Boise State's yardage margin. If you're just looking at the total yards without any sense of the game flow, you would get a conflicted view of how the Broncos lost this game. BSU gained an impressive 538 yards while allowing 454 but was more or less done in by early turnovers and a sharp-enough Oregon State offense.
You can break this game into two pieces, basically.
Total Yardage, first 37 minutes: OSU 353 (7.7 per play), BSU 251 (5.1)
Last 23 minutes: BSU 287 (8.7), OSU 101 (4.8)
With help from a pair of fumble returns, the Beavers raced to an insurmountable lead, capped it with a 94-yard scoring drive to start the second half, then simply ate clock with a relatively effective running game the rest of the way, allowing many to get to bed on Christmas Eve a little early. Head coach Mike Riley is a nice guy like that.
To its credit, Boise State kept fighting, scoring on three of its final four possessions and turning the ball over on downs at the OSU 10 on the other one. But the Broncos were playing for pride at that point.
(If they were really trying to win, the Broncos would have gone for two when they scored after being down, 38-6. You're technically only down four touchdowns and four two-point conversions at that point, and while the odds of you pulling off four straight two-pointers are incredibly minimal, what's the harm in trying?)
Late in the first quarter, with the Beavers up 10-3, star end Scott Crichton sacked and stripped Boise quarterback Grant Hedrick in the end zone, and Reynolds was there to scoop the ball up at the 3 and take it in for a score. Only about 10 minutes later, with Boise State driving down 17-6, Hedrick completed a pass to Troy Ware for a short gain. As he was going down, Ware was hacked by Larry Scott. Reynolds, once again standing nearby, picked up the loose ball and took it 70 yards for seven more points, and while incoming Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin (clearly not watching the game, or at least stepping into a side room to take the call) was talking to the game broadcasters on the phone.
Oregon State's offense only outscored Boise's by a 17-6 margin in the first half. That could have been overcome. But Reynolds' exploits (and, more importantly, the exploits of the guys who stripped the ball, which is the hard part) made sure this game was all but over at halftime.
It also made for tweets like these.
Boise State is doing the football equivalent of peeing off a balcony and getting caught.— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) December 25, 2013
The second scoop-and-score also signified another problem for Boise State in this game; the Broncos were not too capable of taking advantage of the opportunities they had. Boise made eight trips inside Oregon State's 40-yard line but came away with only 23 points after two touchdowns, three field goals, two turnovers on downs, and the above fumble.
Anything below about 4.0 or 4.5 points per trip is bad; Boise State averaged 2.9. Oregon State, meanwhile, scored three touchdowns, kicked a field goal, and turned the ball over on downs once in five trips (not including the two fumble returns). That was more than enough.
Losses for Boise State in 2013. That's the Broncos' most since 1998, their third year at the FBS level. That was also Dirk Koetter's first season in charge in Boise; he was the first of three great hires the program made to build itself into the nation's premier mid-major.
Koetter would go 20-5 over the next two seasons before leaving to take the Arizona State job. Dan Hawkins took over, and after an 8-4 debut season, he went 45-7 and finished ranked three times before leaving for Colorado. Chris Petersen took over and went 84-8 in his first seven seasons, only once losing more than two games in a year. (That year was 2007, when the Broncos also finished the season with a tough loss in the Hawaii Bowl.)
This year was clearly a step backwards for the Boise State program. The Broncos played more freshmen than they'd like, they suffered injuries at key offensive positions, and they just weren't as good defensively as they had been in recent years. T
his was still a top-50 team, and Harsin will still be inheriting a program on much more solid ground than the one Dirk Koetter found in 1998, but there's some rebuilding to do in Boise. Or at least, there's some refurbishing that needs to take place.
Tackles for loss for Crichton in what will almost certainly be his final game as a Beaver. Reynolds got the attention because of his two touchdowns, but others did a lot of the dirty work, and Crichton was almost certainly the best player on the field when Boise State had the ball. The junior from Tacoma is a borderline first-round pick who has posted crazy stats in his three seasons in Corvallis: 51.0 tackles for loss, 22.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, nine pass break-ups. That's a good four-year career.
The stay-or-go decisions of both Crichton and Biletnikoff Award-winner Brandin Cooks (11 targets, eight catches, 60 yards, one touchdown on Tuesday) will dictate the expectations for Mike Riley's young Oregon State squad. They are the two best players, but even if they leave, the Beavers will return a wealth of experience.
If Cooks or Crichton were to return, however, it would give the program a true star, something of a necessity if you want to stand out in the increasingly strong, star-heavy Pac-12. Oregon State should improve in 2014, but Crichton and Cooks will help to determine how much.