Alexander Mattison is quickly becoming a Boise State icon. It’s because he’s humble, articulate, and earns everything he gets. And he dazzles while doing it. Mattison not only produced the first two-hurdle game of his career against Utah State (drawing a loud “ooooooohhhhhhh!” on each leap from the near-sellout crowd, he hit 200 yards on the nose when he dove into the end zone with four seconds left for his third touchdown of the night. Moments earlier, Mattison had broken loose on a 59-yard gain to essentially put away a game that was very much in doubt, and the Broncos won 33-24 to secure a return to the blue turf this Saturday against Fresno State for the Mountain West championship. Mattison had 37 carries, the third-most in Boise State history.
Beyond Mattison, there was toughness everywhere you looked. Linebacker Tyson Maeva left the game not once, but twice—and came back for more. And then there was Brett Rypien, whose toughness is often mentioned by coach Bryan Harsin. If fans needed any more proof of it, Rypien displayed it in taking a vicious fourth quarter targeting shot from Utah State’s Tipa Galeai, who was ejected from the game. Rypien was on the turf for a few moments but stayed in, and on the next play he hit A.J. Richardson on an 11-yard first-down throw. He then capped the drive with his one-yard TD toss to Garrett Collingham. If the race for Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year was down to Rypien and USU quarterback Jordan Love, I’d give the edge to the guy wearing all-blue Saturday night.
Boise State has become a master at overcoming self-inflicted adversity, and the Broncos did it again versus Utah State. The special teams problems go without saying, with four points left in the field due to bad placekicking snaps. Then again, the Broncos stuffed a fake punt on the Aggies 34-yard line. Isn’t that a special teams play? The ensuing possession was remarkable. Boise State was whistled for two personal fouls and still was able to recover with a touchdown. After the first penalty, on a third-and-12, Rypien hooked up with Richardson for 17 yards. After the second, on a second-and-24, Rypien threw 30 yards to John Bates for a first-and-goal at the three. The second of Mattison’s three TDs followed.
There was a phenomenon in the stands at Albertsons Stadium Saturday night. The crowd of 35,906 was amazing to begin with on a night with an 8:15, er, 8:25 start with a kickoff temperature of 36 degrees. But after halftime, with the temperature inching downward, most of the fans were still there. And did they bring it. A watershed moment for Bronco Nation came with 7:15 left in the game, when Utah State started a possession with back-to-back false starts. The crowd went nuts. Then the Aggies had to use their second timeout of the half, leaving only one down the stretch. They could have used that one. Finally, punter Zach Lee uncorked a 14-yard shank. Rattled, do ya think?
So now the Mountain West championship game—Round 2 against Fresno State, or Round 4 if you count the past 12 months-plus. The Broncos have been the source of massive frustration for the Bulldogs, starting with the San Joaquin Valley-ites having to travel to the blue turf a year ago for the title game before the conference’s head-to-head rule was instituted. It continued with the game just 2½ weeks ago that saw Fresno State lead 17-3 only to absorb a 24-17 loss. The Bulldogs will certainly want to start faster this week than they did against San Jose State in their regular season finale Saturday night. They kicked a field goal with three seconds left in the first half to take a 3-0 lead into the break before coasting to a 31-13 win.
BRONCO WOMEN KEEP WINNING
Boise State women’s hoops is now 5-1 after winning the Beach Classic over the weekend in Long Beach. It started with a rivalry game, as the Broncos held off Idaho 91-85 Friday night in the team’s first meeting in 7½ years. Ellie Woerner scored 12 of her career-high 23 points in the fourth quarter to key the effort. Boise State had to undo a six-point fourth quarter deficit in the title game against Northern Iowa, getting a three-pointer from Riley Lupfer with less than two minutes to go to take the lead for good in a 61-60 triumph. The Bronco men, off since the Cayman Islands Classic, play at Drake tomorrow night.
A COUPLE DARK NIGHTS DOWNTOWN FOR THE VANDALS
Idaho came out of the Vandal Holiday Hoops Showcase in CenturyLink Arena with two losses, 77-73 to Northwest Nazarene and 66-55 to UC Santa Barbara. In both games, Idaho let halftime leads slip away, as the Vandals fall to 1-4. For NNU, it was one of the bigger wins in modern school history, the Nighthawks’ first over a Division I foe in a game not played as an exhibition. Adonis Arms scored 21 points with six rebounds and five steals in the victory. NNU fell to Portland State 91-75 in the tournament Saturday night.
SHOLL SHINES IN SOUTH DAKOTA
Goalie Tomas Sholl looked a lot like he did last March as the Idaho Steelheads took two wins in their three-game series at Rapid City. The Steelheads bookended a poor performance Friday with their first two shutouts of the season, thanks to the stick of Sholl. He clocked 23 saves in a 3-0 decision last Wednesday, then made an impressive 41 stops in a 6-0 rout Saturday night. Each win over the Rush featured a two-goal night by a Steelie, from Brad McClure in the first and Kyle Schempp in the second. Sholl is 4-3, but his goals-against average is a sparkling 2.02, fourth in the ECHL. He recorded four shutouts in 11 games down the stretch last season for Idaho.
THE BRONCO DIAMOND ROSTER DOUBLES
The Dirty Dozen, the charter members of the new Boise State baseball program, is now the Double-Dirty Dozen. Bronco coach Gary Van Tol has announced the signing of 12 players to National Letters of Intent, with the new additions set to enroll next fall in preparation for the first season in 2020. One of the signees is former Eagle High standout Christian Padilla, an outfielder who will be transferring from Community Colleges of Spokane. Padilla batted .278 with eight home runs, 31 RBI and eight stolen bases as a freshman last season.
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November 26, 2010: Boise State sees its undefeated season and 24-game winning streak swept aside by a 34-31 overtime loss at Nevada. The Broncos, 10-0 and in position for a berth in the Rose Bowl, led the Wolf Pack 24-7 at halftime. But an inspired Nevada defense shut down Boise State in the second half, and Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick led a comeback, tying the game on a touchdown pass with 13 seconds left. An amazing 53-yard Kellen Moore-to-Titus Young connection with two seconds remaining put the Broncos in position for a winning field goal, but Kyle Brotzman would miss a 26-yarder—and then a 29-yarder in overtime. The outpouring of support for the devastated Brotzman over the following week became part of the story.
(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.)