SAN DIEGO -- A pair of Group of 5 powers squared off in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. But only one of them looked elite.
Boise State jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the game’s first minute and never looked back as the Broncos cruised to a 55-7 win over Northern Illinois. The Broncos built a 31-7 halftime lead while their defense stifled the Huskies for four quarters, forcing a trio of turnovers and recording five sacks.
Boise quarterback Brett Rypien was an efficient 29-of-39 for 377 yards with three touchdowns and an interception before being relieved early in the fourth quarter. Jeremy McNichols paced the ground game with 93 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
It was a tough outing for NIU quarterback Ryan Graham, who was returning from injury. He was just 7-of-21 for 38 yards.
What the win means for Boise State: It’s a rare season, it seems, when Boise State (9-4) doesn’t win at least 10 games. The Broncos had won at least 10 in eight of the past 10 seasons. Not the case this year. But the victory did give Boise’s senior class 40 career wins. That’s the 14th straight senior class for the Broncos to reach the 40-win milestone. Perennial BCS busters, Boise State broke through last year as the first Group of 5 team to reach a New Year's Six game when it topped Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. And while this year probably didn’t meet expectations, the blowout win over another quality Group of 5 team gives the Broncos some momentum heading into the last leg of recruiting. Worth noting, too, is that Boise State recruits California heavily, so a good showing in SoCal doesn’t hurt.
What the loss means for Northern Illinois: NIU’s bowl woes continue. While the Huskies (8-6) have done a solid job qualifying for the postseason -- this year being their eighth straight appearance in a bowl game -- they had lost six of their past eight. Make it seven of the past nine. They close out the 2015 season on a three-game losing skid.
How the game was won: It was a complete victory for Boise State, which dominated on offense and defense. Its only real slip-up was allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown. The Broncos showed great balance offensively, even when their trick plays weren’t working. They totaled 654 yards and scored 17 points off of three turnovers. NIU, meanwhile, couldn't figure out the Boise defense. The Huskies managed just 33 yards of offense and were kept out of the end zone, save the special-teams touchdown.
Game ball goes to: McNichols got the Broncos rolling early and kept piling it on. By halftime, he had 88 rushing yards and two touchdowns to go with 66 receiving yards and a score. The Broncos shared the wealth a bit more in the second half as they built a 41-7 lead by the end of the third quarter. McNichols finished the day with 93 rushing yards, 96 receiving yards and a trio of touchdowns.