BOISE, Idaho (AP) — After losing 20 of its last 21 road games coming in, Virginia had a festive vibe in its locker room following a 42-23 dismantling of Boise State on Friday night with plenty of players excited about the 2,400-mile flight home.
“It’s going to be a fun trip back,” Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert said, whose team was a 14-point underdog. “We see what people say, and it’s expected after what kind of season we had last year. But we know what we’re capable of and how much better we are.
“Now, people have to take us seriously. We’re building momentum now, and we’re excited to see how it plays out.”
Benkert threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns as the Cavaliers handed Boise State its worst home loss since 2001.
Virginia (3-1) notched its first win west of the Mississippi River since 1991 when it beat BYU 45-40. In avenging an embarrassing 56-14 loss to Boise State in 2015, the Cavaliers also surpassed their win total from last season.
Boise State (2-2) hasn’t suffered a double-digit loss at home since the 2001 season.
“There’s gonna be some changes,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, whose team is 5-5 in its last 10 games. “What they are, I don’t know yet. But we need to fix the consistency of our entire team in all three phases. It can’t just be about one side.
“Good football teams play together, play off each other, and help all sides of the ball in one way or another. And that just didn’t happen tonight.”
While this was Virginia’s first trip to Boise, second-year coach Bronco Mendenhall faced the Broncos on the road twice while coaching BYU, losing both times.
This time, it was different.
After surrendering an 80-yard scoring drive to open the game, Virginia took control by ripping off 21 straight points.
The momentum shifted on a botched play by Boise State’s special teams, a long-time signature strength of the Broncos. Trailing 14-7 late in the first half, Boise State attempted a fake punt from its own 40, but Alec Dhaenens fumbled the direct snap and fell on it at the 33. Two plays later, Benkert hit Doni Dowling on a 27-yard scoring strike to push the Virginia lead to 14 points.
Boise State rallied with a quick touchdown before halftime, but Virginia took the opening drive of the second half 75 yards, on three plays, capped by a 64-yard touchdown pass from Benkert to Andre Levrone.
And the Cavaliers never looked back.
Brett Rypien, who returned to action after suffering a concussion against Washington State, threw for 353 yards and one interception for Boise State.
Virginia’s defense held Boise State to just 30 yards rushing, while the Cavaliers’ offense rolled up 167 yards on the ground.
With a trio of scoring strikes, Benkert moved into fifth among Virginia career touchdown passing leaders with 31.
Virginia completed the non-conference portion of its schedule with a statement win. After struggling through a 2-9 season a year ago, Mendenhall already has the Cavaliers trending upward heading into ACC play.
Boise State, which was one bad break away from beating Washington State and likely entering the game with Virginia ranked, has an open date at the right time. The Broncos need to figure out their identity on offense and solve a plethora of problems with the special teams unit.
Virginia opens its ACC schedule at home against Duke on Oct. 7, while Boise State also takes a week off before traveling to rival BYU on Oct. 6.