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Game Day Guide: Boise State hosts Fresno State in Mountain West Championship

"This has been our goal for the whole year." | Boise State and Fresno State battle for the Mountain West throne on The Blue for the fourth time since 2014 Saturday.

Zack Armstrong


Published: 4:19 PM MST November 30, 2022
Updated: 10:22 AM MST December 3, 2022

Just over two months ago, the Boise State football team was battling a poor, 2-2 start, with glaring offensive issues following a shocking 27-10 loss at UTEP in El Paso. At the time, it seemed almost unthinkable the Broncos could contend for another Mountain West Championship. 

The Broncos refused to lay down, turning changes at quarterback and offensive coordinator into fuel for the engine, rather than a shift into reverse. Simultaneously, Boise State's defense reached new heights and skyrocketed into the national rankings in major statistical categories. 

Prior to the 2022 season, the talk of summer workouts and fall camp was upholding "the Boise State standard." The mentality faded away early, but has returned in full force in recent weeks. 

As upcoming players continued to make the most of their opportunities, Boise State began to play its best football of the fall, and the message players and coaches preached paid off. 

"It just says we're relentless. We never give up, we're never out of the fight and we're just gonna keep throwing punches and keep going along with our mission until we get it done," tight end Riley Smith said. "So, our guys are always looking forward and doing whatever they can and just leaving it all on the field."

Now, Boise State is days away from hosting another Mountain West Championship against Fresno State at Albertsons Stadium. The game is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m. MT on Fox. 

"This has been our goal for the whole year and it started in January. It really started after our last game last year," Smith said. "Our goal is to win and if we do, our mission's complete and we had a successful season and we're gonna be able to carry that momentum into the next year."

Saturday's contest marks the fourth Mountain West title game between the Broncos and Bulldogs on The Blue since 2014. At the end of the 2018 season, Fresno State defeated Boise State 19-16 in overtime to hoist the hardware in the City of Trees. 

On Oct. 8, Boise State showed off its powerful rushing attack in a 40-20 win over Fresno State. George Holani and Ashton Jeanty rumbled for a combined 226 yards and the true freshman found the end zone twice.  

In the victory, the Broncos held backup quarterback Logan Fife to 134 yards and two interceptions on 14-of-25 passing. Boise State also allowed just 99 rushing yards in its second-straight Mountain West win. 

The 2022 season has not only been a tale of two halves for the Broncos, but also for the Bulldogs, who are winners of seven-straight games. Fresno State is yet to lose a game since the 20-point loss on The Blue at the start of October, turning a 1-4 start into a championship berth. 

A massive reason for the mid-season turnaround for both squads? Quarterback play. 

All-Mountain West First Team honoree Jake Haener made his return from an injury Oct. 29 against San Diego State, and proceeded to go 34-of-45 for 394 passing yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. 

Haener, who was a Davey O'Brien Award semifinalist after throwing for 4,096 yards and 33 touchdowns last year, has thrown for more than 300 yards in four of his last five games. Haener will bring Boise State challenges in Saturday's rematch after missing the regular-season contest. 

While Boise State's offense is playing at an impressive level and has the power to go blow-for-blow with the Bulldogs, the Broncos are banged up on defense. 

Last week against Utah State, Boise State was without Herbert Gums (DT), Ezekiel Noa (LB), Alex Teubner (S), Demitri Washington (EDGE), Zion Washington (S) and George Tarlas (EDGE) is out for the season. During the third quarter, Ahmed Hassanein (DE) left the game with an injury and the explosive Tyreque Jones (Nickel) went down early in the fourth quarter and was carter off the field. 

Noa and Jones were seen in full pads with no contact limitations during the Broncos' practice Tuesday. Noa has not played since the BYU game Nov. 5.

Scroll down for more on purchasing Mountain West Championship tickets, pre-game information, ways to watch Saturday's game and a history of the Broncos-Bulldogs series.

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