Three and Out: Ascendant Fresno State beats Boise for the first time since 2005
The last time Fresno State beat Boise State, in 2005, the fifth-generation iPod had just been released. Now we have like 10 different versions of an iPhone 5, so yeah, it’s a pretty big deal that the Bulldogs were able to pull out a 41-40 win at home over the Broncos on Friday.
Boise State hasn’t looked like the Boise State we’re used to, with a porous defense and an inconsistent offense. It came down to a shootout, and a long drive by Fresno gave the Bulldogs the lead. When the Broncos were unable to convert on 4th and 6 with just over a minute to play just inside Fresno State’s half, the Bulldogs sealed it. BSU is 2-2 and might not even be the best team in its own division in the Mountain West with the ascension of Utah State and quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Fresno State has made big strides since Tim DeRuyter took over for Pat Hill after the 2011 season, and it is looking more and more like there’s a new team climbing the summit in the Mountain West.
Here are three quick takeaways from Friday night’s win by the Bulldogs:
Quarterbacks ruled supreme: He may not have the hype surrounding him that his brother did at Fresno State, but Derek Carr is pretty special in his own right. The MWC has quite a few good quarterbacks, with a couple who have possible futures in the NFL, and Carr is one of the best. The Bulldogs rely on Carr constantly; he has averaged 54.7 attempts in the team’s first three games, but he’s pretty accurate with his high volume of opportunities, completing 68.9 percent of those.
Against Boise State, Carr was 39-of-60 for 460 yards and four touchdowns, and despite a slow 5-of-14 start, he got rolling late in the first half and never looked back. Broncos quarterback Joe Southwick — he of the magnificent mustache — was no slouch, either. The senior was 31-of-45 for 313 yards and overcame what looked to be a shoulder injury after taking a couple odd hits to keep BSU in the game. His ability to evade tackles and scramble out of pressure led to some extended drives as Boise used a 21-0 scoring run to take the lead late, but he couldn’t get Boise into field goal range on the team’s final drive.
The running game could have been a bit better: It sure was a good thing both Carr and Southwick were able to have strong nights because their ground games didn’t do them any favors. Although some of this is by design — both teams ran a lot of plays, opted for quick hitters, swing passes, bubble screens, play action passes over the middle, etc. — on option reads and straight draws, there weren’t many holes to run through until early in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos and Bulldogs combined for 262 yards on 77 runs, good for a 3.4 average and aided in part by a 28-yard scramble by Southwick and a 35-yard touchdown run by Boise’s Aaron Baltazar. There are some whispers of Fresno State as a darkhorse BCS-buster candidate, but the team is going to have to do better on the ground (the Bulldogs came into the game 94th in FBS in rushing) if it hopes to run the table and be where it needs to be come bowl time.
The secondaries didn’t help out either team: While it is partly due to two solid quarterbacks making smart reads, there’s really no excuse for how the Boise and Fresno secondaries played on Friday night. Corners gave too much cushion, there were giant holes in the zone, receivers were consistently beating their man on inside routes and there were some critical missed tackles.
There were some eye-popping numbers in this one, and the secondaries were responsible for a lot of them. The two teams were 19-of-37 on third down, had 1,083 total yards and 60 first downs. All in all the two teams combined to give up 16 plays of 20-plus yards, which led to some big drives and the combined 81 points. When the defensive coaches get to look at this one on film, they’re going to need a lot of puppies and milkshakes to get rid of their haggard frowns.