Many worried that a special teams gaffe would come at the worst time for Boise State. Was there a worse time than with eight minutes left in the Mountain West championship game? On an extra point that would have given the Broncos a 14-13 lead over Fresno State after a super-charged 34-touchdown run by Alexander Mattison? The blocked PAT changed the way the Bulldogs approached the remainder of regulation. And Boise State, which has been really good at working fourth quarter clocks, had to ditch that routine. Imagine what Mattison could have done in that situation. Instead, Fresno State is Mountain West champion after the 19-16 overtime victory.
Alexander Mattison. What a beast-mode performance for Boise State Saturday night. Mattison had a pedestrian 59 yards rushing on 3.7 yards per carry at halftime. Then he added 55 in the third quarter and 86 in the fourth quarter and overtime to end up with 200 yards on the button for the second straight week. He became only the second Bronco in history—and the first since Cedric Minter 40 years ago—to post back-to-back 200-yard games. On Boise State’s first possession of the third quarter, it was obvious the decision had been made. The game was on Mattison’s back. He carried the ball seven straight times. Maybe there should have been an eighth. That was a read-option kept by Brett Rypien that came up short of a first down, and the next play was a missed 43-yard field goal by Haden Hoggarth.
The Boise State offense looked less like a cold-weather group than Fresno State. The Broncos were held to 16 points, equaling the third-fewest in a home game this century. They outgained the Bulldogs, netting 350 yards, but it took 86 plays to do it. The 46 that didn’t involved Mattison gained only 150. It was a tough blue turf curtain call for Brett Rypien, who was pelted by the conditions and pressured by the Bulldogs into a 15-for-31 night for just 125 yards. But props to Rypien, true to his Bronco roots to the end, walking across the blue by himself when it was over and most of his teammates had left the field to go down the high-five line with fans.
When the snow started sticking on the blue turf early in the second quarter Saturday night, it instantly became crucial that each team defend well in space. One-on-one matchups give the guy with the ball the advantage when the footing provides no leverage. Boise State did as well as it could, but Fresno State’s final triumphant play was an exclamation point when Ronnie Rivers got loose in the flat on an option and—in space—scored the winning touchdown. The Bronco defense was pretty stout overall, though, holding the Bulldogs to 288 yards and handing the Boise State offense two turnovers in Fresno State territory. The Broncos couldn’t do anything with them. That wasted a great effort by guys like Tyson Maeva, who had 11 tackles, two for loss (including a sack), and a forced fumble.
One by one, bowl matchups leaked out on Twitter yesterday, and suddenly, all the Mountain West matchups were filled. So where would Boise State go? Well, it’s the best scenario the Broncos could have hoped for. They’re in the First Responder Bowl, formerly the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and they face a Power 5 team in Boston College. The Eagles, who were ranked twice this season, are 7-5 and come in with a three-game losing streak. It’s a rematch of the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl, won 27-21 on the blue turf by BC. For current Broncos, it’s not about avenging that loss 13 years ago. It’s a chance to play in an historic venue, the Cotton Bowl stadium, against an ACC school. And for the nine Boise State players from Texas, it’s a homecoming.
ONE MORE HOMECOMING FOR MANGUM
Maybe Tanner Mangum will get to take a collegiate snap on the blue turf after all. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl pulled a coup, getting BYU into the game on December 21 to face Western Michigan of the MAC. The Cougars were sweating it a bit with their 6-6 record, but their pedigree and fan base was a no-brainer for the Boise event. After their 21-16 loss to Boise State on November 3, BYU beat UMass and New Mexico State to become bowl-eligible. Mangum, the Eagle High grad, has been on the blue turf twice with the Cougars, in 2016 and this year. But he was a backup to Taysom Hill and Zach Wilson, respectively, and never got into a game.
BRONCO HOOPS MAKING STRIDES?
It was a loss, and it dropped Boise State men’s hoops to 2-5, but it could be considered progress. Playing in one of the most raucous environments they’ll see all season, the Broncos were defeated 69-67 at Grand Canyon Saturday night before 7,317 fans. Boise State, which had led 46-35 after a 10-0 run to start the second half, had the ball with 5.2 seconds left but couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer. RJ Williams was a well-rounded presence, scoring 23 points on 11-for-14 shooting with seven rebounds and five steals, the most by a Bronco in almost three years. Boise State shot 54 percent from the field. Progress.
NAILBITERS AND MOMENTUM KILLERS
Around the horn with more hoops: College of Idaho survived two pressure-cookers to open Cascade Conference play in the J.A. Albertson Activities Center, besting Oregon Tech and Southern Oregon by three points apiece. C of I visits preseason Big Sky favorite Montana tonight for an exhibition game. NNU lost its first game of the season Saturday night, falling 88-86 to GNAC preseason favorite Saint Martin’s. And the Boise State women will have to work their way back into the “others receiving votes” category in the AP Poll after getting drilled 95-71 at Washington State Saturday. The Broncos, now 5-2, shot just 35 percent from the field while the Cougars were hitting 55 percent—and 56 percent from three-point land.
STEELIES STARTING TO MESH
Late-game moxie led to an Idaho Steelheads sweep of the Jacksonville Icemen over the weekend in CenturyLink Arena. The Icemen put the Steelheads into a 2-0 hole in the first period Saturday night, and goalie Ryan Faragher was pulled in favor of Tomas Sholl to begin the second. The Steelies didn’t score themselves until late in the second period, but were ultimately able to take it to overtime. There, Spencer Nass tallied with 55 seconds left in the OT for a 3-2 victory, with Sholl stopping all 16 shots he faced after entering the game. Another late surge led to 4-1 a win Friday night, as Idaho scored three times in the third period to pull away.
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December 3, 1956: Seven-foot sensation Wilt Chamberlain makes his debut for the Kansas Jayhawks before a capacity crowd at newly-constructed Allen Fieldhouse, scoring 52 points in an 87-69 win over Northwestern. Chamberlain would play just two seasons at Kansas before going pro. He joined the Harlem Globetrotters for a year due to the NBA’s ban on underclassmen entering the league with the Philadelphia Warriors in 1959. He’d go on to lead the NBA in scoring seven times and in rebounding 11 times during his career.
(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.)