STILLWATER, OKLA. — Well before the final score at Boone Pickens Stadium read Oklahoma State 44, Boise State 21, the Broncos beat themselves.
One of the team’s biggest nonconference games in years, Boise State was playing a fellow ranked team in the regular season for the first time since Aug. 31, 2012. A win certainly would have cemented the Broncos as the Group of Five favorite for a major bowl and maybe a playoff darkhorse.
But that talk will have to wait a few weeks, at least, as the Broncos fell to 3-16 all-time in road games against Power Five schools.
“I think that was one of our goals this year, try to win every game,” Boise State senior quarterback Brett Rypien said.
Saturday’s 23-point loss had the ingredients of a performance that would not even win a big Mountain West game — an absolute debacle of a special teams performance, blocking trouble and missed tackles ruined some positive performances.
“It wasn’t one phase, it wasn’t one thing, it wasn’t one person, it was a combination of all three,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
There is a reason No. 24 Oklahoma State (3-0) is perennially ranked. Built for speed, the Cowboys made No. 17 Boise State (2-1) pay for every big mistake, most clearly when the Broncos had to punt.
Whatever foot it came off, it didn’t matter. Left foot (Quinn Skillin) or right foot (Joel Velazquez), each punter had one blocked Saturday. Both were quickly turned into Oklahoma State touchdowns in the second and third quarters.
“Sometimes during the week you watch things and you feel like that’s going to work, and sometimes you’re like, ‘I’m not real fired up about that,’ ” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “I felt really good really good about it all week.”
Harsin said that despite what the ESPN broadcast mentioned, he was not aware the Broncos’ punters were slow getting punts out this season. But the Cowboys’ quickness, and some missed blocks, were a potent combination.
“You play a team like Oklahoma State, it comes down to that, they’re fast — they’ve always been that way, that’s not anything new and that shouldn’t have been a surprise,” Harsin said, adding, “If you don’t block anybody and they’re going as fast as they’re going ... that punt’s going to get slammed, and it did.”
That speed has been obvious on an Oklahoma State offense that came into the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in total yardage. But it’s evident on special teams, and on defense, too.
Seven times the Cowboys sacked Rypien, who also was not helped by an inefficient rushing attack. Subtracting the seven sacks for 49 yards, the Broncos rushed 24 times for 83 yards, with just one run longer than 10 yards. Rypien said the Cowboys used two high safeties, which should have enabled more running room, but that obviously did not develop.
“It was tough trying to throw the ball when you’re pinned back in third-and-long situations,” Rypien said.
But if there was a bright spot, it was Rypien, who in the past had struggled in games where adversity struck early and often. He was as good as the Broncos could have asked, when he wasn’t face-to-face with a charging Cowboy defender, finishing 39-of-56 passing for 380 yards.
Rypien had three touchdowns and no interceptions, passing Kellen Moore for most career 300-yard games at Boise State with 17.
“I saw a competitor, on the sideline the whole time he had a positive attitude,” senior wide receiver A.J. Richardson said. “... When he takes some hits, he gets back up.”
Rypien hit Richardson, who made a spectacular one-handed catch, for a 34-yard touchdown with 9 minutes, 18 seconds left in the third quarter that made it 20-14, but a little more than three minutes later, the Broncos were down by 20.
Oklahoma State scored on a 68-yard touchdown drive, then the offense did nothing to answer. Velazquez had his punt blocked and returned for a touchdown, and the game was out of reach.
Without senior cornerback Tyler Horton, the Broncos’ defense had some moments, but the Turnover Throne sat vacant all afternoon. The Cowboys were held to 246 yards passing, but they converted 7-of-13 third downs and quarterback Taylor Cornelius frustrated the Broncos with a bit of a running ability — without sacks factored, he rushed 13 times for 60 yards. He had 30 yards the first two games.
“We weren’t really planning for him to run like that,” Boise State senior STUD end Jabril Frazier said. “We just have to get better at tackling to be ready for next week.”
Boise State will not exit the New Year’s Six conversation and still has the entire conference slate ahead. Like last year, when they came off a clunker against Virginia, the Broncos head into a bye week full of self-reflection.
“There’s probably going to be a little more chip on our shoulder since we just got our butts whupped,” Rypien said.