Wilson’s big game seals MWC title for Boise State
BOISE, Idaho -- In the shadow of their own goal line and mired in a two-week-long offensive slump against a stingy Fresno State defense, the Boise State Broncos turned to their top playmaker.
And Cedrick Wilson delivered.
The senior receiver hauled in eight passes for 148 yards, carrying the Broncos on the game’s deciding drive in a 17-14 victory over the No. 25 Bulldogs in the Mountain West Championship Game victory at Albertsons Stadium.
“It was one of those battles,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “You have to find a way to win -- that’s what it comes down to. In the fourth quarter, that’s exactly what we did.”
Trailing 14-10 and facing first-and-15 from his own 5-yard-line, Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien hit Wilson with a 59-yard bomb across midfield. Moments later, Wilson converted a key third-and-5, then drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone to set up Ryan Wolpin’s go-ahead 2-yard touchdown plunge with 4:42 remaining.
“We had talked about running that play a few times,” Rypien said of the deep ball to Wilson. “We got the look that we wanted, we had a good play-action fake. I was just thankful to hit it. Ced’s a playmaker -- any time he’s in a one-on-one situation I‘m going to go to him. He was huge for us tonight.”
Boise State (10-3) pitched a second-half shutout, led by junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. The MWC Defensive Player of the Year had a championship record-tying 16 tackles and snagged the clinching interception with 1:50 to play. The Broncos forced five punts and a turnover while allowing 85 second-half yards.
“It just came down to sticking in there,” Vander Esch said. “The amount of heart we had, the amount of resiliency we’ve had all year. We knew we would have our chances, and we took advantage of them.”
The Broncos finally slowed down Fresno State, which defeated Boise State 28-17 last week in the regular-season finale. The Bulldogs rolled up 224 first-half yards, but could not sustain it after halftime.
“We really had some poor field position in the third quarter,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said. “We flipped it in the fourth and I hoped we could do something with it, but we couldn’t capitalize. Give (Boise State) credit, they played really well.”
Rypien threw for 246 yards to outduel Fresno State junior Marcus McMaryion, who threw for 172 yards and scored two first-half rushing TDs for the Bulldogs (9-4).
Fresno State is head to a bowl game -- an impressive feat after the Bulldogs won one game last season and were picked to finish last in the MWC West Division.
“I‘m proud of our team and our staff,” Tedford said. “We fell short tonight, but to be in this position, this group accomplished quite a bit.”
McMaryion’s two rushing scores set the pace for Fresno State in the first half as the Bulldogs led 14-10 at halftime.
Haden Hoggarth’s 32-yard field goal for Boise State was the only scoring in the first quarter.
Fresno State took a 7-3 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by McMaryion around right end in the second quarter. The Bulldogs gambled on fourth-and-goal from the 1 after three short yardage runs came up short.
Boise State’s special teams set up the Broncos’ first touchdown. Brock Barr downed Quinn Skillin’s punt at the Fresno State 1 and, after three straight incompletions, the Bulldogs were forced to quick kick to dangerous return man Avery Williams.
Williams fielded the ball at the Fresno State 40 and scampered to the 4. Three plays later, Alexander Mattison crashed in from the 3 for his 12th rushing touchdown of the year and a 10-7 Boise State lead.
Fresno State responded quickly, marching 77 yards in five plays to reclaim the lead on McMaryion’s 8-yard scramble with 1:53 left in the half.
NOTES: RB Alexander Mattison left the game with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter and did not return. Boise State’s leading rusher had 14 carries for 50 yards and a TD before sustaining an apparent left leg injury. ... Boise State played without injured senior TE Jake Roh, whose 11 total touchdowns are tied for the FBS lead among tight ends. ... The games was also a rematch of the 2014 Mountain West title game in Boise, which the Broncos won 28-14 to earn a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. ... Game time temperature was 40 degrees and attendance was 24,515.