Box Score Oct. 31, 2015
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LAS VEGAS (AP) Boise State was looking for a something to hang its hat on before entering its bye week.
Since losing to Utah State on Oct. 16, which hurt their chances at winning the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference, the Broncos wanted to remind the rest of the league they're still a force in the conference they've dominated for years.
Brett Rypien's play spoke loud and clear, as the true freshman threw for a career-best 469 yards to lead Boise State to a 55-27 win over UNLV on Saturday. It was the Broncos' second-straight double-digit win, after beating Wyoming last week, 34-14.
"I thought they flipped it around after the Wyoming game and prepared really well for what we were going to see, and it showed up tonight," Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. "It was balanced. When you get into a game like that, where both offenses are kind of moving the ball and somebody's going to stall and you feel maybe a little bit of tightness, they weren't like that UNLV is better than their record. They're faster and they had their bye week. The freshness from their team showed today, and I thought our guys battled and fought."
Rypien threw for two touchdowns and caught another, as Boise State (7-2, 4-1 Mountain West) held the Rebels to just 10 points in the second half. The Broncos finished with 705 yards against UNLV (2-6, 1-3), whose defense looked non-existent.
In addition to being a career high, Rypien's 469 yards also set a new conference record for a freshman.
"I thought Brett was seeing the right things he needed to see to throw the football and complete passes," Harsin said. "We had some explosive plays that guys were hitting right after catches. We needed to have that type of game offensively because they were attacking on offense as well."
Boise State wasted no time in making its presence known, scoring on its first three drives of the game. The Broncos scored on nine of their 14 drives, including their last four. The Broncos were averaging 455.6 yards per game through their first eight matchups, but eclipsed that by the end of the third quarter with 465 yards.
The Broncos defense, which entered the contest fifth-best in the nation, also had a big day, stuffing the Rebels on fourth-and-goal from the Broncos 5-yard line late in the game to seal the win. Four plays later Boise State's Jeremy McNichol rumbled 40 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
Bronco safety Darian Thompson, a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist, made his 19th-career interception in the fourth quarter to become the sole leader atop the Mountain West and surpass Eric Weddle. That turnover led to a two-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Thomas Stuart.
Ahead 3-0, Boise State got its first touchdown with a trick play as receiver Thomas Sperbeck hit Rypien rolling out in the flat on a perfectly executed flea flicker to take a 10-0 lead.
The Broncos continued their offensive surge early in the second quarter, as they needed just 2:31 to execute 10 plays and push their lead to 17-3, when Rypien's play-action found tight end Jake Hardee wide open for a 44-yard score.
UNLV regained some momentum when Sonny Sanitoa hit Jeremy McNichols to force a fumble, and the Rebels' Fred Wilson scooped it up and brought it in from four yards out for a touchdown. That only seemed to incite the Broncos' ire, as they answered quickly, driving 72 yards in 2:55, capped by Kelsey Young's 2-yard touchdown run to push the margin back to double digits, 24-10. The Broncos took a 24-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
UNLV's Blake Decker looked competitive in his return for the Rebels, after missing the previous 10 quarters due to a shoulder injury sustained at Nevada on Oct. 3, but couldn't connect with any of his receivers in the end zone.
Decker completed 29 of his 50 passes for 357 yards. The 25-year-old senior also threw two interceptions, including one to Boise State's Darian Thompson, whose 19th career pick set a Mountain West record.
The Rebels managed just 100 yards rushing, with none of the running backs gaining more than 30 yards against the nation's fifth-best rushing defense. The loss was their third straight overall and fourth in a row to the Broncos.
"We did everything we needed to do to stay in that game," UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. "We came out, played hard and gave ourselves a chance."
Sanchez is trying to resurrect a program that has been to just one bowl game the past 15 years, and two over the last 20. After opening the season 0-3, including losses to UCLA and Michigan, the Rebels appeared ready to make a run with two straight wins, including an 80-8 win over Idaho State on Sept. 26.
But their current three-game skid leaves them searching for answers on how to finish games with a victory.
"There are a lot of things you can look at that show improvement and show that the guys are getting it, but again it's tough," Sanchez said. "I'm disappointed in the way we finished. You got to be able to finish and you're playing against a team that knows how to finish. We just have to keep working and grinding away."