BOISE — Boise State’s defense came up with a huge stop late in the fourth quarter, and the Broncos got a little bit of luck in overtime.
They’ll gladly take it at this point.
Wyoming kicker Cooper Rothe’s 37-yard attempt sailed right of the uprights in overtime and the Broncos avoided a potentially disastrous loss with a 20-17 win at Albertsons Stadium on Saturday night.
The Broncos had just 285 yards of offense while playing without starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier for the second time in three games. And for the second straight week they needed a fourth-quarter comeback to avoid being upset as a double-digit favorite.
"Not pretty in a lot of areas," Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. "We did just enough."
Eric Sachse’s 28-yard field goal on Boise State’s possession in overtime proved to be the game winner, and who knows how big it will prove to be moving forward.
A loss would have basically eliminated the Broncos from a spot in the Cotton Bowl as the top Group of 5 team. But they did enough to survive and advance, remaining perfect in Mountain West play in the process. Boise State (8-1, 5-0 MW) is assured of winning the Mountain Division and hosting the Mountain West title game in Boise if it wins its three remaining games.
"The win is the most important thing," Harsin said. "At the end that's the result and the work from Sunday all the way through Saturday is for that 'W' that you play together to go out there and get it done. Those guys fought hard.
"We'll go back and pop on the tape and go through all of these things and they'll look at it, but tonight I want these guys to enjoy just coming together and getting it done. Bottom line. As a player that's what you work so hard to do and that's all that really matters right now."
Boise State’s defense came up with a huge stop in the final minute to have a chance. Wyoming faced fourth-and-1 from the Boise State 39-yard line with 36 seconds left and the game tied at 17-17, but Riley Whimpey and Curtis Weaver combined to stop Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay short of the marker.
"I was able to come through the line free and make a play," Whimpey said. "It was an awesome fourth-down stop to be able to get as a team."
The Broncos took over with a chance to win, but Chase Cord was intercepted by Wyoming’s Logan Wilson while trying to get the Broncos into field goal range. A Hail Mary attempt from the Cowboys fell incomplete in the end zone to send the game into overtime.
Boise State had the ball first to start overtime but settled for the 28-yarder from Sachse. It proved to be enough.
Whimpey nearly ended the game with an interception on Wyoming’s first play in overtime, but made a tackle on Valladay on third down to force the Cowboys into the field goal attempt.
"When things aren't going our way we stay positive and keep our head up and know anything can happen," Whimpey said. "This team has an amazing mentality and we have belief in one another so when we get in situations like that we are able to put our head down and work and come out on top."
It was the second win in a row for the Broncos when trailing entering the fourth quarter. It’s the first time since 2014 in which the Broncos won consecutive games when trailing entering the quarter. The Broncos won for the third time this season when trailing after three quarters, something they hadn’t done previously since 1990.
Cord went 19 of 30 for 190 yards a touchdown in his second career start. Bachmeier didn’t participate in pregame warmups and was unavailable to play due to injury, but Harsin didn't expand as to what the injury was or when it occurred.
Harsin said Cord took the majority of reps in practice during the week but didn't say when he knew he'd be starting.
"Chase is a tough dude," Harsin said. "That guy is a tough dude and that guy has my absolute respect and I love that about him. I love his mentality. ... He's out there trying to operate the things we're asking him to do and I appreciate that about him. I thought he played well enough tonight to get the job done."
Boise State’s last overtime game was a 19-16 loss to Fresno State in last year’s Mountain West Championship. It was Boise State’s first regular season home game to go to overtime since a 69-67 win over Nevada in 2007 in a game that went four overtimes.
Boise State’s start couldn’t have been much better. The Broncos had an impressive 12-play, 92-yard drive on their first possession, culminating with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cord to Akilian Butler to put the Broncos up 7-0. Six different players caught passes on the opening drive, and eight had either a reception or a rush.
But the creativity went away, and so did the production. The Broncos ran 10 plays for 28 yards the rest of the half and punted three times. Wyoming took advantage, scoring on a 3-yard run from quarterback Tyler Vander Waal to tie the game before a 39-field goal from Rothe with one second left in the half gave the Cowboys a 10-7 lead at the break.
Boise State had just 120 yards of offense in the first half, the lowest first-half total of the season. They had 123 in a 28-25 loss to BYU.
"I think we could have done some things play selection wise that would have helped our guys a little bit more and we didn't do that and that's part of why the game was closer than it should have been," Harsin said. "We should be able to score more points than that, but tonight it didn't happen. At the end of the day we got just enough."
The Broncos went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half, but tied the game at 10-all on their next possession thanks to a 40-yard field goal from Eric Sachse. Boise State went eight plays in 59 yards, but couldn’t cash in on first-and-goal from the 5-yard line due to a pair of costly penalties.
Boise State appeared to be in good position after Avery Williams partially blocked a Wyoming punt attempt near midfield, but the Cowboys got the ball back two players later on a fumble from George Holani. And Wyoming turned the break into a go-ahead touchdown, scoring on a 21-yard run from Valladay to take a 17-10 lead with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
Boise State had just 206 total yards of offense when it finally got things going early in the fourth quarter. The Broncos used a methodical 10-play, 57-yard drive that took 5:24 off the clock to tie the game at 17 on a 5-yard touchdown run from Khalil Shakir with 5:37 to play in the fourth quarter.
That set up the crazy finish, and an ending that could prove to be a defining moment of Boise State’s season.
"When we're down, nobody puts their head down," Shakir said. "We have the confidence to come out and we know we're going to put on a show and do our thing. ... I'm just happy we came out on top."
The Broncos will be back at home next Saturday night when they host New Mexico at 8:15 p.m. on Senior Night.