Boise State junior tailback Jay Ajayi has rushed for at least 100 yards in every outing during the Broncos’ five-game winning streak — the longest 100-yard streak by a Bronco since Brock Forsey (six) in 2002.
In each game, Ajayi entered the fourth quarter short of the century mark and blew past it with a dominant finish.
He has rushed for 482 yards in the fourth quarter this season — 96 more than anyone else in the country. He also ranks first in carries (69), tied for second in rushing touchdowns (five), second in first downs (18), tied for first in 10-yard runs (13) and tied for first in 20-yard runs (six) in the final quarter.
The fourth quarter accounts for 37.7 percent of Ajayi’s rushing yards this season.
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“It’s just a mindset of trying to carry my team through the whole entire game,” Ajayi said. “ It’s the finishing quarter. You have to be able to finish teams off in the fourth quarter when games are close. I’ve just prided myself on being able to do that this season. Also, the line — I feel like they really step it up as well in the fourth quarter, take it up a notch, and I kind of feed off of that.”
Here are Ajayi’s rushing numbers during the win streak:
At Nevada: 61 rushing yards (two TDs) in the first three quarters, 91 yards (one TD) in the fourth quarter
Vs. Fresno State: 74 rushing yards (two TDs) in the first three quarters, 84 yards in the fourth quarter
Vs. BYU: 84 rushing yards (one TD) in the first three quarters, 34 yards (one TD) in the fourth quarter
At New Mexico: 87 rushing yards (one TD) in the first three quarters, 74 yards (one TD) in the fourth quarter
Vs. San Diego State: 60 rushing yards (one TD) in the first three quarters, 74 yards (two TDs) in the fourth quarter
During the streak: 366 rushing yards (seven TDs) in the first three quarters, 357 yards (five TDs) in the fourth quarter
“He plays well when he’s a little angry,” offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said. “He gets ticked off when he has 26 yards at halftime (vs. San Diego State).”
Ajayi’s late dominance has allowed the Broncos to put close games in his hands.
Leading by seven points against Fresno State, Ajayi carried on five of six plays (including a 54-yard run) to set up the clinching field goal.
Leading by four at New Mexico, he carried on all six plays on a clinching 49-yard touchdown drive.
And leading by two against San Diego State, he carried eight times for 28 yards on the clinching 70-yard touchdown drive.
In those situations, the Broncos load up on tight ends and run smash-mouth plays.
“Those are my favorite plays,” Ajayi said. “I love running power. It’s a play where it’s a physical play. I-formation. It’s just a lot of bodies in there and it comes down to who wants it more and whose will is stronger. I love those plays. It allows me to use my physical nature and try to break those tackles and have big runs.”
Overall, Ajayi ranks third in the nation in yards from scrimmage at 172.3 per game and 1,723 total. He is fourth in all-purpose yards (172.3 ypg), 10th in rushing (128.0 ypg), fifth in scoring (12.0 points per game) and first in offensive touches (302).
At Boise State, Ajayi is closing in on single-season records for rushing attempts (has 260, needs 36), rushing yards (has 1,280, needs 434) and yards from scrimmage (has 1,723, needs 171). He also ranks third in touchdowns (20) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (17).
Ajayi was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award (best running back) this week.
“He’s worked his tail off to get to this point,” running backs coach Kent Riddle said. “For him to get a little recognition is great.”
— Quarterback recruit Brett Rypien is on track to be his school’s valedictorian, according to this feature story.
— Sophomore left guard Travis Averill was the Broncos’ offensive lineman of the game last week. He has been making a strong push for a while. This is his first year as a starter. “It’s been pretty awesome,” he said. “I’m enjoying it so far. We’ve really come a long way. I’m just focusing on what I need to do to help this team out.”
— Sophomore wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck has taken over the team lead in receiving yards with 545 despite not having a catch in the first four and a half games of the season. He has 32 catches in five and a half games since. “My confidence is definitely building right now,” he said. “A lot of it is reps in the game, obviously. But also in practice. I just think it really helps during the game when you have a lot of stuff to look back on.”
— The Broncos expect to return the wide receivers who currently rank first (junior Shane Williams-Rhodes), second (Sperbeck), tied for fourth (sophomore Chaz Anderson) and sixth (junior Troy Ware) in catches in their group. The only exceptions are Matt Miller (third), who hasn’t played since September and won’t return this season, and Dallas Burroughs (tied for fourth). Williams-Rhodes, Sperbeck and Anderson have combined for nearly 1,000 yards in the five-game win streak. “You think about next year sometimes and think about the new guys coming in, too, and you get excited,” Sperbeck said.
— Williams-Rhodes on his momentum-changing, leaping, third-down catch in the first half against San Diego State: “When I went up, I thought the ball might have already been picked. (The defender) misjudged the ball. When I caught it, I knew I had the ball, but I blinked and when I opened my eyes I was already on my back. I didn’t even realize I got hit.”
— Senior safety Corey Bell on the Wyoming trip: “Wyoming has been one of my favorite trips, even though it’s freezing. I enjoy the outdoors. There are pine trees in the end zone. Snow. From the airport driving into town there are antelope on the side of the road. I really enjoy the trip. I’m sure I’ll be freezing my butt off, but it will be fun.”
Boise State at Wyoming
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: War Memorial Stadium (29,181, FieldTurf), Laramie, Wyo.
TV: ESPN2 (Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway, Paul Carcaterra). Channel 209 on DirecTV, 144 on Dish, 25 and 492 (HD) on Cable One.
Radio: KBOI (670AM), KKGL (96.9 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
Records: Boise State is 8-2 overall, 5-1 Mountain West; Wyoming is 4-6, 2-4
Series: Boise State leads 8-0 (Boise State won 48-7 last year in Boise)
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