Boise’s Bad Blood: Boise State’s Mountain West Championship history against Fresno State

Boise State at Fresno
Photo courtesy of Boise State Athletics

Boise State football is playing Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship game for the fourth time on Saturday, Dec. 3. 

Both teams faced each other in 2014, 2017 and 2018. What happened in those matchups?

2014 Mountain West Championship: No. 22 Boise State 28, Fresno State 14

No. 22 Boise State stopped Fresno State from becoming back-to-back division champions after beating them 28-14 in the second Mountain West championship.

Linebacker Tyler Vallejo helped the Broncos take control of the game early after he scored on a 63-yard interception that put his team up 14-0 in the first quarter.

“I just go out there every day and try and give it my all,” Vallejo said. “I just wanted to help get this team a win and reach our team goal.”

Vallejo’s effort paid off after he received Defensive Player of the Game honors in the lopsided Boise State victory.

This win helped the team advance to their third Fiesta Bowl, where they defeated Arizona 38-30.

2017 Mountain West Championship: Boise State 17, Fresno State 14

Boise State was ready to secure its first Mountain West championship in 1,091 days at the end of the 2017 season.

The team faced a tense matchup after losing to Fresno State 28-17 the week prior.

“Whatever we did leading to this game, it didn’t work,” said former head coach Brian Harsin after their first game against Fresno State. “You won’t see us do that again.”

Despite making adjustments, Boise State struggled to contain Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion in the first half, who scored two rushing touchdowns in the second quarter and put Boise State down 14-10 entering halftime.

“We got together at halftime. I told everyone, ‘We’re a second-half team — we’re about to go win this thing. It’s 0-0; let’s go out and grind one play at a time, and we’re going to get it done,’” said linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. “We knew the offense was going to come up sooner or later, and they came up big and it was in the defense’s hands from there.”

Vander Esch spoke his team’s success into existence.

Boise State running back Ryan Wolpin scored a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to take the lead 17-14. This score, paired with the Broncos’ defense forcing the Bulldog’s offense to go scoreless in the second half, led to the university’s second Mountain West Championship.

2018 Mountain West Championship: No. 25 Fresno State 19, No. 19 Boise State 16 (OT)

The 2018 Mountain West Championship rematch between Boise State and Fresno State lived up to the hype built from the last game.

Both teams came in nationally ranked with the Broncos at 19 and the Bulldogs at 25. Snow started to fall as well making the matchup between two high-caliber teams much more interesting.

Boise State at Fresno
[Photo of the Boise State football team at California State University, Fresno.]
Photo courtesy of Boise State Athletics

“For all the players in the game tonight, they all fought hard on both sides of the ball,” Harsin said after the game. 

The snow did not deter either team’s quarterback from passing the ball. Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion struck first with a 15-yard passing touchdown, and Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien followed with a 10-yard passing touchdown of his own.

Fresno State’s field goals in the second and third quarters put the team up 13-7 heading into the fourth quarter. 

Boise State running back Alexander Mattison then stole the show by scoring a game-tying 34-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. The team lined up for the tie-breaking extra point, and Fresno State defensive back Matt Boetang blocked it to preserve the 13-13 tie.

The Broncos held the final possession in regulation but could not break the tie, resulting in the first Mountain West Championship to head into overtime.

Boise State held the first possession in overtime and settled for a field goal after being stopped at Fresno State’s 6-yard line.

The Bulldogs marched the ball down to the 1-yard line on their overtime possession. Then, with revenge from last year on their mind, the team punched the ball into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

Fresno State’s 19-16 victory was their first win on The Blue.

“I’m very proud of our team and certainly Fresno deserved to win the game,” Harsin said. “They played well. We got ourselves into an overtime situation and they came up with the win.”

With both teams knowing this matchup all too well, fans can expect a great 2022 Mountain West championship game on Saturday, Dec. 3.

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