BOISE, Idaho (AP) Jeremy McNichols suggested just the play to spark Boise State's struggling offense, and then the 15th-ranked Broncos just had to hang on from there.
McNichols' play resulted in an 80-yard touchdown run to break open a tight game, and Boise State withstood a late rally by Colorado State in a 28-23 win Saturday night.
McNichols was untouched on the play, an inside run from a shotgun formation that put the Broncos up 21-3 late in the third quarter.
''We called the play earlier in the game and I almost broke that one,'' said McNichols, who rushed for a career-high 217 yards and two touchdowns. ''So when coach asked me what play to call, I told him we needed to call it again. And he called it.''
After the Broncos (6-0, 3-0 Mountain West) took a 28-3 lead early in the fourth quarter, Colorado State (3-4, 1-2) recovered two onside kicks in the final 6 minutes while scoring three straight TDs, cutting the deficit to five with 3:35 left.
The Broncos recovered Colorado State's third onside kick attempt and ran the clock down to 15 seconds before giving the Rams the ball at their own 27. Colorado State advanced the ball to the 40 on a play with multiple laterals, but a review ruled that a forward lateral was made, resulting in a 10-second runoff that ended the game.
''We came in tonight to make it a fourth quarter game,'' Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said. ''It wasn't the kind of fourth quarter game we envisioned, but we did what we had to do to have a chance at the end.''
The Rams became the first team to take a lead on Boise State this season when Wyatt Bryan kicked a 39-yard field goal with 7:24 remaining in the first quarter. The score snapped Boise State's FBS school record of 306:36 without trailing.
Colorado State, seeking its first road win of the season, struggled against a stingy defense for most of the game.
However, the night belonged to McNichols, who also set career highs in 34 carries and 264 total yards.
With Boise State's offense sputtering, McNichols scored on runs of 5 and 80 yards to ignite the Broncos. McNichols has three runs of 80 yards or more in his career.
''That was a fight,'' Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. ''There are certainly things to work on. It's hard to win every single week and come out prepared to win every single week. But I'm fired up for our team and how they handled some adversity. Certainly at the end of the game, there are a lot of things we can learn from and coach from.''
Brett Rypien was 16-of-24 passing for 207 yards and one touchdown. Thomas Sperbeck led Boise State's receiving corps with five catches for 72 yards and added an 11-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Richardson.
Colorado State quarterback Nick Stevens was 17-of-31 passing for 184 yards and two touchdowns, while Dalyn Dawkins led the Rams on the ground with 66 yards.
Colorado State: Despite the loss, the Rams still have a good chance to become bowl eligible with three winnable conference games and a rivalry game with Air Force left on their schedule.
Boise State: The Broncos remain in control of the Mountain Division and primed to return to the conference title game for the first time since 2014. However, they have yet to play Wyoming, which is the only other undefeated team in the division.
The Broncos have an opportunity to move up in the AP Top 25 again this week after No. 12 Mississippi lost to 22nd-ranked Arkansas.
TIP OF THE CAP
Late in the first half, Boise State, which honored the 2007 Fiesta Bowl team before the game, ran the Statue of Liberty, the same play the Broncos ran on the game-winning 2-point conversion to beat Oklahoma, 43-42, in the Fiesta Bowl. However, it didn't go as well, resulting in a 3-yard loss.
Colorado State: The Rams stay on the road for an afternoon conference tilt with UNLV.
Boise State: The Broncos stay home but have a short week to prepare for a Thursday night matchup with nonconference foe BYU.