The most anticipated game in the Mountain West ranked Boise State Broncos entertaining the TCU Horned Frogs at Bronco Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Boise State, which made the move from the Western Athletic Conference for this year and is now being courted by the Big East Conference for the future, is one of only five teams still undefeated on the 2011 campaign and is tied with three other schools for the longest current win streak in the nation at 10 in a row. Last weekend, the Broncos started out a big shaky against UNLV, but eventually the team secured a convincing 48-21 victory at Sam Boyd Stadium. With the win, Kellen Moore became the NCAA's all-time winningest quarterback with his 46th victory, surpassing the 45 wins recorded by Texas signal-caller Colt McCoy.
"Certainly it's neat," Moore said of becoming the winningest quarterback. "You have a lot of respect for the guys that are on that list. Obviously, I've been very fortunate. We're kind of focused more on the field at the moment."
Boise State, which hasn't lost since bowing to Nevada in overtime last November, has a huge 35-game home win streak, the longest active streak in the country.
As for the Horned Frogs, winners of four in a row, they too had a rough start in their latest outing but still pulled out a 31-20 win over Wyoming on the road last Saturday. The victory was the seventh in the last eight outings for a TCU squad that has suffered wild setbacks against two Texas-based opponents in Baylor and SMU. TCU is attempting to start 5-0 in conference for the fourth straight season.
BSU won the most recent meeting with TCU in 2010, a 17-10 triumph in the Fiesta Bowl when both teams headed into the postseason undefeated. With the victory, the Broncos have won two of the first three meetings in the series. This matchup is actually the first between the teams in the regular season, the previous three all coming in bowl games.
Working against the Horned Frogs this week is the fact that Boise State has won all but two of 74 home games since the start of the 2000 season. However, TCU tends to rise up against favored opponents, defeating three of its last four top-five opponents.
The TCU defense stepped up its efforts against the Cowboys in Laramie in the second half, holding the hosts to just three points, but still it was not an easy victory for the visitors by any stretch. Offensively, Casey Pachall converted 17-of-24 passes for 227 yards, but it was again the running attack that issued the win as the team gained an incredible 390 yards and scored four TDs thanks to the efforts of Waymon James (181 yards), Ed Wesley (120 yards, two TDs) and Matthew Tucker (90 yards, two TDs), although the last two also fumbled the ball away two times apiece which kept Wyoming in the mix for far too long.
"We were lucky," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said after the win. "We were lucky we held them to three points in the second half and our offense found a way to score just enough. You've got to protect the football. We didn't do a good job of that today. We won't be able to win the games next week if we don't protect the football."
James, who was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week after recording a career-high in rushing yards, is now the overall rushing leader for the Horned Frogs on the season with his 652 yards, although his four TD runs is still just third on the team. Tucker, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, has hit the end zone nine times, while Matt Brown has recorded five rushing TDs on just 19 carries in seven appearances.
After being one of the stingiest defenses in the nation over the last few years, the Horned Frogs have taken more than a few steps backwards now, allowing opponents to throw for 225.2 ypg, which ranks fifth in the MWC and 61st in the nation. Nevertheless, Stansly Maponga has still raised his visibility by pacing the unit with 7.5 TFL, six sacks and four forced fumbles.
With just under five minutes remaining in the first half the Broncos were actually tied with UNLV on the road at 14-14, but then the visitors rattled off 34 straight points to put the game out of reach. Moore connected on 18- of-31 passes for just 219 yards, but he did toss five touchdowns, two each going to Matt Miller and Tyler Shoemaker. Doug Martin was held to a mere nine yards on six carries before getting injured, but thankfully D.J. Harper stepped up with 109 yards and a score for the rushing attack and head coach Chris Petersen couldn't have been happier.
"You know, D.J. is a warrior. We've got complete and total confidence in him to do whatever we need to do on offense. We know he is going to make yards. We've always said that. He's very good and making tackles and he is much stronger than he appears. I'm glad he got the rock a lot tonight."
Moore, who has now thrown multiple TDs in 21 straight outings, has delivered at least three passing scores in seven of eight games this season, which is why he is again a candidate for All-America honors and is once more a dark horse for Heisman Trophy consideration as well. The quarterback has completed an incredible 74.1 percent of his pass attempts and now has 29 TDs, against just five interceptions, giving him a pass efficiency rating of 179.51 which is tops in the MWC and fourth in the nation.
Even though they don't get much recognition, the offensive line for the Broncos has been stellar this year, giving Moore plenty of time to check off receivers and at the same time opening holes for running backs to exploit defenses. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that the Broncos have allowed just 0.50 sacks per game which is tops in the league and third in the nation at the moment.
There have been a few times that the BSU defense has not played up to billing this season, but the bottom line is that the pass defense is fifth in the country with just 162.5 ypg allowed and is 12th with 16.8 ppg permitted as well.