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Boise State football: Road Warriors Part VI

On October 19, 2001, Boise State was still a WAC newbie—a curiosity despite its back-to-back Big West championships. Enter the legendary game at Fresno State.
Credit: Gary Kazanjian/AP Photo
Fresno State's Devon Banks tries to contain Boise State's Billy Winfield in the first half Friday, Oct. 19, 2001, at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, Calif. Boise State won in a 35-30 upset.

BOISE, Idaho — Friday, October 8, 2020.

There’s a thing on Twitter right now. People post side-by-side photos captioned “How it started” and “How it’s going.” I’m waiting for this one: Boise State-Fresno State in 2001 next to the hoisting of the 2019 Mountain West championship trophy. 

The Broncos’ landmark 35-30 upset of the eighth-ranked Bulldogs 19 years ago is this week’s edition of my “Road Warriors”series. A standing room only crowd of 42,881 and an ESPN audience watched Boise State fall behind Fresno State and David Carr 28-14 early in the third quarter. But sophomore quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie brought the Broncos back, throwing for 297 yards and four touchdowns, the last one a 54-yarder to Jay Swillie with seven minutes left. Swillie bounced off two defenders when he made the catch and outraced them to the end zone.

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Two other enduring images of that night: Brock Forsey flipping into the teeth of the nation’s hardest-hitting defense to set up a TD, and Greg Sasser, the corner-sized linebacker, fighting off a fourth-down block for the game-saving sack of Carr at the end. That game changed the trajectory of both programs. Fresno State wouldn’t beat Boise State in a conference game until 2007—and then not again until 2013. The Broncos wouldn’t win the WAC championship that year, but they’d take seven of the next eight before leaving the league after the 2010 season.

HOMETOWN FAVES, D-LINE EDITION

Bronco Nation loves to latch onto local stars, and the way Spencer Danielson is talking, brace yourself for Scott Matlock. The sophomore defensive tackle from Homedale “has done a phenomenal job” according to Danielson, Boise State’s defensive line coach. “He’s 6-4, 285 (pounds). He can play all the shades (of the interior).” Matlock’s in a battle for a starting defensive tackle spot with junior college transfer Shane Irwin. 

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Matlock’s story resonates. Originally from Boise, he lost both parents before middle school ended and moved to Homedale to live with a foster family. They helped him out of a tough time and helped ground him for a couple strong seasons as a Trojan and a dream scholarship offer to Boise State.

Keegan Freeborn is a little further down the depth chart. But in this COVID-19 world, things could change in a hurry for the sophomore nose tackle out of Rocky Mountain High. “He’s just that blue-collar guy this program is built on,” said Danielson. Freeborn is listed this year at 6-1, 217 pounds. Whether that’s his ideal playing weight remains to be seen.

RYPIEN’S TICKET TO A WIN

Sunday’s Denver-New England game has been moved to Monday evening. If Brett Rypien comes out of it with a positive career touchdown-to-interception ratio, I like Denver’s chances. Rypien’s current ratio is two TDs to three picks, so the formula would be two more scoring throws than interceptions. Not an easy task, though, as Patriots coach Bill Belicihick now has tape on Rypien and has dissected it every which way. The former Boise State star knows this is all temporary. “I understand my role,” Rypien said in his media session this week. “This is Drew Lock’s team. He’s been the leader of this franchise for past year. I have to do what I can to help him and help this team win. If that’s me playing this week and helping our team win this week that’s all I’m focused on.”

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ONE BIG IMPLOSION DOES IT FOR DELAET

Graham DeLaet carded just one bogey in the first round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Thursday in Las Vegas, but it wasn’t just any bogey. It was a quintuple—a nine on the par-4 third hole. That sent DeLaet to a three-over 74, likely too much to overcome to make the cut today. Fellow former Boise State star Troy Merritt has a shot at playing the weekend. Merritt is tied for 59th after shooting a three-under 68. The highlight of his day was an eagle on the par-5 16th.

PRESEASON SEMANTICS IN CALDWELL

First question: do we call it “winter camp” at College of Idaho? There will be something like that going on in late January and February. And spring football becomes real football, as the Coyotes know now that their delayed 2020 season will begin on February 27 with a game against Montana State-Northern at Simplot Stadium. Frontier Conference teams will play a seven-game round robin schedule, followed by the NAIA Playoffs. The Coyotes will host three games in Caldwell and will play four on the road. All seven games will kick off at 1 p.m.

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THIS DAY IN SPORTS…October 9, 2010, 10 years ago today:

A 57-14 rout of Toledo on the blue turf typifies a dominant Boise State season. The Broncos rolled the Rockets behind three touchdown runs by Jeremy Avery, three touchdown passes by Kellen Moore, and a five-turnover performance by the defense. The most exciting takeaway was a 36-yard interception return for a TD by Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin right after halftime. With South Carolina’s upset of Alabama that day, the Broncos’ 19-game winning streak became the longest in the nation.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 

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