Slow start dooms Ducks in Las Vegas Bowl
In the first game of the Coach Mario Cristobal Era and playing without all-time rushing leader Royce Freeman, Oregon's season ended with a thud on Saturday. Boise State beat the Ducks 38-28 in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Ducks (7-6) couldn't generate offense for 3 1/2 quarters and needed two almost miraculous defensive touchdowns late in the second quarter to keep the game close.
Boise State (11-3) of the Mountain West Conference won for the third time in three games against Oregon, which included wins in 2008 and 2009.
Cristobal became interim head coach and then the permanent head man on Dec. 8 after Willie Taggart left for Florida State, and the whirlwind eight days leading up to the Vegas Bowl included settling the team into preparing for the bowl game and recruiting after the coaching tumult. The Broncos appeared more prepared and ready emotionally for the game, building a 24-0 lead that could have been much worse.
The Boise State defensive front seven controlled Cristobal's offensive line, which had to sting the coach who takes much pride in his big boys. The Ducks managed only a net 47 rushing yards on 28 carries.
Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien went 21 of 38 passing for 362 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Oregon's Justin Herbert was 26 of 36 for 233 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Receiver Cedrick Wilson had 10 receptions for 221 yards and a touchdown for Boise State.
Freeman, who had practiced leading up the game, opted not to play as he prepares for the NFL. He stood on the sideline in street clothes, but he gave a pregame pep talk to his teammates.
"We really struggled to move the sticks ... really put the defense in a tough spot," said Cristobal, whose team didn't cross midfield until midway through the third quarter. "Hat's off to them. We need to do a much better job to be able to keep the sticks moving and stay in rhythm.
"We certainly made it hard on ourselves, we really did," Cristobal added. "The points of emphasis that we did well in practice and in preparation just did not show up today on game day. It's something that obviously we've got to fix. We haven't been good on the road. This is essentially a road game."
"I'm just proud of our guys," Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said in postgame comments on ABC. "We had some adversity hit us, and we fought back ... just finishing and finding a way."
Oregon had 285 yards offense to Boise State's 481. Ducks running backs Tony Brooks-James and Kani Benoit combined for 15 carries for 24 yards.
"We spotted them a few (points) from our offense," Harsin said. "But, tremendous (defense) throughout the entire game."
Oregon trailed 24-14 at halftime, a respectable deficit considering how the Broncos dominated play, outgaining UO 294-77 and forcing four turnovers and not needing to defend past midfield.
The Ducks scored two quick touchdowns within 30 seconds of each other to get within 10 at the break.
Rypien, trying to hand off to running back Robert Mahone on a Statue of Liberty play, handed off too high and the ball bounced away. Oregon linebacker Troy Dye picked it up and ran 86 yards for a fumble recovery touchdown to get the Ducks to within 24-7.
Rypien then hit Wilson down the sideline. But on the next play, Rypien tried to throw a fade pass, and safety Tyree Robinson stepped in front of the receiver for the interception, then galloped 100 yards for another Oregon touchdown.
"The defense kept us in the game," Cristobal said. "Down 24-0, never flinched. Got two quick turnovers and scores. I can't say enough about how they played. The guys played hard overall, but the defense certainly executed better."
The UO momentum didn't continue in the second half, however. Rypien threw 30 yards to Wilson and, later, threw a 13-yard TD pass to tight end Alec Dhaenens, who bounced off an attempted tackle by Arrion Springs and rambled and dove into the end zone for a 31-14 lead.
The Ducks finally crossed midfield with 6:34 left in the third quarter on Herbert's pass to Johnny Johnson. But Brooks-James cost the Ducks field position, as he threw the ball at a defender after being tackled and was penalized. Herbert then was sacked, and the Ducks punted.
Oregon had 39 yards rushing on 22 carries through three quarters.
The Ducks rallied somewhat. Herbert ran for a fourth-and-1 conversion and then hit Brenden Schooler on a 27-yard TD pass with 10:07 remaining. That ended an almost 50-minute offensive scoring drought.
Oregon's defense continued to make plays, as it forced a fourth consecutive BSU punt after Justin Hollins' sack on third down.
Boise State had led Washington State 31-10 halfway through the fourth quarter in a regular-season game this season, only to lose in overtime, so the Ducks still had hope.
Herbert hit on a couple passes, but his offensive line was called for false start on third-and-2 and then allowed a sack. The Ducks had to punt.
Boise State promptly put the game away. Rypien hit Wilson on a 41-yard pass. Ryan Wolpin scored from one yard, boosting the Broncos' lead to 38-21.
The Ducks scored with 1:12 left on a Herbert-to-Jaylon Redd 8-yard TD pass, but couldn't recover their ensuing onside kick.
The Ducks had 10 penalties for 95 yards, upholding their reputation as one of the most penalized teams in the country.
The first half was something to behold, as Boise State continually possessed the ball in UO territory — aided by four Oregon turnovers and as the Ducks offense behind Herbert failed to cross midfield.
The Broncos' lead easily could have been 27-0 or 31-0, before the unbelievable turn of events in the final 37 seconds of the first half that kept Oregon in the game.
Oregon's day started with a timeout before its first play from scrimmage. After a punt, the Broncos moved for a score, as Wolpin went in on a 1-yard TD run.
Boise State was about to make the score 14-0, but Springs made a terrific, one-handed interception in the end zone.
But, Brooks-James fumbled after receiving a screen pass, with BSU recovering. Rypien hit Wilson for a 26-yard TD pass, and the Broncos led, 14-0.
Herbert fumbled under pressure, and the Broncos recovered, but Haden Hoggarth missed a field-goal attempt.
Another UO punt and Boise State moved for more points, thanks to a couple UO penalties. Hoggarth hit a 39-yard field goal to make the lead 17-0.
Later, Herbert threw an interception, as Boise State's Jordan Happle, from Jesuit High, picked off his pass over the middle.
Another Herbert interception was returned to the end zone, courtesy of Kekaula Kaniho on a 53-yard TD return.
BOISE STATE 14 10 7 7 — 38
OREGON 0 14 0 14 — 28
BOISE STATE — Ryan Wolpin 1 run (Haden Hoggarth kick), 8:17
BOISE STATE — Cedrick Wilson 26 pass from Brett Rypien (Hoggarth kick), 1:21
BOISE STATE — Hoggarth 39 FG, 8:59
BOISE STATE — Kekaula Kaniho 53 interception return (Hoggarth kick), 5:11
OREGON — Troy Dye 86 fumble return (Aidan Schneider kick), :37
OREGON — Tyree Robinson 100 interception return (Schneider kick), :07
BOISE STATE — Alec Dhaenens 13 pass from Rypien (Hoggarth kick), 9:41
OREGON — Brenden Schooler 27 pass from Justin Herbert (Schneider kick), 10:07
BOISE STATE — Wolpin 1 run (Hoggarth), 2:22
OREGON — Jaylon Redd 8 pass from Herbert (Schneider kick), 1:12