Boise State defeated Fresno State 17-14 on Saturday to win the Mountain West Championship. This was Boise State’s first conference championship in three years- exactly 1,091 days ago, according to head coach Bryan Harsin.
The game was back and forth with both defenses making it difficult for the opposing offense. Boise State got on the board first when redshirt junior kicker Haden Hoggarth kicked a field goal, scoring the only points in the first quarter.
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion gave Boise State some trouble in the second quarter, running it in for two touchdowns. Boise State scored one touchdown in the second quarter when sophomore running back Alexander Mattison scored on a three-yard run.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Avery Williams gave the Broncos great field position when he returned a Fresno State punt 36 yards to the Fresno State four yard line.
Boise State was down at the break 14-10.
“We got everyone 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 Leighton Vander Esch, redshirt junior linebacker and defensive player of the game. “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.”
That’s exactly what the team did. The Boise State defense shutout Fresno State in the second half, and redshirt senior running back Ryan Wolpin scored on a four yard touchdown run. Boise State took a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter that lasted for the rest of the game. That play was set up when junior quarterback Brett Rypien connected with senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson on a 59-yard pass to get to the Fresno State 36.
Fresno State had one last chance to win the game when they had the ball down with 2:19 left in the game, but McMaryion was intercepted by Vander Esch to seal the game.
“I didn’t know whether to score or fall down. I mean, sooner or later, the defense was going to get the ball in our hands because of how resilient we are,” Vander Esch said. “It happened at probably the best time of the game.”
At the end of the game, according to Harsin, he had many thoughts going through his head.
“I knew they had no timeouts and that was going to seal the game,” Harsin said. “To be honest, when he took it, I really didn’t think he would slide. I wanted him to score, but that’s not the right thing to do, but you get excited about it about it. He’s been such a good player for us.”
It was then when Harsin realized his team would be champions again.
“That was really the opportunity for us to seal the game,” Harsin said. “And it’s never over until it’s over, but right there with the time left and no timeouts, we had the ball back in our hands. We were going to win the game. You’re always making sure that happens and as we got down to the last kneel in that position, I knew that we had won it, and I knew it was over and we were champions again.”
Rypien—who won offensive player of the game—completed 16 of his 30 pass attempts for 246 yards. Mattison scored a touchdown before going down with an injury in the second half; he had to be carted off. Wilson finished with eight receptions for 148 yards. Vander Esch broke a Mountain West Championship record with 16 tackles in the game.
Boise State will play Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 16 at 1:30 p.m. The game can be seen on ABC. Oregon finished fourth in the Pac-12 North.