The road to the Mountain West title ran through the blue turf and that’s exactly where No. 25 Fresno State wanted it. Even if the final result took a little longer than expected.
The Bulldogs ended a 10-game losing streak on No. 22 Boise State’s home field and won for the first time ever on the artificial surface at Albertsons Stadium as they topped their Milk Can rivals 19-16 in overtime amid rain, snow and wind on Saturday night to capture the 2018 Mountain West Championship.
The conditions, which ranged from light rain early to full on snowstorm in the middle to windy and cold by the end, certainly were a factor in slowing down both offenses and playing right into the hands of two stout defenses. Each side did mount several lengthy drives but turnovers (two for Fresno State, a fumble for Boise State setting up a touchdown the other way), fourth down stops and a handful of missed field goals and extra points all put a damper on things as the two division winners slugged their way into free football.
The Broncos pinned much of their game plan on the shoulders of tailback Alexander Mattison, who fought for every inch of his 200 yards as part of a workhorse-like 40 carries. His efforts helped take the pressure off senior QB Brett Rypien, who started the game strong but later struggled to throw the ball as he finishes his career at the league’s most famous venue with a pedestrian 125 yards passing and one touchdown to top target Sean Modster.
It was the Bulldogs though, who just kept fighting and avenged two earlier losses in the past two months to their conference rivals. Signal-caller Marcus McMaryion only threw for 170 yards and a touchdown but helped on the game-winner in the extra frame with an option toss to Ronnie Rivers, who scooted into the corner of the end zone to set off a raucous celebration from the visitors. Even on a night where the offense wasn’t quite its usual self, it was appropriate that the team gutted things out to hoist the MWC trophy for the first time since 2013.
It also caps one of the most remarkable turnaround stories in all of college football, topped only by what has happened over in Orlando with UCF in recent years. Fresno State was 1-11 two years ago when head coach Jeff Tedford took over and have since gone 21-6 the past two seasons with just a pair of losses in the Mountain West during the regular season. In addition to capturing their first ever win on the blue turf since it was installed in Boise, the victory on Saturday night was also the program’s first in the city of Boise since 1984 and avenges two earlier losses to the Broncos in the past 12 months.
While the undefeated Knights earlier win against Memphis in the AAC title game will rule out any hopes of making into the Fiesta Bowl of the New Year’s Six, a very well deserved berth in the Las Vegas Bowl will likely be the next destination for the Bulldogs. After vanquishing their demons to the North, perhaps it will be easy to double down on 2018 and celebrate the team’s trophy in style down on the Strip later this month.
With apologies to all of the other conference title games on Saturday, none of them hold a candle to the Mountain West’s clash between No. 22 Boise State and No. 25 Fresno State when it comes to the elements having an impact on the game. Despite the snowy and windy weather on the blue-turned-white turf though, the Bulldogs took a slim 10-7 lead into the locker room following an entertaining battle for the league title at the break.
Both quarterbacks involved in this one weren’t too shabby even with it being difficult to throw the football as Fresno’s Marcus McMaryion threw only two incompletions on his way to 74 yards and a touchdown while counterpart Brett Rypien was an efficient 10-0f-19 for 69 yards and a touchdown pass of his own for Boise.
The Broncos got the edge on the ground with footing at a premium as Alexander Mattison ran for 59 yards on 16 carries to best the Bulldogs’ approach by committee that netted just 40 yards total on 14 attempts. The visiting West Division champs scored early on a short field after a fumble recovery, finding the end zone (when the snow was just barely coming down) as Michiah Quick caught a 15 yard pass. They also put up points late with a 44 yard field goal through a driving snow storm and sandwiched those efforts around a 15 play drive by the boys in blue that ended in a touchdown pass to Sean Modster from 10 yards out.
The front in the area is not expected to move out of Boise for another hour or longer which means the second half will likely come down to some big plays down the stretch from either side. Fresno State has never won on the blue turf and it will take quite an effort between the lines to end that streak against a team locked into defending their Mountain West title.
A month after leaving UCLA, the market for Devon Modster is beginning to take shape.
According to 247Sports.com, Modster visited Boise State over the weekend, the first school he’s taken a trip to since parting ways with the Bruins. There’s one significant personal connection with the MWC program as the quarterback’s older brother, Sean Modster, is a senior wide receiver for the Broncos.
Per Devon Modster, he was told by Boise quarterbacks coach Zak Hill the Broncos are “still evaluating what they want to do [at the quarterback position] and he would let me know by December if they were going to take an older guy or if they want a young guy out of high school.”
In addition to Boise, other Mountain West schools like Nevada, San Diego State and San Jose State have expressed some level of interest. Additionally, he’s “heard a little from North Carolina State too.”
On Sept. 21, Modster announced he would be transferring from the Bruins. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled at a California junior college. Regardless of where he ends up, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2019, the first of his two seasons of eligibility he’ll have remaining.
The California native was a four-star signee in the Bruins’ 2016 recruiting class. As the backup to Josh Rosen last season, Modster 51-of-79 passes for 671 yards and four touchdowns. Prior to transferring, he hadn’t thrown a pass this season.