Boise State sophomore safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner made his first start in more than a year Friday night.
He quickly made the most of the opportunity.
On the third play from scrimmage, San Jose State quarterback Kenny Potter went deep into double coverage. Sumner-Gardner made the interception while stretched out and falling backward onto the Boise State logo at midfield. It was the fourth interception this season by a Bronco and was the first of Sumner-Gardner’s career.
“The interception turned into points, so we won that battle, and that was certainly huge,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “That particular style of interception, coach (Gabe) Franklin and coach (Ashley) Ambrose, with the safeties and the corners, have been working on that deep ball, kind of up in the air, have to go up and get it.”
Sumner-Gardner last started Sept. 25, 2015, at Virginia, when he injured his ankle and missed the rest of the season, using a redshirt. He was suspended the first four games this season and did not play in the Broncos’ fifth game Oct. 7 at New Mexico, making his debut eight days later against Colorado State.
“DSG did a great job of going up there and playing the ball at its highest point,” senior cornerback Jonathan Moxey said. “It was just to good to see a guy go out there and make a play, especially on the first drive. It was a momentum-changer.”
In three games as a backup entering Friday’s game, Sumner-Gardner had 12 tackles. He added four Friday.
WALE GOES FOR A RUN
Boise State senior punter Sean Wale ran for 29 yards on a fake on the last play of the first quarter, keeping Boise State’s drive alive.
Running back Alexander Mattison finished the drive three plays later on a 19-yard touchdown run that made it 14-6. It was the first time Wale can remember running the ball in his life.
“Finally, after four years, I got my chance to do something, had to make the best of it,” Wale said. “... I did say before the play, I was like, ‘It’s my one chance to shine, I’m definitely not sliding. I’m going to get laid out or something, but I’m not sliding.’ To be honest, I had no idea what to do when I got to the open field.”
Said Harsin: “Next time, maybe we’ll get a little closer and he can go score.”
RAUSA PUTS ONE THROUGH
Boise State senior kicker Tyler Rausa, who had a school-record 25 field goals last season, has not been called upon nearly as often this year.
With 5:19 left in the second quarter, Rausa hit a 34-yarder to give Boise State a 17-13 lead, his longest of the year. Rausa had not made a field goal since Sept. 24 at Oregon State and tried just two since. One missed and one was blocked. He is 4-of-7 on the year on field goals and 43-of-43 on extra points.
“I feel for him, but it always means the offense is doing well,” Wale said. “He’s kind of up and down about it, but if we’re scoring, seven points is better than three.”
POTTER HAS SOME MAGIC
During the week, Boise State coaches said Kenny Potter was similar to Wyoming’s Josh Allen, who had 274 passing yards and 53 rushing yards last Saturday at Wyoming in the Cowboys’ 30-28 upset.
Potter showed plenty of that versatility Friday. He overcame the early interception and finished 23-of-36 for 278 yards with two touchdowns and the pick. He also ran for 67 yards.
On both touchdown passes, he rolled out and scrambled around, finding the receiver open in the end zone after extending the play.
“The two quarterbacks we’ve played have both played really well,” Harsin said. “... I think as a quarterback, when you play a good defense, your focus goes into, ‘What exactly is my game?’”
Junior tight end Alec Dhaenens carried the Hammer for Boise State and scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. ... The Broncos wore blue helmets, black jerseys and black pants. The Spartans wore yellow helmets, white jerseys and yellow pants. ... For the fifth straight game, sophomore linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Whitney did not play. Harsin said Thursday that Vander Esch still may return this season. ... San Jose State won the coin toss and received the opening kickoff. It’s the first time this season Boise State didn’t receive the opening kickoff. ... New England Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin joined fellow former Broncos defensive lineman Erik Helgeson as honorary captains. ... Junior tight end Jake Roh had a 16-yard catch at the end of the third quarter, his second of the season, and added a 4-yard catch in the fourth quarter. He had 33 catches as a sophomore but has been slowed by a knee injury this year. ... Senior linebacker Ben Weaver had a game-high 15 tackles. He had 16 at Wyoming. ... Boise State plays at Hawaii next Saturday (5 p.m., CBSSN). The Rainbow Warriors (4-5) play at San Diego State this Saturday.