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Game balls for Boise State versus Utah State

After putting the fear of God in fans with the game knotted at 14 midway through the second quarter, Boise State scored 28 unanswered and cruised to a 52-21 victory over Utah State on Friday.

What players, plays, and performances stood out? You mean, besides Doug Martin? Join me after the jump as I hand out some game balls, and feel free to add your own awards in the comments.

Reader's choice award for player of the game

Doug Martin

For Bronco fans, seeing Doug Martin rumble into the end zone four times on Friday night was like seeing your first-born son finally go on his first date at age 20. You always thought he was a good-looking kid and smooth with the ladies, but he hadn't really stepped up when it counted, except for school-sponsored banquets with the daughters of family friends. As parents, you were even starting to wonder, "Am I giving my kid too much credit?" But then, when his cooler friends decide to "focus on their careers" for a weekend, he finally comes through, and the whole family breathes a sigh of relief.

And yes, I just described my dating history.

All is well with Doug Martin. He is exactly the running back that everyone thought. That alone is probably the best news that could have come from Friday night's game.

Runner-up: Offensive line

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the offensive line, and there are 47 of you who agree with me. Though Martin captured 70 percent of the vote, I think that the awarding of player of the game was a little closer than the percentages say. The offensive line, for the second week in a row, looked strong in the run game, opening some big holes and keeping USU defenders out of the backfield for the most part.

A particularly telling stat (naturally, buried at the bottom of a Statesman article):

Boise State registered 13 tackles for loss. Utah State had one.

I think that, considering Utah State's go-for-broke anarchy defense on Friday night, the Aggies were never expecting to only get the one TFL.

Best fumbled snap

Thomas Byrd

Turns out, Thomas Byrd has been practicing his fumbled snaps all along. My apologies.

Byrd rolled a shotgun snap back to Kellen Moore's general vicinity, Doug Martin picked up the loose ball, and fate and anger carried him into the end zone for a 14-7 Boise State lead. That the play was going to be an inside handoff to Martin anyway certainly helped. But there's no mistaking the importance of Martin's heads-up play. It took place on a 2nd and 15, following a false start penalty, from inside the red zone, with the game knotted at 7 midway through the second quarter. Would you rather Martin fall on the ball in that situation? Convservative folks say yes, but I think that Martin has proven over the last couple weeks, with his goading of Titus Young to return a kickoff from eight yards deep in the end zone, that he is a risk-taker. And, fortunately for Bronco fans, he is also a playmaker.

Best third down conversion

Doug Martin

Again with the Doug Martin. Could I be doing a worse job hiding my enormous love and appreciation of this guy?

Let me paint you a picture: Boise State leads 28-14 with under two minutes left in the first half. The Broncos have the ball at their own 17 yard line with a 3rd and 10 following consecutive incompletions. What play would you call?

The Broncos chose a draw to Doug Martin, which seemed for all intents and purposes to be waving the white flag. Only Doug Martin does not wave white flags. He picks up first downs, and 17 yards later, he did just that. The Broncos kept the drive alive, Kellen Moore found Austin Pettis for 32 yards, and Martin capped off the drive with a one-yard TD run.

Most surprising leading tackler

Jeron Johnson

The BSU safety finished with 14 tackles on the night, most often cleaning up receivers in the secondary or getting USU running backs who had broken through the line. Was it just me, or was anyone else not all that impressed with Johnson on Friday night?

The play that stands out most to me was the Aggies' first touchdown run. After USU RB Michael Smith had busted past the first and second levels and into the secondary, Johnson had a chance to bring him down around the five-yard-line. Instead, he chose to give a half-hearted shoulder bump like you might see at a Macy's friends and family sale, Smith barely flinched, he bowled through Kyle Wilson, and the score was tied. The effort by Johnson was shocking considering how aggressive he is at all other times of the game. It really looked like he didn't want to make a tackle. Obviously, he wanted to make a tackle 14 other times, so I'm probably overreacting. Carry on. Never mind me.

Justin Wilcox's defense of the week

The 3-4

The Broncos came out in a fairly standard 3-4 look to start the game, and they continued with it in spurts throughout. Keeping seven men in the box is an increasing rarity for Boise State, and Friday night was the first use of the 3-4 that I can remember. Will the formation live to face another running QB? We'll find out on Friday.

Diondre Borel's happy place

Outside the tackles

The worst of times for the Bronco defense was when Borel broke contain and got outside. Big plays ensued. Tackles were missed. Thing in my household were broken, "by accident" I would later claim.

Does anyone remember Borel slipping upfield from inside the hashmarks? I sure don't. It seems like the only time he hurt Boise State was when he escaped outside. In that sense, Billy Winn, Chase Baker, and the rest of the DTs deserve a lot of praise for collapsing the pocket and stuffing up inside running lanes. The DEs got consistent pressure but were hit-and-miss on bringing Borel down. Sometimes with scrambling quarterbacks, defensive ends are coached to not rush higher than the QB sits in the pocket. It was hard to tell if the Broncos used that strategy or if Borel was just that elusive.

(Note: On Utah State's long TD runs, it appeared that the Broncos had the right defense on the field to get the stop but that an unblocked linebacker failed to recognize where the ball was going. It's encouraging to know that Boise State was capable of stopping those plays. It's disconcerting to know that Boise State's linebackers aren't perfect. Does Jesus have any eligibility left?)

Turnover of the game

Ryan Winterswyk's fumble recovery

After the Broncos scored to go ahead 21-14, Utah State took over from inside their own 20 ... and effectively fumbled the game away. Borel and Robert Turbin channeled the Brent Guy Utah State offense and dropped the QB-RB exchange on the read option, leading to the most one-sided fumble drill in the history of fumble drills between Borel and Ryan Winterswyk. It looked like Borel had an 80/20 chance at recovering, but those odds quickly disappeared as his licorice rope of an arm gave way to the overwhelming force of Winterswyk. The officials even reviewed the play (since when are fumble recoveries reviewable?), out of sympathy most likely, but the end result was a Boise State 1st and 10 from the Aggie nine-yard-line.

One play later, the score was 28-14. A 14-14 game went south for Utah State in a matter of 43 seconds, and the Broncos never looked back.

Play of the game

Doug Martin's fourth down TD run

Just kidding about not mentioning Martin anymore. His scoring plunge on fourth and one is simply too good not to mention again. So I will.

Favorite new trend

Scoring TDs in the red zone

Here's a fun thought: If the Broncos had only scored field goals instead of touchdowns on red zone trips on Friday night, the final score would have been Boise State 28, Utah State 21. And they would currently be ranked No. 24.

Phenomenon most likely to send me scrambling for a radio/the mute button/anger management counseling

ESPN college football broadcasts

And by "college football broadcasts," I mean "Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore's two-person rendition of The View only with topics that no one cares about."

Good heavens that was an unbearable broadcast. From explaining their fantasy choices for the week, showing us the Pac-10 standings, and mugging for the camera during countless booth shots, Joe and Rod were as grating as ever. When did watching college football games turn into watching studio shows?

Bob Behler, take me away. It is muted TV and KIDO for me next week.

Technical awards

  • Good for you, Kyle Brotzman: Kyle Brotzman. The Boise State kicker deserves to be recognized when he doesn't screw up, and nailing a 52-yard field goal is most certainly not screwing up. For sure, Coach Pete should be happy with Brotzman because he saved what was looking to be a horrible job of clock management. The Broncos let the play clock expire as Brotzman lined up to attempt a 47-yarder. That's typically not how you want to do things.
  • Best impersonation of Richie Brockel: Dan Paul. Blocking and receiving, Paul looked like he'll fill in for Brockel very nicely.
  • Don't you ever scare me like that again award: George Iloka. Quick: Who is George Iloka's backup? Someone? Anyone? It's Cedric Febis, and he's actually pretty good ... but still.
  • Obligatory Kellen Moore mention: Kellen Moore. He didn't have his greatest game (possibly his worst? SI jinx, anyone?), but did you know he texts with Case Keenum?
  • Next year's LaTech: Utah State. No doubt all the preview magazines will be choosing the Aggies as the darkhorse contender in the conference. The media: so predictable. (Me? I'm going with Weber State, following a severe WAC shakeup this summer.)