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Biletnikoff Award semifinalists are heavy on Big 12 receivers

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College football’s award season is coming soon, which means various individual awards are trimming down their massive watch lists to much smaller lists of semifinalists, and soon finalists. The Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s best receiver regardless of position, released its list of 11 semifinalists for its award this season. As expected, some of the nation’s leading receivers managed to make the cut midway through November.

The list of semifinalists includes some of the top receivers from the Big 12 with Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, West Virginia’s David Sills V, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and Texas Tech’s Antoine Wesley are among the 11 semifinalists for the award. Wesley leads the nation in average receiving yards per game with 134.7 ypg. Wallace is not far behind with 128.2 ypg. Those two are among the seven receivers who have already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season.

UMass receiver Andy Isabella, who leads the nation with 1,479 receiving yards was also named a semifinalist for the award. Hawaii’s John Ursua, the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns (15) also made the cut.

The SEC’s top two receivers, A.J. Brown of Ole Miss (SEC-leading 1,047 receiving yards) and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy (SEC-leading 10 touchdowns and second-most receiving yards, 925 yards). Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry, among the Pac-12 leaders in receiving yards and touchdowns, is joined by Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside as the Pac-12’s semifinalists.

Freshman star Rondale Moore of Purdue is the only player from a Big Ten school named a semifinalist for the award. Among the power conferences, the Big Ten has the longest drought of Biletnikoff Award winners with Braylon Edwards of Michigan being the last Big Ten player to win the award in 2004. The Big 12 has dominated the award over the past decade with seven Biletnikoff Award winners since 2007 including the last three years (Corey Coleman of Baylor in 2015, Dede Westbrook of Oklahoma in 2016, and James Washington of Oklahoma State in 2017) and two back-to-back winners (Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech in 2007-2008 and Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State in 2010 and 2011).

This list of 11 semifinalists will be trimmed down to three finalists on Nov. 19. The 2018 Biletnikoff Award will be presented on Dec. 6 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Presentation on ESPN.

Second half rally helps Boise State knock off No. 23 Fresno State on the blue turf

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No. 23 Fresno State entered Friday night’s game against Boise State with one mission: secure the Milk Can and win on the blue turf for the first time ever.

The Bulldogs, poised to be one of the few teams that could secure the Group of Five bid if they win out, could do no such thing in the end after allowing the Broncos to rally in the second half and cap off a thrilling 24-17 victory in the pair’s rematch of last season’s Mountain West Championship Game.

Quarterback Brett Rypien was not surprisingly at the center of all the action for the home team, converting several key third downs with both his arm and his legs on his way to throwing for an efficient 269 yards, one touchdown and an interception. While he was pretty much unstoppable for most of the night outside of that ill-advised pick, it took until the second half before his team could start converting many of their long drives into points. After the switch was flipped down by two scores early in the third quarter though, it was all Broncos the rest of the way as they ran off three consecutive scoring drives to take the lead and blocked a late field goal for good measure too.

Rypien wasn’t the only BSU playmaker that was tough to stop in the game however, as tailback Alexander Mattison picked up 144 yards and two scores on the ground as the workhorse between the tackles. He had just one long run of 14 yards but it seemed like just about every other carry went for four or five yards as he kept churning along and helped the Broncos offense record 24 first downs.

Fresno State was no slouch on the offensive end either even if they did just come up a bit short and missed two field goal attempts on the night. Signal-caller Marcus McMaryion wound up throwing for 283 yards and a touchdown, finding favorite target KeeSean Johnson for eight catches, 95 yards and that short toss into the end zone. It was a good thing that the combo was productive because running the ball was far from a sure thing in the game with Jordan Mims recording only 47 yards rushing and Ronnie Rivers adding another 33 and a touchdown.

The victory was a triple-whammy for the visiting Bulldogs, which last won in Boise back in 1984 — when the turf was far from blue. Not only were they unable to secure a bit of revenge for last year’s MWC title game loss to their Milk Can rivals, but the loss will potentially knock them out of the running for a potential Group of Five bid as well after sitting in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s rankings the past two weeks. Worse, if they wind up winning their division once again (which they can do at home against San Diego State next weekend) and have to play potential Mountain division champs Boise State, the tie-breaker would then put the game back on the blue turf in Idaho instead of in Fresno.

The flip side is that second half rally will help keep the Broncos afloat in their own tight division race with a ranked Utah State squad. They will host the Aggies at the end of the season in two weeks and may have done just enough to get the attention of the committee themselves for that elusive Group of Five bid if they run the table the rest of the way. It’s been a bit of an up-and-down campaign for Bryan Harsin’s team but they showed plenty of toughness on both sides of the ball on Friday night to cap off a great comeback and put their destiny back in their hands once again.

No. 23 Fresno State holding slim halftime lead over Boise State in battle for the Milk Can

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Nobody outside of UCF is better positioned to secure this year’s Group of Five bid than No. 23 Fresno State but Jeff Tedford’s team is locked into a battle on the blue turf against rival Boise State and hold a slim 10-3 lead at halftime of this critical Mountain West game on Friday night.

Marcus McMaryion led the way on the lone touchdown drive of the first half for the Bulldogs, capping things off with a toss to the back of the end zone to favorite target KeeSean Johnson (41 total yards to go with that score). The veteran quarterback wasn’t too sharp early on but eventually rebounded as the game went on to finish 12-of-15 for 125 yards while chipping in with another 13 on the ground. Tailback Jordan Mims did have 33 yards rushing but most of the team’s offensive damage was done through the air against that stout Boise defensive line.

The Broncos did what they could to stay in this game and take a lead, that much is for sure. Bryan Harsin’s group looked like they had no issues pulling out all the stops in this one, running both a flea flicker and a double reverse pass back to quarterback Brett Rypien. Just for good measure, there was also a fake field goal but that attempt went absolutely nowhere.

Despite the lack of scoring drives, it was still a solid half for Rypien in throwing for 149 yards with just three incompletions. He did throw an ill-advised interception in the final few minutes of the half but he was able to move the ball. Running back Alex Mattison also was ripping off chunks of yards with each carry and finished with 53 between the tackles.

In addition to all of the conference and national implications that this game carries, keep in mind that Fresno State has never won on the blue turf and are seeking revenge for last year’s loss at the same place in the Mountain West title game. Both programs are certainly very much in this one and the potential is brewing for a fun second half between these two rivals on a chilly night in Idaho.

Boise State possible landing spot for ex-UCLA QB Devon Modster

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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.

Defense, special teams push No. 24 OK State past No. 17 Boise State

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A game pitting the highest-scoring teams of the decade was won on the other two phases, as No. 24 Oklahoma State used opportunistic special teams and bend-but-don’t-break special teams to grab control of the game and its running game to put it away, earning a key 44-21 win over No. 17 Boise State in Stillwater.

The Broncos (2-1) opened the scoring less than a minute into the second quarter as Brett Rypien found John Hightower for a 31-yard touchdown pass, but the lead could have been more. The first sustained drive of the day by either team, a 14-play, 42-yard march by Boise State midway through the first quarter, ended in a 27-yard Haden Hoggarth field goal try that doinked off the right upright.

Oklahoma State (3-0) notched the equalizer immediately after Boise State’s opening touchdown, as Taylor Cornelius found Tylan Wallace for a 43-yard connection, allowing Justice Hill to scamper in for an 8-yard touchdown run on the next play.

The Cowboys forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and Amen Ogbongbemiga bursted through the line to block Quinn Skillin‘s punt, which Ogbongbemiga recovered at the Boise State 7. Cornelius plunged in for a 1-yard rush three plays later to give Oklahoma State a 14-7 lead.

Boise State moved into Cowboy territory on their next touch, but Bryan Harsin elected to go for a 4th-and-6 at the OSU 37, and a group of Cowboys lassoed Alexander Mattison a yard short of the line to gain.

Cornelius hit Tyron Johnson for a 35-yard gain to put Oklahoma State back in Broncos territory, and Matt Ammendola booted a 22-yard field goal, his 15th straight successful try, to push the Cowboy lead to 10 to close the first half scoring.

Ammendola added a 48-yard kick to open the second half, but Boise State closed the Cowboys’ lead to 20-14 when Rypien hit A.J. Richardson for a 34-yard touchdown with 9:18 to play in the third quarter. Oklahoma State again responded immediately, moving 68 yards in eight plays, punctuated by a 32-yard scoring strike from Cornelius to Dillon Stoner.

And then history repeated itself. Just like in the first half, Oklahoma State followed a touchdown with a three-and-out, then blocked a Boise State punt deep in the Broncos’ end. This time, Jarrick Bernard blocked Joel Velazquez‘s punt, and Za’Carrius Green scooped the pigskin up and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown, pushing the Cowboy lead to 34-14 with 20 minutes and change remaining.

A third Rypien touchdown pass and a third Ammendola field goal gave Boise State the ball with a two-score deficit and plenty of time to erase it, but Calvin Bundage and Devin Harper combined to sack Rypien for the sixth time of the day, and Boise State punted. Oklahoma State put the game away on the ensuing possession, moving 72 yards in five rushes: 53 on one carry by Hill to move Oklahoma State from its own 28 to the Boise State red zone, and then Cornelius for the final 10, including a 6-yard score.

While not always pretty, Cornelius was effective in his first major appearance as a starting quarterback. He completed 15-of-26 passes for 243 yards with a touchdown while displaying an as-yet-unseen running ability, carrying 16 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns. Hill led all runners with 15 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Rypien completed 39-of-56 passes for 380 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but he was sacked seven times and lost a fumble on Boise State’s final drive. When including sack yardage, Boise State mustered only 34 yards on 30 credited carries.

The loss pushes Boise State behind No. 18 UCF for the top spot among Group of 5 programs in the race for the New Year’s Six, while a win opens up a world of opportunity for Mike Gundy‘s Cowboys. Oklahoma State does not face another ranked team until Nov. 10, when at that point the Pokes will close at No. 5 Oklahoma, versus No. 14 West Virginia and at No. 15 TCU.