BSU got their mojo back—and they picked a perfect night. Friday night on ESPN2, BSU answered two big questions that had been swirling around the program for two weeks; the first one? Where the heck is our defense? The answer, on Friday, was: RIGHT where we left it, with Marty Tadman, Jeron Johnson (back after a 3-game absence) Kyle Gingg, Ryan Winterswyk and the rest of the crew—BSU's defense played phenomenal football for 3 quarters, putting big hits on Fresno QB Brandstater and shutting down the potent Bulldog run game. The second big question? Can two freshman running backs really move the ball on Fresno with Ian johnson out? The answer to this was a resounding "YES". Redshirt freshman Jeremy Avery and True Freshman DJ Harper exploded against Fresno and combined for over 200 yards in the first half of the game. DJ Harper had a breakout night, and possibly a pivotal night in his development as a Bronco; rushing for over 150 yards and a clutch TD run where he fought off multiple tackles and dove into the endzone. Avery looked smooth as silk as he made quick cuts, juked defenders and followed his blocks masterfully, en route to a 125 yard game and 3 TDs.
The Bulldogs came out quickly, matching BSU's first TD and then taking an early lead as Clifton Smith raced to the endzone after fielding a BSU punt. DJ Harper's TD knotted the game up at 14 and then a huge field-goal block by Orlando Scandrick and crew put the Broncos in position to kick their own—leaving the score 17-14 at the half.
The Dawgs have been known this year for huge second-half efforts, so the Broncos needed to stay focused and make the necessary adjustments—they did. BSU, behind terrific efforts by Avery and freshman kicker Kyle Brotzman, were able to outscore Fresno 17-7 in the second half—sealing a 34-21 win, keeping pace with WAC first-place team Hawaii, and winning their 6th game in 7 tries against the Bulldogs.
The stat of the game? BSU's defense held Fresno to 1 of 13 on 3rd down conversions. An amazing stat for a Bronco defense that had struggled mightily in their previous two WAC contests. Jason Robinson's interception on 4th and long was the night's only turnover and clinched the night for Boise. All told, BSU beat Fresno at their own game—they ran the ball down their throats. BSU outgained Fresno 282-89 on the ground and 440-352 in total yards. Taylor Tharp looked efficient and managed the game well for Boise State as the passing game never really took off, Austin Pettis made a clutch diving catch on 3rd and long to keep one Boise State scoring drive alive, and Marty Tadmand and Dallas Dobbs both contributed 9 tackles on the defensive side of the ball.
Fresno is a talented and, like the Broncos, young team and I was impressed with the following players: Marlon Moore, AJ Jefferson, Bear Pascoe, and Clifton Smith. With these youngsters and Pat Hill's tutelage—Fresno should be a force to be reckoned with in the WAC in coming years (alongside BSU, of course)
All in all, a very solid, hard fought victory for the Broncos who return home for San Jose State on Saturday. With the defense seemingly righting their ship, I expect pretty smooth sailing through November until the epic showdown with Hawaii (who is 8-0, but hasn't played anyone with a pulse yet).
The Milk Can stays in Boise for one more year.