After a week of much anticipation, the Fresno State Bulldogs finally faced their long-time rival Boise State for the Mountain West Conference Championship — and then became winners.
Fresno State emerged victorious during a snowy and wet Saturday night in Boise, Idaho, by defeating the Broncos 19-16 and becoming the Mountain West Conference Champions for the first time since 2013.
The game started with Fresno State on the defensive side, stopping Boise State’s run and pushing for a fourth down. The play continued after a targeting call gave the Broncos 15 yards and a first down.
In that same targeting play, the Bulldogs lost defensive back Arron Mosby, who was ejected for targeting.
The Bulldogs got some help from the freezing rain and some pressure from the defense, which caused a fumble by Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien. This set the ‘Dogs in good field position with a good chance to take the lead.
Fresno State took advantage of the fumble and scored the first points of the game, thanks to a 15-yard pass from quarterback Marcus McMaryion to wide receiver Michiah Quick.
The Bulldogs’ lead wouldn’t last for long and in the very next series, the Broncos answered with a touchdown pass of their own. The touchdown was reviewed and upheld, and the game came to a 7-7 tie.
Fresno State defensive end Mykal Walker holds the Mountain West Championship trophy with head coach Jeff Tedford as President Dr. Joseph Castro cheers, following the 'Dogs' win over Boise on the blue turf. (Jose Romo/The Collegian)
After the first quarter of the game, the snow started coming down. That made handling and protecting the ball more difficult than before. This likely caused Quick to fumble the ball after a catch and run, which gave the ball back to the Broncos.
Boise State was not able to capitalize on the fumble. Thanks to the Bulldogs’ defense, that kept the Broncos’ offense from creating anything in the end zone.
Just before the end of the first half, the Bulldogs managed to add to their lead with a 44-yard kick by kicker Asa Fuller. This gave the ‘Dogs the momentum going into the locker room, knowing that they would get the ball on offense when they started the second half.
The Bulldogs opened up the second half with a great drive that took them all the way to Boise State’s 38-yard line. Fresno State couldn’t convert on third down, but were able to at least come out of the drive with 3 points thanks to a 38-yard field goal by Fuller.
The Broncos tried to get their running game going, since that has been a staple for them the entire season. However, the run plays were not able to get them into the end zone, and they settled for a field goal — which they missed.
Not until the fourth quarter did the Broncos score again, thanks to a 34-yard rush by running back Alex Mattison. With that score, the Broncos tied the game and needed just an extra point to go up. That never came. Dogs’ defensive back Matt Boateng blocked the kick.
With the the game tied 13-13, it became more competitive. Both teams fought for every yard in every play. The Bulldogs’ defense continued to play outstanding football, keeping the Broncos’ offense and their star running back Mattison from the Bulldogs’ end zone.
The Broncos had possession of the ball with less than two minutes in the game, but the ‘Dogs offense denied them any yards, and Boise State decided to run out the clock and take the game into overtime.
During overtime, the Bulldogs elected to play defense first. That forced the Broncos to try and score first, which gave the advantage to the ‘Dogs, who held them to only three points.
On offense, the Bulldogs took advantage of big plays by tight end Jared Rice, who got a first down with a 16-yard reception. The very next play, running back Ronnie Rivers carried the ball for an eight yard gain, leaving the Bulldogs at the Broncos’ 2-yard line.
After a rush for no gain, the Bulldogs gave the ball again to Rivers, but this time Rivers was able to get in the end zone. And that gave Fresno State the 19-16 win and ultimately the Mountain West Championship.
McMaryion and defensive end Mykal Walker commented on the win during the post-game conference.
“I’m just excited to be able to bring [the championship] back to Fresno,” McMaryion said, according to watchstadium.com.
“All game long we just knew that the offense would have or back…we knew that it was going to be a tough game and we knew that as long as we did our job [the offense] would come through in the end,” Walker said.
Boise State’s Mattison was named offensive player of the game and Fresno State’s Walker was named defensive player of the game.
In the news conference after the game, head coach Jeff Tedford said he was proud of his players enduring the tough environment to come out with the victory.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of a team than this team. The resilience that they showed and the work that they put in every single day,” Tedford said. “It’s sweet to win…our players had another opportunity to play this great team and come out with a victory. It was really hard fought and very rewarding.”