Broncos Take "The J Train" To 38-29 Win

Boise State staged its second comeback in as many weeks. This one, considering both the level of its opponent and the hole the Broncos dug, was even more impressive.

Jay Ajayi not only carried the load for his own team but many San Diego State players on his back as Boise State overcame a 20-0 deficit to knock off the Aztecs 38-29 at Albertsons Stadium last night in Boise. With the victory, Boise State snapped a two-game losing streak to the Aztecs and is now sixth in college football history (1869-1914) with 16 consecutive eight win seasons (see chart below).

Much was made of the cold weather that ESPN wanted to subject Bronco fans to (single digits at the 8:15 p.m. kickoff), and the effect it would have on the Aztec players. To his credit, coach Rocky Long had his team prepared properly for the cold, and San Diego State roared to a 20-0 lead. The Aztecs also were no doubt bolstered by the earlier news that Nevada had lost which meant that San Diego State was in control of their own destiny for the Mountain West Conference Western Division title and berth in the MWC championship game.

Donnel Pumphrey showed why he is one of the nation's top running backs, gaining 45 yards on San Diego State's second drive, including a 32-yard burst into the end zone. Donald Hageman nailed a 41-yard field goal attempt later in the quarter for a 10-0 SDSU lead. With Boise State utilizing punter Sean Wale more than placekicker Dan Goodale, the Aztecs once again put points on the board with 12:30 left in the half as Hageman booted a 30-yard field goal.

J.J. Whitaker intercepted a Grant Hedrick pass on Boise State's next possession and returned it 26 yards to the Bronco 34. Another nifty Pumphrey run set up a six-yard pass from Quinn Kaehler to Dani Brunskill for a 20-0 Aztec lead.

Key plays in a game are often turnovers or big yardage plays, but when Shane Williams-Rhodes made a sensational catch for an eight-yard gain on third-and-three for just the second first down for Boise State, it seemed to fire up the Broncos and gave the cold fans in the stands something to get their blood circulating. There were less than seven minutes remaining in the half when SWR leaped up and made his catch. The Boise State offense picked up a successive first down, then Hedrick fired a bullet to Chaz Anderson, who made another dazzling catch on a tipped ball that bounced off his helmet and back into his arms at the SDSU 4 for a 46-yard gain. Four plays later, Goodale connected on a 21-yard field goal and the Broncos were on the board.

The Bronco defense picked up on the energy level, and responded by holding the Aztecs to a three-and-out on their next possession. Boise State methodically moved the ball downfield with a mixture of runs and passes, before the (Grant) Hedrick and (Thomas) Sperbeck connection paid off. Hedrick first found Sperbeck for a 21-yard gain to the Aztec 14, then the two combined for a TD on the next play that cut the deficit to 20-10.

That is how the half ended, with the two teams rushing to the warmth of the locker rooms. Even though the Broncos received the second half kickoff, they didn't initially continue the momentum they had built in the final seven minutes of the first half. In fact, it looked like a carbon copy of the game's opening minutes, a Bronco three-and-out, resulting in another field goal from Hageman (this one of 41 yards).

But when the Boise State offense stalled again on three plays on the ensuing possession, Bronco head coach Bryan Harsin had seen enough. He called for a fake punt, with Chris Santini taking the short snap and rolling 24 yards to the San Diego State 24 in a play that completely fooled Long and the Aztecs.

Given new life, the Hedrick-Sperbeck combination clicked again on consecutive third-down conversions. The senior Bronco QB found Sperbeck for a fifteen-yard gain on third-and-nine, then another fifteen-yard play on third-and-five that set up the Boise State offense on the San Diego State eight. The Broncos called upon bruising running back Jay Ajayi, who had mostly been bottled up to this point (34 yards on 12 carries), and Ajayi responded with runs of 3 and 5 yards for the touchdown. Outplayed nearly the entire first half, Boise State now found themselves down only 23-17.

Once again, the Bronco defense seemed to feed off the change in momentum and the crowd noise. Linebacker Tyler Gray met Pumphrey head-on on a crucial San Diego State third-and-one play at their own 29 and the Aztecs punted away. But the Broncos had to punt it right back, and with 2:26 left in the quarter, it was a question as to which team wanted the game more, which would take charge?

Cleshawn Page, finally back to full strength after an injury earlier in the season, provided the answer. Page stepped in front of a Kaehler pass on the next play from scrimmage and ran 20 yards to the SDSU 14. Boise State once again turned the game over to Ajayi, who seems to gain more steam with each carry. Three Ajayi runs, including a three-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter, gave the Broncos their first lead at 24-23. They would never look back.

After Boise State forced another three-and-out, a pass interference call on a third-and-six gave the Broncos a first down on the San Diego State 43. Ajayi ran to the right side of the Bronco line and was hit hard at the line by Aztec defenders. Somehow, the powerful back emerged from the pile, at first carrying then shedding would-be tacklers into the clear along the Boise State sideline. Ajayi's highlight reel run of 28 yards gave Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford further evidence that his star running back vs. the Aztec defense was now a mismatch. Sanford continued to call Ajayi's number until San Diego State could stop him. They couldn't, as Ajayi rang up runs of 10 and 5 yards and Boise State had a 31-23 lead.

But the Mountain West Conference sports two of the nation's Top 10 running backs, and Pumphrey helped the Aztecs battle back with a five-play drive that culminated with a gorgeous 34-yard Pumphrey run to paydirt. Long went for a two-point play that failed, and San Diego State would never get closer.

Ajayi registered 28 yards worth of runs on Boise State's next possession, and Hedrick gained the final 16, outrunning the Aztec defense to the left corner of the end zone on a 13-yard scoring play for the game's final points.

Ajayi finished with 134 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries. He passed K.C. Adams, Chris Jackson, Doug Martin and Brock Forsey to vault into fifth on the season rushing list with 1,280. Ajayi now owns two of the Top 5 performances in school history, having rushed for 1,425 yards last season. (See chart at bottom of article.) Jay is in fifth all-time with 14 career 100-yard games.

Hedrick (19-28 for 187 yards) did a nice job of spreading the ball to seven different receivers, with Sperbeck once again leading the way with six receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. Williams-Rhodes had four catches for 32 yards, Anderson 2 for 48, and Ajayi 4 for 25 yards.

Hedrick also picked up 41 rushing yards to break the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. Grant now has 461 this year with three games to play. Hedrick, with 3,256 yards of total offense in 2014, climbed to #8 all-time at Boise State for a season.

Williams-Rhodes passed Mike Wilson and moved into a tie for sixth place on the career receiving list with 162 catches. (See chart at bottom of article.)

Pumphrey piled up 147 yards and two TD's, while Kaehler finished 17-29 passing for 173 yards and a touchdown for San Diego State.

Boise State advanced to 8-2 on the season, while the Aztecs fell to an even 5-5. In the Mountain Division of the conference, the Broncos continue to hold the trump card with a victory over Colorado State, which is tied with Boise State with a 5-1 league mark. The Aztecs, meanwhile, fell into a three-way tie in the Western Division with Fresno State and Nevada, all with 3-3 conference records.

That sets up an important tilt next week with Fresno State taking on Nevada. If Nevada wins, they will remain the team to beat in the Western Division. But if Fresno State wins, the Bulldogs will be in control by virtue of wins over both Nevada and San Diego State.

The unseasonably cold Boise weather did Boise State a favor in preparing them for next week's game against Wyoming in Laramie, notorious for freezing games in November.

Consecutive Seasons with 8 or More Wins:

1. Nebraska…33 (1969-2001)

2. Michigan…20 (1985-2004)

3. Princeton…19 (1888-1906)

3. Florida State…19 (1987-2005)

5. BYU…17 (1976-1992)

6. Pennsylvania…16 (1890-1905)

6. Boise State…16 (1999-2014)

6. Michigan…16 (1968-1983)

6. Tennessee…16 (1989-2004)

10. Virginia Tech…14 (1998-2011)

10. Miami of Florida…14 (1983-1996)

10. LSU….14 (2000-2013)

10. Oklahoma…14 (2000-2013)

14. Yale…13 (1886-1898)

14. Alabama…13 (1971-1983)

14. Georgia…13 (1997-2009)

17. Carlisle…12 (1902-1913)

17. Florida…12 (1990-2001)

17. Texas 12 (1998-2009)

20. Oklahoma…11 (1948-1958)

20. USC…11 (1972-1982)

20. Penn State…11 (1989-1999)

23. USC…10 (1924-1933)

23. Notre Dame…10 (1969-1978)

23. Oklahoma…10 (1971-1980)

Rushing, Season: 1. Ian Johnson (1,713) 2006

2. Brock Forsey (1,611) 2002

3. Cedric Minter (1,526) 1978

4. Jay Ajayi (1,425) 2013

5. Jay Ajayi (1,280) 2014

6. K.C. Adams (1,275) 1994

7. Chris Jackson (1,273) 1987

8. Doug Martin (1,260) 2010

9. Brock Forsey (1,207) 2001

10. Jeremy Avery (1,151) 2009

11. Doug Martin (1,148) 2011

12. Jon Francis (1,147) 1985

13. David Mikell (1,142) 2003

13. Eron Hurley (1,142) 1998

15. Rodney Webster (1,139) 1981

16. D.J. Harper (1,137) 2012

17. Cedric Minter (1,060) 1980

18. Ian Johnson (1,041) 2007

19. Rodney Webster (1,037) 1983

20. Jon Francis (1,025) 1984

21. Cedric Minter (1,012) 1979

22. Lee Marks (968) 2004

23. Brock Forsey (914) 2000

24. Chris Thomas (913) 1990

25. Chris Thomas (895) 1989

26. Cedric Minter (877) 1977

27. Chris Thomas (818) 1988

28. Reggie Etheridge (811) 1996

28. Chris Thomas (811) 1991

30. Rodney Webster (792) 1982

31. Ian Johnson (766) 2008

32. Doug Martin (765) 2009

33. Lee Marks (759) 2005

Career Receptions:

1. Matt Miller (234) 2011-current

2. Austin Pettis (228) 2007-2010

3. Titus Young (204) 2007-2010

4. Don Hutt (189) 1970-1973

5. Jeremy Childs (168) 2006-2008

6. Ryan Ikebe (162) 1993-1996

6. Shane Williams-Rhodes (162) 2012-current

8. Mike Wilson (159) 1990-1993

9. Jay Swillie (140) 1999-2002

9. Eric Andrade (140) 1983-1984/1986-1987

11. Mike Holton (139) 1972/1974-1976

12. Terry Hutt (132) 1973-1974/1976-1977

13. Lou Fanucchi (131) 1999-2002

14. Jeb Putzier (128) 1998-2001

15. Kim Metcalf (126) 1980-1984

16. Kipp Bedard (122) 1979-1981

16. Tyler Shoemaker (122) 2008-2011

18. Rodney Smith (117) 1997-1998

18. Sheldon Forehand (117) 1989-1992

20. Winky White (116) 1987-1990

20. Al Marshall (116) 1969-1972

22. Kirby Moore (115) 2009/2011-2013

22. Drisan James (115) 2003-2006

22. Billy Wingfield (115) 1998-1999/2001-2002

25. T.J. Acree (107) 2001-2004

26. Kyle Efaw (103) 2008-2011

26. Brock Forsey (103) 1999-2002

28. Tim Gilligan (101) 2000-2003

29. Terry Heffner (95) 1987-1990

30. Chris Thomas (93) 1987-1991

31. John Smith (89) 1972-1975

32. Geraldo Boldewijn (87) 2010-2013

33. Jeremy Avery (87) 2007-2010

34. Jarret Hausske (86) 1991-1994

35. David Hughes (80) 1977-1980

36. Mitch Burroughs (78) 2009-2012

36. Derek Schouman (78) 2003-2006

36. Larry Stayner (78) 1989-1991

39. Jerard Rabb 75) 2005-2006

40. Legedu Naanee (74) 2003-2006

40. Vinny Perretta (74) 2005-2008

42. Rodney Webster (70) 1980-1983

43. Doug Martin (67) 2008-2011

43. Jeremy Avery (67) 2007-2010

43. John Crabtree (67) 1974-1975

46. Jeff Lindsley (65) 1986-1988

46. Jay Ajayi (65) 2012-current

48. Lonnie Hughes (62) 1977-1978

49. Chris Potter (61) 2009-2012

50. Ian Johnson (60) 2005-2008

51. Lawrence Bady (59) 2003-2004

51. Duane Dlouhy (59) 1979-1981

53. Tony Hunter (57) 1984-1985

54. Steve Hale (52) 1984-1987

54. Jerry Smith (52) 2000-2003

56. Julian Hawkins (50) 2005-2008

57. Cedric Minter (49) 1977-1980

58. Aaron Burks (47) 2010-2013

58. David Mikell (47) 2000-2003

58. Corey Nelson (47) 1997-1998


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