COLORADO – If this isn’t the low point of the Andy Avalos era at Boise State, it’s got to be close.
Up 20 points with 6:12 to play? A team they’ve never lost to before? A chance to stay undefeated in Mountain West play?
All gone in the blink of an eye.
And the questions are only going to get bigger.
The Boise State football team suffered a stunning 31-30 loss at Colorado State on Saturday night on a 33-yard Hail Mary touchdown on a tipped pass in the end zone as time expired. The Broncos, who gave up 21 points in the final 4:01, dropped to 3-4 on the year.
“That’s a hard one to swallow,” Avalos said.
Colorado State scored, recovered an onside kick and scored again to pull within 30-24 with 1:53 left. Boise State was unable to get a first down and run out the clock and punted the ball back to Colorado State with 42 seconds left and the Rams needing 88 yards to win the game.
After a 44-yard pass to Tory Horton, Colorado State had one play with four seconds left from the Boise State 33 yard line. And the Hail Mary proved to be just that, as the pass from Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi was tipped in the end zone and caught by Dallin Holker to tie the score at 30 as time expired. The Rams made the extra point to win 31-30 and fans stormed the field while Boise State players stood in disbelief.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Boise State running back Ashton Jeanty, who finished with 212 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. “We have to finish games out. I don’t know how to explain it. We have to do better. We have to figure out how to make a change and be able to finish games when we’re up like that.”
There are plenty of issues and problems with the Broncos, notably at quarterback. The Broncos continued to use both Taylen Green and Maddux Madsen in confusing ways Saturday, leading to questions about whether Madsen has supplanted Green as the starter after Madsen entered for Green on most third-and-long situations throughout the game and played much of the second half.
Boise State’s defense, which pitched a shutout in dominating fashion in the first half, also showed they’ve still got major problems. The Broncos gave up 31 points in the second half.
The Broncos have now blown 17-0 leads in two of the past three games. They also saw a perfect 12-0 mark against Colorado State become 12-1.
More startling: they dropped to 20-13 in the Avalos era and with tough games left against Wyoming and Air Force at home and Fresno State and Utah State on the road, it seems like an uphill climb even for the Broncos to reach six wins and qualify for a bowl.
“This is a very disappointing loss,” Avalos said. “We were in position to handle the game with six minutes left. … We just weren’t able to finish tonight.”
A few more thoughts from a stunning night in Fort Collins…
EMOTIONAL NOTARAINNI APOLOGIZES TO FANS
Boise State linebacker Marco Notarainni, who led the Broncos with 10 tackles, broke into tears when asked about his message to fans following the loss.
“It’s tough (thinking about) Bronco Nation,” Notarainni said. “It’s a community that cares a lot about this team and we care a lot about the community. Behind closed doors we put a lot of work in and we care about each other, and it’s just frustrating.
“All I can say is sorry. I feel bad for Bronco Nation. I feel bad for the families that traveled out here. All we can do is just move on.”
TWO-QB SYSTEM REMAINS A WORK IN PROGRESS
Twice in the first half Boise State switched quarterbacks mid-drive – and the new quarterback was intercepted on the next play.
First Green had a pass tipped and intercepted by Colorado State’s Henry Blackburn after entering the game following a nice 10-yard completion for a first down from Madsen late in the first quarter.
Madsen then came in on 3rd-and-7 midway through the second quarter and threw into double coverage and was intercepted by the Rams’ Chigozie Anusiem.
The Broncos switched from Green to Madsen several times in passing situations on third-and-long.
“Every game the flow of the game and what we’re getting from a particular defense is going to determine what situations or what part of the game plan we’re going to work towards and what guys have shown to be more efficient in doing so,” Avalos said.
BRONCOS HAVE SPECIAL BACK IN JEANTY
Jeanty had 167 yards and two touchdowns in the first half on 20 carries. He scored on a 3-yard run on Boise State’s first possession to give the Broncos an early 7-0 lead, and added another 3-yard run early in the second quarter to push the advantage to 14-0.
Somehow he only got two carries on Boise State’s first two drives of the second half, which not coincidentally both ended with punts.
Jeanty scored a third rushing touchdown with 6:12 to play to put the Broncos up 30-10 – seemingly putting the game away. He then recovered an onside kick with the Broncos clinging to a 30-24 lead with less than two minutes left. But neither proved to be enough.
BRONCO DEFENSE STARTS STRONG
Boise State’s defense got off to a strong start, forcing four consecutive 3-and-outs to start the game. It wasn’t until 10:10 left in the second quarter when the Rams finally got a first down – which brought sarcastic cheers from a loud and restless crowd.
Boos came from the crowd three plays later when the Rams were forced to punt for the fifth time on five possessions. Boise State’s defense allowed just 27 yards on 18 plays by the midway point of the second quarter.
The Rams finally moved the ball a bit on their final drive of the half, but Kaonohi Kaniho blocked a 45-yard field goal attempt as time expired to send the Broncos into the break with a 17-0 lead.
Colorado State had just 71 total yards in the first half on 29 plays – an average of just 2.4 yards-per-play. Boise State had five tackles-for-loss and a sack in the first half and held star wide receiver Horton, a first-team All-Mountain West pick, to two catches for five yards.
Things of course changed in the second half when the Broncos gave up 21 points in the final 4:02 of the game.
-Colorado State leading tackler Chase Wilson, who had 54 tackles in five games coming in, was disqualified for targeting on Boise State’s first possession of the game for a hit on quarterback Maddux Madsen. The linebacker led the Mountain West with 10.8 tackles per game entering the weekend.
-Rams defensive lineman Kennedy McDowell was taken off the field on a stretcher following a scary scene on the opening kickoff of the second half. McDowell was hit by Boise State’s Chase Martin away from the play and fell hard to the ground. Both teams knelt on the ground for several minutes while McDowell was attended to before he left on a stretcher. Colorado State said he was “responsive and has movement in his extremities” and was transferred to UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins “for further evaluation”.
-Boise State safety Alexander Teubner was ejected in the third quarter for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a span of three plays. Teubner’s first came after he shoved a Colorado State player during a scrum in which three Rams were given unsportsmanlike penalties – two offensive linemen and a coach.He was given a second one after Colorado State’s touchdown two plays later,
-Boise State was without four starters Saturday: linebacker DJ Schramm, running back George Holani, center Garrett Curran and EDGE Demitri Washington.
-The Broncos will now enjoy their lone bye week of the season. The Broncos will be back in action on Oct. 28 when they host Wyoming. A kick time is expected to be announced on Monday.
Watch B.J. Rains, Mike Sanford and Jay Tust discuss the stunning 31-30 loss on the Lithia Ford of Boise Postgame Show: