BOISE — Boise State’s defense came up with a huge stop late in the fourth quarter, and the Broncos got a little bit of luck in overtime.
They’ll gladly take it at this point.
Wyoming kicker Cooper Rothe’s 37-yard attempt sailed right of the uprights in overtime and the Broncos avoided a potentially disastrous loss with a 20-17 win at Albertsons Stadium on Saturday night.
The Broncos had just 285 yards of offense while playing without starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier for the second time in three games. And for the second straight week they needed a fourth-quarter comeback to avoid being upset as a double-digit favorite.
"Not pretty in a lot of areas," Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. "We did just enough."
Eric Sachse’s 28-yard field goal on Boise State’s possession in overtime proved to be the game winner, and who knows how big it will prove to be moving forward.
A loss would have basically eliminated the Broncos from a spot in the Cotton Bowl as the top Group of 5 team. But they did enough to survive and advance, remaining perfect in Mountain West play in the process. Boise State (8-1, 5-0 MW) is assured of winning the Mountain Division and hosting the Mountain West title game in Boise if it wins its three remaining games.
"The win is the most important thing," Harsin said. "At the end that's the result and the work from Sunday all the way through Saturday is for that 'W' that you play together to go out there and get it done. Those guys fought hard.
"We'll go back and pop on the tap and go through all of these things and they'll look at it, but tonight I want these guys to enjoy just coming together and getting it done. Bottom line. As a player that's what you work so hard to do and that's all that really matters right now."
Boise State’s defense came up with a huge stop in the final minute to have a chance. Wyoming faced fourth-and-1 from the Boise State 39-yard line with 36 seconds left and the game tied at 17-17, but Riley Whimpey and Curtis Weaver combined to stop Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay short of the marker.
"I was able to come through the line free and make a play," Whimpey said. "It was an awesome fourth-down stop to be able to get as a team."
The Broncos took over with a chance to win, but Chase Cord was intercepted by Wyoming’s Logan Wilson while trying to get the Broncos into field goal range. A Hail Mary attempt from the Cowboys fell incomplete in the end zone to send the game into overtime.
Boise State had the ball first to start overtime but settled for the 28-yarder from Sachse. It proved to be enough.
Whimpey nearly ended the game with an interception on Wyoming’s first play in overtime, but made a tackle on Valladay on third down to force the Cowboys into the field goal attempt.
"When things aren't going our way we stay positive and keep our head up and know anything can happen," Whimpey said. "This team has an amazing mentality and we have belief in one another so when we get in situations like that we are able to put our head down and work and come out on top."
It was the second win in a row for the Broncos when trailing entering the fourth quarter. It’s the first time since 2014 in which the Broncos won consecutive games when trailing entering the quarter. The Broncos won for the third time this season when trailing after three quarters, something they hadn’t done previously since 1990.
Cord went 19 of 30 for 190 yards a touchdown in his second career start. He took a number of hits
Bachmeier, who also sat out the loss to BYU, appeared to be injured in the second half of last week’s win at San Jose State, but returned in the fourth quarter and finished the game. He didn’t participate in pregame warmups, but was seen suited up on the sideline. His absence was deemed injury related by a team spokesman before the game, but there was no immediate word on his status moving forward.
Boise State’s last overtime game was a 19-16 loss to Fresno State in last year’s Mountain West Championship. It was Boise State’s first regular season home game to go to overtime since a 69-67 win over Nevada in 2007 in a game that went four overtimes.
Boise State’s start couldn’t have been much better. The Broncos had an impressive 12-play, 92-yard drive on their first possession, culminating with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cord to Akilian Butler to put the Broncos up 7-0. Six different players caught passes on the opening drive, and eight had either a reception or a rush.
But the creativity went away, and so did the production. The Broncos ran 10 plays for 28 yards the rest of the half and punted three times. Wyoming took advantage, scoring on a 3-yard run from quarterback Tyler Vander Waal to tie the game before a 39-field goal from Rothe with one second left in the half gave the Cowboys a 10-7 lead at the break.
Boise State had just 120 yards of offense in the first half, the lowest first-half total of the season. They had 123 in a 28-25 loss to BYU.
The Broncos went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half, but tied the game at 10-all on their next possession thanks to a 40-yard field goal from Eric Sachse. Boise State went eight plays in 59 yards, but couldn’t cash in on first-and-goal from the 5-yard line due to a pair of costly penalties.
Boise State appeared to be in good position after Avery Williams partially blocked a Wyoming punt attempt near midfield, but the Cowboys got the ball back two players later on a fumble from George Holani. And Wyoming turned the break into a go-ahead touchdown, scoring on a 21-yard run from Valladay to take a 17-10 lead with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
Boise State had just 206 total yards of offense when it finally got things going early in the fourth quarter. The Broncos used a methodical 10-play, 57-yard drive that took 5:24 off the clock to tie the game at 17 on a 5-yard touchdown run from Khalil Shakir with 5:37 to play in the fourth quarter.
That set up the crazy finish, and an ending that could prove to be a defining moment of Boise State’s season.
The Broncos will be back at home next Saturday night when they host New Mexico at 8:15 p.m. on Senior Night.
BRONCOS TIE GAME IN FOURTH QUARTER
Khalil Shakir ran in for a five yard touchdown, as Boise State has tied the game at 17-17 with 5:37 left in the fourth quarter.
WYOMING TAKES LEAD IN THIRD
Xazavian Valladay has his first touchdown run of the game for Wyoming as the Cowboys have taken a 17-10 lead with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
Wyoming's scoring drive was set up by a George Holani fumble, which the Cowboys recovered at the Boise State 36. Four plays later, Valladay scored.
Valladay has 28 carries for 115 yards in the game.
BRONCOS TIE GAME WITH FIELD GOAL
Eric Sachse has hit a 40-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 with 9:18 left in the third quarter. The Broncos moved the ball 59 yards on eight plays, their best drive since a 92-yard scoring drive to open the game.
BOISE STATE TRAILS 10-7 AT HALFTIME
Wyoming kicker Cooper Rothe hit a 39-yard field goal with one second left in the half, as the Cowboys took a 10-7 lead on Boise State at halftime.
Chase Cord has 76 yards on 9 of 10 passing, but the Broncos have struggled to move the ball since a 92-yard drive to open the game. The Broncos have had 28 total yards since that drive, punting all three times they have had the ball. Two of those drives were three-and-outs.
John Hightower had 38 yards on two carries, but the Broncos otherwise have been limited to six rushing yards. George Holani has been limited to 12 yards on four carriers for the Broncos.
WYOMING GETS ON THE BOARD
Tyler Vander Waal has got Wyoming on the board with a third down quarterback keeper as the Cowboys have tied the game at 7.
There's just under five minutes left until halftime.
CORD LEADS BRONCOS TO TOUCHDOWN ON FIRST DRIVE
Chase Cord was 6 for 6 on Boise State's opening drive, culminating with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Akilian Butler to put Boise State ahead 7-0.
The six passes were to six different receivers.
CORD TO START FOR BRONCOS
Chase Cord will get the start at quarterback for Boise State tonight.
A team spokesman announced Cord will get his second career start about 45 miniutes before the Broncos' kickoff against Wyoming.
Cord started in Boise State's 28-25 loss to BYU on Oct. 19 and had 185 yards on 18 of 31 passing. He has passed for eight touchdowns this season and thrown two interceptions.
Hank Bachmeier is dressed for Boise State.
Defensive lineman Chase Hatada is out for the Broncos tonight.
The Boise State football team will look to stay undefeated in Mountain West play when it hosts Wyoming tonight at Albertsons Stadium at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN.
The Broncos (7-1, 4-0 MW) will advance to the Mountain West title game, and host it in Boise, should they win the final four games of the season. A loss to Wyoming would be a devastating blow but wouldn't eliminate them from contention.
This is just the second home game for the Broncos in 50 days.
Running back Robert Mahone, safety Kekoa Nawahine and left guard John Molchon are all expected to play for the Broncos, but official word won't be known until about 45 minutes until kick off.
We'll have tons of news and notes in this blog before, during and after the game, so check back often.
For now, here's everything you need to know to sound smart at your tailgate party...
THREE KEYS TO VICTORY FOR BOISE STATE
STOP THE RUN: Wyoming has one of the best rushing attacks in the country and one of the worst passing attacks. The change to Vander Waal at quarterback likely will mean more passing, but the Broncos have to stop the Cowboys on the ground. Their offense is built around the ground game. If the Broncos stop the run, they’ll win the game.
NO TURNOVERS: The turnover battle likely will be the difference for Boise State down the stretch. As the games get more important, the Broncos can’t afford to give away possessions. The loss to BYU largely was because of two costly turnovers by the offense. Hang onto the ball and win the turnover battle, and the Broncos should win.
HOME COOKING: Boise State has played just one home game in the past six weeks. Since hosting Air Force on Sept. 20 they’ve had two bye weeks, three road games and just one home game. This is the first of two consecutive home games. Feed off the crowd, take advantage of being back at home and take care of business. Keep league title hopes alive.
BOISE STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
21 • ANDREW VAN BUREN • RB
Van Buren had 22 carries for 69 yards in the first seven games of the year, but had the best game of his career against San Jose State last week. He rushed nine times for 85 yards and a touchdown. The sophomore was expected to be a big part of the running back rotation entering the year, and might finally be breaking through.
2 • KHALIL SHAKIR • WR
Shakir was pretty quiet against San Jose State. He had just two catches for 25 yards, and one rush for 14 yards. He leads the Broncos with 32 catches, but has just six in the last three games. Wyoming is solid against the run, so the Broncos likely will try to beat them with the pass. Shakir is due for a big game, and this seems like the perfect spot.
28 • KEKAULA KANIHO • N
Kaniho continues to make plays for the Broncos from the nickel spot. He took over the team lead with 38 tackles after recording nine last week at San Jose State. Kaniho has 9.0 tackles-for-loss, an unusually high number for a defensive back. He also has six passes defended, two forced fumbles and an interception. He’s having a great junior year.
WYOMING PLAYERS TO WATCH
6 • XAVIAN VALLADAY • RB
Valladay is the key to Wyoming’s run-first offense. He leads the Cowboys with 118 rushes for 631 yards and four touchdowns. He has just six negative rushing yards all season, and has an impressive 5.3 yards-per-carry average.
8 • TYLER VANDER WAAL • QB
Vander Waal has attempted just 16 passes this season and will make his first start against the Broncos after starter Sean Chambers was lost for year due to injury. Vander Waal played in 10 games last year as a freshman. He passed for 214 yards against Boise State.
3 • ALIJAH HALLIBURTON • SS
Halliburton leads Wyoming with 76 tackles and 8.0 tackles-for-loss. He also has one interception and two sacks. He had a career-high 11 tackles last year against Boise State.
STATS AND FACTS
• Opponents have committed 38 false starts at Albertsons Stadium the last two years, the highest total in the country.
• The Broncos are 12-1 all-time against Wyoming, including 6-0 at home.
• Boise State is one of three schools nationally to rank in the top 15 in both third down offense and third down defense.
• The Broncos have won 117 straight home games when leading after three quarters, the longest streak in the country.
• Boise State has never gone 8-0 in Mountain West play.
DATE OPPONENT RESULT/TIME
Aug. 31, MISSOURI, W, 37-31
Sept. 7, at Texas State, W, 23-14
Sept. 14, IDAHO, W, 21-16
Sept. 21, at Tulsa, L, 24-21
Sept. 28, UNLV, W, 53-17
Oct. 12, at San Diego State, L, 26-22
Oct. 19, NEW MEXICO, W, 23-10
Oct. 26, NEVADA, W, 31-3
SATURDAY, at Boise State, 8:15 p.m.
Nov. 16, at Utah State, 2 p.m.
Nov. 22, COLORADO STATE, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 30, at Air Force, 12 p.m.
Wyoming: Coach Craig Bohl (34-37, sixth year at Wyoming)
Bohl won three straight FCS national championships at North Dakota State before leaving for Wyoming in 2014. The Cowboys are bowl eligible for a fourth straight year.
Boise State: Coach Bryan Harsin (59-16, sixth year at Boise State)
Harsin has led the Broncos to a pair of Mountain West championships, a New Year’s Six bowl win and an average of more than 10 wins per year since taking over in 2014.
The Idaho Press will have two reporters and two photographers at Albertsons Stadium for Saturday night's game. This blog will be updated before, during and after the game, and BlueTurfSports.com will have a postgame podcast and photo gallery. Sunday's Idaho Press will have three full stories and close to a dozen color photos from the game, and they will be posted online as well.