Boise St.-San Diego St. Preview
For the second straight year, a missed field goal ended Boise State's perfect season and its shot at busting into the BCS bowl picture. All coach Chris Peterson wants now is a strong finish.
Coming off their first regular-season home loss in a decade, the 10th-ranked Broncos look to cap off a third undefeated road schedule in four years Saturday when they face San Diego State for the first time.
Two wins from a second consecutive undefeated regular season, any chance Boise State had at playing for the national title or in a BCS bowl game last year ended Nov. 26 with a 34-31 overtime loss at then-No. 19 Nevada.
Senior kicker Kyle Brotzman missed right on a 26-yard field goal with two seconds left in regulation before pulling the ball left from 29 yards out in overtime.
Freshman kicker Dan Goodale was wide right from 39 yards as time expired last Saturday against TCU, creating a similar result - another missed opportunity for Boise State (8-1, 3-1 Mountain West).
The 36-35 defeat was the Broncos' first regular-season home loss since Sept. 8, 2001, versus Washington State.
"I don't think it's just one play, it's a variety of plays,'' senior quarterback Kellen Moore said after throwing for 320 yards and two scores. "It's a loss so it feels similar, but there's not great feelings.''
Although his team's first - and possibly only - season in the Mountain West Conference appears to be headed toward a lesser bowl such as the Poinsettia Bowl or Las Vegas Bowl, Petersen still wants to see improvements over the final three regular-season contests.
"We'll see what these guys are made of. This is real-life football," he said. "You don't win all of your games all the time - as much as we've done that around here. So, we'll see. We have some pretty mature guys, a lot of seniors that do a good job and so we have to go down to a good San Diego State team on the road."
Boise State has outscored its opponents 208-56 while winning all five road games.
The Aztecs (6-3, 3-2) return home following their third win in four games, 18-15 over Colorado State last Saturday. Abelardo Perez was the difference, making a 37-yard field goal with 5:49 left after missing two prior attempts.
"He made the one that counted, the one that helped us win the game," coach Rocky Long said after his team became bowl eligible for the second straight season.
San Diego State could lean heavily on senior quarterback Ryan Lindley with running back Ronnie Hillman - second in the nation with 142.0 yards per game - questionable with a high ankle sprain. Backup Walter Kazee is out for the season after suffering a knee injury last week, leaving redshirt freshman Adam Muema as the next option.
"He's not Ronnie Hillman, but he'll get most of the carries if Ronnie can't play," Long said.
Lindley - the all-time Mountain West and San Diego State leader with 11,494 passing yards after throwing for 154 last week - will face a depleted Broncos secondary.
Boise State freshman Lee Hightower and sophomore Quaylon Ewing-Burton could start Saturday after starters Jamar Taylor and Ebo Makinde suffered hamstring injuries in the TCU loss.
Boise State gave up 473 passing yards - its most since allowing 495 in a 39-27 loss at then-No. 14 Hawaii on Nov. 23, 2007.
Led by sophomore defensive back Nat Berhe - the conference co-defensive player of the week - the Aztecs' secondary has been outstanding over the last two games. San Diego has picked off three passes during this stretch while allowing only 140 total passing yards.
Still, Long is not about to overlook Moore, whose 46 wins are the most among FBS quarterbacks. He is also five TD passes shy of reaching second place with 135.
"(Our defensive backs are) going to get their best test of the year this week," Long said.
San Diego State's run defense could catch a break if Broncos leading rushers Doug Martin (leg) and D.J. Harper (ankle) are unable to go. If they can't, junior Drew Wright, whose fourth-quarter fumble led to TCU's tying TD last week, could get a majority of the carries.