For the better part of three quarters, Fresno State played a team game, the defense more times than not buoying the offense with a big play or a series of them. Combined, it kept relatively quiet a Boise State offense that came in sizzling.
The past four games, the Broncos had rolled up an average of 520.3 yards and 46.3 points.
But when Boise State, behind from the opening drive, got within two and too close for comfort with 9:05 to play, the Bulldogs had an answer that carried them to a 28-17 victory before 31,526 at Bulldog Stadium.
It was Marcus McMaryion to KeeSean Johnson, a deep shot. McMaryion had misfired deep all afternoon, but this time was spot on with his throw.
Johnson, running by safety Kekoa Nawahine, pulled in McMaryion’s pass at the 36 and raced to the left corner of the end zone for an 81-yard touchdown.
“I had a little smile on my face when I got the play call,” McMaryion said. “I definitely get excited about that kind of stuff, but it’s not just me it’s the offensive line giving me time, the running backs staying in for protection and the receivers running good routes.”
The Bulldogs were up 26-17 and were to add a safety with 1:17 remaining when Malik Forrester sacked Brett Rypien in the end zone. With that they were on their way to another matchup against the Broncos for a conference championship on Dec. 2, the site to be determined but most likely at Albertsons Stadium in Boise.
The home site will be determined by a composite of four computer models – the Billingsley Report, Wolfe Ratings, Anderson & Hester Rankings and the Colley Matrix. Before the game, the Bulldogs trailed the Broncos by a significant margin.
Boise State was ranked from No. 19 to No. 24 with an average of 22.5, while the Bulldogs were No. 38 to No. 52 for an average of 43.8.
“To send the seniors up the ramp with a victory is great,” said coach Jeff Tedford, his first-year turnaround continuing after last season’s 1-11 finish. “It’s another game and we have one more to go. But I can’t tell you how happy I am and gratified to see all the hard work pay off for these guys and for this coaching staff who has put so much into it.
“Boise State has a great football team and we have a lot of respect for them and now we get to do it one more time.”
For this one the Bulldogs had the plan, scoring on its first possession on a 5-yard pass from McMaryion to Johnson. They led 10-7 at half, getting a field goal from Jimmy Camacho with 5 seconds remaining. Fresno State (9-3, 7-1) stayed ahead – 16-7, 16-10, 19-10 and then 19-17.
The Bulldogs’ defense continually thwarted Boise State.
The Broncos went 75 yards in six plays, including an opening bit of trickery that resulted in a 45-yard pass play to Cedrick Wilson, scoring the first touchdown against the Bulldogs on an opening drive in conference play.
But they whiffed on a 38-yard field goal on their next series, then were stopped on a fourth-and-1 at the Bulldogs 25 when defensive end Tobenna Okeke among others stopped Rypien trying to back his way into a first down.
Boise State was moving again on its fourth series, but a 15-yard penalty for a chop block wiped out a 26-yard pass to A.J. Richardson that would have set the Broncos up with a first down at the Bulldogs 24.
The Broncos averaged 7.5 yards per play in the half, but when threatened after that initial score the Bulldogs budged grudgingly.
Boise State reached the red zone in the third quarter, down 16-7 but the Bulldogs gave up just three. George Helmuth and Kwami Jones dropped Montell Cozart for a 3-yard loss on second-and-2 and James Bailey and Robert Stanley took down running back Alex Mattison after a short gain on third-and-5.
“We did it together, really,” Stanley said. “We take pride in playing together, everybody playing physical, making plays, executing. That’s really what itt is.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIP: FRESNO STATE VS. BOISE STATE
- Saturday, Dec. 2: 4:45 p.m. PST, likely at Albertsons Stadium (36,384) in Boise
- Records: Bulldogs 9-3, 7-1 Mountain West; Broncos 9-3, 7-1
- TV/radio: ESPN/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (1600)
Fresno State 28, No. 25 Boise State 17
FRE — K.Johnson 5 pass from McMaryion (Camacho kick), 10:58
BOISE — Richardson 4 pass from Cozart (Hoggarth kick), 7:54
FRE — FG Camacho 22, :05
FRE — Mims 1 run (pass failed), 5:52
BOISE — FG Hoggarth 24, 1:55
FRE — FG Camacho 41, 14:18
BOISE — Mattison 1 run (Hoggarth kick), 9:05
FRE — K.Johnson 81 pass from McMaryion (Camacho kick), 8:45
FRE — safety, 1:17
A — 31,526.
Time of Possession
RUSHING — Boise State, Mattison 15-63, Cozart 4-24, Wolpin 6-17, Wilson 1-9, Rypien 5-(minus 6). Fresno State, Mims 11-43, McMaryion 4-27, Rivers 5-12, Scott 2-10, Hokit 5-9, O’Neal 1-2, (Team) 2-(minus 4).
PASSING — Boise State, Rypien 22-31-0-278, Cozart 3-5-0-16. Fresno State, McMaryion 23-36-0-332.
RECEIVING — Boise State, Wilson 7-134, Richardson 4-25, Mattison 3-37, Modster 3-29, Dhaenens 2-27, Bates 2-17, Thomas 2-12, O.Evans 1-9, Wolpin 1-4. Fresno State, K.Johnson 6-119, Jordan 4-91, Ja.Rice 3-54, Scott 3-35, Rivers 3-8, O’Neal 2-17, Hokit 1-7, Mims 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Boise State, Hoggarth 38.