No. 24 Fresno State outlasts No. 19 Boise State in snow
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Ronnie Rivers didn’t find many open holes while running the ball for Fresno State in a snowy Mountain West championship game.
And he didn’t have one on his final run Saturday night. But it didn’t matter.
Rivers took an option pitch and shredded a tackler before scampering into the end zone to give No. 24 Fresno State a 19-16 overtime victory over No. 19 Boise State for the Bulldogs’ first conference title since 2013.
His score came after Haden Hoggarth hit a 23-yard field goal on Boise State’s opening possession of overtime.
Fresno State (11-2, No. 25 CFP), which was 1-11 two years ago before Jeff Tedford arrived to right the ship, has completed its return to college football relevance and seems poised to challenge Boise State for conference supremacy in the near future.
Boise State (10-3, No. 22 CFP) was victimized again on a big stage by its special teams, missing a 42-yard field goal and having an extra point blocked late in the fourth quarter that sent the game to overtime.
Rivers’ game-winning touchdown set off a wild celebration with Fresno State players sliding across the snow-covered field and making snow angels. And after losing all nine games the Bulldogs had previously played on the Broncos signature blue turf, the celebration was a long-awaited one.
Tedford shook his head when asked about finally leading Fresno State to a win on the blue turf.
“The blue turf thing again?” Tedford asked with a smirk. “I don’t know how many times I have to say it - and the field wasn’t even blue tonight, it was white - it doesn’t matter what color it is, you’re playing a good football team and a well-coached team.
“Our players had another opportunity to come here and play a great football team and come away with the victory. It’s hard fought and rewarding.”
When Tedford arrived at Fresno State — a program that built a national reputation on former coach Pat Hill’s mantra to play “anybody, anywhere, anytime” — the program was a shell of its former self.
But one of the first recruits Tedford pursued was Rivers, whose father Ron Rivers starred at Fresno State in the early 1990s and played six seasons in the NFL, and Tedford coached there as an assistant.
“It was hard sledding tonight running the football, but he just kept battling for yards and made that count in the end,” Tedford said of Rivers, who finished with 63 yards.
Boise State’s seven-game winning streak ended, and both teams’ dreams of crashing the New Year’s Six bowl games died when UCF beat Memphis to complete a perfect season.
“We’ve played (Fresno State) four times now and they’ve done a good job of getting themselves ready to play every time,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Congratulations to Fresno. We just came up short. And the bottom line is that’s what it comes down to_and we didn’t do that tonight.”
With the temperature in the 30s and a constant mix of snow and rain falling, the teams struggled to sustain anything offensively.
An opportunistic Fresno State struck first, turning Brett Rypien’s fumble into a touchdown when Marcus McMaryion hit Michiah Quick on a 15-yard strike,
Rypien atoned for his mistake by driving Boise State and hitting Sean Modster on a 10-yard scoring play to tie it.
The Bulldogs cobbled together a 13-7 lead on Asa Fuller’s field goals in the second and third quarters.
With 8:01 left, Boise State’s Alexander Mattison ripped off a 34-yard run, muscling his way into the end zone with a defender draped on his back. However, Hoggarth’s extra point attempt was blocked by Matt Boetang, leaving it tied.
McMaryion was 20 of 32 for 170 yards and one touchdown, and Rivers led the Bulldogs on the ground with 63 yards. Mattison rushed for 200 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries for the Boise State. Rypien threw for 125 yards, completing 15 of 31 passes with one touchdown.
Boise State’s last overtime game at home was a 69-67 victory over Nevada on Oct. 14, 2007.
Fresno State: The Bulldogs won’t move up much but could gain a spot or two after a few teams ahead of them lost this weekend.
Boise State: The Broncos aren’t likely to remain in the polls, but should have a chance to finish ranked with a win in their bowl game.
Fresno State: With UCF’s victory likely securing the Group of 5′s spot in the New Year’s Six bowls, the Bulldogs will head to the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 15 for a matchup with a Pac-12 team.
Boise State: The Broncos will find out the location and foe for their bowl game Sunday afternoon following the Bowl Selection Committee pairings announcement.
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