018 campaign with virtual scrimmages in the first two games in preparation for this early matchup, blowing out Missouri State and South Alabama.
Oklahoma State showed some flashes that could lead to a chance at a conference title. The pass rush was relentless and steady all game, and Cornelius finally played a clean game without turning the ball over. The Cowboys should have no trouble with the schedule until November, when they end the season with Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU.
Boise State’s bid at New Year’s Six bowl did take a hit, though all is not lost. The Broncos must fix the running game and protect Rypien better. They can still run through their Mountain West schedule and hope that UCF or another AAC contender drops its own bigger tests away from home.