BOISE STATE 63, WYOMING 14
LARAMIE, Wyo. — A Boise State football team that needs to capture the nation’s attention put a new twist on one of its most famous plays Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium.
Junior tailback Jay Ajayi’s 20-yard touchdown run on a Statue of Liberty handoff (watch it here) sparked the Broncos to a 63-14 victory over Wyoming and earned the team a place in highlight reels across the country, including a spot in the top 10 plays on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
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“When we put it in this week, I was kind of excited just because of the history behind the play,” Ajayi said. “For us to score on it just made it that much sweeter.”
The victory kept alive Boise State’s hopes of reaching a New Year’s Six bowl and set up a high-stakes showdown with Utah State next Saturday at Albertsons Stadium.
The Broncos (9-2 overall, 6-1 Mountain West), who have won six straight, need to beat the Aggies (9-3, 6-1) to win the Mountain Division and host the conference championship game. If the Broncos lose, Colorado State (10-1, 6-1) or Utah State will win the division.
“It’s basically a championship game before a championship game,” Ajayi said.
Boise State could reach a New Year’s Six bowl if it wins the Mountain West and finishes ahead of Marshall (11-0) in the College Football Playoff rankings.
So far, the CFP selection committee hasn’t found reason to rank either team.
But the Broncos — who have five wins against bowl-eligible teams — played their first complete game of the season on the same day that the Thundering Herd nearly lost to UAB. The Herd have beaten two bowl-eligible teams.
Boise State scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams (first time since the 2011 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas vs. Arizona State) while outgaining Wyoming 558-227. The starters didn’t commit a turnover and allowed just seven points. The Broncos became the first opponent to score 63 points in Laramie in 99 years — the fourth time during the six-game winning streak that Boise State has scored at least 50.
Senior quarterback Grant Hedrick acknowledged the need to impress voters but said that wasn’t the motivation behind Saturday’s breakthrough.
“Mainly it was just to show ourselves we can play like that,” he said. “We knew we had a game like that. We just needed to prove it to ourselves.”
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MOUNTAIN WEST TITLE GAME SCENARIOS
Boise State: Beat Utah State and win the division.
Colorado State: Beat Air Force and have Boise State lose.
Utah State: Beat Boise State and have Colorado State lose.
The Mountain Division champion will host the championship game at 8 p.m. Dec. 6.
Fresno State: Win at home against Hawaii and win the division. Or lose and have San Diego State lose and Nevada win against UNLV.
San Diego State: Win at home against San Jose State and have Fresno State lose.
Hawaii: Win at Fresno State and have San Diego State and Nevada lose.
Ajayi breaks school record
Boise State junior tailback Jay Ajayi broke the school record for yards from scrimmage in a season with his 73-yard touchdown reception on a screen early in the third quarter against Wyoming.
Ajayi had 16 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns and two catches for 92 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter.
That increased his season totals to 1,390 rushing yards, 535 receiving yards, 1,925 total yards, 19 rushing touchdowns and 23 total touchdowns.
His 1,925 yards tops the 1,894 yards generated by tailback Brock Forsey in 2002. He ranks third in school history with 19 rushing TDs (Forsey, 26, 2002) and third with 23 total touchdowns (Forsey, 32, 2002). He’s fifth in rushing yards and the only player with two of the top five seasons in school history. He also is the only player with two 20-touchdown seasons.
“It’s been amazing,” Ajayi said of the season. “I feel like I’m most proud of myself just because I’m becoming more consistent each game, just trying to make sure I’m being more of a consistent player — just like (wide receiver) Matt Miller is and was for our team.”
Boise State junior cornerback Donte Deayon returned a punt 75 yards in the third quarter for a touchdown. It was the Broncos’ first punt return for a touchdown since Chris Potter went 76 yards against Idaho on Nov. 12, 2010.
“It was fun,” Deayon said. “The dudes held up great up front and then (safety Darian Thompson) got a great block at the end to spring me free. I give all credit to them.”
Boise State’s 63 points were the most allowed by Wyoming in Laramie since Oct. 9, 1915 — 99 years ago. The Cowboys lost that game 70-7 to Utah.
Quick start for Broncos
Boise State ended a trend of slow starts with a 14-0 first quarter against Wyoming.
The Broncos trailed 10-0 after the first quarter against San Diego State and 28-14 after the first quarter at New Mexico in their previous two games, which they won anyway.
Junior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes caught an 18-yard touchdown pass on the Broncos’ second drive against Wyoming — the first time the Broncos scored first since the Oct. 24 game against BYU. Ajayi added a 17-yard touchdown run.
“It wasn’t necessarily the perfect start, but it was a fast start,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “And that’s exactly what we talked about. We didn’t say we were going to play perfect. We wanted to come out and play faster.”
Mixing it up
The Broncos broke their tendency to rely on Ajayi in the run game in the first half. Midway through the second quarter, Ajayi had six carries for 60 yards and a touchdown. But Williams-Rhodes (three for 40) and true freshman Jeremy McNichols (three for 45 and a TD) combined for another six carries.
The group had 19 carries for 186 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
McNichols, who plays wide receiver and tailback, finished with 50 rushing yards, 11 receiving yards and the first two touchdowns of his career.
“That’s huge for him,” Harsin said. “This was a conscious effort by our offensive staff to get the ball in his hands because we need to divvy up that workload a little bit.”
Red-zone hot streak
Boise State has scored on 36 consecutive red-zone possessions (inside the opponent’s 20-yard line). That includes 28 touchdowns.
Goodale’s streak ends
Boise State senior kicker Dan Goodale’s string of nine straight made field goals ended with a miss from 43 yards in the first quarter. Punter Sean Wale caught a poor snap — it was high and inside — and got the ball down, but the kick sailed wide right.
Ioane, Boesen don’t travel
Boise State senior safety Jeremy Ioane and redshirt freshman defensive end Mat Boesen did not make the trip to Wyoming.
Ioane has been in and out of the lineup most of the season with an undisclosed health issue. He has played in five games and started three (the first three of the season).
Boesen is three games into a suspension and coach Bryan Harsin said earlier in the week he wasn’t sure yet when Boesen would return. Boesen pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of inattentive or careless driving.
Junior safety Dillon Lukehart, who missed the previous two games because of injury, was in uniform.
Sophomore safety Chanceller James, who started for the second straight game, left with an injury on the first defensive series. He was in street clothes in the first half.
Wyoming QB leaves
Wyoming senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard left the game late in the first half with a severely sprained ankle. His left leg got caught under Boise State defensive tackle Elliot Hoyte as Hoyte made the tackle on a scramble. Teammates helped Kirkegaard to the sideline and he hobbled to the locker room.
Boise State wore all white. Cornerback Cleshawn Page and linebacker Tyler Gray were the Broncos’ single-game captains. Ajayi carried the Hammer. Boise State won the toss and deferred. There were snow flurries early in the game. It was 35 degrees with a 20 mph wind at kickoff. Wyoming wide receiver Dominic Rufran broke the Mountain West record with his 48th straight game with a catch. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin earned an automatic one-year contract extension with the ninth win of the season. He’s under contract through 2019. Boise State’s six-game winning streak is tied for the fifth-longest in the country. Boise State is 9-0 against Wyoming and 5-0 in Laramie. Attendance was 15,821.
BSU — Shane Williams-Rhodes 18 pass from Grant Hedrick (Dan Goodale kick), 7:48. Key plays: True freshman Jeremy McNichols shifted from slot receiver to tailback and rushed for 28 yards and junior tailback Jay Ajayi broke a tackle for an 18-yard gain. Drive: 3 plays, 64 yards, :51. Boise State 7, Wyoming 0
BSU — Ajayi 17 run (Goodale kick), 4:39. Key plays: Sophomore wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck opened with a 25-yard catch and Ajayi made a 19-yard catch. Ajayi’s touchdown came on a third-and-2 misdirection pitch to the left. Drive: 7 plays, 69 yards, 2:06. Boise State 14, Wyoming 0
WYO — Brian Hill 6 run (Stuart Williams kick), 12:31. Key plays: Hill fumbled on the second play of the drive and recovered. Wide receiver Jalen Claiborne used a questionable spot to gain a first down on a second-and-7 catch and made a 9-yard grab on third-and-7. Drive: 11 plays, 74 yards, 5:00. Boise State 14, Wyoming 3
BSU — McNichols 9 run (Goodale kick), 9:30. Key plays: Ajayi drove the pile for a 9-yard gain on the first play and added an 11-yard run. Williams-Rhodes gained 14 yards on an end-around and 11 on a reverse. Drive: 8 plays, 74 yards, 3:01. Boise State 21, Wyoming 7
BSU — Ajayi 20 run (Goodale kick), 4:17. Key plays: Tight end Jake Roh made a 25-yard catch on play action and wide receiver Chaz Anderson made a leaping, 20-yard grab on third-and-10. The touchdown came on a Statue of Liberty handoff. Drive: 8 plays, 80 yards, 3:12. Boise State 28, Wyoming 7
BSU — Ajayi 73 pass from Hedrick (Goodale kick), 14:09. Drive: 2 plays, 78 yards, :51. Boise State 35, Wyoming 7
BSU — McNichols 11 pass from Hedrick (Goodale kick), 8:08. Key plays: Hedrick ran for 12 and 11 yards and found Sperbeck for 29. Drive: 8 plays, 71 yards, 3:27. Boise State 42, Wyoming 7
BSU — Darian Thompson 36 interception return (Goodale kick), 6:35. Boise State 49, Wyoming 7
BSU —Donte Deayon 75 punt return (Goodale kick), 4:44. Boise State 56, Wyoming 7
WYO — Hill 1 run (Williams kick), 13:45. Drive: 6 plays, 20 yards, 2:16. Boise State 56, Wyoming 14
BSU — Devan Demas 21 run (Tyler Rausa kick), 6:44. Drive: 8 plays, 85 yards, 3:40. Boise State 63, Wyoming 14
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