PROVO, Utah — Andy Avalos has his first signature win as Boise State’s head coach.
And the Broncos again have life.
Boise State’s defense had four takeaways and the offense did enough for the Broncos to upset No. 10 BYU, 26-17, on Saturday afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“I can’t really put it into words right now,” linebacker Riley Whimpey said. “It really does feel great, I’ll tell you that. After losing to BYU the past two years, it’s left a sour taste in my mouth, so to be able to come back this year on the road and beat a top 10 program, it’s something else and really something I can’t put into words.”
The win was Boise State’s first against a top 10 team on the road since the famous win over No. 8 Fresno State way back in 2001. That was also the last time the Broncos were unranked and beat a top 10 team.
A linebacker in that game? Avalos — who said earlier this week that good things could still come from Boise State’s disappointing 2-3 start.
“We kept perspective and the guys worked harder than we have each and every day this week than we have all season,” Avalos said. “It’s a huge win. The record is a big deal, playing a team like this and being able to do what we did today on the road in their stadium, they have an unbelievable team and coaching staff. WHAT
“This is just part of reestablishing the foundation and reestablishing what Boise State has always been about and that’s about hard work, diligence and taking care of each other. This shows what happens if we can do that consistently and we can rebuild that into our foundation what we’re capable of.”
The Broncos, who were looking to avoid a 2-4 record for the first time since 1997, instead put together a vintage performance when nobody seemed to give them a chance.
After losing twice at home, including last week to Nevada, the Broncos went into this one with nothing to lose. The chip was back on their shoulder — and the Broncos played like.
“Being in the underdog role today was awesome,” Avalos said. “We’re going to keep that mentality regardless. We’re going to keep that underdog mentality. We have a lot to work for and a lot to improve on, we have a lot to show week in and week out.”
The much-maligned offensive line had easily its best game of the year, helping the Broncos rush for 140 yards and only allowing one sack of quarterback Hank Bachmeier on an intentional grounding call.
Cyrus Habibi-Likio had 18 rushes for 75 yards and a touchdown, while Andrew Van Buren had 18 rushes for 60 yards and a touchdown.
“I credit coach (Tim) Keane and this offensive line, who have been criticized so much this year and I’m so happy for those guys,” Bachmeier said. “Those guys might have a steak dinner coming up. I’ll probably get them a steak dinner here pretty soon.
“The plan was to run the rock this week. ... I credit the O-line, coach Keane, coach (Tim) Plough, they’ve been criticized all year and they came out tonight against the No. 10 team in the country and we ran the rock the whole game.”
The defense and special teams did the rest, coming away with four turnovers — one on a fumble return on special teams — to hand Boise State’s offense a short field on multiple occasions. Boise State also stopped BYU twice on fourth down to silence a sellout crowd of 63,470.
A week after Boise State committed three second-half turnovers in the loss to Nevada, the Broncos had no turnovers on offense and four on defense — including two deep in BYU territory that led to touchdowns.
“Turnovers can win you games or lose games as you saw last week,” Bachmeier said. “For us to have a great defense is huge and they’ve kept us in ballgames all year. I think finishing this game was huge for us.”
It's Boise State's first win over an AP Top 10 team since the Broncos beat No. 10 Virginia Tech 33-30 in 2010.
The Broncos (3-3) return home to host Air Force next week.
Boise State trailed 10-0 after BYU had two impressive drives to start the game, one ending in a field goal and the other a touchdown. But Boise State scored the next 23 points and BYU didn’t score again until the fourth quarter.
First, the Broncos got the ground game going, and Jonah Dalmas connected on a 41-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 10-3.
Then, the defense went to work.
Kekaula Kaniho grabbed BYU running back Tyler Allgeier, Isaiah Bagnah stripped the ball and Scott Matlock recovered it to give the Boise State offense great field position at the Cougars’ 24-yard line.
Habibi-Likio scored four plays later on an 11-yard rush and Dalmas added the extra point to even the score at 10-10 with 6:29 left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Alexander Teubner hit BYU returner Lopini Katoa and forced another fumble that JL Skinner picked up for the Broncos at the Cougars’ 23.
Given another short field, the Boise State offense took advantage. A 1-yard touchdown run from Andrew Van Buren gave the Broncos their first lead at 17-10 with 3:34 left in the half.
“A couple of those turnovers came in crucial points in the game and set our offense up with great field position and they capitalized,” Whimpey said.
BYU entered the game as one of just four teams never to trail at any point this season prior to the Broncos going up on the Van Buren score.
After BYU oddly went for it on fourth down from its own side of the field and Allgeier got stopped short, Boise State worked the ball down to the 1 in the final seconds of the half before Dalmas connected from 21 yards out as time expired to put Boise State up 20-10.
Boise State put together an impressive 13-play, 54-yard drive to start the third quarter that took 6:31 off the clock. The Broncos finished it with a 28-yard field goal from Dalmas to extend the lead to 23-10 with 8:20 left in the third quarter.
The Boise State defense came up with another huge turnover, this time when Tyreque Jones forced a fumble of Allgeier and Teubner recovered it inside the Boise State 20 to keep the Cougars off the scoreboard.
But the Boise State offense, as it has so many times in the second half this season, went cold and had to punt on its next two drives to give the Cougars life.
Jaren Hall found Gunner Romney for a 59-yard play, and Allgeier punched it in from 1 yard out to cut the Boise State lead to 23-17 with 7:27 left.
Needing it in the worst way, the Boise State offense then came up with maybe its biggest drive of the season. The Broncos went 71 yards in nine plays and took 4:00 off the clock and went up 26-17 on a 22-yard field goal by Dalmas.
“That put the game away, that’s how big it was,” Avalos said. “It was the final blow. There were some big time plays on that drive.”
BYU drove down the field, but Boise State’s defense sealed the deal with turnover No. 4 — an interception from redshirt freshman Kaonohi Kaniho with 1:59 left.
Fans headed for the exits as Boise State ran out the clock on the next possession for one of the bigger regular-season wins in program history.
“We finally finished in the second half,” Bachmeier said. “We’ve always been capable of doing it. We’ve played some of the best teams in the country and should have beat them. I think it showed tonight. This is a game that can turn the page for us.”
“For us to get this win is huge for us. ... It feels so great. You have to have a 24-hour rule with a good game or with a bad game. And Air Force is the type of team who can come in and punch you in the mouth so you have to be ready. And I know coach Avalos will have us ready. But it’s still 24 hours, so we’re going to have some fun.”