Boise State’s hopes of a Mountain West title fell short Saturday at The Blue, as Fresno State handed the Broncos their first conference loss of 2022.
BOISE, Idaho — Boise State’s hopes of traveling to California for the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl fell short Saturday at The Blue, as the Broncos fell to Fresno State 28-16 in the Mountain West Championship.
The Broncos (9-4, 8-1 MW) will meet their fate in the bowl game on Sunday, with a variety of options on the table as the No. 2 team in the conference. The unfortunate loss at Albertsons Stadium to the Bulldogs (9-4, 8-1 MW) marks Boise State’s first Mountain West loss of 2022.
When Boise State defeated Fresno State 40-20 on October 8, the Broncos had 316 rushing yards. George Holani and Ashton Jeanty combined for 266 yards on 36 attempts.
The 6.1 yards per rush average opened things up for quarterback Taylen Green in his second start, and Green threw for a pair of scores against the Bulldogs.
Early in Saturday’s Mountain West Championship, the Broncos seemed to lean heavily on Green’s ability behind center. The sophomore quarterback threw the ball 24 times in the first half, completing just 11 passes for 85 yards and one interception.
Meanwhile, Holani only carried the ball 10 times in the first 30 minutes, but rushed for 56 yards. Jeanty also had 29 yards on just five carries.
“In this game, it’s about what the defense gives you, the opportunities you get,” head coach Andy Avalos said. “When the defense is playing certain numbers in the box, then they’ll give you the space, we just have to execute, and that depends on making sure we put our guys in a position to represent the things that they need, to execute the plays that the defense is giving us”.
Entering the title fight, much of the conversation surrounded Fresno State’s star quarterback Jake Haener and first-team All-Mountain West running back Jordan Mims.
The game had shootout written all over it, considering Haener’s 300-plus yards in four of his last five games, and the Bulldogs’ 79th-ranked rushing defense.
As they have for most of 2022, Boise State’s defense held its own and dominated the Bulldogs from the start. With just over four minutes to play in the first half, the Broncos led 3-0, thanks to Jonah Dalmas’ 26-yard field goal five minutes into the second quarter.
However, Boise State found itself in back-to-back tough positions within minutes of each other. With 3:54 remaining in the second quarter, Fresno State’s Nikko Remigio’s 70-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Bulldogs a four-point lead.
Three plays later, Green was intercepted by Cameron Lockridge at the Boise State 42-yard line. The defensive Bulldog returned the interception for 25 yards, putting Haener and Co. at the Broncos 17-yard line.
Again, three plays later, Mims tore his way into the end zone on a two-yard run, to quickly put Fresno State up 14-3 with 1:18 left in the first half.
Fortunately for the Bronco Nation, Boise State found its offensive footing enough to set up Dalmas for another field goal just before halftime. The Meridian native drilled his second down, to hold a one-score game, 14-6 at halftime.
After forcing a three-and-out on Fresno State to start the second half, Green and Boise State’s offense looked rejuvenated. Back-to-back runs by Holani got the Broncos inside the Bulldogs 40-yard line.
Green completed two straight shots and it looked like Boise State was working its way into the end zone. Once again, however, the Broncos’ drive stalled near the red zone and they were unable to capitalize on the continued effort of the defense.
Dalmas made three of three on the day from 44 yards with 10 minutes left in the third frame and the Broncos suddenly knocked on the door in a 14-9 contest.
Despite Dalmas’s perfect efforts, he was the only Boise State player to score.
At the time of the 44-yard kick, Boise State had outscored Fresno State 225 to 95 in total yards. The Broncos also had a seven-minute lead in time of possession, with 53 offensive snaps to Fresno State’s 28.
The Broncos’ defense made it extremely difficult for Haener and Mims all day.
By the end of the third quarter, Mims, who was chosen over Holani for first-team conference honors, had totaled just 33 yards on 12 carries (2.8-yard average). Haener was also held to 149 yards and no touchdowns in the first 45 minutes.
It looked like Boise State was going to give their offense another chance to take the lead going into the fourth quarter, but an untimely error, similar to the punt return touchdown, put Fresno State back in momentum.
On the Bulldogs’ punt on fourth and 15, Boise State’s Jaylen Clark was called for roughing the kicker. The play seemed closer to running into the kicker, but The Blue’s call gave Fresno State a first down at the Boise State 35-yard line.
“I gave them a full series of downs and they ended up scoring on that series,” Avalos said. “So, we have to be, we have to be aggressive, we also have to get some momentum on our side, but we also have to be able to execute the right fundamentals and techniques and be able to make calls to attack the pocket.” of the kicker and not have any worries about roughing up the guy and being able to finish. If we don’t get the ball, then obviously we have to stay out of his foot.”
The turnaround led to a 22-yard connection from Haener to Zane Pope in the back of the end zone, extending Fresno State’s lead to 21-9 with 14:49 to play.
Looking to bounce back quickly, Lockridge capitalized on another Boise State error, sacking his second interception from Green. Lockridge returned the pick for 21 yards and the Bulldogs were back in business at the Broncos 34.
Even with in-game injuries to linebacker Ty Tanner, Nick Tyreque Jones and cornerback Kaonohi Kaniho, Boise State’s defense appeared to be the most physical unit on the field.
Another golden opportunity for Fresno State proved to be too much, however, as Mims’ three-yard touchdown run put the Bulldogs up 28-9.
After besting opponents from the Mountain West en route to the freshman of the year award, it was a surprising outing for Green, who will likely be one of the best quarterbacks in the country for years to come.
The Broncos dug deep and it was hard to recover. Also, playing from behind, the Boise State backfield was never able to be late, with Holani and Jeanty combining for just over 100 yards on the day.
Boise State was able to score late on a 52-yard throw from Green to Davis Koetter to make it 28-16 in Koetter’s final game at The Blue.
Photos, stats and Boise State’s full postgame press conference are included below:
Photos: Mountain West Championship
Injury note: After last week’s roster included 12 players, only wide receiver Stefan Cobbs and safety Zion Washington weren’t dressed for the Broncos on Saturday.
Check out all of our Boise State football coverage on our YouTube playlist:
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