The Boise State football team went to Albuquerque, N.M., dangerously shorthanded and got out with a blowout, 45-14 victory.
The Broncos couldn’t ask for anything more than that in their “sandwich game” — an encounter with struggling New Mexico slammed between make-or-break showdowns with Top 25 teams Fresno State and Utah State.
And now they can focus on the game of the year.
“Our whole mentality was to get in and out,” Boise State wide receiver Sean Modster told reporters after his three-touchdown game.
No. 23 Boise State (9-2 overall, 6-1 Mountain West) will play No. 14 Utah State (9-1, 6-0) on Nov. 24 at Albertsons Stadium. The winner gets the Mountain Division title. If that’s Boise State, the Broncos will host the Mountain West championship game Dec. 1.
The stakes will be the same regardless of what happens in Utah State’s game Saturday against Colorado State. However, if the Aggies win that game they’ll come to Boise with the highest ranking of any visiting team.
It’s also Senior Day — for a class that includes quarterback Brett Rypien and cornerback Tyler Horton, possibly the Broncos’ two best players.
But to make that game mean what the Broncos wanted it to, they had to handle business at New Mexico. And that’s just what they did — scoring two quick touchdowns, making a few key plays on defense and slamming the door with the run game in the fourth quarter after a sluggish stretch. Tailback Alexander Mattison topped 140 yards for the second straight game and finally broke into the open with a 41-yard touchdown.
A key question for next week becomes who can the Broncos get back into the lineup for Utah State? They played Friday without wide receivers John Hightower and Khalil Shakir, two of their most versatile offensive players. The defense has been patched together for a while, so any reinforcements would be welcome.
The Broncos have won six in a row to position themselves to defend their Mountain West title. They haven’t always looked good doing it — but they’ve consistently delivered with the game on the line.
Now they’ll have to do it with a division title on the line.
“It’s what you want to play in,” Rypien said.
Chadd Cripe is the Idaho Statesman’s sports columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @chaddcripe on Twitter.