How important was the Fresno State Bulldogs’ 37-30 victory over the Boise State Broncos on Saturday?
“That’s a championship game,” said Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford, whose Bulldogs are No. 1 in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West rankings.
The championship Tedford was referring to is the rivalry’s Battle of the Milk Can, first given out in 2006. Boise State had won the last four Milk Can trophies before Saturday.
“We’ve won two Mountain West championship games against them (2018 and last year), but you only win the Milk Can in the regular-season games,” Tedford said. “Our guys were driven.”
No Bulldog, Tedford said, was more driven than running back Malik Sherrod. The 5-foot-8 Sherrod had 132 yards on 21 carries, including a 52-yard touchdown with 1:49 to play that gave Fresno State a 37-27 lead.
“You talk about being a Bulldog,” Tedford said. “That guy played possessed. I’m not kidding you.”
Sherrod also returned a kickoff 95 yards at the end of the first half for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead.
“I had a chip on my shoulder,” Sherrod said. “The last time we played those boys here (a 40-14 Boise win in 2021 at Fresno State) it left a bad taste in our mouths.”
Sherrod outraced the Boise State defense to the end zone on his final score.
“I saw two guys on my side chasing me,” he said. “But I knew I was faster than them.”
No. 4 Boise State fell to 4-5, 3-2 and is in jeopardy of its first losing season since 1997 (4-7).
“Five losses is never the standard here,” Broncos linebacker Andrew Simpson said.
Boise State had lost as many as five games in a season just once (2013) from 1999 through 2020. But this will be the second season (along with 2021) in the last three that the Broncos will lose five or more games.
“It hurts,” Boise State quarterback Maddux Madsen said. “It’s a tough situation right now.”
Boise State coach Andy Avalos said Sherrod’s kickoff return touchdown at the end of the half was the turning point of the game.
“Ultimately, we were always chasing those seven points,” Avalos said.
Air Force dropped out of the top spot in the rankings to No. 2 after a 23-3 loss to Army. The Falcons had more yards (259-253) and first downs (19-11), but Army controlled the ball for 32 minutes and forced two turnovers.
Air Force quarterback Zac Larrier was just 9-of-22 through the air for 93 yards.
No. 3 UNLV blitzed No. 12 New Mexico, 56-14. Three UNLV touchdowns were set up by punt returns of 59 and 53 yards by Jacob DeJesus and 49 yards by DeAngelo Irvin.
“The return game was huge,” UNLV coach Barry Odom said.
Another two Rebel scores were set up by New Mexico fumbles.
UNLV’s Ricky White also had touchdown catches of 30 and 50 yards.
The Rebels scored touchdowns on three one-play drives and also scored on one three- and one four-play drive. UNLV had the ball for just 22:42, scoring eight touchdowns on drives that totaled just 34 plays.
“I am excited about what our team did by starting fast,” Odom said. “We wanted to control it early.”
The Rebels, at 7-2 overall and 4-1 in league play, are now assured of their first winning season since 2013 (7-6). UNLV is also tied with Fresno State and trails just Air Force (5-0) in the Mountain West standings.
The top two teams in the standings will meet in the championship game on Dec. 2.
“The race is on,” said Odom, whose Rebels will meet Wyoming (this Saturday) and San Jose State (Nov. 25) at home and Air Force on the road (Nov. 18) to close out the regular season.
No. 5 Wyoming (6-3, 3-2) held off No. 8 Colorado State (3-6, 1-4), 24-15, on Friday in the rivalry’s annual Border War matchup.
Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley was 15-of-22 for 140 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 49 yards on 11 carries. Colorado State quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi was 24-of-42 for 220 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“The turnovers were really tough,” Colorado State coach Jay Norvell said. “They were critical.
“You can’t score 15 points in this league and be competitive. You can’t expect to win if you don’t score 30 points.”
The trophy in the Border War game is a bronze boot.
“Just grabbing that boot and being there with your brothers, it was really special,” Wyoming wide receiver Gunner Gentry said.
Wyoming became bowl eligible with the victory.
“It’s really great, the feeling when you grab the boot,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said.
No. 7 Utah State (4-5, 2-3), which hosts No. 11 Nevada this Saturday, beat No. 9 San Diego State, 32-24 in two overtimes.
San Diego State (3-6, 1-4) sent the game into overtime on a 23-yard field goal by Jack Browning with 33 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
The Aztecs took a 24-17 lead in overtime on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Mayden to Brionne Penny. Utah State countered with a Cooper Legas-to-Terrell Vaughn 18-yard touchdown pass and a 20-yard touchdown run by Robert Briggs in overtime.
“It’s tough on all of us,” San Diego State coach Brady Hoke said. “But the effort was good. We played physical.”
Nevada, now 2-7, 2-3, fell to No. 10 Hawaii, 27-14 at home to end its two-game winning streak. Wolf Pack quarterbacks Brendon Lewis and A.J. Bianco combined to complete just 6-of-24 passes.
Nevada, which will fall short of the six required victories for a bowl invitation, will close out its season with road games against Utah State (this Saturday) and Colorado State (Nov. 18) and a home game against Wyoming (Nov. 25).
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings for the week of Nov. 6:
1. FRESNO STATE (8-1, 4-1). Last week: Fresno State 37, Boise State 30. This week: Fresno State at San Jose State, Saturday.
2. AIR FORCE (8-1, 5-0). Last week: Army 23, Air Force 3. This week: Air Force at Hawaii, Saturday.
3. UNLV (7-2, 4-1). Last week: UNLV 56, New Mexico 14. This week: Wyoming at UNLV, Friday.
4. BOISE STATE (4-5, 3-2). Last week: Fresno State 37, Boise State 30. This week: New Mexico at Boise State, Saturday.
5. WYOMING (6-3, 3-2). Last week: Wyoming 24, Colorado State 15. This week: Wyoming at UNLV, Friday.
6. SAN JOSE STATE (4-5, 3-2). Last week: Bye. This week: Fresno State at San Jose State, Saturday.
7. UTAH STATE (4-5, 2-3). Last week: Utah State 32, San Diego State 24, 2 OT. This week: Nevada at Utah State, Saturday.
8. COLORADO STATE (3-6, 1-4). Last week: Wyoming 24, Colorado State 15. This week: San Diego State at Colorado State, Saturday.
9. SAN DIEGO STATE (3-6, 1-4). Last week: Utah State 32, San Diego State 24, 2 OT. This week: San Diego State at Colorado State, Saturday.
10. HAWAII (3-7, 1-4). Last week: Hawaii 27, Nevada 14. This week: Air Force at Hawaii, Saturday.
11. NEVADA (2-7, 2-3): Last week: Hawaii 27, Nevada 14. This week: Nevada at Utah State, Saturday.
12. NEW MEXICO (3-6, 1-4). Last week: UNLV 56, New Mexico 14. This week: New Mexico at Boise State, Saturday.