MW Title On The Line Saturday
Nov. 27, 2017
BOISE, Idaho - The Boise State football team will host Fresno State in the 2017 Mountain West Championship Game, slated for Saturday (Dec. 2) at Albertsons Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m., and the game will be nationally televised by ESPN.
The Broncos (9-3, 7-1 MW) will represent the Mountain Division, while the 25th-ranked Bulldogs (9-3, 7-1) will represent the West Division.
The game is a rematch of the 2014 MW Championship, a game in which Boise State defeated Fresno State, 28-14 (Dec. 6, 2014).
MW CHAMPIONSHIP: Boise State will make its second appearance in the MW Championship Game next week, and first since winning the league title – against Fresno State – in 2014. The Broncos finished a game back of Air Force in the Mountain Division standings in 2015, and tied for first place last year but lost the tiebreaker to Wyoming. The 2014 league championship was the Broncos’ second as a member of the MW, having also tied for the league title in 2012.
THE SERIES: Boise State and Fresno State, which played each year from 2001-14, will now square off in back-to-back weeks after not playing each other in 2015 or 2016.
The Broncos are 13-6 all-time against the Bulldogs after falling last week in Fresno (28-17). The loss was just the third in 16 games the teams have played since Boise State joined the Western Athletic Conference in 2001. The Broncos are 8-1 at home against Fresno State, having won each of the last eight games. The team’s only loss at home came in the first game played in Boise, a 37-21 Bulldog win, Sept. 8, 1984.
HOSTING THE ‘SHIP: Sunday’s announcement of Boise State as host of the 2017 Mountain West Championship game makes the Broncos the first school to host the event twice (2014, 2017) Just as they will this Saturday, Boise State hosted Fresno State in the 2014 edition, claiming a 28-14 victory that sent the Broncos to the VIZIO Fiesta Bowl.
Entering this weekend’s game, home teams are 3-1 in the Mountain West Championship Game, with Wyoming’s 27-24 loss to San Diego State last year in Laramie being the only defeat by a home team.
REMATCHES IN THE TITLE GAME: Saturday’s Mountain West Championship Game, the fifth edition of the event, will feature a regular-season rematch for the third time in Boise State and Fresno State. In 2014, Boise State defeated Fresno State, 37-27, in the regular season, before taking the conference title with a 28-14 victory in the championship game. Last year (2016), Wyoming defeated San Diego State, 34-33, in Laramie in the regular season, but was defeated by the Aztecs, 27-24, in the title game, which was also in Laramie.
CARL! NICE TO SEE YOU!: Playing Fresno State two-straight weeks is not the first time that Boise State has faced the same opponent twice in the same season. In fact, the Broncos and Bulldogs faced each other twice in 2014, with Boise State winning the regular-season matchup (37-27, Oct. 14) and the Mountain West Championship Game (28-14, Dec. 6).
This year marks the third time in which Boise State has played an opponent twice in the same season. Along with facing Fresno State twice in 2014, the Broncos faced Nevada twice in 1990. That year, the Broncos defeated the Wolf Pack, 30-14, in Boise (Nov. 10) before falling in the return game in Reno, 59-52 in triple overtime, in the NCAA Division I-AA Semifinals.
TACKLING MACHINE: Redshirt junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, named a semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, given annually to the most outstanding college football player who began his career as a walk-on, earlier in the season, eclipsed the century mark in tackles on Nov. 18 against Air Force, and currently stands at 113 for the season. It marks the third time in four seasons that a Bronco has reached the 100-tackle mark in a season, following Tanner Vallejo (100 in 2014) and Ben Weaver (108 in 2016), and is the most by a Bronco since J.C. Percy had 118 in 2012.
In 2017, the Riggins, Idaho, native has been the lynchpin of the Bronco defense, which ranks 25th overall in the FBS (339.0 yards allowed per game) and 19th against the run (124.9 ypg). Individually, Vander Esch has been in the middle of nearly everything as he leads the Broncos in tackles with 113 (71 solo), ranks 24th in the country with 9.4 tackles per game, and ninth in the country with 5.9 solo tackles per game.
Vander Esch has also shown his playmaking ability in the turnover game, forcing three fumbles, including one in overtime at Colorado State (Nov. 11) that was recovered by the Broncos to clinch a win, and picking off a pair of passes so far this season to go along with 3.0 sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss.
TWO WITH 100 TACKLES?: With Leighton Vander Esch already past the century mark in tackles (113), and sophomore safety Kekoa Nawahine within striking distance at 90 tackles heading into this Saturday’s Mountain West Championship Game, the Broncos have a chance to finish this season with two players making at least 100 tackles. Should Nawahine record at least 10 tackles over the final two games of the season, it’ll mark the first time since 2005 (Korey Hall, 106; Marty Tadman, 101) that two Bronco defenders have hit the century mark in a single season. U
#RYPITGOOD: Quarterback Brett Rypien has reflected his two-time All-Mountain West form over Boise State’s last fi ve contests, going a combined 100-for-151 (66.2 percent) for 1,427 yards and 12 touch-downs against just one interception.
Rypien has recorded each of his 300-yard performances this season during this stretch, first completing 23-of-43 passes for 331 yards and a season-high four touchdowns in Nov. 11’s 59-52 overtime win at Colorado State, then going 16-for-22 for 300 yards and three touchdowns in Nov. 18’s 44-19 victory over Air Force.
MOVING UP IN THE RECORD BOOKS: Brett Rypien’s recent surge has moved him up a few notches in a couple of statistical categories in the Boise State record book. Saturday at Fresno State, Rypien passed Bart Hendricks (1997-2000) and Tony Hilde (1993-96) and into third all-time in passing yards, and currently stands at 9,268, in addition to sitting fourth in pass attempts (1,103) and second in completions (698). His 300-yard passing performance Nov. 18 against Air Force marked the 13th of his career, third all-time at Boise State and just one behind second-place Ryan Dinwiddie (2000-03), and three back of Kellen Moore (2008-11).
WILSON AMONG ALL-TIME GREATS: Senior Cedrick Wilson recorded his second-straight 100-yard receiving game Saturday, going for 134 yards on seven catches to follow his 107- yard performance Nov. 18 at Air Force. Now at 1,142 receiving yards for the season, Wilson is just the third Bronco receiver to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, following Titus Young (2009-10) and Thomas Sperbeck (2015-16), and his 1,000-yard season is the 14th in Boise State history. Saturday also marked his ninth-career 100-yard game, sixth all-time at Boise State.
Wilson’s 1,142 yards this season marks the fifth-highest single-season mark in Boise State history, while his 2,271 receiving yards over this year and last marks the second-best two-year total in Bronco history, behind only Thomas Sperbeck’s 2,684 from 2015-16.
This season, Wilson has a career-best 64 catches, eclipsing his 2016 total of 56, along with six touch-down grabs. On Sept. 22 against Virginia, Wilson set personal bests with 13 catches (tied for eighth-most in Boise State single-game history) for 209 yards (tied for seventh-most in single-game history) and a touchdown. It was the first 200-yard game of his Boise State career. Most recently, Wilson hauled in six passes for 94 yards and his fifth scoring grab of the season Saturday at Utah State.
Attracting plenty of double teams this year, Wilson has still managed to put up great numbers, including his nine-catch, 147-yard, two-touchdown effort at Washington State (Sept. 9). He has now posted seven 100-yard receiving games, showing why he was an obvious choice for the 2017 Biletnikoff Award Preseason Watch List.
More importantly, Wilson drawing consistent double teams from opposing defenses has opened up opportunities for more Bronco receivers. Fellow receiver A.J. Richardson set career highs with five catches for 80 yards against Virginia, and for the year has a career-best 31 receptions for 441 yards and two touchdowns. It has also led to more involvement from the Bronco tight ends, as redshirt senior Jake Roh already has a career-best nine touchdown grabs this season to go with 39 catches.
MATTISON HITS 1,000: Sophomore running back Alexander Mattison ran for 63 yards Saturday at Fresno State, bringing his season total to 1,024 yards, his first 1,000-yard season. It also extends Boise State’s streak of having a 1,000-yard rusher to nine years (2009-17), tied with Auburn for the longest streak in the country.
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