All week long we heard about the “shock and awe” Boise State likes to impose upon its opponents. Sort of like the 29-7 start the Broncos had in Scott Stadium in 2015, when then-freshman quarterback Brett Rypien threw for three touchdowns in a 56-14 Boise State victory.
Virginia was the one delivering shock and awe this time. Outplaying the home team in all three phases, the Cavaliers crushed Boise State, 42-23. This is Boise State’s first non-conference home loss since 2000 and its worst home loss since 2001.
“I love my team,” said head coach Bronco Mendenhall, whose team is 3-1 for the first time since 2007. “I love the progress they’re making. We just came to play UVA football. All that changed was the location today.”
“It’s a great win for the program, in a setting that’s really great to be a part of, and it’s on national TV,” Mendenhall said. “Momentum is being generated as we speak.”
Boise State started strong, opening the game with a 7-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a Ryan Wolpin 5-yard touchdown run. Virginia’s offense followed with a 3-and-out, and with the way Boise State’s offense started the game, one would think the fast start the Broncos were looking for was about to come to fruition.
Virginia’s defense rose to the occasion instead, holding Boise State scoreless on four straight possessions. Quarterback Kurt Benkert and the UVA offense found their rhythm in that span, scoring three straight touchdowns before a Jake Roh 2-yard touchdown run cut the Cavalier lead to 21-14 heading into halftime.
Virginia regained control three plays into the 3rd quarter, when Benkert hit Andre Levrone on a perfectly-thrown 64-yard touchdown pass. As safety Quin Blanding and the defense stifled Rypien and the Boise State offense, the Cavaliers built a 42-14 lead on the Levrone touchdown catch and touchdown runs by Olamide Zaccheaus (56 yards) and Jordan Ellis (1 yard). The latter score came early in the 4th, effectively sealing a victory for the visitors.
Benkert shook off some early jitters to turn in an outstanding performance for the second consecutive week. The 6’4”, 215-pound senior completed 19-of-29 passes for 273 yards and three scores Friday night. Two of those touchdowns went to Levrone, a senior receiver who finished with five receptions for 141 yards. This was his second straight 100-yard receiving performance.
Senior Doni Dowling had a 27-yard touchdown catch, while tight end Evan Butts and Zaccheaus had four catches apiece and played significant roles in the win.
“It was so much fun” Benkert said.
Also for the second consecutive week, the Virginia passing attack was balanced by a quality run game. Ellis, a junior tailback, was productive throughout, totaling 24 carries for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Credit the offensive line — now featuring Dillon Reinkensmeyer at center, Jake Fieler at right guard, John Montelus at left guard, Brandon Pertile at right tackle, and Jack English at left tackle — with a top notch outing as well. This five has started the past two games and the Cavalier offense has been in high gear as a result.
“I think after the Indiana game, we kind of realized as a group that we need to step up, or else this team wasn’t going to go the way it needs to go,” English said of the offensive line play the past two weeks. “We put in a couple of different pieces, and we’ve gotten to the point where we’re playing really well. Everyone knows their assignments and they’re playing off of each other. In terms of opening up the downfield, I think we were able to run the ball well which really opens up those play action passes.”
“If we can run it and throw it downfield, the points go up, and that’s what’s happened the past few weeks,” Mendenhall said.
UVA dominated the trenches on both sides. Ellis and company rushed for 167 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Their Boise State counterparts mustered only 30 yards rushing on 1.3 yards per carry against Virginia’s defense, which tallied 6.5 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups, 4 sacks (Andrew Brown, Elliott Brown, Chris Peace, Charles Snowden and Steven Wright) and 1 interception (Brenton Nelson). Blanding led the team in tackles with 10.
Aside from the first and last drives of the first half and a late deep scoring pass with the reserves in place, the Virginia defense dominated.
“Our players were assignment sound, and they played with an edge, and they covered and tackled well,” Mendenhall said. “That gave us a great chance to keep the points down. It was complimentary football. Our offense did a great job as well.”
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