5 Thoughts Fiesta: Boise State 38, Arizona 30

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team after the VIZIO Fiesta Bowl

Dec. 31 VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
Boise State 38, Arizona 30

And You Care Because … Boise State dominated early, and then hung on for dear life late as Arizona QB Anu Solomon was sacked deep in Bronco territory as time ran out. The Broncos got out to a 21-0 first quarter lead as Jay Ajayi tore off touchdown runs from 56 and 16 yards out, and Chaz Anderson caught a 57-yard touchdown pass, and Ajayi answered a Solomon one-yard scoring run with a one-yard run of his own. But it was mostly Arizona the rest of the way as Casey Skowron hit three field goals, Nick Wilson ran for a one-yard score, and Samajie Grant caught a 51-yard touchdown pass to help get within eight, but the Bronco defense held on late with a 16-yard pick six from Donte Deayon and the late stop.
What Else? Boise State RB Jay Ajayi ran 22 times for 134 yards and three scores
- Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 28-of-49 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown with two picks, and ran 23 times for 32 yards and a touchdown
- Boise State QB Grant Hedrick completed 24-of-34 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown with a pick, and WR Thomas Sperbeck caught 12 passes for 199 yards
- Total yards: Arizona 492 – Boise State 471
Game Rating: A

By Pete Fiutak
1. This isn’t like it was a few years ago when Boise State was shocking the world by beating Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta – the landscape has changed. The haves have more, the have-nots have less, and most of the star programs moved along into the Power 5 conferences with the separation between the two levels growing wider and wider. And yet Boise State not only showed that it belonged on the same field as Arizona, it did everything right with a great start, a tough finish, and getting through the in-game adversity to pull off the huge victory for the program, the Mountain West, and the little guy who wasn’t represented until the very, very end in the College Football Playoff ranking process. For Boise State, this showed that the torch really has been passed from Dirk Koetter, to Dan Hawkins, to Chris Petersen to Bryan Harsin. The machine keeps on rolling, and now, with a 12-win season, everything is back to normal for the power program among the non-power conferences.

By Rich Cirminiello
2. You had everyone at the Statue of Liberty, Boise State.

When the Broncos tapped into their old bag of tricks—and their Fiesta Bowl past—with a 16-yard Jay Ajayi touchdown run off a Statue of Liberty fake in the first quarter, you had to know it was going to be their night. Yeah, Boise State buckled and went cold in the second half, but they were able to hang on to beat No. 10 Arizona for a third Fiesta Bowl victory in eight years.

The Broncos were terrific, and rookie head coach Bryan Harsin has done a bang-up job of keeping the train on the tracks in a world without Chris Petersen. But Boise State was aided by a rare freshman moment from Arizona QB Anu Solomon, who killed any chance for overtime when he took a red-zone sack with seconds left on the clock and no timeouts left in the vault. It was a microcosm for an evening in which the Boise D flushed Solomon repeatedly and forced him into one of his most ordinary and ineffective efforts of 2014.

No Pete. No problem. Boise State recaptured the magic that made this program a national phenomenon, jumping all over favored Arizona, and then hanging on for dear life as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

E-mail Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFB
3. Paging the Big 12. If the powers that be are looking to add a couple of teams to be in position to have a conference championship game, it could to a lot worse than picking up the phone and calling the football offices in Boise, Idaho. The Broncos have been the non-power five darlings of college football world ever since it hit the big stage in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma in 2007.

Don’t laugh. The league has already pulled in darling 1B in the form of TCU, and that’s worked out more than fine. By luring Boise State, the league would be one team closer, there would be a natural rival with TCU, and there would also be instant credibility by adding a team that has already shown it can hang with the big boys prior to being propped up by a power five conference.

For now, the Broncos showed again that the Fiesta Bowl and Bronco magic go together like Idaho potatoes and steak. And while Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon pulled an all-timer of a brain cramp by taking a sack deep in the red zone with no time-outs, the Broncos played up to its competition yet again. It’s time to give the Bronco program it’s due, again.

4. What’s next for Boise State
This might be just the beginning for a Bronco team that should be the class of the Mountain West once again if it can figure out its backfield. QB Grant Hedrick is gone with Ryan Finley the likely heir apparent, but the big loss could be RB Jay Ajayi if he saves his body from all the touches and takes off early for the NFL. The line returns all five starters, and while Dallas Burroughs is gone, most of the top targets return.

The defense has to replace Beau Martin on the line, but the rest of the front four is back along with all three linebackers and all the key backups. S Jeremy Ioane is tough to replace, but the other three starters are back to what should be a lockdown secondary. PK Dan Goodale is gone, but P Sean Wale returns after averaging 41 yards per punt.

5. What’s next for Arizona
Was this just the start for Arizona under Rich Rodriguez? Starting with Anu Solomon under center gives the team its star to work around, and backs Nick Wilson and Jared Baker should help the ground game rock. The young receiving corps loses Austin Hill, but gets everyone else of note back to make Solomon shine. The concern is the line that loses both tackles and C Steven Gurrola.

DE Reggie Gilbert and DT Dan Pettinato are gone off the defensive line – only NT Parker Zellers returns - but all three starters are back at linebacker including Scooby Wright to do everything in the middle. Three starters are gone from the secondary including Jared Tevis and Jourdon Grandon, but William Parks is back at one safety spot. P Drew Riggleman returns after a huge year after averaging over 46 yards per punt, and PK Casey Skowron returns after a nice season.


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