Boise State tops Oregon 38-28 to win the Las Vegas Bowl

Boise State did it again Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl: a big-time win against a big-time opponent to cap the season on national TV. This time it was a 38-28 win over Oregon. (Photo Courtesy Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

LAS VEGAS – The Boise State football team didn’t care that oddsmakers had Oregon as a 7-point favorite. They didn’t care that the Ducks were getting most of the attention heading into the game, either.

The Broncos had them right where they wanted them.

Boise State did it again Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl: a big-time win against a big-time opponent to cap the season on national TV. This time it was a 38-28 win over Oregon.

The Broncos dominated from start to finish and would have won the game in blowout fashion if not for two Oregon defensive touchdowns in a span of 30 seconds during a crazy end to the first half.

Boise State raced to a 24-0 lead but had just a 24-14 advantage at the break due to the two Oregon scores. The Broncos scored on the opening possession of the third quarter and never let the Ducks get within 10 points to improve to 4-0 in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Broncos are 5-1 against Pac-12 teams under coach Harsin and the only loss came in triple overtime earlier this year to Washington State. Boise State improved to 12-6 all-time in bowl games, and topped a Power Five team in a bowl game for the fourth time in the past seven years.

“I’ve been around Boise State football longer than anybody and I’ve been a part of great teams, but I can tell you this right now,” Harsin said. “You can focus on the records all you want, but this football team and the type of character they have and this coaching staff is as good as any we’ve ever had at Boise State.”

Boise State’s defense was the story of the game. The Broncos had four first-half turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown from Kekaula Kaniho, and held Oregon to just 47 rushing yards for the game on 28 carries. The Ducks entered as the No. 8 rushing offense in the country at 268 yards per game on the ground.

Oregon had just 77 total yards of offense in the first half and didn’t run a play in Boise State territory until 6:30 remained in the first half.

Leighton Vander Esch had 12 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, a sack and a forced fumble in what could be his final college game. The redshirt junior said he’s yet to make a decision but plans to ‘weigh his options’ in the near future.

Jordan Happle and Kaniho had interceptions and Kaniho and Vander Esch had forced fumbles that led to recoveries to account for the four Boise State turnovers on defense.

“We knew what they were going to do and we knew what we had to do to stop them and it just came down to executing it and applying it on the field,” Vander Esch said. “I knew going into it we had a lot of respect for them, they have play makers all around the field. To have a performance like that against that kind of offense is pretty special.”

Rypien passed for 362 yards, the third-most in Las Vegas Bowl history, while Wilson earned game MVP honors with 10 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Wolpin had 23 rushes for 71 yards and two touchdowns in his final college game while subbing in for the injured Alexander Mattison, who played sparingly and had just three carries for 12 yards.

The win caps an impressive season for the Broncos (11-3) that included both a Mountain West championship and a Las Vegas Bowl win. And with a ton of young players returning, the Broncos should have plenty of hype heading into 2018.

But Saturday was all about the 2017 group, which again stepped onto the national stage against Oregon and finished the season off in style.

“Something special happened this season and we’re going to enjoy it,” Harsin said.

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