The Boise State football team spent two months rebuilding from that glum, 2-2 September that concluded with a blowout home loss to Virginia.
Improbably, the Broncos pushed their way into the Top 25, onto the fringe of the New Year’s Six discussion and within one win of the first undefeated Mountain West season in school history.
And in three and a half hours Saturday at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, Calif., all of that unraveled.
The Broncos wasted a promising first half with an array of mistakes on the Bulldogs’ side of the field, including a missed field goal and a 15-yard penalty that prevented points. Coaches, who had deftly managed two quarterbacks most of the season, couldn’t find the right mix between junior Brett Rypien — who was terrific — and senior Montell Cozart, whose predictable run package fell flat. Sophomore tailback Alexander Mattison, a budding star who was nearly silent in September, wasn’t included nearly enough in the game plan (15 carries, 63 yards) — and wasn’t even in the backfield in some critical, short-yardage situations. The Broncos failed twice more on fourth down — dropping to an incomprehensible 2-for-16 on the season, worst in the nation.
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Then there was the defense, the backbone of this team much of the year. The group didn’t force a turnover and allowed nine third-down conversions in 16 attempts. Worst of all, cornerback Avery Williams and safety Kekoa Nawahine got beaten for an 81-yard touchdown pass one play after Boise State had scored its first touchdown in about 44 minutes of game time. The Broncos had pulled within 19-17. Just like that, they were down 26-17 and the game was all but over.
And the special teams, another rock of this team most of the year, did nothing to provide a spark. Haden Hoggarth’s uncharacteristic missed field goal helped Fresno State keep Boise State two scores away for most of the second half. From the time Fresno State took a 19-10 lead with 14:18 left in the game, Boise State never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Put it all together, and Boise State was outcoached and outplayed. And don’t let the CBS Sports Network analysts convince you that was a product of Boise State having nothing to play for. The Broncos, in fact, had more to play for than the Bulldogs — a historic conference season, a Top 25 ranking.
It makes you wonder: Can Boise State even beat this team on the Blue next week? Jeff Tedford has done a masterful job in rebuilding the Bulldogs program in one season. And from what we saw on Saturday, the Bulldogs might just be better than the Broncos.
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