Baylor ends turbulent year with dominant Cactus Bowl win against Boise State

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Boise State’s success in Arizona bowl games came to a screeching halt on Tuesday when it was manhandled by a Baylor team that limped into the Cactus Bowl.

The Bears used its fast-paced offense to defeat the Broncos 31-12 and win their first game since Oct. 15. The Bears started the 2016 campaign 6-0 and then rattled off six straight losses to end the regular season. Boise State, which nearly earned the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six Bowl berth, hadn’t lost a bowl game since 2013 and has now lost only two since 2008.

The game started off promising for the Broncos as they halted the Bears’ first drive with an interception in the red zone. But things went downhill from there. Quarterback Brett Rypien had trouble with accuracy and with turnovers. He threw two interceptions in the end zone and lost a fumble. The Bears turned those miscues into 21 points.

Overall, Boise State had five possessions inside the 30-yard line and came away with just six points.

Baylor quarterback Zach Smith, who was starting just his fourth game of the season, had a career outing by completing 71.7 percent of his passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target was junior receiver KD Cannon, who also had a career game with 14 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Cannon had eight catches for 182 yards and both of the scores in the first half.

Boise State’s offense was never able to get into a rhythm. The running game, which had been one of its strongest aspects, was nonexistent against a Baylor defense that had been allowing 210.5 yards per game. Star running back Jeremy McNichols, who early this week declared for the NFL draft, had just 19 carries for 46 yards. His yardage was his third lowest of the season and worst since October 7. He also broke his streak of 24 games with a touchdown, which was the longest FBS streak in the past 10 years.

Baylor finishes with a 7-6 record, its worst since 2010, but it does avoid its first losing season since 2009. Boise State finishes 10-3, which marks the third time in the past four years the Broncos have finished with more than two losses after having just four losses total in the four years prior.

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