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Boise State-New Mexico report card: Grading the Broncos’ solid road finale win

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It says a lot about Boise State’s 45-14 win at New Mexico that coach Bryan Harsin wasn’t completely impressed.

“There were a lot of things we came in, goal-wise in this game that we didn’t get done, and a lot of things that we did,” Harsin said.

The Broncos at times looked unstoppable on offense and at times unbreakable on defense. Special teams, at times, was laughable.

Heading into the massive game Saturday against No. 14 Utah State at Albertsons Stadium, Boise State (9-2 overall, 6-1 Mountain West) has plenty of momentum with six straight wins, but still a few things that must be fixed if they want to be Mountain Division champs.

Scoring off all three forced turnovers and rushing for more than 200 yards, the talent difference was obvious Friday, and the Broncos made sure it showed.

“Clearly, clearly they’re ahead of us, a much better team than us ... they’re good,” New Mexico coach Bob Davie said.

OFFENSE: B-plus

The Broncos had 449 yards of offense, averaging 6.6 yards per play, and did not have a turnover. Junior running back Alexander Mattison rushed for a season-best 145 yards as the Broncos had 227 yards on the ground, the first time this season they’ve rushed for more than they passed.

Senior quarterback Brett Rypien had all three of his touchdowns and 222 yards passing by the start of the fourth quarter. He was sacked three times. Though Boise State scored on five of six red-zone trips, that one bothered Rypien as the Broncos got to the New Mexico 18, but two incompletions and a sack forced a field goal attempt.

“I thought we got off to a good start,” Rypien said. “... Second half, we’ve got to be a little better in the red zone, make sure we’re finishing off those drives and we’ve got a big one next week, and that’s going to be big (in that game).”

DEFENSE: A-minus

It was not the ideal start, as New Mexico moved into Boise State territory on three of its first four drives, but came away with only seven points. Outside of the Lobos’ two longest drives (75 and 55 yards), the Broncos allowed just 132 yards on their nine other possessions.

Harsin said he hopes to see his defense tackle better after missing a few opportunities early on. The Broncos had a fourth-down stop at midfield with most of their backups in the game, and the three turnovers were big. Desmond Williams had a 9-yard fumble return touchdown, while Kekaula Kaniho’s interception and Kekoa Nawahine’s fumble recovery gave the Broncos the ball in Lobo territory.

Williams said the Broncos were inspired by New Mexico’s postgame celebration at Albertsons Stadium when they upset the Broncos in 2015, and with a crowd of 16,883 on hand, would need to make their own momentum.

“Having that picture they took on the blue a couple years back, that was the thing that kind of drove us to have the energy,” he said. “We knew the crowd wasn’t really going to be there and stuff like that, so we had to bring our own energy, and that’s what us and the guys did.”

SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus

Well, Haden Hoggarth made a 34-yard field goal with 39 seconds before halftime for a 24-7 lead.

That was the highlight for the Broncos’ special teams. Hoggarth had a field goal blocked in the third quarter, then the real groaner came when Marcus Hayes ran back a punt 86 yards for a touchdown with 10:50 to play. He broke Nawahine’s tackle early, and weaved through the punt coverage for New Mexico’s first punt return touchdown in 16 years.

Harsin had made a point to publicly praise Hayes’ return ability at his press conference Sunday.

“That was the disappointing thing — we already talked about him, he’s one of the best in the country ... as much as it upsets me, that kid can go, and he made it happen,” Harsin said. “We better do a better job and learn from that.”

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