CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — From the beginning — indeed, the very first play from scrimmage — Boise State had Virginia on its heels, and the Broncos never let up.
Justin Taimatuia returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown on that first play, Brett Rypien threw three touchdown passes and Jeremy McNichols scored twice in the Broncos’ 56-14 victory Friday night.
Boise State led 17-0 before the game was barely 7 minutes old, forced five turnovers and added another defensive touchdown late.
“We needed to have one of these games,” linebacker Ben Weaver said after the Broncos (3-1) limited Virginia (1-3) to 273 yards. “We hadn’t scored all year and we’ve been lacking in the turnover area, so we made that a big point of emphasis, especially on the road.”
It couldn’t have paid off any faster.
Matt Johns dropped back to pass, and as the pocket collapsed around him, he attempted to flip the ball over his shoulder. Taimatuia, a 300-pound defensive tackle, intercepted it and lumbered 21 yards for a touchdown. The Broncos led 7-0 lead after 16 seconds.
“The last few weeks I felt like we didn’t get off as fast as we wanted,” McNichols said. “Today we wanted to come out fast and finish.”
McNichols’ 47-yard run on third down set up his first touchdown, on a 2-yard run. Johns’ second interception, by Darian Thompson on a deep ball, set up a four-play drive to Tyler Rausa’s 51-yard field goal. The game was barely 7 minutes old and the Broncos led 17-0.
“You can’t have five turnovers, particularly that first play of scrimmage,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “It just went downhill from there.”
McNichols ran his Bowl Subdivision-leading touchdown count to 10 by adding a 10-yard TD catch later, and behind Rypien, the Broncos showed no signs of losing a step after losing quarterback Ryan Finley to a broken ankle last week in a victory over Idaho State.
Rypien had a lot to do with why, McNichols said.
“His poise. He got hit. He got up. He operated. He was confident. We were fast on offense and we finished all of our drives.
Virginia got a gift touchdown when Johns, throwing off his back foot and under heavy pressure, heaved a ball in the direction of T.J. Thorpe and Thorpe somehow came down with it in tight coverage and outran cornerback Jonathan Moxey for a 75-yard scoring play.
But the highlights were minimal, to say the least.
“You have to be able to bounce back from these things,” London said as his team heads into an off week. “It’s about how you respond.”
The touchdown brought the crowd back to life, as did a few defensive stands by the Cavaliers, but after Ian Frye missed a 48-yard field goal in the second quarter that would have made it 17-10, Rypien had five completions that covered 69 yards and the lead was 24-7.
Rypien, a freshman and nephew of former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien, continued to impress. He finished 21 of 32 for 250 yards with touchdowns of 10 yards to McNichols and 30 and 64 yards to Thomas Sperbeck. This all came a week after he made his college debut by leading the Broncos to three touchdowns and a field goal in just over one quarter of action against Idaho State.
Trailing 24-7, Virginia’s miserable night continued on the ensuing kickoff when a holding penalty forced the Cavaliers to start at their 10. After a running play netted nothing, Johns was called for intentional grounding from the end zone for a safety.
Johns, lifted after he threw another pick six to Mercy Maston late in the third quarter, finished 12 for 25 for 199 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He was sacked three times and hit frequently.
As fans flocked to the exits early, Rausa added three more field goals and Rypien and Sperbeck connected for their TDs.