LAS VEGAS (AP) — Bryan Harsin didn’t have to say anything.
Boise State had committed two turnovers that were returned for touchdowns in the final minute of the first half, turning a 24-0 rout in the making into a competitive 24-14 contest and allowing Oregon back into the game.
Without any special speech from their head coach, the Broncos regrouped and responded.
Cedrick Wilson caught 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown, Kekaula Kaniho returned an interception 53 yards for a score and No. 25 Boise State beat Oregon 38-28 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday.
“New slate. It’s a whole different half. As far as we were concerned, it was 0-0,” Broncos linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said.
Brett Rypien threw for 362 yards and two touchdown passes — with two interceptions — to help the Broncos (11-3) break a three-game losing streak against Power 5 opposition. Ryan Wolpin rushed for two touchdowns.
Troy Dye and Tyree Robinson each scored a defensive touchdown, and Justin Herbert was 26 of 36 passing for 233 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Ducks (7-6) in new head coach Mario Cristobal’s debut.
Boise State forced four turnovers in the first half, taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on Wolpin’s 1-yard touchdown run and Rypien’s 26-yard scoring pass to Wilson. Haden Hoggarth added a 39-yard field goal before an off-balance Herbert heaved a pass toward the sideline that was easily picked off and run back by Kaniho, who also had a strip-sack.
Oregon clawed back after Dye recovered a fumble on a botched Statue of Liberty handoff and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown with 37 seconds remaining.
A 65-yard reception by Wilson to set the Boise State single-season record for yards receiving got the Broncos right back in the red zone, but Robinson picked off Rypien’s pass in the end zone and took it back 100 yards on the longest interception return in school history with 7 seconds remaining to make it 24-14.
If not for those defensive scores, the full extent of Boise State’s dominance would have been evident. The Broncos outgained the Ducks 294-77 in the first half and reached Ducks’ territory on 10 of 15 meaningful possessions in the game. They held Oregon to 47 yards rushing and 1.7 yards per carry, recording nine tackles for loss with four sacks while outclassing their Pac-12 foe on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
“They are a great team, and we came out and we played some awesome football,” said Vander Esch, who had 12 tackles, including three tackles for loss with one sack. “We didn’t take any days off from the moment we won that Mountain West championship. We knew as soon as we won that we still had part of our goal left to go finish.”
After Alec Dhaenens caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Rypien in the third quarter, the Ducks pulled back within 31-21 on a 24-yard scoring throw from Herbert to Brendan Schooler with 10:07 remaining.
Oregon had a chance to cut it to a one-possession game but Herbert was sacked near midfield, and Boise State drove 86 yards in 11 plays capped by Wolpin’s second 1-yard touchdown run.
“I think a lot of teams would fold their tent when they’re down 24-0 or things don’t go their way,” Cristobal said. “You look at the way they just kept fighting, scratching and clawing to make this thing a competitive game, to me, that’s the positive.”
Boise State: The Broncos are still the class of the Mountain West. After being written off in September after losses to Washington State and Virginia, Boise State closed the season by winning nine of their last 10 games, including the conference title game and the conference’s marquee bowl tie-in.
Oregon: The Ducks didn’t exactly do much to back up their push for Cristobal’s promotion to head coach. Oregon got pushed around on both lines of scrimmage and make plenty of ill-advised decisions, best exemplified by running back Tony Brooks-James throwing a ball at a defender in the third quarter to scuttle a promising drive.
It wasn’t a vintage season for Boise State, but the Broncos will finish ranked for the third time in the last six seasons. Oregon has plenty of work to do before making itself a regular in the top 25 again.
Boise State: With 18 players that started the Las Vegas Bowl eligible to return next season, including all 11 defenders, the Broncos should be back in the mix to reach a New Year’s 6 bowl game. An early road game at Oklahoma State will give a good indication of just how high Boise State’s ceiling might be in Harsin’s fifth season.
Oregon: A soft non-conference slate and favorable home schedule bodes well for Oregon’s record in Cristobal’s first season in change, but the Ducks need significant personnel upgrades over the long haul to compete in the loaded Pac-12 North.