Boise State defeated Oregon 38-28 on Saturday, Dec. 16 to win the Las Vegas Bowl. Boise State dominated for a majority of the game, and lead in almost every category. The Broncos had 28 first downs compared to Oregon’s 14, and had 476 yards compared to Oregon’s 280.
According to redshirt junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, the Broncos came into this game wanting to play the best they’ve played all year.
“You have to play your best football at the end of the season, we’ve been putting 13 games together for this. It was a total team dominating performance,” Vander Esch said.
Vander Esch continued to say Boise State came into the game as underdogs, and were expected to lose, according to the Vegas oddsmakers.
“We had a lot of respect for them,” Vander Esch said. “They have playmakers all around the field. They have receivers to catch the ball, they got the dudes to run the ball and they got the quarterback to throw and run. To have a performance like that against that kind of offense is pretty special.”
Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin also came into the game respecting what Oregon could do.
“Defensively, Oregon is very good,” Harsin said. “They have tremendous speed. We respected this team. We know what kind of athletes they have, and they showed that on the defensive side.”
Despite their reputation, Oregon made many mistakes throughout the game that cost them. They came into the game as the most penalized team in the country, a trend that continued on Saturday. They were flagged 10 times for 95 yards. Oregon also turned the ball over four times, including a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown by freshman safety Kekaula Kaniho.
The Broncos’ defense didn’t allow any points until the fourth quarter, and only gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Boise State started out the game with a bang, and was up 24-0 in the second quarter. Boise State then committed two turnovers in the red zone. Junior quarterback Brett Rypien fumbled the ball, and it was returned 86 yards for a touchdown. On the following possession, Rypien threw an interception that was returned 100 yards for a touchdown.
The Broncos allowed two touchdowns before the end of the half, which then made the score 24-14.
“It’s just being resilient—we have a great group of guys on defense. You know we’re going to bounce back, just moving on from those plays,” Vander Esch said.
Despite letting up two touchdowns late in the first half, Harsin still seemed to feel confident going into the second half.
We’re always 0-0 at halftime and so the vibe on the sideline was not very good, but the leaders stepped up,” Harsin said. “It was ‘shake it off we’re on to the second half.’ We’re a second-half team in our minds, and we’re a fourth-quarter team. Get to the fourth quarter and we’re going to find a way to win it.”
Besides the two interceptions, Rypien had an impressive game, throwing for 362 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 21 of his 38 passes. The other two offensive touchdowns from Boise State came from senior running back Ryan Wolpin. He had 71 yards on 23 carries.
“Anytime we get on a national stage, and play a power-5 opponent, we want to show the nation what Boise State football is all about,” Rypien said.
Senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson won the MVP award. He had 221 yards, and a touchdown on 10 catches. Vander Esch recorded 12 tackles during the game. He also had one sack and three tackles for a loss.
“Just stick with the play calling and go and execute your job,” Wilson said. “The coaches called some great plays when we needed it, and it was our job to go get it done when we needed it, and that’s what the offense did.”
Boise State finished the season with an 11-3 record, and ended as Mountain West Champions.