BOISE – Nose tackle Mike Atkinson returned a second-half interception 36 yards for a touchdown and No. 24 Boise State survived a fourth-quarter rally to beat BYU 7-6 on Thursday night in a football game dominated by defense.
Boise State (2-1) forced five turnovers and held the Cougars (2-2) to 200 total yards. The Cougars were held scoreless until the final minutes of the game when backup freshman quarterback Taysom Hill scored on a 4-yard run.
But with 3:37 remaining, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall elected to go for the win and the Cougars’ first victory over Boise State. But Hill’s pass on the run was deflected by a defender and fell incomplete in the end zone.
The Broncos, helped by a long kick return, ran out the clock to notch their third straight victory over the Cougars.
Boise State’s offense wasn’t much better, managing just 261 yards. Running back D.J. Harper led the way, rushing for 112 yards on 31 carries. Joe Southwick struggled again, especially on third and fourth downs. Southwick was 15 of 25 for 145 yards.
BYU’s Riley Nelson was benched after throwing his third interception of the game and replaced by Hill, who grew up in Pocatello and was recruited by Boise.