Protect the blue, protect the crown

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History will repeat itself this Saturday, Dec. 1 at 5:45 p.m. as the No.19 Broncos are set to face the No. 25 Fresno State Bulldogs for the second year in a row on The Blue. The two Mountain West power houses come in with standing records of 10-2. This will be the third time in five seasons that the Broncos and the Bulldogs have met in the championship (2014 and 2017), with the Broncos winning each of those previous meetings.

Since the shocking loss to San Diego State (13-19) Oct. 6, the Broncos have been able to rattle off seven straight wins, making for one of the longest win streaks in the country. This will be the second time facing off with the Bulldogs this year after beating them 24-17 on Nov. 9.

The Broncos are coming off of an outstanding 33-24 win against the No. 21 ranked Utah State Aggies, a team winner of 10 straight, this past Saturday, Nov. 24. The Broncos came in needing to get that win to secure a spot in the championship game. With the stadium filled with electric energy, not only did the Broncos come out to play, but so did the 35,960 fans in attendance. The Broncos hold the highest average attendance rate in the Mountain West at 34,600 per game.

“Yeah it was awesome. The crowd was unbelievable tonight,” said senior quarterback Brett Rypien. “They did a great job helping us out, giving us lots of energy. It wasn’t always easy, we had to battle for everything but I’m just so proud of how we finished. It was great to see.”

Senior quarterback Brett Rypien threw for 310 yards and a touchdown on the night, and junior running back Alexander Mattison rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns. In a back-and-forth game that was topped off with the Aggies scoring late and the Broncos marching right back down the field, icing the victory with a one-yard touchdown run by Mattison.

“It means a lot that they had that trust in me when it was time to put the game on my back. You dig deep and you think about why you do this,” Mattison said. “That’s what kind of helps me. I think about my brothers on my right and my left, and for those seniors – it was great to be able to send them out this way this the win.”  

Looking ahead to Saturday, the Broncos aren’t expected to be an underdog after upsetting the Bulldogs earlier this year. The Broncos will be tested against a very solid Fresno State defense, holding opponents to just 13 points per game on the season.

“You looking at their secondary; fourth in the nation in interceptions, Jeff Allison (Fresno State linebacker), I talked about him last time,” said head coach Bryan Harsin. “A lot of respect for him; he’s a playmaker, a NFL guy, and certainly one of the many players on that defense who is fast, physical and consistent from what we’ve seen.”

Mattison and the offensive line should look to get their running game going early, as the Broncos ran the ball successfully against the Bulldog defense the last time they met. Mattison put up 144 yards and two touchdowns; the most the Bulldogs defense gave up all season.

“Going back to the last game, that felt different than its felt in a long time,” Harsin said. “I’ve been here awhile, so I’ve been apart of some really great crowds and atmospheres, and games. That one it was different. We need that again from our fans; we need that atmosphere; we need that same energy because certainly that made a difference.”

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