BOISE, Idaho — Boise State didn't need to be perfect to beat Fresno State in the Mountain West championship game Saturday night. The 22nd-ranked Broncos just needed senior quarterback Grant Hedrick and a handful of big defensive plays.
Hedrick ran for two touchdowns and accounted for more than 75 percent of the team's offense in leading Boise State to a 28-14 win.
The Broncos (11-2), who claimed a share of the conference title in 2012, won their first outright league championship since joining the Mountain West four years ago. Boise State, which needed perfect seasons in the past to gain access to a BCS bowl, preserved their chance to get the lone slot for a team outside the power five conferences in a major New Year's Day bowl game.
"The goal from when we set out this season was to be in this game — and when we got into this game, the goal was to win this game," said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, who took over the program from Chris Petersen after last season. "To accomplish that goal is a credit to our approach to the game each and every week.
"It's been up and down but mostly up. I'm very excited about this opportunity that we had tonight and that we won it."
Hedrick was 9 of 16 passing for 155 yards, and had 81 yards rushing with the two scores to earn the game's offensive MVP honors.
"The last year has been crazy, but it just goes to show you the type of chemistry we have and the kind of team we have and what a brotherhood we are," Hedrick said. "It's been a crazy experience going through spring ball and then to be here and bringing home the first outright MWC trophy — it's huge and goes to show you what a great program we have."
Tanner Vallejo, who had 13 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown, won the defensive MVP award.
After winning the inaugural Mountain West championship game last year, the Bulldogs (6-7) lost to the Broncos for the second time this season.
Fresno State, led by quarterback Brian Burrell's 332 yards passing, outgained Boise State on offense, rolling up 402 yards to 303 for the Broncos.
"We came into the game, expecting to win. I think our guys competed like it," Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. "We kept fighting, we kept believing, and kept trying to make plays to get back into the game.
"But give Boise State credit. They made some plays when they had to. And there's clearly a home-field advantage here. But Boise State earned it and they finished it off."
The Bulldogs limited Boise State star running back Jay Ajayi to 70 yards rushing and prevented him from breaking the school record for yards rushing in a season.
Ajayi, projected to go between the second and third rounds of next year's NFL draft, also saw his school record-tying streak of consecutive 100-yard games snapped at seven.
Fresno State held Boise State to 83 yards of total offense in the second half. But it didn't matter as the Broncos relied on their opportunistic defense to secure the victory.
"Any time a team plays well on defense, you have a pretty good football team," Harsin said. "We needed our defense to be the most relentless unit on a field tonight. We had an interception by a linebacker returned for a touchdown and a defensive lineman who I didn't know could catch until tonight. ... Our defensive unit just had a fantastic night."
On Boise State's opening possession, Hedrick needed only four plays to drive the Broncos 77 yards for a touchdown. He completed a 46-yard pass to Chaz Anderson before he scored on a 20-yard run two plays later.
With 1:56 left in the first quarter, Boise State extended its lead to 14-0 when Vallejo intercepted a pass from Burrell and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown.
Fresno State appeared primed to get on the scoreboard until Boise State defensive tackle Armand Nance wrecked their chances on back-to-back plays. On third down from the Boise State 11, Nance sacked Burrell. On the ensuing 35-yard field-goal try, Nance knifed through the line and blocked Kody Kroening's kick.
Boise State then marched 72 yards in 11 plays, scoring when Ajayi bulled his way into the end zone on a 9-yard run. Dan Goodale's extra point gave the Broncos a 21-0 lead with 9:03 left in the first quarter.
The Broncos took the opening drive of the second half 86 yards on seven plays, scoring when Hedrick raced into the end zone on a 21-yard scamper.
Fresno State finally cracked Boise State's stingy defense late in the third quarter. It wasn't easy, though.
The Bulldogs needed 19 plays to march 96 yards before Josh Quezada scored on a 2-yard run with 3:18 left in the quarter. Kroening hit the extra point to cut Boise State's lead to 28-7.
Fresno State pulled to 28-14 with 5:41 left in the game when Burrell connected with Greg Watson on a 25-yard scoring strike.
The Bulldogs threatened to make it close late in the game after recovering an onside kick, but Beau Martin intercepted Burrell's pass at the line of scrimmage to seal the victory.
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