Fresno St. beats No. 23 Boise St. in MW title game preview
FRESNO, Calif. — From one win all of last year to a West Division title in the Mountain West and a season-ending victory over Boise State, the Fresno State Bulldogs’ turnaround is legit.
The Bulldogs never trailed Saturday against No. 23 Boise State at Bulldog Stadium, earning a 28-17 victory that was a preview of next Saturday’s Mountain West title game.
“You really have to feel the lowest of lows to feel the highest of highs,” Fresno State center Aaron Mitchell said.
Despite the Bulldogs’ victory, the game likely will be held in Boise. The four computer polls used by the conference to determine the host had Boise State (9-3, 7-1) at an average position of 22.5, and Fresno State (9-3, 7-1) was 43.8. The conference will announce the site host at about noon ET Sunday.
“I’m not a lobbyist. I don’t know how to lobby. It’s out of our control,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said.
“We’ve done what we can do. We go there, then we go there. We didn’t go into this game thinking if we can win this game, we’ll get home-field advantage. I don’t even know how all that works. We’ll just play where they tell us to play.”
Marcus McMaryion’s 81-yard strike to KeeSean Johnson proved to be the dagger with 8:45 to play, 20 seconds after Boise State had cut the lead to 19-17.
“You’ve got to find a way to make a play, you have to have somebody do that ... we didn’t have the momentum,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We kind of got it back, then they came right back. That takes it away in a hurry.”
McMaryion was 23 of 36 for 332 yards with two touchdowns, adding 27 yards rushing.
Boise State saw its seven-game winning streak end. The Broncos had 411 yards of offense but had two first-quarter drives end inside the Fresno State 25-yard line on a missed field goal and a turnover on downs.
“On those types of plays, you have to be very aggressive, and our kids were,” Tedford said.
Both teams scored on their first drives, but neither got on the board again until Fresno State’s Jimmy Camacho hit a 22-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead five seconds before halftime. The Bulldogs held the lead the rest of the way.
Fresno State had lost 21 consecutive games against ranked opponents. Saturday was the Bulldogs’ first since beating then-No. 18 Virginia on Dec. 27, 2004, in the MPC Computers Bowl.
The Bulldogs opened the game with an 11-play, 71-yard drive, capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass from McMaryion to Johnson. The Broncos countered with a 4-yard pass from Montell Cozart to A.J. Richardson to finish a six-play, 75-yard drive.
Jordan Mims had a 1-yard rushing TD for the Bulldogs in the third quarter, and Malik Forrester sacked Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien for a safety with 1:17 to play.
Rypien completed 22 of 31 passes for 278 yards.
Cedrick Wilson had 134 yards receiving for Boise State.
“I’m going to do the same thing I did (Saturday),” Wilson said, looking toward the rematch. “I don’t think they really stopped me, or they stopped our offense, I think we stopped ourselves.”
NOTES: Boise State TE Jake Roh, who came into the game with a team-leading nine touchdown catches, did not play because of a lower left leg injury. He was hurt late in the win over Air Force last Saturday. ... Fresno State’s turnaround from 1-11 last season to 9-3 is the single-largest improvement in program history, besting the seven-win turnaround from 1929 to 1930. ... Boise State RB Alexander Mattison had 63 yards rushing, giving him 1,024 this season. The Broncos join Auburn as the only teams to have 1,000-yard rushers in each of the last nine seasons. ... Fresno State, which entered the game with the No. 1 scoring defense in the Mountain West, held the Broncos to a season-low 17 points. They had scored at least 41 points in their previous four games. ... The Bulldogs did not allow a sack. They have yielded just seven this season.