Justice Hill, Oklahoma State Pull Minor Upset over Boise State

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2018

Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill (5) runs past Boise State defensive end Durrant Miles, center, and teammate Marcus Keyes (75) and into the endzone with a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The No. 24 Oklahoma State Cowboys pulled off a minor upset Saturday, beating the No. 17 Boise State Broncos 44-21 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

OK State improved to 3-0 and established itself as a threat in the Big 12, while Boise State dropped to 2-1 and saw its hopes of playing in a New Year's Six bowl take a major hit.

The Cowboys turned in an impressive all-around performance.

Senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius led the way with 15-of-26 passing for 243 yards and one touchdown, as well as 41 yards and two scores on the ground. Junior running back Justice Hill chipped in 123 rushing yards and a TD.

The Oklahoma State defense held Boise State to 31 rushing yards on 31 carries and sacked Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien seven times. Even special teams played a big role, as OK State blocked a pair of punts, including one that was returned for a touchdown.

After falling behind 7-0 early in the second quarter, the Cowboys scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives and entered halftime up 17-7.

With the momentum firmly on Oklahoma State's side, it never relinquished the lead.


The 2018 Cowboys Are Mike Gundy's Most Complete Team

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has led many quality teams since 2005, but Saturday's performance suggests the 2018 Cowboys are his best outfit.

Cornelius didn't put up the type of eye-popping passing numbers Mason Rudolph often did during his time as the Pokes' starting quarterback from 2015 to 2017, but he put his receivers in good spots and did damage with his legs Saturday.

The signal-caller was so effective as a runner that Nathan Ruiz of The Oklahoman cracked a joke at Boise State's expense:

It didn't always look good when Cornelius ran, but he kept the Broncos honest.

The Cowboys also have Hill, who's a star-caliber back, and their receiving corps of Jalen McCleskey, Dillon Stoner, Tyron Johnson and Tylan Wallace is possibly the country's best.

Stoner was especially good Saturday, as he took a short pass from Cornelius and turned it into a 32-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Hill got better as the game wore on, as his 53-yard run in the fourth frame set the stage for a touchdown that put the contest away:

Two of OK State's big plays came in the form of a pair of blocked punts.

The first occurred in the second quarter when linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga broke through and set up the Cowboys at the Boise State 7-yard line:

That led to a one-yard touchdown run from Cornelius that put Oklahoma State up for good.

In the third quarter, safety Jarrick Bernard blocked another punt before safety Za'Carrius Green picked it up and scored a touchdown from 13 yards out:

OK State has often lacked a quality defense under Gundy, but that was a strength against Boise State. Most notably, the front four had Rypien on the run for much of the game, which is something he isn't accustomed to, per KTVB's Jay Tust:

After recording a sack in each of Oklahoma State's first two games, junior defensive end Jordan Brailford registered three against the Broncos.

According to Mark Cooper of Tulsa World, that gave him one of the most prolific pass-rushing performances in Oklahoma State history:

Defense is often an elusive entity in the Big 12, but if Oklahoma State can continue to get to the quarterback, it may be the conference's best team.

Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU may all have something to say about that, but Gundy's squad looks like a threat to win the conference and advance to the College Football Playoff for the first time.


Rypien Can't Keep Covering for Broncos' Deficiencies

The Broncos looked like world-beaters to open the season when they outscored Troy and UConn 118-27.

When the competition level ratcheted up against Oklahoma State, though, Boise State's deficiencies became clear.

Rypien was excellent as usual with 380 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, but his protection was lacking, which prevented him from making more downfield plays.

The veteran quarterback was hit so often that Paul Gerke of KPNX was concerned about his health:

Former Boise State and NFL linebacker Shea McClellin also pointed out the O-line's inability to keep Rypien clean:

Rypien did have some support from his receivers, as they nabbed a few impressive touchdowns.

In the second quarter, John Hightower made a diving grab for a 31-yard score to help give Boise State a 7-0 lead.

A.J. Richardson made a catch that was arguably even better in the third quarter when he reeled in a one-hander for a 34-yard touchdown to help cut the deficit to six:

Even though Rypien and the offense made big passing plays, they couldn't overcome the team's other struggles.

The punting game is a concern since both Quinn Skillin and Joel Velazquez had punts blocked.

Also, kicker Haden Hoggarth missed a 27-yard field goal in the first half that could have given Boise State the early lead.

The team's defensive struggles weren't overly shocking, since opponents often have a hard time against OK State's explosive offense. But the Broncos couldn't force any turnovers.

The Broncos may be good enough prevail in the Mountain West Conference, but if they don't get better contributions around Rypien, they'll be in huge trouble against better competition during bowl season. 


Boise State No Longer Group of Five's Top Team

Boise State entered this week as the top-ranked team from the Group of Five, but that status will likely change.

The Broncos were just one spot ahead of the UCF Knights, who were idle because Hurricane Florence forced the cancellation of their game against South Carolina.

UCF had question marks before the start of the season, since head coach Scott Frost departed for Nebraska, but the Knights looked great in their first two games, outscoring their opponents 94-17.

Quarterback McKenzie Milton has thrown for 589 yards and six touchdowns through two games, but most impressively, the Knights have three players with at least 100 rushing yards.

The Knights went undefeated last season, and they have yet to show signs of slowing.

After playing in and winning a New Year's Six bowl last season, UCF controls its destiny again in that regard, and it has already shown it can perform in high-pressure environments.

If Boise State doesn't correct its issues and get help in the form of a UCF loss, it will be forced to settle for a lesser bowl again.


What's Next?

Oklahoma State will be expected to improve to 4-0 when it hosts the Texas Tech Red Raiders next Saturday. The Cowboys have a favorable schedule in the coming weeks and won't face their first huge test until they take on the Oklahoma Sooners on the road Nov. 10.

Boise State will regroup on the bye next week before clashing with the Wyoming Cowboys away from home Sept. 29. Despite Saturday's loss, the Broncos have a chance to run the table and remain in the New Year's Six conversation.


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