Another cruel November moment for the Boise State football team.
Another set of what-could-have-beens.
San Diego State stunned No. 19 Boise State 21-19 on Saturday night at Bronco Stadium the programs fourth home loss in 14 seasons.
The defeat dashed increasingly strong hopes that the Broncos (7-2 overall, 4-1 Mountain West) could qualify for a Bowl Championship Series game this season and made it unlikely they will win their first outright conference title since 2009.
This is my last year, and I know speaking for all the seniors we wanted to go out with a bang and this kind of put a damper on it, Boise State senior linebacker J.C. Percy said.
Four Mountain West teams have one conference loss San Diego State (5-1), Fresno State (5-1), Air Force (4-1) and Boise State. The Broncos do not play any of the other contenders the rest of the season.
Boise State lost in overtime to Nevada in November 2010 and by one point to TCU in November 2011 costing the team BCS berths both times.
I think losing at any point stinks, said Boise State junior quarterback Joe Southwick, who was 20-of-31 for 164 yards and a touchdown with an interception. San Diego State did a good job. They came out and played hard. I think there was no quit in us. We played hard the whole game, we just came up short.
Three special-teams miscues, two third-down conversions against the defense and an absent third-quarter offense combined to derail the Broncos, who had won seven straight games and seemed to be peaking late in the season.
San Diego State scored on a 100-yard kickoff return by Colin Lockett on the first play of the game and set up an 8-yard touchdown drive with a blocked punt in the third quarter. It also got a break when Boise State backup long snapper Kevin Keane pressed into action because of a suspension to four-year starter Chris Roberson botched the snap on the swinging-gate two-point conversion on the Broncos first touchdown. That forced Boise State to go for two to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
The Aztecs set up their final touchdown by converting a third-and-10 on a 10-yard scramble by quarterback Adam Dingwell and ran out the clock with a two-point lead by converting third-and-13 and fourth-and-2.
And the Broncos offense, before closing within two with a long fourth-quarter touchdown drive, had produced 26 yards on four second-half drives.
Our defense played their hearts out, coach Chris Petersen said. I think they played well enough again and special teams really hurt us. We just couldnt get enough going on offense to help them out.
San Diego State made some plays, now. They made some very good catches. Some tough runs. Hard guys to tackle and they were just better than us tonight.
The Broncos led 13-7 at halftime thanks to a strong running game and defense, which shut out the opposing offense for the fifth time in six games. Boise State rushed for 106 yards, including two TDs by senior tailback D.J. Harper, in the first half. It rushed for 6 yards in the second half.
Petersen said the Aztecs played soft coverage to prevent the Broncos from getting big plays through the air. The answer to that style is to run the ball. The first half, we ran the ball fairly effectively, he said. We couldnt run the ball like we needed to with that coverage (in the second half). If they commit that few of guys to the box and we cant run, weve got issues.
The Aztecs seized control of the game with a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown march that started in the third quarter and carried into the fourth. That expanded their lead to 21-13 the first time Boise State had trailed by more than seven points since the 2007 Hawaii Bowl. They played 61 games without facing such a deficit.
Dingwells third-down scramble, a 43-yard run by Adam Muema and a personal foul on safety Jeremy Ioane fueled the drive. On third-and-goal at the 7, Ioane forced tailback Walter Kazee to fumble at the goal line. San Diego State recovered inside the 1.
On fourth down, Kazee just barely crossed the goal line for the TD.
Boise State countered with a 16-play drive. Southwick chipped his way down the field with short throws he completed 8-of-9 at one point. On fourth-and-15 at the 23-yard line, he delivered a strike over the middle to sophomore Matt Miller, the teams top receiver.
Miller hung on to the ball despite a nasty hit that drew a personal foul penalty. That put the ball at the 1 and Southwick flipped a touchdown pass to fullback Dan Paul with 5:35 left in the game. Southwick couldnt find a receiver on the two-point play, though, leaving the score 21-19.
Joe threw a nice ball (to Miller), Petersen said. Put it right on his pads, on his numbers. He was going to have to make a tough catch in traffic and took a big hit and hung on. Hes a very tough, tough competitor.
San Diego State converted a third-and-13 and a fourth-and-2 to prevent Boise State from getting the ball back.
I think our team believed that they could do it, San Diego State coach Rocky Long said. We got a little help from everybody.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat