Quick takes and rapid reaction to Boise State’s 17-14 victory over No. 25 Fresno State in the Mountain West Conference football championship game.
Score more – Seventeen points were enough to beat Boise State once. Twice? No dice.
Once again, Fresno State held the Broncos to a season-low point total. Only this time it wasn’t enough to prevent Boise State from riding a fourth-quarter, 90-yard touchdown drive to claim the shiny trophy at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho.
Fresno State’s six second-half drives went like this: PUNT, PUNT, PUNT, PUNT, PUNT, INT. Three of them, with the Bulldogs desperate to built upon a 14-10 halftime lead, were three-and-out.
Quarterback Marcus McMaryion had one final chance to lead a go-ahead scoring drive after the defense forced a punt with 2:23 left. But on third-and-7, Broncos linebacker Leighton Vander Esch stepped in front of a pass for the game-clinching interception.
So what happened?
Credit Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos for making the necessary adjustments. Unlike last week at Bulldog Stadium, Fresno State’s offensive line caved into pressure – especially the right side. The Broncos sacked McMaryion twice, hit him often and forced numerous errant heaves downfield.
Compounded by an ineffective running game (minus McMaryion), the Bulldogs only managed 50 total yards in the third quarter and 35 in the fourth. That won’t win many championship games on the road.
And while we’re on the subject, it’s pointless to speculate whether the outcome would’ve been different had this game been played at Bulldog Stadium. That’s a question without a resolution. Let’s just hope the conference’s athletic directors make the obvious changes to the criteria during their offseason meetings.
Bowlin’ – Christmas Eve in Hawaii? Appears like Fresno State will be saying “Aloha” for a third time since 2012.
The official announcement won’t come until Sunday afternoon, but it looks like that’s how the dominoes are falling.
Boise State’s victory will send the Broncos to the Las Vegas Bowl, which gets the first choice of Mountain West teams. Oregon or Arizona will be the Pac-12 opponent, depending on the College Football Playoff selections.
Prior to Saturday’s game, reports started to filter that the MW championship loser would be sent to the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24 against an American Athletic Conference opponent, likely 7-4 Houston.
Why Hawaii? While certainly not convenient for fans, that location would certainly be popular in the Bulldogs locker room. And after what these guys have been through, who can blame them for wanting to go to Hawaii?
What about the Foster Farms Bowl, whose location (Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara) and date (Dec. 27) would be ideal for fans? That scenario depends on the Big Ten placing one team in the CFP semis and two more in New Year’s Six bowls. There’s also been talk that San Diego State, with its 10-2 record and Heisman hopeful in Rashaad Penny, is slated for that potential opening.
Fresno State has never played in the Foster Farms Bowl even though that game has been around in some form since 2002.
The Bulldogs are 0-3 all-time in Hawaii/Aloha Bowls and 0-6 in all bowl games since 2007.
Run to the house – A week ago Marcus McMaryion beat Boise State with his arm. The quarterback’s weapons of choice Saturday night were his legs.
McMaryion ran a naked bootleg to perfection – on fourth down, no less – for Fresno State’s first touchdown to reward head coach Jeff Tedford and offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer for a gutsy play call.
On fourth-and-goal and the Bulldogs still scoreless, McMaryion faked a handoff to power back Josh Hokit, then sold the move with a slight hesitation before outsprinting two Broncos to the end zone.
One factor that may have played into Tedford rolling the dice: Vander Esch, the MW’s defensive player of the year, left the field after being shaken up on the previous play.
After Boise State went ahead 10-7, McMaryion capped off the second Bulldogs scoring drive with a decisive 8-yard romp to give him 40 rushing yards in the first half.
At the time, you wouldn’t have guessed those would be the last point Fresno State would score all night.
Credit Boise State’s defense for keeping McMaryion and the Bulldogs bottled up in the second half.