The 2014 Boise State football team has turned into the Jay Ajayi Show.
Ajayi dominated the Broncos’ home and Mountain West opener Saturday night at Albertsons Stadium — leading the Broncos to a 37-24 defeat of the Colorado State Rams.
The Broncos improved to 1-1 overall and 1-0 in the Mountain West. They won their 15th straight conference opener and 13th straight home opener.
They also still have not lost to a Mountain Division member since 1997.
The Broncos’ dominance of Colorado State, in particular, was evident throughout Saturday’s game.
They outgained the Rams 676-462 and shut down Colorado State’s powerhouse run game.
The Broncos threatened the school record for total yards in a game (742) — set against Colorado State in 2011.
Ajayi cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier in the first half — a first for the Broncos since 2012 against Colorado State.
And Hedrick played one of the finest games of his career — with numbers rivaling his breakout performance in 2013 against Colorado State.
Ajayi, who played all but three snaps in the opening loss to Ole Miss, was more active against the Rams. He carried 33 times for 219 yards and two touchdowns and made four catches for 61 yards and a third touchdown.
That’s 280 yards from scrimmage — on the heels of 179 against Ole Miss.
That gives Ajayi 459 yards from scrimmage and four of the team’s six touchdowns this season. He has carried or caught the ball 69 times.
Ajayi (6-foot, 216 pounds) was shaken up on a hard hit in the second quarter Saturday. He left the game briefly but returned and continued to run with speed and power.
Coaches have said they’re going to use him as much as they can.
“We’ve got a pretty good guy and every carry somebody else gets is one he doesn’t get,” running backs coach Kent Riddle said last week. “We know we can’t play Jay 80 plays a game the whole year. Some of that is just going to be depending on the flow of the game.”
CSU — Jared Roberts 39 field goal, 11:55. Key plays: Rashard Higgins (13 yards) and Joe Hansley (33 yards) made long catches, but running back Treyous Jarrells was stopped on third-and-5. Drive: 8 plays, 51 yards, 3:05. Colorado State 3, Boise State 0
BSU — Jay Ajayi 8 run (Dan Goodale kick blocked), 9:12. Key plays: Ajayi got the ball six times, including runs of 11 and 10 yards and a 13-yard catch. Dallas Burroughs also had a 16-yard catch. Drive: 9 plays, 75 yards, 2:43. Boise State 6, Colorado State 3
BSU — Grant Hedrick 1 run (Goodale kick), 3:56. Key plays: Ajayi gained 4 yards on third-and-1 to get the drive going. Hedrick ran for 10 yards on second-and-10 and 19 yards on third-and-7. Drive: 12 plays, 70 yards, 4:16. Boise State 13, Colorado State 3
CSU — Steven Walker 24 pass from Garrett Grayson (Roberts kick), 2:03. Key plays: Higgins made a 21-yard catch on third-and-10 after cornerback Cleshawn Page and defensive end Gabe Perez broke up consecutive passes. Drive: 8 plays, 75 yards, 1:53. Boise State 13, Colorado State 10
BSU — Ajayi 14 run (Goodale kick), 13:18. Key plays: Tight end Jake Roh gained 17 yards on a short pass on third-and-8, Hedrick ran for 23 yards on a draw and Matt Miller broke a tackle to gain 11 yards on third-and-9. Drive: 11 plays, 90 yards, 3:45. Boise State 20, Colorado State 10
BSU — Ajayi 21 pass from Hedrick (Goodale kick), 1:45. Key plays: Shane Williams-Rhodes took a slant 50 yards but was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Ajayi took a swing pass to the end zone on the next play. Drive: 4 plays, 68 yards, 1:00. Boise State 27, Colorado State 10
BSU — Goodale 23 field goal, :03. Key plays: Wide receiver Troy Ware made catches of 12 and 13 yards. Drive: 8 plays, 44 yards, 1:01. Boise State 30, Colorado State 10
BSU — Miller 44 pass from Hedrick (Goodale kick), 3:54. Key plays: The Broncos got out of a first-and-22 with a Miller catch and Hedrick scramble that combined to gain 25 yards. Drive: 7 plays, 94 yards, 2:50. Boise State 37, Colorado State 10
CSU — Hansley 55 pass from Grayson (Roberts kick), 12:15. Key play: Higgins made a 12-yard catch. Drive: 5 plays, 80 yards, 2:04. Boise State 37, Colorado State 17
CSU — Jasen Oden Jr. 7 pass from Grayson (Roberts kick), 7:20. Key plays: Charles Lovett made a 39-yard catch and Higgins made a 15-yard grab. Drive: 9 plays, 72 yards, 3:11. Boise State 37, Colorado State 24
Miller breaks catches record
Matt Miller barely acknowledges his achievements — and that’s just another mark of his greatness, coaches and teammates say.
The Boise State senior wide receiver broke Austin Pettis’ school record for career receptions during Saturday night’s game against Colorado State.
Pettis made 229 catches from 2007 to 2010.
Miller reached 230 with a 37-yard reception late in the third quarter. He tied the record with a 44-yard touchdown catch earlier in the quarter.
“Matt is probably one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen play football,” junior tailback Jay Ajayi said. “He’s not a guy who’s flashy, who likes to talk a lot, but that guy — he comes in every day ready to work. He’s the most consistent player on our team. That’s why he’s our offensive captain.”
Miller finished the game with eight catches, 151 yards and a touchdown. He needs 241 yards to break Titus Young’s career record for receiving yards.
Miller set the single-season receptions record with 88 last year.
The records, he often says, might mean something to him when he’s a parent or grandparent. He did admit that it’s meaningful to be paired in the record book with Pettis, who was a senior during Miller’s redshirt year in 2010.
“You don’t expect to do something like this, especially break a record a close friend of mine, Austin Pettis, held,” Miller said. “It’s kind of special in that aspect — I knew the guy who held the record before me.”
Coach Bryan Harsin was the offensive coordinator during Pettis’ entire career. He sees many similarities between the two receivers.
Pettis was a third-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2011 and remains on their roster.
“They’re no different as far as how smart they are,” Harsin said. “Pettis was a guy that I didn’t worry about. He was dialed. They’re both big guys, go up and make plays. They both understand what they are doing and spacing on the field. There’s a whole lot more similarities there, when I start watching more Matt and remembering how Pettis played. And they’re equally competitive. There’s not a whole lot of separation in those two.”
Cornerback injuries pile up
Boise State junior cornerback Donte Deayon, an All-Mountain West second-team pick last season, did not play against Colorado State. He left the season opener against Ole Miss with an apparent leg injury.
Sophomore Jonathan Moxey started in Deayon’s place. It was his second career start.
Senior Cleshawn Page, the other starting cornerback, left with a leg injury in the third quarter. Senior cornerback Mercy Maston, a backup, did not play and will miss five weeks with a stress fracture in a shin, Harsin said. Senior Bryan Douglas, another backup cornerback, did not finish the game.
Starting safety Darian Thompson and redshirt freshman Cameron Hartsfield took snaps at cornerback to fill the void.
“Obviously it’s a concern,” senior nickel Corey Bell said, “when you have guys kind of dropping like flies like that.”
The Broncos allowed 434 yards and three touchdowns through the air against Colorado State. Ole Miss threw for 387 yards and four TDs the week before.
“We’ve got some depth issues there that showed up tonight,” Harsin said. “You’re talking about moving some guys around. If one more guy gets dinged, it’s going to look a whole lot different back there.”
Other personnel notes:
— Sophomore Sam McCaskill made his first start at defensive tackle. He replaced Tyler Horn, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
— Redshirt freshman left tackle Eli McCullough replaced junior starter Rees Odhiambo in the second quarter. Odhiambo was injured on the previous drive. He struggled to get back into his position but finished the drive.
Hedrick targeted again
Colorado State starting free safety Kevin Pierre-Louis was ejected in the second quarter for targeting. He led with the crown of his helmet on a hit to the face of Boise State senior quarterback Grant Hedrick at the end of a long run. Hedrick dropped the ball and appeared injured. He left for two plays, which were run by Miller and tailback Jay Ajayi out of the wildcat, then returned.
It was the second straight week that an opponent was ejected for targeting Hedrick. Ole Miss linebacker Serderius Bryant hit Hedrick in the chin area with his helmet on a pass attempt in the opener.
Announcing his presence
Boise State sophomore safety Chanceller James replaced Darian Thompson for the third drive of the game. James, who missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, had not played a snap on defense in his career. He made the tackle on his first two plays.
The Broncos also used true freshman Dylan Sumner-Gardner at safety in place of senior Jeremy Ioane for a series in the first half.
“I thought Chance played well — I saw him have a nice little hit,” Bell said. “I thought Cam played well at the end of the game, especially being thrown into the fire. DSG was pumped. He really wanted to get his first tackle (he didn’t).”
Crazy half for Ajayi
Ajayi touched the ball 24 times in the first half, gaining 171 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
He rushed 21 times for 121 yards and two TDs. The last Bronco to rush for 100 yards in the first half was D.J. Harper in 2012 against Colorado State.
$5 for all
Albertsons celebrated the naming of the Broncos’ football stadium by placing $5 gift cards under nearly every seat. The exception: eight seats had $250 gift cards.
Earlier this year, the Boise-based grocer announced a 15-year, $12.5 million naming-rights deal with Boise State.
UConn game on ABC
The Boise State-Connecticut game next Saturday will air on ABC (Channel 6) regionally and on ESPN2 in the rest of the country. The game begins at 10 a.m. Mountain in East Hartford, Conn.
Boise State sold 21,139 season tickets this season. That’s down 5.7 percent from last year and the lowest total since 2007 (20,904).
The crowd of 34,910 for the home opener was much larger than expected. It ranks eighth in stadium history.
The kickoff for the Colorado State game was pushed back to 8:26 p.m. because the Auburn-San Jose State game on ESPN2 was running long. Boise State wore all blue. Sophomore linebacker Tanner Vallejo and senior kicker Dan Goodale were the game captains. Tailback Jay Ajayi carried the Hammer for his offensive performance against Ole Miss. Boise State won the coin toss and deferred. The Broncos took the ball in the opener. Hedrick led a touchdown drive on his first drive of the game for the first time since becoming the primary quarterback in the middle of last season. Boise State generated 676 yards (324 rushing, 352 passing) — the fifth-most in school history and the most since setting the school record of 742 against Colorado State in 2011.
Some Idaho Statesman stories to get you ready for kickoff:
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