Make that a perfect 3-0 for quarterback Jaylon Henderson as a starter for the Boise State Broncos.
Henderson turned in another efficient and effective performance, leading the Broncos to a 31-24 victory over the Colorado State Rams on Friday.
Boise State overcame a lackluster running attack and somewhat choppy performance from the defense to improve to 11-1 for the first time since 2011. The Broncos also improved to 8-0 in the Mountain division, marking the first time Boise State finished with an undefeated regular season in Mountain West play.
Henderson was on point for most of the game, completing 26-36 for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He did not turn the ball over and came up with some huge throws in the fourth quarter.
The Rams (4-8, 3-5) never trailed by more than ten points all game. This was thanks in large part to a talented passing attack and a defense that only allowed seven Boise State points in the second half.
After running for over 200 yards in each of the last two games, Boise State couldn’t even crack 100 against the Rams. George Holani finished with 42 yards on 18 carries as the Broncos finished with only 91 yards on the ground.
Eight different receivers caught passes in yet another balanced group effort. Khalil Shakir led the way with seven catches for 103 yards. CT Thomas had five for 53 yards and a score while John Hightower finished with five for 49.
The 20th-ranked Broncos stay in the hunt for a NY6 game with today’s win. 18th-ranked Memphis defeated 19th-ranked Cincinnati 34-24 These two teams will meet up again next week in the AAC Championship game.
Boise State will host Hawai’i next Saturday for the Mountain West title, with kickoff scheduled for 2 pm (MT).
1st half: Battles on offense
The Broncos knew they’d have their work cut out for them in defending Colorado State’s wide receiver Warren Jackson.
Jackson had a 16-yard catch on the game’s first series, but it was a nice mix of run and pass for Colorado State to get things started. Quarterback Patrick O’Brien went 4-5 for 42 yards on the opening drive in moving the Rams down the field. Jaylen Thomas capped it off with a three-yard touchdown run, giving the Rams an early 7-0 lead.
The Broncos responded with a 17-play, 73-yard drive. Colorado State had forced a three-and-out, but a running into the kicker penalty kept the drive alive. Henderson was 6-8 on this opening drive, one that ended with a Garrett Collingham score.
Collingham, on a play that may have been designed for him to throw the ball, instead ran the ball in from two yards out, with the extra point tying the score at seven.
On Colorado State’s first play, O’Brien threw an interception. Safety Tyreque Jones had the play read from the start and returned the pick to Colorado State’s 20.
Four plays later, Henderson found CT Thomas for a 5-yard score.
The Rams hit back, however, putting together a six-minute drive. O’Brien found Jackson for a 16-yard touchdown and things were knotted up at 14.
Boise State returned the favor, with Henderson twice converting 4th-and-1’s with quarterback sneaks. On play number 14 of the drive, Henderson hit Collingham for a touchdown reception of three yards.
Curtis Weaver forced the second turnover of the half, with an acrobatic interception on third down.
— Boise State Football (@BroncoSportsFB) November 29, 2019
An Eric Sachse 39-yard field goal gave the Broncos a 24-14 at the half.
Defensive battle in the second half
For all the steady influx of offense in the first half, the complete opposite was true in the third quarter — and for most of the second half.
The Boise State Broncos only totaled 40 yards in the quarter, with Henderson getting sacked twice.
Colorado State was slightly better, totaling 103 yards. The Rams were stopped early in the quarter on 4th-and-2 when Scale Igiehon forced his way into the backfield. Igiehon, with help from Riley Whimpey and other Broncos, were able to stop the Rams for no gain.
Colorado State did get on the board later in the quarter with a 28-yard touchdown pass from O’Brien to tight end Trey McBride.
After another punt, the Rams looked to take the lead. Trailing 24-21, the first play moved the chains thanks to a late-hit by Whimpey. But after a short pickup on first down, O’Brien threw two incomplete passes and the Rams punted.
Boise State then put together their best drive of the half, with Shakir making a gorgeous, leaping catch for 35 yards, followed by a CT Thomas 23-yard reception on the sideline.
Andrew Van Buren had the team’s best run of the night, a scamper of 15 yards. This was followed by a Henderson 1-yard score.
The Rams would get within 31-24 on a Braxton Davis 34-yard field goal. They had one last chance, starting their final drive with a 41-yard completion. But David Moa came up with a huge sack on second down, with the Rams eventually punting with just over two minutes left.
They never got the ball back, thanks to a huge completion of nine yards from Henderson to Shakir on third down, sealing the game.
O’Brien threw for 289 yards for Colorado State. McBride led the Rams with nine catches for 101 yards while Jackson finished with eight for 84.