Senior quarterback Blake Decker returned to UNLV’s starting lineup from a shoulder injury Saturday for the first time since the team’s big Fremont Cannon win at UNR on Oct. 3 and threw for 357 yards. But that was only second best.
Boise State’s Brett Rypien broke the Mountain West Conference freshman passing record, throwing for 469 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Broncos to a 55-27 victory over the Rebels before a crowd of only 14,315 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Rypien, who also caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from junior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck for Boise State’s first touchdown of the game, completed 35-of-52 passes and was not intercepted. He broke the Mountain West freshman passing mark of 433 yards set by San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley in 2008 against Idaho.
“I think today was another example of his maturity and getting better as a player,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said of the 6-foot-2, 199-pound nephew of Mark Rypien, the 1992 Super Bowl MVP with the Washington Redskins. “He’s getting better. That’s the bottom line. I say it every week but as the game goes on there’s not a whole lot of coaching as far as what he didn’t see or any questions. He sees it. He understands it. He can coach himself. … He gets what we’re trying to accomplish.”
“A great player,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “We struggled to put pressure on him and he did a great job of delivering the ball.”
UNLV, which came into the game with just six sacks, failed to garner one against the Broncos who attempted 53 passes.
Sperbeck finished with 10 catches for 163 yards and junior Chaz Anderson added seven receptions for 106 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown catch with 9:48 to go that upped Boise State’s lead to 41-27. That score came one play after a 16-yard pass from Rypien to Anderson on a 3rd-and-12 pass was initially ruled out of bounds but was later reversed after replay.
“A big, big flip in the game,” Sanchez said. “All of a sudden it just got away from us. I was disappointed with how we finished after that.”
“It was huge,” Harsin agreed. “You always talk about the “nail in the coffin” and try to get separation and especially late when it’s a tight game and get some momentum. When you can get the momentum, and when it’s the last quarter of the game, you’re probably going to be in great shape, and that’s exactly what we did on that play.”
The Broncos (7-2, 4-1), who finished with 705 total yards, tacked on a 40-yard touchdown run by sophomore Jeremy McNichols, who finished with 122 yards on 22 carries, and a 2-yard scoring run by sophomore Thomas Stuart. Boise State closed the game out with a 21-0 run in the final 9:48 to make the final score loss a lot more lopsided than the game really was.
“They had (705) yards of offense,” Sanchez said. “We didn’t play well on defense. At the end of the day, you can’t give all that up. It felt like every time we chipped away they just kept on extending and extending the lead.”
Senior safety Darian Thompson had an interception for Boise State, the 19th of his career, which also set a Mountain West career mark.
Decker completed 25-of-50 passes for 357 yards but didn’t throw any touchdowns and was intercepted twice for UNLV (2-6, 1-3), which dropped its third straight game. The Rebels finished with 487 yards in total offense and wide receivers Devonte Boyd (10 catches, 116 yards) and Aaron Criswell (6 catches, 105 yards) both topped the century mark.
Rypien had 292 yards passing in the first half alone as Boise State jumped out to an early 17-3 lead and looked like it was going to turn the game into a rout. But UNLV capitalized on two fumbles to close within 24-17 at halftime.
The Rebels cut it to 17-10 when senior cornerback Fred Wilson scooped up a fumble by McNichols at the 1-yard line and trotted in for a touchdown.
After senior running back Kelsey Young boosted Boise State’s lead back up to 24-10 with a 2-yard run to cap an eight-play, 72-yard drive, UNLV scored on another fumble when senior guard Eric Noone fell on freshman running back Xzaviar Campbell‘s miscue at the goal line.
The Rebels return to action on Nov. 7 when they host Hawaii at 3 p.m. at Sam Boyd Stadium.