LAS VEGAS, NV-For the Oregon Ducks, a rough season turned into a tidal wave of unfortunate luck in the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl. The Boise State Broncos saw the game as a completion of a stellar season. The Broncos prevailed against the Ducks, winning the game by the score of 38-28. The final outcome plastered on the scoreboard at Sam Boyd Stadium was not indicative of how dominant Boise State was against Oregon.
But that can be seen as an abbreviation. Oregon came into the bowl game without a head coach. Willie Taggert, who posted a 7-5 record in his first season with the Ducks, left the program after the last regular season Pac-12 Conference game to become Florida State’s next head coach. As it was, Oregon headed into the desert with its throng of devoted followers and ran into a very strong Boise State team.
If there was any doubt whether or not the Broncos could go toe-to-toe with the Pac-12 Conference school, all one had to do was look back at that 47-43 defeat Boise State suffered to a high-scoring Washington State team.
It took the Cougars three overtimes to beat the Broncos earlier this season. So here comes Oregon and its No. 12 national rushing attack to square off against Boise State. But for the Ducks, the drama off the field went to another level when star running back Royce Freeman decided to skip playing in the Las Vegas Bowl, choosing to get himself ready for the NFL. With that said, Oregon lost a lot of its formidable rushing attack with Freeman out of the lineup. Freeman rushed for 1, 475 yards and 16 touchdowns during the 2017 NCAA football campaign.
Boise State’s defense took advantage of Freeman not being on the field, holding the Ducks to just 80 yards rushing for the entire game. And that affected everything else Oregon wanted to do offensively. Through the first two quarters, Oregon was able to muster just four first downs and 34 yards on the ground. That 24-14 lead that Boise State (11-3) held during intermission was somewhat misleading.
Had it not been for a couple of defensive touchdowns that Oregon got as a gift from Boise State at the end of the second quarter, the Ducks would not have been on the scoreboard at all. Down 24-0 with Boise State poised to increase its lead, Oregon’s Troy Dye scooped up a fumble and returned it 86 yards to put the Ducks on the scoreboard for the first time in the game.
Thirty seconds later, Tyree Robinson picked off a pass and returned the ball 100 yards for Oregon with just seven seconds remaining in the first half. It would seem that Oregon (7-6) would come out in the third quarter riding high off of that momentum. Boise State and its defense made sure that didn’t happen, holding the Ducks scoreless in the third quarter while adding to its lead, courtesy of a 13-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Brett Rypien to Alec Dhaenens.
Oregon tried to make a run of it in the fourth quarter when quarterback Justin Herbert finally opened up the passing game. Herbert, who completed 26 of his 36 passes that he attempted, connected with Jaylon Redd and Brenden Schooler to make the score respectable. But the Broncos’ defense was a jigsaw puzzle that the Ducks could not figure out until late in the game. By that time, it was too late. Oregon also had a difficult time trying to figure out how to contain Boise State wide receiver Cedrick Wilson.
Wilson, who was named the Rich Abajian Las Vegas Bowl Most Valuable Player, caught 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown to pace the Broncos. It was the second-highest yards performance in the bowl’s history. In the second quarter, Wilson scooted into the endzone to complete a 26-yard pass-and-catch from Rypien for the Broncos’ second touchdown of the game.