After much struggle, the Boise State Broncos depended on their offense to defeat the San Jose State Spartans for the thirteenth time in as many meetings, winning 45-31.
Boise State–the vaunted Broncos, the perennial powerhouse of the Mountain West–looked mighty beatable in the first half of their game against San Jose State, and on their own blue home turf no less.
At first, the Broncos looked good. They looked like they were ready to show that last week’s loss to Wyoming was little more than a stroke of sour luck. Boise was supposed to get turnovers and they were supposed to turn them into points. That was the plan. That’s exactly what they did.
After Dylan Sumner-Gardner intercepted Spartan quarterback Kenny Potter’s first pass of the game, the usual suspects appeared to be poised to take over: Broncos wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck got his 200th career catch; running back Jeremy McNichols bounced off just about every would-be tackler on the field and went into the end zone, like he always does.
Then, the Broncos softened on defense. Kenny Potter woke up, scrambling and hitting his receivers. By the end of the half, the Spartans were within one score: 24-16. On top of that, they led the Boise State in total yards, time of possession and first downs.
In 12 previous meetings, the Broncos have never lost to the Spartans. After halftime, they decided they weren’t going to start now.
In the second half, San Jose State got more McNichols than they could handle. To make matters worse for the Spartans, Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien started finding his receivers–first, wide receiver Cedric Wilson for two touchdowns, and later, tight end Alec Dhaenens for another.
The Spartans never quit, but neither did the Bronco offense. The Broncos pressed the Spartan defense until they finally broke.
Here are three things we learned from Friday night’s game:
1. Jeremy McNichols is every bit as good as expected
The junior running back, quick and powerful as he is, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey. Sure, he’s a very different type of running back, but he is to the Broncos what Pumphrey is to the Aztecs–the engine, the fire in the heart of the offense.
Plus, McNichols finds the end zone on the football field the way a magnet in a sandbox finds iron. McNichols finished Friday night with 158 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
On some plays, it seemed to take a whole arsenal of defenders to get him to the ground. And even then he fell forward.
Of course, he’s had some trouble with fumbles in his career, even this season. Not so against the Spartans. He held tight to the ball as he gashed San Jose State’s defensive line.
Next Saturday against Hawaii, a team that gives up a whole lot of points, look for the Broncos to lean heavily on their feature back. His shoulders are certainly wide enough to carry them.