Boise State, Boston College set for First Responder Bowl

Boston College Eagles head coach Steve Addazio during the first half against the Florida State Semioles at Doak Campbell Stadium on Nov. 17.Photo Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

— By Jack Magruder, The Sports Xchange —

Boise State has become a regular on the bowl stage, and Boston College is trending in that direction.

When the two meet in the First Responder Bowl in Dallas on Wednesday, a couple of things seem certain.

Boston College will pound the ball behind running back A.J. Dillon.

Boise State will pull a rabbit — or maybe even another engagement ring — out of its hat.

Adventurous plays have made the Broncos’ must-watch bowl TV.

The Broncos used three trick plays to beat Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, one of the most memorable bowl games in recent history. They ended the night 4-for-4 when head cheerleader Chrissy Propadics said “I do” after halfback Ian Johnson proposed marriage during a post-game interview.

No. 25 Boise State (10-3) is making its 16th straight bowl appearance and has won eight of its last 12 beginning with that Fiesta Bowl. Among its conquests are TCU, Utah, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon.

Boston College (7-5) is playing in its third straight bowl, and the school clearly believes more will follow after signing coach Steve Addazio to a two-year contract extension that will run through 2022.

“We’re playing a really good football team that has a history of playing very, very well and beating a lot of Power Five teams in bowl games,” Addazio told reporters.

Boise State entered bowl season with a 39.1 scoring average since 2000, the highest in the FBS. The Broncos’ .835 winning percentage in the same span also leads the FBS, just ahead of Ohio State and Oklahoma.

The Broncos won their final seven regular-season games, including must-win victories over Fresno State and Utah State, to earn their way into the Mountain West championship game before falling to Fresno State 19-16 in overtime the rematch.

Boise State halfback Alexander Mattison rushed for 200 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries. The Broncos not only out-gained Fresno (350-288) but also had the ball for 12 more minutes in the title game, but a missed field goal and a blocked extra point sent the game to overtime.

Quarterback Brett Rypien, the 2018 Mountain West offensive player of the year, enters bowl season having completed 301-of-447 passes for 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions during a season in which he set conference career records for passing yards (13,581), completions (1,036) and 300-yard games (21).

Mattison rushed for 1,415 yards and 17 touchdowns, and he had back-to-back 200 yards games to conclude the regular season. Mattison, a junior, had 894 yards and seven touchdowns in the last four games.

“Their quarterback is a very accurate thrower, and the tailback is one of the better tailbacks in the country,” Addazio said. “You have to stop the run, and yet you have two be cognizant of the fact they have a really good quarterback. That is going to be a challenge.

“They are a hard-playing, movement defense. We need to be able to run the football and have our play-action game wired up. We have to be better on third down on both sides of the ball. That’s been our focus.”

Dillon has had a second straight workhorse season, rushing for 1,108 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing two games with an ankle injury and being at less than full strength in several others. He had 1,589 yards, including eight 100-yard games and two 200-yard performances, after becoming the focal point of the offense a month into 2017.

Quarterback Anthony Brown passed for 2,121 yards and 20 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Among the Eagles’ strengths are senior defensive ends Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray, who combined for 15 1/2 of the Eagles’ 33 sacks. Ray had nine. Both are considered NFL prospects.

“I’ve talked to several coaches and they all say the same thing, ‘These guys are physical,'” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin told reporters.

“These guys are out there to beat you up. They are physical on offense. They have that tailback They are going to hand the ball to him and they are going to roll. Defensively, they are really big, and they have a couple of defensive ends that are as good as we have seen.

“It’s a tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar physical football team that gets their best guys playing well. To play with this team, you are going to have to play a physical game and prepare yourself for that.”

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