December 2, 2017, five years ago today: In its second game in two weeks against Fresno State, Boise State hands the Bulldogs a 17-14 loss on the blue turf in an intense Mountain West championship game. Yards were hard to come by. Fresno State took a 14-10 lead into the break with a 77-yard touchdown drive just before halftime but would only manage 85 yards the rest of the night. It was still a standoff well into the fourth quarter, as the Broncos continually dealt with bad field position. Then, with Boise State bottled up at its own 18-yard line midway through the fourth, Brett Rypien found Cedrick Wilson over the middle for a 59-yard completion to the Fresno State 36.
It would take six more plays for the Broncos to reach the end zone. But they did when Ryan Wolpin, carrying the load at running back after an injury to star Alexander Mattison, scored on a two-yard run with 4:42 left in the game. Then came one of Boise State’s more memorable interceptions, as Riggins’ Leighton Vander Esch put an exclamation point on a Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year season by picking off Fresno State’s Marcus McMaryion with less than two minutes remaining.
The ‘Dogs had beaten the Broncos 28-17 in Fresno the previous week. It was only the second time in the previous 82 years the same two college football teams had met in consecutive weeks—the last time had been in 2012, when Stanford and UCLA finished the regular season against each and then faced off in the Pac-12 championship game. Boise State and Fresno State have met twice every year they’ve been paired in the Mountain West title game (including this season), but that was the only time it’s happened in back-to-back weeks.
And this is the message for the crowd Saturday as these two teams meet in another Mountain West championship game. The record will show that only 24,515 fans showed up for the 2017 title tilt, as it’s hard to re-sell Albertsons Stadium from zero. But that was the only thing disappointing about the crowd. It was easily the loudest bunch of that season and ranks right up there with the vocal cords of any in the last decade. In the second half, fans were almost willing the Broncos to break the spell Fresno State seemed to have over them—and lo and behold, it happened.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)