BOISE STATE 37, FRESNO STATE 27
You can’t call it “The Drive” because there wasn’t enough on the line.
You might be able to call it a defining moment for the 2014 Boise State football team.
The Broncos drove 75 yards in 17 plays on Friday night at Albertsons Stadium — including two fourth-down conversions — and reached into their bag of tricks for a game-winning touchdown that involved four players touching the ball and the quarterback catching the pass.
The fourth-quarter march pushed Boise State to a 37-27 victory over rival Fresno State and allowed the Broncos to regain the Milk Can they lost last year.
The touchdown drive also kept the Broncos (5-2 overall, 3-1 Mountain West) on the necessary path to win their first outright Mountain West championship.
“I don’t know if that (drive) defines us by any means, but it sure says that we can get it done,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “I don’t think tonight was a surprise. I think (the players) were feeling it and they would have been extremely disappointed if we (punted). They were looking over like, ‘Don’t do that. Don’t.’
“In the future, we’re going to have to do those types of things to win these games.”
(Full story in Saturday’s paper and online at IdahoStatesman.com).
‘Championship football’ from Hedrick
Boise State senior quarterback Grant Hedrick threw for a season-low 190 yards but played “his best football game,” offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said Friday night after the Broncos beat Fresno State.
Hedrick was 21-for-30 with a touchdown. He also rushed 15 times for 56 yards and caught a 9-yard touchdown pass.
Importantly, Hedrick did not have a turnover. He was benched after throwing four interceptions Sept. 27 against Air Force and added 2.5 turnovers (one was a fumbled handoff) Oct. 4 against Nevada.
“I told him, ‘You played championship football tonight,’ ” Sanford said. “That was a real football game — not a spread offense, 650 yards game. That was a real football game against the reigning champs and he had to play turnover-free football. He had to make good decisions. He had opportunities to throw down the field that could have led to turnovers. Hats off to Fresno, they patched their coverage holes.”
Said Hedrick: “No turnovers is the key. If you turn the ball over, I honestly believe the outcome of that game is different. That’s huge.”
Hedrick’s touchdown pass was one of the best throws of his career. On third-and-7 at the Fresno State 21-yard line in the third quarter, he fired a pass to junior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes on a post route.
Hedrick fit the ball just in front of the linebacker who was chasing Williams-Rhodes and got the ball to his receiver before the safety arrived.
“I just said, ‘Wow,’ on that one,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “That was about as good of a throw as I’ve seen by any quarterback. He stuck it in a window. Shane made a bend move around a linebacker and a safety. We’ve thrown that, but not that tight. We haven’t thrown anything that tight and he stuck that ball in there. That’s how your quarterback should play.”
(Watch the play here.)
It was a rare downfield, over-the-middle route for Williams-Rhodes, whose role is expanding.
“His speed showed up on that one,” Hedrick said. “I trusted him and he made a phenomenal catch.”
Goodale good again
Boise State senior kicker Dan Goodale said he fixed his problem from the right hash — and he proved it in the first quarter.
Goodale was 3-for-7 on field goals in the previous three games. He had missed three kicks wide right from the right hash.
He told the Idaho Statesman during the week that he had addressed an alignment error.
“It’s not a confidence issue,” he said. “I go out there and I feel like the ball is going through the uprights.”
He was tested immediately. He tried field goals of 34 and 40 yards in the first quarter against Fresno State — both from the right hash. And he nailed them both.
He added a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter.
“Dan’s an extreme worker,” Harsin said. “If there’s mistakes, there’s not a better guy out there who’s going to find a way to correct it. I don’t know if it’s corrected, but he was better tonight.”
Ajayi on The Blue
Boise State junior tailback Jay Ajayi scored two first-half touchdowns Friday night to give him 23 in nine home games as the starter.
He has scored in each of those games and reached the end zone at least twice in eight of them. He finished with 30 carries for 158 yards and four catches for 37 yards against Fresno State.
Boise State added a train sound effect to Ajayi’s “Jay Train” touchdown celebration for Friday’s game. A graphics package for the video board also is on the way.
Ajayi’s second TD run, a 3-yarder in the second quarter, looked like it might have been a touchdown for left guard Travis Averill. Ajayi reached the ball across the goal line and Averill, standing in the end zone, grabbed it. But Ajayi broke the plane of the goal line and, if he hadn’t, the play would have been called back because it’s illegal to hand the ball forward beyond the line of scrimmage.
— Sophomore starting linebacker Ben Weaver missed the game with an injury he sustained in the Nevada game. Junior backup tailback Jack Fields also missed the game. Both were close to playing and likely will play next week against BYU, coach Bryan Harsin said.
— Senior cornerback Bryan Douglas missed his second straight game and third overall. He is a backup and was the primary kickoff returner before his first injury.
— Starting safety Jeremy Ioane (three games missed), starting left tackle Rees Odhiambo (four), starting middle linebacker Blake Renaud (one) and backup safety Chanceller James (one) returned to action. Renaud started.
— Redshirt freshman Archie Lewis started at left tackle for the fourth time in five games, but Odhiambo played in the first quarter.
— Junior linebacker Tyler Gray made his first start of the season in place of Weaver. Gray led the team with 11 tackles and two sacks.
— Junior cornerback Donte Deayon started despite failing to finish a game since Sept. 13. Sophomore cornerback Jonathan Moxey, who was the No. 3 corner when the season began, made his sixth straight start.
Ticket update for BYU
Fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for next week’s Boise State-BYU game. The Broncos and Cougars play at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 (ESPN).
Mountain West gets title sponsor
The Mountain West announced Friday that Sports Authority will serve as the first title sponsor of the football championship game. The Sports Authority Mountain West Football Championship is Dec. 6.
The sponsorship was sold by Learfield but the Mountain West will receive additional revenue, the conference office confirmed. The amount has not been determined.
The Mountain West’s first football conference championship game last year netted about $1,060,000. Utah State played at Fresno State.
Boise State wore orange pants, orange jerseys and blue helmets. The Broncos wore orange jerseys in their past two home losses — 2011 vs. TCU and 2012 vs. San Diego State. They haven’t lost in blue since 2001. Late former coach Pokey Allen was an honorary captain as part of the 20-year anniversary of the 1994 team that played in the Division I-AA national championship game. Boise State and Fresno State have met for 14 straight years but they aren’t scheduled to clash again until 2017 in Fresno, Calif. Boise State’s single-game captains were quarterback Grant Hedrick, wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes and linebacker Tanner Vallejo. Linebacker Darren Lee carried the Hammer. Fresno State won the coin toss and deferred. Boise State cornerback Donte Deayon recorded his first career sack, coming up to make the tackle on a scramble by quarterback Brandon Connette. The attendance was a season-high 35,008.
— “Players on both teams were really excited for this game and it showed the way they played.”
— “We went out to win the game. We decided when we stepped out on the field, we want to win the game and if it takes fourth-down conversions, so be it.”
— On Fresno State scoring one- and two-play touchdowns: “That can’t happen. That’s two uncontested plays. We had some miscommunication. We came back, we fixed it. That’s where the poise of, ‘This is not going to be perfect,’ came in. Nobody panicked. We went back to assignment football.”
— On wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck: “Sperbeck was our backup quarterback essentially, the way he played — that’s just part of what we do.”
— On the defense: “When our defense is firing on all cylinders, we’re pretty good. Not many people are going to move the ball on us consistently. Our secondary can make plays when they communicate. Early in the game, we didn’t communicate. Great defenses finish. We’ve been able to finish on the field for the most part the last two games with our defense.”
— On cornerback Donte Deayon: “When you talk to some people and you coach some guys, they just get it. You talk about something in the air, he can picture it with you. He’s very smart. He spends a lot of time studying. He’s a gamer. He’s got a lot of confidence in what he’s doing. The ball he drove on tonight (for an interception) he’s calculated. ‘I’m going to make the play.’ ”
QB Grant Hedrick
— On the Milk Can: “It’s huge. That’ll be the last time we’ll play those guys. It’s great to go out with that milk jug at our place. We’ve talked about that all week. We needed to get it back. For those fellow seniors, it’s great to get it back here.”
— On clinching the win with a field goal: “Last game, we didn’t do that. We really wanted to finish with the ball in our hands and Jay (Ajayi), I can’t say enough about that guy. He runs so hard. It’s great for him to go out there and bust a big one like that. We needed it. To finish the game with the ball in our hands is huge.”
CB Donte Deayon
— On the defense: “We’re playing a good team. They’re going to hit us, but it’s about how we respond to it. Don’t let it happen again.”
— On his first sack: “That was nice. It felt good coming up there making a stop and everybody cheering.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford
— “I really thought that we had to unload everything we had on the call sheet against this team. Regardless of what everybody thinks about this (Fresno State) team, they’ve played three unbelievably good teams this year. They are without a doubt the reigning champs in this conference. We knew they would come back with fight.”
WR Thomas Sperbeck
— On his TD pass: “It felt great, especially after last year — I threw a pick last year, when I was a freshman. It felt great to come back out and hit some receivers.”
LB Tanner Vallejo
— On Deayon: “Donte's a baller. When you talk to him about football, he knows everything, knows everyone's position, what they're doing. And you can just see, he's a playmaker.”
Fresno State QB Brian Burrell
— On Boise State’s 17-play touchdown drive: “It’s tough, as a quarterback you want the defense to get three-and-outs every time. Realistically that’s not going to happen. Boise State is a really good football team and they put together a really good drive at the end. It was tough to watch.”
BSU — Jay Ajayi 9 run (Dan Goodale kick), 9:14. Key plays: Wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes broke a tackle attempt near the line of scrimmage to gain 49 yards on an end-around and Ajayi did the same on the touchdown run. Drive: 5 plays, 74 yards, 1:53. Boise State 7, Fresno State 0
FS — Kody Kroening 34 field goal, 5:22. Key plays: Marteze Waller gained 8, 4 and 6 yards to chip away and Delvon Hardaway made a 33-yard catch. But on third-and-11 from the Boise State 17-yard line, safety Darian Thompson broke up a pass in the end zone intended for star receiver Josh Harper. Drive: 10 plays, 58 yards, 3:52. Boise State 7, Fresno State 3
BSU — Goodale 34 field goal, 2:50. Key plays: Wide receiver Dallas Burroughs made a 15-yard catch and true freshman tailback/receiver Jeremy McNichols gained 20 yards on a shovel sweep. On second-and-7, wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck caught a ball just out of the end zone and the Broncos settled for a field goal. Drive: 8 plays, 50 yards, 2:32. Boise State 10, Fresno State 3
FS — Waller 76 run (Kroening kick), 2:32. Key play: Linebacker Travis Saxton missed a tackle near the line of scrimmage on the TD. Drive: 1 play, 76 yards, :18. Boise State 10, Fresno State 10
BSU — Goodale 40 field goal, :17. Key plays: Tight end Jake Roh fumbled the squibbed kickoff but safety Corey Bell recovered. Sperbeck threw a 29-yard pass to wide receiver Troy Ware on a trick play, but back-to-back false starts proved costly. Drive: 6 plays, 39 yards, 2:15. Boise State 13, Fresno State 10
BSU — Ajayi 3 run (Goodale kick), 8:25. Key plays: Quarterback Grant Hedrick scrambled for 21 yards and drew a late-hit penalty on the Bulldogs. Tight end Holden Huff made a third-down grab but fumbled. Fellow tight end Jake Hardee saved him with the recovery. Drive: 10 plays, 73 yards, 3:58. Boise State 20, Fresno State 10
FS — Josh Harper 32 pass from Brian Burrell (Kroening kick), 14:23. Key play: Waller gained 35 yards on the previous play. Drive: 2 plays, 75 yards, :37. Boise State 20, Fresno State 17
BSU — Williams-Rhodes 21 pass from Hedrick (Goodale kick), 9:13. Key plays: Boise State converted four third downs of at least 6 yards, including the TD. Ajayi gained 15 yards on a third-and-10 reception, Roh made a 9-yard grab on third-and-6, Ware made a 7-yard catch on third-and-7 and Williams-Rhodes caught the TD pass on a third-and-7 post route. Drive: 12 plays, 62 yards, 5:10. Boise State 27, Fresno State 17
FS — Kroening 44 field goal, 2:41. Key plays: The Bulldogs converted four third downs, including a third-and-10 to start the drive on a 14-yard catch by Harper. Boise State defensive end Kamalei Correa sacked Burrell on third-and-7 to force the field goal. Drive: 16 plays, 56 yards, 6:32. Boise State 27, Fresno State 20
FS — Waller 3 run (Kroening kick), 1:57. Key play: Boise State kickoff returner Dallas Burroughs fumbled and Fresno State recovered at the Boise State 5-yard line. Drive: 2 plays, 5 yards, :44. Boise State 27, Fresno State 27
BSU — Hedrick 9 pass from Sperbeck (Goodale kick), 9:11. Key plays: The Broncos converted two third downs and two fourth downs on the 17-play march. Roh turned a short throw into 14 yards on fourth-and-2 at the Fresno State 45 and Ajayi gained 2 yards on fourth-and-1 at the 11. On the TD, Hedrick handed to McNichols, who pitched to Sperbeck, who threw to Hedrick. Drive: 17 plays, 75 yards, 7:46. Boise State 34, Fresno State 27
BSU — Goodale 24 field goal, 1:41. Key play: Ajayi made a 54-yard run. Drive: 7 plays, 69 yards, 2:57. Boise State 37, Fresno State 27
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