Final: Boise State 24, Fresno State 17
First things first, Brett Rypien broke the all-time Mountain West passing record on the very first play of the game...a 41 yard bomb to Sean Modster. However, the Broncos were unable to get any points out of the promising drive after a false start and a missed field goal doomed their chances. The Broncos fans brought the noise though in the frigid temps and forced TWO Fresno State false starts on their ensuing series. Three and out for the Bulldogs—game on.
Broncos moved the ball well on their second drive, but again Fresno bowed up in the redzone. This time however, the Broncos were able to put some points on the board with a 35-yard Hoggarth field goal. Get this though...more flags on the ‘dogs, a sack by Curtis Weaver and Fresno State punted AGAIN on their second drive. Broncos off to the start they needed.
I won’t bore you with a blow by blow, but the Broncos squandered good field position after Mattison was stuffed on 3rd and short and the Fresno State offense finally started clicking. First first down, 2nd first down, and 3rd third down of the game in rapid succession for the Bulldogs and then when the refs overturned a seeming first down catch to give the Bulldogs 3rd and 8, McMaryion connected with KeeSean Johnson down the sideline to get into the redzone. Forget that Johnson stepped out of bounds on the route and the refs didn’t seem to mind. 3-0 Broncos at the end of the first quarter, but the Bulldogs are right on the doorstep to start the second.
Didn’t take long for Fresno to make the Broncos pay for their empty drives with a nice 5 yard pass from McMaryion to KeeSean Johnson. 7-3 Bulldogs just as the second quarter got underway...did the Broncos squander their limited chances to take control of the game? Maybe, maybe not. Broncos continued to show they could move the ball on the Bulldogs taking the ensuing drive inside the Fresno redzone but again failed to convert and a fake field goal did the same. A long Bulldog drive made many think the Broncos might’ve missed their chances, but a missed Fresno State field goal on the other end didn’t nail the coffin lid shut on the Broncos just yet, but a Bulldog interception in the endzone right before halftime definitely didn’t help matters. Broncos can move the ball on the ‘dogs, they just can’t score...and we’re seeing first hand why the Fresno State defense is so highly regarded.
Fresno parlayed that turnover into a last second field goal to go up by a full score (aided by a dumb personal foul on Tyson Maeva, I should add). Broncos enter halftime hanging tough with the Bulldogs, but one gets the sneaking suspicion the blue and orange could easily be winning this by at least a score. We aren’t playing for moral victories here, guys.
Fresno starts with the ball. Wishing we’d scored to end the half now? I sure do. Fresno effortlessly goes 75 yards and scores on 4th and goal (even fumbling on 4th down...but no matter, ball had already broken the plane). 17-3 Bulldogs and the Broncos seem to have officially squandered all the goodwill from the first quarter and NEEDED to score on the ensuing drive. Thanks to some hard running by Alexander Mattison, they did just that. 17-10 Bulldogs and the Broncos needed a defensive stop on the suddenly-hot Fresno offense to really get back in this thing. Spoiler alert: they did. We got a tie ballgame to begin the 4th quarter and maybe these injured Broncos have a little heart as well.
Another stalled Bulldog drive and a loooong Bronco drive later and the Broncos take the lead on a 49 yard Rypien strike to true frosh Khalil Shakir—21 straight on the vaunted Bulldog defense. Can the Broncos really pull this off?! Starting to believe...next Bulldog drive ends with a blocked field goal by Avery Williams.
Let me set it up for you...”how” we got here is inconsequential—actually no, because it was a 3rd down sack by Tyson Maeva. 4th and 11 for the Bulldogs. They have to convert or score. ESPN cameras don’t follow the play...no matter. Broncos hold! Oh, and there was an excruciating review and measurement of a first down run to kill the clock. But the Broncos win! Broncos win!
I don’t have much left after that game. The Broncos were without David Moa, Deandre Pierce, Riley Whimpey, and even John Hightower, but they wouldn’t be denied on their own turf against the #16 (for now) Bulldogs. We PHYSICALLY beat them.
Mattison was THAT DUDE. 144 yards on the night and fittingly got the final first down of the evening. Giant win for the Broncos to keep their title hopes alive.