Broncos, Cowboys Battle For The Mountain
Oct. 24, 2016
BOISE, Idaho - The Boise State football team, now ranked 13th in both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches Polls, travels to Laramie, Wyo., this week to square off against Wyoming in a match-up of Mountain West teams tied atop the Mountain Division standings.
The Broncos (7-0, 3-0 MW) and Cowboys (5-2, 3-0 MW) are slated to kick at 5 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium, and the game will be nationally televised by CBS Sports Network.
THE SERIES: The Broncos are a perfect 10-0 against the Cowboys in a series that dates back to 2002, including five-straight victories as conference rivals in the Mountain West. The Broncos' five wins at War Memorial Stadium have been by an average of 30.8 points.
ONE OF THE LAST UNBEATENS: Boise State, at 7-0, is one of only nine schools in the country that has yet to lose a game in 2016, a list that also includes Alabama (8-0), Baylor (6-0), Clemson (7-0), Michigan (7-0), Nebraska (7-0), Washington (7-0), West Virginia (6-0) and Western Michigan (7-0).
A CHANCE TO CONTROL THE MOUNTAIN: Saturday's meeting between a pair of 3-0 (Mountain West) teams in Boise State and Wyoming is crucial to the Broncos' pursuit of the Mountain Division crown. While the teams are tied atop the division, a Bronco win would give Boise State what would amount to a two-game lead over the Cowboys, as well as one-loss New Mexico, with four to play as the Broncos would hold the head-to-head tiebreakers over each team. Boise State also holds the head-to-head tiebreakers with Mountain Division foes Colorado State (2-2) and Utah State (1-3), and is three games ahead of Air Force (1-3).
EXORCISING DEMONS: Boise State lost four games last season, and all four teams are back on the schedule for 2016. The Road to Redemption began Oct. 1 against Utah State, and continued against New Mexico (Oct. 7) and BYU (Oct. 20). The Broncos have avenged the first three losses, knocking off the Aggies (21-10), downing the Lobos (49-21) and defeating the Cougars (28-27), and have one more chance for retribution - against Air Force in the regular-season finale, Nov. 25.
Stringing together back-to-back wins is rare for Boise State's opponents. Since the Broncos joined the Western Athletic Conference in 2001, only two opponents have notched back-to-back victories over Boise State -- San Diego State (2012-13) and Air Force (2014-15). Only 10 conference opponents in school history have accomplished the feat against Boise State.
THE "MOA CONSTRICTOR" DOES IT ALL: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle David Moa picked up a pair of solo tackles and a sack in Thursday night's 28-27 win over BYU, but where he made his biggest contribution was BYU's attempted game-winning fi eld goal with 15 seconds remaining. Moa burst through the center of the BYU line and got his hand up, blocking Rhett Almond's 44-yard attempt to preserve the Bronco lead. For his efforts on the final drive, Moa was named Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week, his first-career weekly conference honor. Moa's sack upped his season total to 6.5, second in the Mountain West and the most by a Bronco interior lineman since Andrew Browning had 8.5 in 2006.
THE "MONEY DOWN": Through seven games Boise State's defense has answered the call when it comes to stops on third down, or, as the Bronco defense calls it, the "money down." Opponents have been successful on only 41-of-123 third-down conversions (33.3 percent), a figure that ranks seventh in the country and leads the Mountain West.
Thursday night, BYU went just 4-for-17 on its third-down plays as the Bronco defense did its job in getting off the field.
McNICHOLS LEADS THE COUNTRY: Junior running back Jeremy McNichols scored a touchdown on the ground and through the air in Thursday's 28-27 win over BYU, bringing his season touchdown total to 16, tied for the national lead with Louisville's Lamar Jackson. For McNichols, a three-time Mountain West Player of the Week in 2016, Thursday's game was the 10th of his career in which he recorded both a rushing and receiving touchdown. Combined with last year's scoring output (26 touchdowns), McNichols' total of 42 touchdowns since the start of the 2015 season is the most of any FBS player.
He's continued to bull his way into the Doak Walker Award (nation's best RB) conversation, with Thursday's 140 rushing yards on 30 carries following up a performance five days earlier against Colorado State in which McNichols set career bests in carries (40), rushing yards (217) and all-purpose yards (264) in Boise State's 28-23 win. McNichols' 40 carries against the Rams set a Boise State single-game record, eclipsing Cedric Minter's 38-year-old record of 38, and his 217 yards on the ground made for his second 200-yard performance of not only his career but also this season, having previously gone for 208 yards at Oregon State (Sept. 24).
McNichols has also been a major threat out wide, catching 25 passes for 372 yards and four touchdowns this season, a year after hauling in 51 passes for 460 yards and six scores in 2015. Thursday night against BYU, McNichols caught fi ve passes for 109 yards including one catch that went for 76 yards and the game's opening score. Paired with his 140 rushing yards, McNichols' 100-100 game was just the fifth in Boise State history. McNichols has also worked his way into good company in the Boise State record books. His 2,411 career rushing yards rank 10th at Boise State, his 33 rushing touchdowns seventh and his 44 total touchdowns fifth all-time.
McNichols has posted 12 100-yard rushing games in his career, seventh-best at Boise State while he is one of just two Broncos to post at least two 200-yard rushing games. His total of six career 200-all-purpose-yard performances is tied for second in school history, just two back of leader Brock Forsey.
SPERBECK TAKES OVER AS BOISE STATE'S BEST: Senior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, the only current Bronco voted by the fans to the 30-Year All-Blue Team, made nine catches for 109 yards and a touchdown in Thursday's 28-27 win over BYU, but it was a 20-yard reception in the first quarter that stood out. That catch pushed Sperbeck to 3,075 career receiving yards, passing Titus Young (3.063 yards) as Boise State's all-time leader.
The performance continued Sperbeck's ascent up multiple categories of the Boise State record book, as he now stands fifth all-time with 191 receptions (53 behind all-time leader Matt Miller). His 109 receiving yards Thursday against BYU also marked the 13th 100-yard receiving game of his career, bringing him into a tie with Boise State's all-time leader Ryan Ikebe (1993-96).
With seven games under his belt, Sperbeck leads the Mountain West with 810 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches and is second with 47 receptions, a season after leading the conference in receiving yardage with a Boise State single-season record 1,412 as well as with 88 receptions, which tied Miller's Boise State single-season record.
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