BOISE — The Boise State football team knows all too well about losing out on a chance at a Mountain West title because of a head-to-head tiebreaker to Wyoming.
They intend to not let history repeat itself.
Boise State (7-1, 4-0 MW) hosts Wyoming Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at Albertsons Stadium in a game with huge Mountain West implications. The Cowboys (6-2, 3-1 MW) are just a game behind the Broncos in the division race, but would tie the Broncos — and take the tiebreaker due to the head-to-head win — should they come to Boise and top the Broncos.
A similar scenario happened in 2016, when Boise State, Wyoming and New Mexico all went 6-2 in Mountain West play — but Boise State lost to Wyoming, which ended up being the difference in the tiebreaker that allowed the Cowboys to advance to host San Diego State in the Mountain West championship game.
“It’s actually kind of great. We know we have our backs against the wall with this,” Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir said. “We’re going to keep pushing forward and keep doing what we do.”
Last year the Broncos played multiple must-win games against Fresno State and Utah State and won them to reach the conference title game. They are hoping to do it again.
The loss at Wyoming in 2016 was even more damaging considering the Broncos were 7-0 and ranked No. 13 in the country at the time. And it came in the final seconds when quarterback Brett Rypien was sacked and fumbled the ball out of the end zone in a tie game for a safety. Final score: Wyoming 30, Boise State 28.
“Every game is big to us in the Mountain West,” STUD Curtis Weaver said. “We treat every Mountain West game the same. Our mentality this week is to go 1-0, so we can achieve our goal.”
But a loss to say San Jose State last week or New Mexico next week wouldn’t have the same impact as losing to Wyoming or Utah State would have. Losing to the Spartans or Lobos would keep hopes of the division title alive as long as the Broncos earn the tiebreakers against Wyoming and Utah State by beating them.
Air Force is 4-1 in league play, but the Broncos hold the tiebreaker since they defeated the Falcons earlier this season in Boise.
Winning the Mountain Division is just the first step in Boise State’s ultimate goal of being the top Group of 5 team and landing a spot in the Cotton Bowl. Only conference champions are eligible, so the Broncos must win the division and win the conference championship just to even have a shot at the New Year’s Six bowl.
And that means finding a way to beat a talented Wyoming team that has just two losses by a total of seven points. The Cowboys rank in the top 15 nationally in both rushing offense and rushing defense. A physical game is on tap.
“Playing Wyoming is always a dirt dog game,” left tackle Ezra Cleveland said. “We’re always fighting in the trenches and it’s just a tough game.”
But the Broncos have one big factor working in their favor this week: The Blue. The Broncos are back at home for just the second time in 50 days. Since hosting Air Force on Sept. 20, the Broncos have had three road games, two bye weeks and just one home game, an Oct. 12 matchup with Hawaii.
“It’s always good to be back on The Blue,” linebacker Riley Whimpey said. “I was just thinking about that the other day, ‘wow, it’s been a while since we’ve played on The Blue’, so just being able to go back on The Blue and to be able to play in front of our home crowd, it’s an awesome feeling and we’re excited.”
And for those unaware, the Broncos rarely lose at home. They are 117-9 inside Albertsons Stadium since 2000. The 92.9 percent winning percentage is the best in the country.
“It’s important to be back home and certainly important to have the crowd help us against a really good football team coming here and helping us try to make that run we want to make at the end of the season here,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “For our guys, the travel, the bye weeks, getting out of that mode and getting into a normal schedule and being at home, I know our guys are excited and ready to play here.”
Wyoming led the Broncos 14-10 heading to the fourth quarter during the last meeting in Boise in 2017 before Boise State scored the final two touchdowns to pull out a 24-14 win.
The Broncos are preparing for a similarly close matchup Saturday night in a game they can’t afford to lose. And they are thankful to be at home.
“Nothing like playing out on The Blue,” freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier said. “It’s going to be awesome for us.”