No. 10 Boise State holds off Fresno State
Jeremy Avery scored on a 67-yard screen pass and added a 74-yard run, providing just two of the many highlight-reel plays in No. 10 Boise State's 51-34 victory over Fresno State on Friday night.
Titus Young scored two touchdowns, including a diving fumble recovery in the end zone after Avery ran it 74 yards to the 1 as Boise State (3-0, 1-0) won for the 57th time in its past 59 Western Athletic Conference games.
Yet few were as entertaining as this one. The Broncos broke out to a 24-3 lead then had to scramble to win this one and keep alive its hopes for making it back to a Bowl Championship Series game.
Fresno State (1-2, 0-1) got three touchdown runs of at least 60 yards from Ryan Mathews but again fell short against a ranked team, losing for the 10th straight time against teams ranked in the Top 25. The skid started with a 50-42 loss to No. 1 Southern California in 2005. This game provided the appropriate bookend.
With the Friday night stage to themselves, Boise State and Fresno State provided enough big plays to last the weekend. The Broncos had two 77-yard kickoff returns, an interception return for a touchdown, a 60-yard touchdown run by D.J. Harper, and three plays of more than 60 yards by Avery.
The first came on a long run that appeared to be bound for the end zone. But A.J. Jefferson poked the ball loose just before Avery scored. With the ball rolling toward the back of the end zone for an apparent touchback and Boise State turnover, Young made a diving recovery before sliding out of bounds for the score that made it 34-24.
Avery then answered a Fresno State score with the long screen pass that restored a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter and he added a 69-yard run that set up a field goal. Avery finished with 186 yards on 11 carries, with 83 more yards receiving.
Fresno State had plenty of big plays of its own, starting with the touchdown runs of 69, 60 and 68 yards by Mathews. Chastin West made a leaping 41-yard catch that was nearly an interception as Brandyn Thompson tried to wrestle the ball away and Devon Wylie made an acrobatic 21-yard touchdown catch from Ryan Colburn on the next play.
Boise State appeared to pull away with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Moore to Austin Pettis in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, making it 41-27. But Mathews answered with his 68-yard run.
Then one play after Marvin Haynes dropped a potential interception for Fresno State, Avery took Moore's screen pass all the way for the third touchdown in the first 2 minutes of the fourth quarter, making it 48-34.
Moore completed 18 of 26 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns. Mathews paced Fresno State with 234 yards on 19 carries.
The rout appeared to be on early for Boise State. Winston Venable returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game. The Broncos added a field goal by Kyle Brotzman and the long run by Harper to make it 17-0 before Fresno State even managed a first down.
That extended Boise State's run of consecutive points against Fresno State to 68, dating to late in the second quarter of last year's 61-10 Broncos' victory. The lead grew to 24-3 before Mathews single-handedly brought the Bulldogs back with his two long runs, cutting Boise State's halftime lead to 24-17.