It was a game that sparked a rivalry. Rewind to October 19, 2001 in Fresno, California. With talk of busting the BCS and all eyes on 8th ranked Fresno State and All-American quarterback David Carr, an upstart Boise State team pulled the WAC shocker of the year with a 35-30 road win, ruining a Bulldog undefeated season and BCS hopes.
Fast forward to present, and what is now the biggest rivalry game in the Western Athletic Conference. Boise State-Fresno State. Typically first place in the conference is on the line, and more times than not, something even bigger. This season, the game is taking place in the third week, much earlier than in any of the previous games since Boise State joined the WAC. But, the implications are still massive. The winner likely sets the pace for the WAC race. Boise State also is using a Friday night nationally televised game to showcase its top ten ranking, while Fresno State is looking to seize the opportunity to make a national statement after coming up just short in double overtime against Wisconsin last week.
In a rivalry game that generates fan interest and talk all year, the irony lies in the fact that each of the past seven games have been slanted to one side or the other. In fact, the only game decided by single digits since Boise State joined the WAC came in that 2001 match-up. Boise State is 7-1 against Fresno State as a WAC member, outscoring the Bulldogs by a per game average of 45 to 20. Fresno State’s lone win in that span came in 2005, an all Bulldogs affair, in a three touchdown victory.
Below is a recap of each game in the rivalry, including memorable Bronco plays.
Oct. 19, 2001 – Boise State 35, Fresno State 30. Boise State ended 8th ranked Fresno State’s undefeated season and BCS hopes with a 35-30 victory. The Broncos scored 21 second half points, and then held the Bulldogs on fourth and goal in the closing seconds to secure the win.
Key Bronco Plays: Ryan Dinwiddie finds Jay Swillie on a 54 yard touchdown pass with 7:12 to play, giving Boise State a 35-28 lead. Swillie bounced off one Fresno State defender and broke the tackle of another en route to the end zone. On the last play of the game, linebacker Greg Sasser sacks Bulldog quarterback David Carr before he could throw into the end zone.
Oct. 18 2002 – Boise State 67, Fresno State 21. It was an offensive explosion by Boise State in the original “Orange Out” at a sold out Bronco Stadium. Ryan Dinwiddie threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns, as Boise State amassed 688 yards of total offense.
Key Bronco Plays: Brock Forsey has two first half diving touchdowns, helping the Broncos build a 27-7 lead. In the third quarter, Dinwiddie rolled out and bought time, finding tight end Rocky Atkinson, who barreled down the sideline diving into the end zone for a 39 yard score to give the Broncos a 34-7 lead.
Nov. 16, 2003 – Boise State 31, Fresno State 17. Boise State followed up its 2001 road win at Fresno with another victory in Bulldog Stadium. Wide receiver Tim Gilligan caught six passes for 149 yards and one touchdown as the Broncos won a second straight WAC title.
Key Bronco Plays: Dinwiddie and Gilligan hook up on a quick slant pass that turns into a 73 yard touchdown play, giving the Broncos a quick 14-0 first quarter lead. Dinwiddie finds T.J. Acree on a perfect touch pass late in the second quarter for a 23 yard score and a 28-7 Bronco lead.
Oct. 23, 2004 – Boise State 33, Fresno State 16. The 16th ranked Broncos used a dominating defensive effort en route to fourth straight win over the Bulldogs. Fresno State was limited to just 191 yards of total offense, including just 17 yards rushing.
Key Bronco Plays: Deshan Cabaong picks off Bulldog quarterback Paul Pinegar in the fourth quarter. Tight end Andy Weldon cashed in the Cabaong interception with a five yard touchdown reception from Jared Zabranksy, sealing the win.
Nov. 10, 2005 – Fresno State 27, Boise State 7. Fresno State snapped a four game losing streak to Boise State, scoring 27 unanswered first half points. The Bulldog defense limited the Broncos 294 yards of total offense and three turnovers.
Key Bronco Play: Jeff Carpenter started game scoring with a 67 yard touchdown run on Boise State’s first series of the game.
Nov. 1, 2006 – Boise State 45, Fresno State 21. Marching toward an undefeated season and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl berth, Boise State opened a 24-7 halftime lead on the Bulldogs. Two third quarter touchdowns pushed that lead to 38-7, as the Broncos tallied 300 yards rushing.
Key Bronco Plays: Drisan James and Jared Zabransky hook up on a 28 yard scoring play just minutes after Fresno State took a 7-3 lead on a 93 yard kickoff return for touchdown. Ian Johnson scores two rushing touchdowns, taking over the nation’s scoring lead.
Oct. 26, 2007 – Boise State 34, Fresno State 21. Led by freshmen running backs Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper, the Broncos punished Fresno State on the ground to the tune of 282 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns. Harper accounted for 153 yards and one score, while Avery also went over the century mark with 124 yards and three touchdowns.
Key Bronco Plays: Harper breaks tackles and spins his way into the end zone from 22 yards out late in the first quarter to tie the game at 14-14. Avery comes through with back-to-back touchdown runs late in the third quarter (10 yards) and then early in the fourth quarter (24 yards) to break the game open at 31-14.
Nov. 28, 2008 – Boise State 61, Fresno State 10. A second half barrage by Boise State that completely overwhelmed the Bulldogs. After holding a slim 13-10 halftime margin, the Bronco offense, defense and special teams clicked on all cylinders, scoring 28 third quarter points before tacking on three additional touchdowns in the fourth quarter, outscoring Fresno State 48-0 in the second half. Quarterback Kellen Moore completed 17-of-23 passes and two touchdowns, while seven different Bronco players scored touchdowns.
Key Bronco Plays: Jeremy Avery started the scoring tidal wave with a 43 yard dash to the end zone early in the third quarter to push the Bronco lead to 20-10. Kyle Wilson then returned a punt 90 yards for a score on Boise State’s next possession. Safeties George Iloka and Ellis Powers picked off Fresno quarterback Tom Brandstater on each of the next two possessions, setting up Bronco receiving touchdowns by Julian Hawkins (35 yards) and Tommy Gallarda (16 yards). In the fourth quarter, the key highlight was two short yardage touchdown runs by Ian Johnson, the final one tying Marshall Faulk for the WAC record for rushing touchdowns.