There would be no fairytale ending for Boise State football Saturday night. The LA Bowl appeared to be headed that way when the Broncos took a 16-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. But they left too many points on the table, with three red zone possessions that ended in field goals instead of touchdowns. Then the UCLA offense went off in the third quarter, and the Bruins ran away with a 35-22 victory in SoFi Stadium.
TILLER’S LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Boise State’s offense attacked the way we thought it would against UCLA in the LA Bowl. The hope was just that it would perform better. George Holani and Ashton Jeanty combined for 24 first-half carries in an effort to take the pressure off true freshman quarterback CJ Tiller. And it worked for 30 minutes, as the Broncos carried a 16-7 lead into halftime. But Tiller was not ready for the entire playbook, and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan was calling the game with one hand tied behind his back when Boise State needed to throw in the second half.
Tiller only had a couple designed downfield throws (and he was fortunate enough to get a pass interference call on one of them). Now the Broncos go into a tricky offseason at quarterback. Sure, Tiller could blossom in spring football while Maddux Madsen is still out. After all, Tiller had less than two weeks to do everything it takes to be a starting quarterback, and his debut was against one of the nation’s best Power 5 defenses. But you get the feeling the transfer portal is being scoured by the Boise State staff.
HERE’S TO HOLANI
The loss doesn’t take away from a marvelous end to George Holani’s time at Boise State: 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns, plus a 45-yard reception on a screen pass from Tiller. Considering the stage and the opposition, Holani was as good as at any time during his five seasons as a Bronco. His 66-yard TD run in the fourth quarter was the exclamation point on a career that produced 3,596 rushing yards, 5.2 yards per carry, and 34 total touchdowns. It ended up being his final carry.
THE BIG TURNING OF THE TIDE
Boise State was hit with the worst possible combination punch in the third quarter at the LA Bowl. UCLA’s defense figured out its offense, the Bruins offense figured out the Broncos defense. It was the latter that was painful. After a Boise State three-and-out to start the third quarter, UCLA marched 87 yards for a touchdown. During the drive, quarterback Collin Schlee was injured after a 44-yard run and was replaced by the not-100 percent Ethan Garbers, and it turns out that was the worst thing that could have happened. Garbers threw at will, and when the third period ended, the Bruins had racked up 239 yards and 21 points to put the offensively handcuffed Broncos in a real pickle.
IT BELIED A SOLID START
The Boise State defense got out of the gate just fine against UCLA. Schlee was just 4-of-7 for 20 yards in the first quarter. There was one missed opportunity that would haunt the Broncos, as A’Marion McCoy dropped a probable pick-six. Garbers averaged 17 yards per completion after coming off the bench, including the killer throws of 39, 41 and 40 yards to J. Michael Sturdevant. For Boise State, it was September all over again. Task number one for new defensive coordinator Erik Chinander in 2024: shore things up against the pass.
THE DALMAS DECISION
Did the LA Bowl mark Jonah Dalmas’ last game in a Boise State uniform? Only Dalmas knows for sure. A run at the NFL will be tempting considering the year Jonah had. It’s all about accuracy and distance at the next level. Dalmas has the accuracy down—he finished at 88 percent for the season on field goals (24 of 27) and made his last 15 in a row, including the three versus UCLA. Dalmas has come a long way in distance—going 4-of-5 from 50 yards and beyond this year, with a school record-tying long of 56. He now has 80 career field goals, three away from matching the Mountain West record and 16 from the college football record.
ALL-AMERICANS AND THE 2024 SCHEDULE
Last Thursday was kinda jam-packed with Boise State news. You had Ashton Jeanty earning first-team All-America honors from ESPN as an all-purpose player—and being named a finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award in Texas. Punter James Ferguson-Reynolds was named second-team All-America by the AFCA. Chinander, as most people hoped, was also promoted to defensive coordinator that day. That’s a good save for the program.
And then there was the 2024 Mountain West schedule. Oregon State and Washington State changed everything, and the Broncos play both of them at home. Colorado State, New Mexico, Air Force and Fresno State are not on the slate. The road game at Oregon moves to September 7, and the home game against the Ducks next year disappears per their request. Oregon will pay Boise State $2.6 million for the privilege.
HOOPS HOME STREAK HITS 20
Boise State men’s basketball broke the school record for longest home winning streak Sunday, and the Broncos did it emphatically. They won their 20th in a row at ExtraMile Arena with an 88-65 blitzing of Cal State Fullerton. Boise State did most things right against the Titans, outrebounding them by 19, pulling down 18 offensive boards (most against a Division I team this season), scoring 54 first-half points, and dishing out 19 assists. Max Rice continued his resurgence with a team-leading 24 points, and O’Mar Stanley posted his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Next up: the neutral-court battle against Washington State Thursday night in Spokane.
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December 18, 1981: BYU edges Washington State 38-36 to secure back-to-back wins at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Tom Holmoe (current BYU athletic director) intercepted a WSU pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to give BYU a comfortable 31-7 advantage in the third quarter, but a revitalized Wazzu scored 29 points in the second half to close the gap. BYU’s Jim McMahon, the nation’s leading passer and inaugural winner of the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, passed for 368 yards and three touchdowns preventing the WSU comeback win.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)