Eating away at the Bulldogs

A methodical Alexander Mattison proved to be the pain for Fresno State for which there was no antidote in Boise State’s 24-17 win Friday night on the blue turf. It wasn’t an excruciating pain—more like a kink in the neck that distracts you from doing your best work. Mattison wore down the Bulldogs with 144 yards on 30 carries, and not one of them went for 15 yards or more. He had four attempts that gained between 10 and 14 yards, and 10 carries that went for five to nine yards. Those were the ones that ate away at the ‘Dogs and moved the chains, especially in the second half when the Broncos scored three straight touchdowns (the first two by Mattison). This against a Fresno State defense that had allowed seven points or less in four of its five previous Mountain West games.

There was an ominous stretch for Boise State bridging halftime Friday night, and the Broncos’ ability to overcome spoke to their intestinal fortitude in this game. After Brett Rypien’s only interception of the game with 1:14 left in the half, Fresno State marched down for a field goal and a 10-3 lead. Then the Bulldogs got the ball to start the second half and went 69 yards in their first three plays. Moments later came the touchdown that made it 17-3. Some wanted to say “dagger,” while others said “a lot of time left in this game.” While the Boise State offense was getting touchdowns on three consecutive drives, the defense was holding the Bulldogs scoreless and shutting them down on all five third-down conversion attempts. Oh, and a big assist from the crowd.

The most bizarre sequence came with 18 seconds left in the game when officials curiously reviewed the spot on Mattison’s third-down rushing attempt before even measuring for a first down. Then they measured, and alas, it was a first down, even as video evidence cast some doubt. The Mountain West had to release a statement yesterday, saying that “no perspectives are directly perpendicular to the line to gain (the first down), and therefore no conclusive evidence the line to gain was not reached.” So let’s say the Broncos were forced to punt. The Bulldogs would have been left with 75 or so yards to go in 11 or so seconds with no time-outs. It would have taken a miracle of major proportions.

Friday night’s turn of events found Boise State back in the rankings yesterday—No. 23 in the AP Poll and No. 24 on the Coaches list. That’s one of the advantages of playing the only college football game in the Friday late-night slot on ESPN2. Voters likely saw it and took note of it. So the big picture is: the Broncos’ title hopes remain alive if they can get past New Mexico in a sleepy Albuquerque atmosphere this Friday. Utah State is No. 14 in AP and No. 13 in the Coaches Poll with one more rout of Colorado State waiting before the Aggies visit Albertsons Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend. All USU did Saturday was put up another 60-spot, drubbing San Jose State 62-24.

Montana made sure quickly on Saturday that the Little Brown Stein wasn’t going anywhere. In the Grizzlies’ first game against Idaho in 15 years, they jumped on the Vandals with 306 first-half yards and led 36-6 at the break before a healthy Kibbie Dome crowd. Idaho’s Mason Petrino threw for a career-high 310 yards, but too much of it came after the issue was decided as Montana rolled 46-27. Former Mountain View High Star Josh Buss had six tackles, including a sack, for the Griz. Meanwhile, Idaho State’s hopes of its first FCS playoff berth in 35 years suffered a serious blow Saturday in a 37-14 loss at Cal Poly. The Bengals were within 20-14 entering the fourth quarter, but Mustangs running back Joe Protheroe triggered a 17-point final period. Protheroe rushed for 260 yards on a whopping 40 carries.

College of Idaho completed an in-season turnaround on Saturday that will be talked about on the Caldwell campus for a long time to come. The Coyotes pelted Montana State-Northern 59-28 in frigid Havre to secure a second straight winning season after starting the campaign 0-5. The Yotes’ running game, an Achilles heel in the early part of the season, produced 330 yards against the Lights, with Darius-James Peterson rushing for 159. C of I was ranked No. 22 yesterday in the final NAIA Coaches Poll, the highest ranking in school history, and harbored faint hopes of even making the NAIA Playoffs. But the Yotes weren’t awarded a bid into the 16-team field and finish 6-5.

You might find this football on a prominent shelf in Riggins sometime soon. Leighton Vander Esch made his first NFL interception last night in Dallas’ 27-20 win in Philadelphia. The former Boise State star picked off Carson Wentz in the first quarter and returned it 28 yards to set up the Cowboys’ first points of the night, a field goal. And that was just part of another huge night for Vander Esch, who led Dallas (by far) with 13 tackles, all of them solo. His biggest stop came on the first play following the two-minute warning when the Eagles were on the march seeking a tying touchdown. On third-and-two from the Cowboys 30, LVE fought through a block and brought down Corey Clement for a five-yard loss after a swing pass from Wentz.

Well, with all these new and unfamiliar pieces-parts, it’s obviously going to take a while for the Boise State men’s basketball team to get it all together. The Broncos blew an 18-point lead Saturday night and lost 72-70 to Idaho State in Taco Bell Arena. It was a tough night for Boise State senior David Wacker. He missed two free throws in the final minute before fouling ISU’s Chidi Udengwu going for a rebounds under the basket as time was running out. Udengwu then hit both free throws to give the Bengals their first win over Boise State in the last seven tries. Was it simply a hot hand by Idaho State, or defensive deficiencies on the part of the Broncos? That will be scrutinized in the coming days, as the Bengals clawed back with a barrage of three-pointers. ISU was 12-for-23 from beyond the arc on the night.

Two other campus notes: the Boise State women moved to 2-0 Saturday night with an easy 91-46 win over NAIA Southern Oregon. The Broncos got a career-high 23 points from senior forward Joyce Harrell. And the Boise State men’s and women’s cross country teams are both headed for the NCAA Championships. Allie Ostrander ran to a dominant individual victory on the women’s side at the NCAA West Regional in Sacramento, leading the third-ranked Broncos to a second-place team finish behind Oregon and an automatic berth at nationals. The Boise State men, ranked ninth in the country, finished third at the regional and were awarded an at-large bid to the national meet, set for this Saturday in Madison, WI.

Slow start, fast start—it didn’t matter, as the Idaho Steelheads absorbed two one-goal losses to Tulsa over the weekend in CenturyLink Arena. On Friday night, the Oilers jumped on Dallas Stars prospect Colton Point for three first-period goals. Point was lifted in favor of Ryan Faragher, and the Steelheads rallied before ultimately falling 4-3. Saturday night it was the Steelies exploding with three first-period goals, and they continued to lead 4-2 in the third. But Tulsa caught them with 55 seconds remaining in regulation and beat them with 15 seconds left in the overtime period for a 5-4 victory. Idaho is now 5-7-2.

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November 12, 1977: Boise State tailback Cedric Minter goes one up on his fellow true freshman running mate, Terry Zahner. Minter notched the second 200-yard rushing game in BSU history, going for 210 in a 42-21 win over Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. Zahner had become the Broncos’ first 200-yard rusher three games earlier, gaining 205 against Northern Arizona. There have been 19 more 200-yard games by Boise State running backs since—the most recent coming from Alexander Mattison with his 242-yard night at Colorado State last November.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)