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Baylor blitzes Boise State in Cactus Bowl

Baylor blitzes Boise State in Cactus Bowl
Published On: Wed, Dec 28
Oct 31, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Boise Broncos wide receiver Chaz Anderson (6) celebrates with running back Jeremy McNichols (13) after scoring a touchdown against UNLV during a game at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Broncos won the game 55-27. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX -- Baylor found a go-to combination to take into next season while finishing a frustrating 2016 season on a dominating note.

True freshman quarterback Zach Smith passed for 375 yards and three touchdowns, and junior wide receiver KD Cannon had 14 receptions for 226 and two TDs in the Bears' 31-12 victory over the Boise State Broncos in the Cactus Bowl on Tuesday at Chase Field.

Smith and Cannon connected on 30- and 68-yard scoring plays in the first half, when the Bears opened a 21-3 lead. They were never seriously challenged thereafter.

Cannon set Cactus Bowl and single-game personal records for receiving yards as the Bears a broke a six-game losing streak.

"They were giving up some one-on-one coverage, and when we have him one-on-one, we think it's a win for us," Smith said. "He's a big playmaker. To go out and lose the last six games and win this game, it is huge going into next year. We have confidence in what we can do. We showed just a little of what we can do."

Cannon, selected the offensive player of the game, said "We had to prove a point, coming off a bad season. We had to finish strong."

Smith, who completed 28 of 39 passes with one interception, started the final three games of the regular season after senior starter Seth Russell sustained a season-ending ankle injury in a loss to Oklahoma. Smith passed for a career-high 377 yards in a 54-35 loss to Texas Tech on Nov. 25.

Baylor (7-6) won for the first time since a 49-7 victory over Kansas on Nov. 15.

"We've been through a lot of adversity together," said Baylor interim coach Jim Grobe, who was given a water-cooler dousing in the final minute.

"I didn't see that coming. Probably played as hard as we've played this year."

Grobe, who stepped in after Art Briles was dismissed over the summer, will give way to former Temple coach Matt Rhule, hired in early December.

Halfback Terence Williams ran for 103 yards and 25 carries, and wide receiver Ishmael Zamora had a 14-yard touchdown reception for Baylor, which reached No. 8 in the AP poll before its slide began.

"We can accomplish anything as long as we stick together as a team," said Baylor nose tackle Tyrone Hunt, the defensive player of the game with two sacks.

Quarterback Brett Rypien passed for 305 yards and a touchdown for Boise State (10-3), which had won six of its last seven bowl games. Rypien completed 31 of 51 passes with two interceptions.

His 28-yard scoring pass to Cedrick Wilson with 1:20 remaining accounted for the Broncos' only touchdown. Wilson had six receptions for 88 yards, and Thomas Sperbeck added eight receptions for 79 yards.

Baylor had 515 yards total offense to Boise State's 388.

The Bears scored on drives of 81, 81, 99, 78 and 71 yards, the first three while taking a 21-6 halftime lead.

Rypien, nephew for former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, threw two first-half interceptions, failed on a fourth-down pass from the Baylor 5-yard line on the first possession of the third quarter, and lost a fumble in the fourth.

Boise State got 24- and 26-yard field goals by Tyler Rausa on four trips into the red zone before finally scoring the late touchdown.

"Disappointed, obviously," Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. "You are trying to score points when you get into the red zone, and we didn't do that. Field goals can only go so far. You have to find a way to get six points on the board. We should have put up more points."

Broncos junior halfback Jeremy McNichols, who said he would forgo his senior season to enter the NFL draft, had 19 carries for 46 yards and had five receptions for 24 yards. He was held without a touchdown, ending a streak 24 straight games with a score, the longest active run in NCAA Division I.

"They did a good job up front," Harsin said. "They moved their D-line. We just got behind and had to throw it a little more. We weren't able to run it as much as we would have liked to."

NOTES: Baylor senior RB Shock Linwood, the school's career rushing leader, opted to sit out the bowl game to be prepare for the NFL Draft. Linwood, projected as no higher than a fourth-round pick, had 751 yards rushing this season. He started five games and was suspended for the Oklahoma loss Nov. 12. ... Boise State (7-0) and Baylor (6-0) were two of nine remaining FBS unbeaten through the third week of October. Baylor was ranked No. 8 in the AP poll, and Boise State was No. 13. ... Boise State played its 15th consecutive bowl game, which is tied for the fifth-longest streak in Division I. Only Florida State, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and LSU have longer current runs.

Read the complete news article here...

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