2017 Las Vegas Bowl

By Nicholas Volinchak

The 2017 Las Vegas Bowl was a fun game. It took place on December 16th and featured Boise State Broncos taking on the Oregon Ducks. The Broncos won 38-28. The score was not reflective of the actually game play. Boise State dominated this game from start to finish. Half of Oregon’s points were defensive and in a one minute span at the end of the first half.

There are many takeaways from this game, but I want to look at five from each team.


5 Takeaways from Boise State


Leighton Vander Esch is a monster


I tend to throw a grain of salt when it comes to players who dominate for one year and only one year. Vander Esch might be a bit of a different story. Injuries impacted his sophomore year, but he was utterly dominant this year. He finished this game with 12 tackles, 10 solo, 1 sack and 3 tackles for losses.

This was not a one-time thing. In big situations this year, Vander Esch finished with the following:

  • Washington State (3 OT loss against a ranked Power 5 team) – 16 tackles, 10 solo, 1 forced fumble and 2 sacks
  • Virginia – 10 tackles, 6 solo
  • San Diego State – 11 tackles, 9 solo
  • Wyoming – 11 tackles, 7 solo
  • Colorado State (OT win) – 13 tackles, 7 solo and 1 forced fumble
  • Fresno State (Mountain West Championship) – 16 tackles, 10 solo and 1 interception

Those are eye popping numbers. He has declared for the NFL draft. He is a game changer and could be a special player in the league for years to come.


Cedric Wilson can be special at the next level


Wilson dominated this game and the last two seasons for the Broncos. He won matchup after matchup and made his quarterback look good in the process. This bowl game was no different. He even dealt with an injury during it.

Wilson stands 6’3” and is around 190 pounds. Ideally, he would put on at least ten pounds of muscle to really win at the next level. His field vision is great and his fluidity and ability to make the catch is above average.

He will likely not be more than a mid to late round pick, but he can develop into something if on the right team.


Without Wilson and Jake Roh, who will produce?


Cedrick Wilson and Thomas Sperbeck were big time players in 2016. It was the Wilson show in 2017. After a few quiet years, Roh came through with a team leading nine touchdowns. They also led the team in catches.

A.J. Richardson, Sean Modster and Alec Dhaenens should all be able to step up in 2018. It would be surprising if one dominated over the others. This could be a situation where my fourth point comes into play.


Will 2018 be the year of Alexander Mattison?


I think some might find it surprising, but Mattison did not contribute much in the Broncos win. He led the team in every rushing category this year. I think the team wanted to give Ryan Wolpin, a senior, and Robert Mahone, a freshman, some action for varying reasons.

Mattison looks to carry on the legacy of former Boise State backs such as Doug Martin, Jay Ajayi and Jeremy McNichols. He has the tools to do so, and will look to build on his thousand plus yard 2017 campaign.


This is Brett Rypien’s team


Rypien absolutely dominated the Ducks defense at every level, despite two turnovers that led to touchdowns. That is the momentum he likely needed moving into the 2018 season. It is going to be his chance to prove he belongs at the next level.

Famous uncle aside, Rypien has some tools that could make him a late round choice in the 2019 draft. He has good arm strength and has intelligence in the pocket. There are surely some things he can work on, but he is on his way.


5 Takeaways from Oregon


Justin Herbert is not as bad as he looked


This Oregon team was held to under 300 total yards, which is very low for college football. The Boise State defense is legit and was on the top of their game. The running game was bad and Herbert threw two picks.

The Oregon offense managed over 200 more yards per game with Herbert in the lineup. He can open the game up because he does have solid movement with his feet, as he showed here. The arm strength is there as well.

Marco Cristobal is taking the team over next year, and I expect Herbert to produce very well. He could end up leading the PAC 12 in passing, and I think we will see some old school Oregon type scores.


Dillon Mitchell is a top dog


Mitchell very, very quietly led the Ducks in receiving this year.

Again, it was quiet – just over 500 yards and 4 scores – not exactly big numbers.

However, his performance in the Las Vegas Bowl coupled with his building rapport with Herbert are strong signs for 2018.


Brendan Schooler will be productive


We see players switch positions all the time in college and that is what we have here. Schooler was a safety for some of the season before switching over to play tight end.

He showed some promise throughout the year, as well as in this game. He looked better than Jacob Breeland and it would not shock me to see him get more work moving into the 2018 season.


What happens to the running backs?


Oregon has been blessed to have running backs that make a huge difference. LaMichael James and Royce Freeman are perfect examples. Last nights 47 yard effort, 30 yards if you remove the quarterback, was piss poor.

Royce Freeman and Kani Benoit will be gone, which should hand the team over to Tony Brooks-James. While he will be splitting carries with at least one other player, he should still be the main guy in the backfield.

Something tells me that we could be seeing a lot of passing from the Ducks in 2018.


One more thing about Royce Freeman


Kirk Herbstreit was one of my least favorite personalities. He stepped up his game in late 2017 as he correctly pointed out Ohio States unworthiness as a playoff team. He made a good point in this game.

Freeman was seen giving a speech to his teammates prior to the game… a game he did not play. This is a growing epidemic in college football. Players do not want to play in the bowl games, but want to be there to be with the team.

This genuinely rubs players the wrong way. A teammate is someone who goes into the trenches with you, not sits on the sideline and watches.