Facing a close game late, Fresno State stepped up to the challenge and knocked off Boise State 37-27 at home on Saturday.
The Bulldogs secured the Milk Can in their rivalry matchup over the Bulldogs with the help of two explosive plays by running back Malik Sherrod, one of which had not happened in a decade and a half.
Fresno State improves to 8-1 on the year, including 4-1 in Mountain West play and has an inside track to the Mountain West Championship game.
How it happened: Fresno State got off to a quick start with an aggressive offensive gameplan, throwing the ball vertically downfield several times on the opening drive, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tre Watson up the middle to take an early 7-0 lead.
- Fresno State forced the Broncos to go three-and-out, and the Bulldogs came back on the field and scored a field goal after a couple more deep shots didn’t pan out.
- Boise State started to get its offense going on its second drive, but Fresno State defensive lineman Devo Bridges had a huge sack up the middle on third and eight to help hold the Broncos to a field goal.
- While the ‘Dogs stalled on the ensuing drive, linebacker Phoenix Jackson picked off Boise State quarterback Maddux Madsen, leading to another Fresno State field goal.
- Later in the second quarter, Boise State brought starting quarterback Taylen Green back out, but on a deep throw of his own Fresno State cornerback Al’zillion Hamilton stuck with Broncos receiver Billy Bowens the whole way and came up with an interception in the end zone.
- Fresno State couldn’t take advantage of the turnover and traded possessions with the Broncos a few times – including a mistake by Keene as he threw his lone interception of the game – but the action picked back up as the Broncos went 12 plays for 64 yards in just 1:37 to score a touchdown right before halftime and cut Fresno State’s lead to 13-10.
- With just seven seconds left before halftime, Boise State squibbed the kickoff, but Sherrod did something that the Bulldogs haven’t done in 15 years: return a kickoff for a touchdown. Sherrod’s 95-yard return electrified Valley Children’s Stadium and gave the Bulldogs a 20-10 lead at halftime.
- The Bulldogs continued to build momentum after the half, forcing a quick three-and-out and taking nearly seven and a half minutes off the clock on a touchdown drive.
- Down by 17, Boise State started to make things interesting, scoring 10 straight points. Fresno State answered with a field goal, but as the game started to wind down the Broncos found the end zone once again on a 27-yard rush by Madsen to cut Fresno State’s lead to 30-27.
- But Sherrod worked his magic once again and sealed the game for the ‘Dogs on a 52-yard rush with under two minutes remaining.
By the numbers: Sherrod was the game’s leading rusher with 132 yards and 1 touchdown, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.
- Fresno State was able to maintain scoring drives throughout the game on the back of its successful third down offense, converting 8 of 15 attempts.
- The Bulldogs only committed one penalty all game, keeping them from falling behind as they went wire-to-wire for the win.
What they’re saying: “That guy played possessed tonight,” Head Coach Jeff Tedford said of Sherrod. “I’m not kidding you. In the locker room before the game I was very close to saying, ‘Hey, just calm down.’ Because I knew he was geared up and ready to go. He was very passionate, very emotional. He has become a leader of this team. He has a very strong voice on this team. Boy did he play great tonight, one of the best efforts I’ve seen, and they weren’t all easy runs. There was a lot of tough runs in there for him.”