It took nearly 119 minutes of football over the past two weeks, but the Boise State Broncos finally forced a turnover.
And it was a huge one.
Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch picked off a Marcus McMaryion pass with just over a minute remaining to help preserve a 17-14 Boise State victory.
— Boise State Football (@BroncoSportsFB) December 3, 2017
The win gave the Broncos their tenth win in 2017 as they won the Mountain West for the first time since 2014.
Boise State, on a night where the offense was having a repeat performance of last week, finally found their stride late in the fourth quarter.
Backed up on their own ten with 7:45 remaining, things got off to a horrible start. An illegal man downfield penalty moved the Broncos back to their own five.
Brett Rypien then found Cedrick Wilson for a 59-yard strike. Rypien would carry for ten yards and also find Wilson for seven yards on 3rd and 5.
The Broncos took their first lead since the first quarter when senior Ryan Wolpin carried it from two yards out with 4:42 remaining.
The defense responded by forcing their third three-and-out of the second half.
The Broncos were able get one first down before punting and setting up Vander Esch’s game-sealing interception.
The touchdown by Wolpin, who was filling in for an injured Alexander Mattison, was the only scoring in the second half. Mattison injured his ankle on a nine-yard reception late in the third quarter.
Boise State’s defense held Fresno State to 85 total yards and zero points in the second half. Curtis Weaver and Desmond Williams each had a sack, bringing the total allowed by Fresno State to nine n the season.
First half recap
The first half (and much of the game) was a story of “second verse, same as the first”.
Boise State allowed the Bulldogs to march down the field. A missed 41-yard field goal by Jimmy Camacho kept the score knotted at zero.
The Bronco offense looked good but had multiple drives stall between Fresno State’s 35-45 yard line. They started the scoring after a 31-yard Haden Hoggarth field goal.
A couple of drives later, Fresno State took a 7-3 lead after McMaryion scored on a one-yard run on 4th and goal.
The Broncos later used a great punt return by Avery Williams to set up Boise State at the four. Three plays later, Mattison scored on a 3-yard run.
It took only five plays for Fresno State to retake the lead. McMaryion scored on a 8-yard run to put the Bulldogs up 14-10 at the half.
2nd half and totals
Boise State ate up five minutes to start the third quarter. The running game picked up slightly but a 46-yard missed field goal by Hoggarth ended the scoring threat.
That would be the only time either team came close to scoring until the fourth quarter.
The Broncos were able to bring pressure at key points throughout the night. Weaver and Jabril Frazier were in the backfield multiple times.
And what else can be said about Vander Esch? He had ten solo tackles and assisted on six others for a total of 16. The interception was the cherry on top for the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year lived up to his billing.
Vander Esch was also named Defensive MVP of the game.
Rypien finished 16-30 for 246 yards while Wilson had 8 receptions for 148 yards. Wolpin ended with 11 carries for 50 yards and Mattison had 50 yards on 14 carries before the injury.
Congrats to the 2017 Mountain West Conference champions Boise State Broncos!
Hear from @CoachHarsin with @ESPN‘s @mollyamcgrath after @BroncoSportsFB captured its second @MountainWest Football Championship Game title since 2014! #mwfb #MWLateNight #FRESvsBSU pic.twitter.com/2Sq33QNxHc
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) December 3, 2017