Fresno State’s grand goals of landing in a New Year’s Six Bowl likely were ruined Friday night.
And part of the blame falls on a unit that’s been so good for the Bulldogs.
Fresno State’s defense had allowed only six touchdowns in the past nine games, and just one after halftime during their Mountain West contests.
But an inability to knock Boise State and quarterback Brett Rypien off schedule proved costly as the Bulldogs surrendered three touchdowns in the second half alone en route a 24-17 loss before an announced crowd of 33,118 at Albertsons Stadium.
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The Bulldogs (8-2, 5-1 in the MW) had a 10-3 lead at half and extended that to 17-3 on their first possession of the second half.
But the Broncos came back to tie on 7- and 1-yard touchdown runs by Alexander Mattison, and took a 24-17 lead with 9:22 to go on a 49-yard pass play from Rypien to Khalil Shakir.
Boise State scored on its first three series in the second half, going 70 yards in 12 plays, 59 yards in 11 plays and 83 yards in seven plays.
Fresno State, ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 23 in the College Football Playoff rankings, forced a three-and-out following a blocked field goal attempt and had one last shot to tie the score, taking possession at the 25-yard line with 5:11 to go.
The Bulldogs made it to the Boise State 29, but on Marcus McMaryion was sacked on a 3rd-and-5 play and McMaryion had a pass intended for KeeSean Johnson broken up on 4th-and-11.
Boise State produced one last first down and was able to run out the clock. The measurement is sure to draw Bulldogs fans’ ire, as images went viral of the ball short of the first-down marker when it was stretched out.
Alexander Mattison had rushed on third down into the line, setting up an apparent fourth down. Boise State let the clock wind down before calling its final timeout with 18 seconds left. Then referee Cooper Castleberry announced that the spot was under review.
Castleberry announced that video review showed the original mark stood, and that it was time for a measurement that resulted in the clinching first down.
Check back at www.fresnobee.com/bulldogs early Saturday for Robert Kuwada’s analysis of the game.
Fresno State, down 24-17, forced a three-and-out and takes over at their 25-yard line following a Boise State punt.
The Bulldogs’ last three drives – punt, punt, blocked field goal attempt.
Broncos up 24-17, 9:22 to go
Boise State has taken a 24-17 lead with 9:22 to go on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Brett Rypien to Khalil Shakir.
The Broncos already have rolled up 222 yards in the second half, averaging 7.4 yards per play.
Boise State has tied the score at 17, scoring on the .first play of the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by Alexander Mattison.
Mattison now has 109 yards and two touchdowns on 22 rushing plays.
Quarterback Brett Rypien was 9 of 10 in the third quarter for 66 yards and the Broncos averaged 6.0 yards on 12 rushing plays. He has hit his last seven throws.
Boise has an answer, 17-10
Boise State has cut the Bulldogs lead to 17-10, scoring on a 7-yard run by Alexander Mattison with 5:56 remaining in the third quarter.
The Broncos went 70 yards in 12 plays for the touchdown – Fresno State in its first nine games had allowed a total of 72 yards to opponent’s on their opening drives in the second half.
Fresno State up 17-3
The Bulldogs have extended their lead to 14-3 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Rivers – Rivers lost the ball on the play, but it was ruled he had crossed the goal line and scored before the ball came free.
Fresno State went 75 yards in 7 plays. There is 11:42 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs’ defense hasn’t allowed a score on an opponent’s opening drive in the second half all season and only 14 points total in the third quarter of their nine games.
Fuller FG makes it 10-3
Fresno State cashed in that interception by Hughes, getting a 47-yard field goal by Asa Fuller as time expired in the first half.
Marcus McMaryion is 12 of 15 for 125 yards and one touchdown in the first half. Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien is 13 of 16 for 149 yards with one interception.
McMaryion will go into the second half having completed five passes in a row and 10 of his past 11, and he is averaging 8.3 yards per attempt.
Juju with a pick
Fresno State safety Juju Hughes put down the Broncos’ bid to get points before halftime, intercepting a poorly-thrown Rypien pass in the end zone and returning it to the 33. The Bulldogs have 1:14 to see if they can extend their lead.
The pick by Hughes was the Bulldogs’ 16th interception this season, most in the Mountain West.
Hughes not has three on the year, tied with Tank Kelly and Mike Bell for most on the team. The Bulldogs also have at least on interception in eight games in a row.
About those first downs …
Fresno State kicker Asa Fuller just missed a 38-yard field goal, the ball going back to the Broncos at the 21-yard line.
Boise State to this point is averaging 8.6 yards per play on first down.
Bulldogs on top on McMaryion TD pass
Fresno State has taken a 7-3 lead on a 3-yard pass from Marcus McMaryion to KeeSean Johnson with 14:12 to go in the second quarter.
The big play on the drive was a 38-yard pass from McMaryion to Johnson on a 3rd-and-8 play. Johnson surpassed the 3,000-yard mark on the play and now has 3,032 career receiving yards.
Johnson also has at least one reception in 46 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out on their first two drives before putting together a 9-play, 83-yard drive to take a lead.
Bulldogs on a run of penalties
Fresno State is second in the Mountain West, averaging just 5.1 penalties per game,
The Bulldogs were just called for their fifth penalty in the first quarter, a holding call against left guard Logan Hughes..
Boise takes lead with FG
Boise State is up 3-0, getting a 35-yard field goal from Haden Hoggarth. There is 6:37 remaining in the first quarter.
The Broncos have been hurting Fresno State on first downs – its first-down plays have gone for 41, 5, 8, 3 and 9 yards with one incomplete pass.
Fresno State on its first possession had a 3rd-and-1 that became a 3rd-and-6 with a false start penalty on wideout Jamire Jordan and then a 3rd-and-11 with a false start on tight end Jared Rice.
The Bulldogs had to punt.
Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien hit a 41-yard pass play on the Broncos’ first play from scrimmage – and became the all-time leading passer in the Mountain West Conference. But the drive stalled after a false start penalty and 2nd-down sack by linebacker George Helmuth. They had to settle for a 50-yard field goal attempt, and it was missed.
With North Carolina State losing to Wake Forest Thursday, there are eight teams with three losses ahead of Fresno State in the College Football Playoff rankings, and by the end of the weekend some of those teams could have four losses.
Four losses will not necessarily know anyone out of the CFP rankings – there were three four-loss teams in the final rankings last season with 9-4 Stanford ay No. 13, 8-4 Mississippi State No. 23 and 8-4 North Carolina State No. 24.
But if the Bulldogs were to win at Boise State, there could be some upward movement. Fresno State remained at No. 23 in the second set of rankings after going on the road and drilling UNLV 48-3.
Boise State midweek had 29,000 tickets out for this game, and it appears it won’t come close to a sellout. Albertsons Stadium holds 36,387. That could be a break for the Bulldogs, with the crowd noise maybe down a decibel or two and less likely to impact line calls and communication along the offensive line.
That noise, coupled with the Broncos’ movement with their defensive front, has been difficult on Boise State opponents this season.
Connecticut played at Boise State in front of 34,515 and was penalized six times for a false start, and that number was matched in the Broncos’ second home game …
- Connecticut: 34,515 attendance, 6 false starts
- San Diego State: 36,679, 6 false starts
- Colorado State: 32,399, 1 false start
- BYU: 35,241, 2 false starts
Colorado State had only one false start, but it was also penalized twice for delay of game.
Those penalties knock an offense off schedule, make third downs more difficult. The noise and movement are constants – there have been five false starts on first-down plays, five on second-down plays and five on third-down plays.
It appears that Fresno State will have its offensive line back for its game at Boise State, with right tackle Syrus Tuitele going through pre-game with the No. 1 offense.
Tuitele has missed the past two games with a lower leg injury, and through the short prep week redshirt freshman Donate Bull and sophomore Quireo Woodley also got reps. Bull started against Hawaii and Woodley started at UNLV, 50-20 and 48-3 wins.
The Bulldogs starting offensive line at the beginning of the season made it through only one game, with left tackle Netane Muti going down with an Achilles’ injury at Minnesota in the second game.
Fresno State offensive line coach Ryan Grubb has deployed five different starting lineups in the first nine games and three games in a row headed to Boise.