Boise, bowl underdogs make strong opening statement

By Brett Lawson  ( 

December 17, 2017 04:43 AM
Mario Cristobal's first game as Oregon coach was a disaster. The Ducks, 7-point favorites, flopped in a 38-28 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
© USA Today Sports Images

In the most popular betting matchup on the opening Saturday of the bowl season, Boise State made a big statement by topping Oregon 38-28 in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Broncos headlined a strong start for the underdogs.

With a new coach and without their star running back, the Ducks appeared disoriented for most of the first half and never recovered. Brett Rypien passed for 362 yards and two touchdowns to help the Broncos roll as 7-point ‘dogs.

In addition to Boise State, Georgia State, Marshall and Middle Tennessee posted outright wins as bowl ‘dogs went 4-1. Troy was the only favorite to cover.

The Broncos drew first blood at the 8:17 mark in the first quarter, when Ryan Wolpin, seeing an increased role due to an injury to running back Alexander Mattison, found the end zone on a 1-yard run. From that point on, the Boise defense took control, as linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and company swarmed the Ducks from all directions the entire afternoon.

The absence of star running back Royce Freeman, who sat out to prepare for the NFL Draft, was noticeable for Oregon. The complete lack of a running attack put more pressure on quarterback Justin Herbert, who many experts thought would be the key advantage for the Ducks in the contest. But Herbert struggled to find any consistent rhythm. The sophomore finished the day 26-for-36 for 233 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. The Boise defense dropped Herbert on the Sam Boyd Stadium turf four times.

The Oregon defense briefly picked up the slack. In a bizarre sequence in the final minute of the first half, two Boise turnovers resulted in an 86-yard fumble return for a touchdown and a 100-yard interception return, cutting the Broncos’ halftime lead to 24-14.

The Ducks’ momentum did not carry over into the third quarter, however, as Rypien found tight end Alec Dhaenens for a 13-yard touchdown. From that point, the Broncos imposed their will in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

Things did get interesting from a betting aspect late in the fourth quarter, with the total of 63 jeopardized in the final minutes. Wolpin crossed the goal line again with 2:22 remaining to push the score to 38-21.

Herbert and the Ducks followed with a quick 75-yard drive that was capped off with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Jaylon Redd as the score went over the total with 1:12 to go.

The Broncos validated opinions that they were live ‘dogs. As for the Ducks, the head-coaching debut for Mario Cristobal was a bust.

Brett Lawson’s bowl best bets:


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