HONOLULU — After all the historic highs, the Chris Petersen Era of Boise State football ended with a series of lows.
Oregon State stuffed Boise State into its worst first-half deficit in 16 years Tuesday night at Aloha Stadium and won the Hawaii Bowl 38-23.
The Broncos, who were 92-12 under Petersen and 0-1 under interim coach Bob Gregory, finished this season with an 8-5 record.
It’s their first five-loss season since 1998 (6-5), fewest wins since 2001 (8-4) and first season without a bowl win or conference title since 2007 (10-3).
Their four-game bowl winning streak and five-year run of beating at least one Pac-12 team ended, too.
“We went 8-5 this year, and we’re not used to that,” Boise State junior wide receiver Matt Miller said. “This program expects perfection, and we’re striving for that every day.”
The Broncos outgained the Beavers 538-454, topped them in first downs 28-22 and entered the red zone on four of their five second-half drives.
But they fell into a 38-6 hole thanks to a series of blunders, including two fumbles returned for touchdowns. They trailed 31-6 at halftime — the program’s worst first half since a 38-0 debacle in 1997 at Washington State.
“You just can’t overcome those,” Gregory said of the two defensive touchdowns by the Beavers (7-6). “… I don’t think our guys gave up. I think they played their fannies off for four quarters. We did not make the plays that we should have made.”
The game capped a wild month for the Broncos, who lost their coach to Washington on Dec. 6 and senior quarterback Joe Southwick to a team-rules violation on Friday.
Still, players and coaches said the focus was there.
The execution was not.
“There were a lot of distractions for us, but we have a resilient group of guys, I felt we were focused coming into the game,” said Miller, the team MVP with 206 receiving yards. “Everybody was looking like we were going to come out and play really well, and it just didn’t happen.”
Oregon State, which was pass-happy all year until the regular-season finale against Oregon, used a balanced attack. Quarterback Sean Mannion was efficient and star wide receiver Brandin Cooks made some plays, but the 195 rushing yards from the Beavers kept the chains moving.
The Beavers also scored two touchdowns on the ground, including a 5-yard run by Storm Woods early in the third quarter that gave them that 32-point lead.
Senior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds provided the two biggest plays for the Beavers, scoring on fumble returns of 3 and 70 yards.
On the first one, the Broncos were pinned on their own 6-yard line after a couple of ugly plays. Quarterback Grant Hedrick dropped back into his own end zone and was pressured by two Beavers. Defensive end Scott Crichton forced the fumble and Reynolds easily scooped the ball for a 17-3 lead in the first quarter.
The Broncos pulled within 17-6, made a fourth-and-1 stop and were driving midway through the second quarter when Reynolds struck again. Hedrick completed a pass to wide receiver Troy Ware, who lunged forward to try to secure the first down.
Instead, Larry Scott knocked out the ball. Reynolds grabbed it along the sideline and dashed 70 yards untouched for a 24-6 advantage.
“I was Johnny on the spot,” Reynolds said.
The Beavers’ offense also was productive in the first half. They went 64 yards for a field goal on the first drive and 75 yards for a touchdown on the second. They added an 81-yard touchdown drive late in the first half, capped by Terron Ward’s 9-yard run. Ward ran over safety Jeremy Ioane at the 2-yard line.
The Beavers added a 94-yard touchdown drive early in the second half for the 38-6 lead but did nothing offensively the rest of the game.
The Broncos flirted with making it a game, but a fourth-and-1 stop cost them a chance to score a touchdown. On the next possession, Miller made an 85-yard touchdown catch.
Still, the Broncos never were closer than 14 points after the first quarter.
Now they head into the offseason with some uncertainty about the program’s future. New coach Bryan Harsin takes control.
“A big chip on our shoulder,” Miller said. “Hopefully we have the best offseason we’ve ever had around here. Change is coming to our program.”