BOISE, Idaho (AP) - During Boise State’s last run at a major bowl appearance in 2010, several national media members expressed their support for the Broncos by talking about riding the Boise State Bus.
In 2014, the Broncos are riding a train toward a possible New Year’s Day bowl berth - more specifically, the J-Train.
Jay Ajayi rushed for a career-high 229 yards and five touchdowns as the Broncos crushed Utah State 50-19 on Saturday night and secured a spot in the Mountain West title game next week.
The Broncos’ recent run at an access slot in a New Year’s Day bowl game seemed improbable at the end of September when Boise State was 3-2, following a crushing loss to Air Force, but Ajayi said the Broncos never lost their focus.
“The feeling around the facility was that we could get this kind of season done,” Ajayi said. “Where we’re at right now is not surprising to any of us, and we’re excited to be in this spot.
“But we’re not worried about (the bowl), our goal is to win the Mountain West championship.”
The Broncos (10-2, 7-1) won their 13th straight home game and will host Fresno State for the conference championship on Saturday.
Utah State (9-4, 6-2) dropped its first November road game since 2009 and failed to return to the conference title game after representing the Mountain Division last year.
“This was a very, very disappointing loss,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said. “It was very uncharacteristic of us. We didn’t have the answers, starting with me. We didn’t execute enough and didn’t play physical enough.”
With the division title on the line in a game that boasted the Mountain West’s top offense in Boise State and top defense in Utah State, the matchup was decisively one-sided.
“There was a comment coming into this game that something needed to give, and we knew that,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “So, we wanted to start out fast on the offensive side, and we were able to do that. We had a lot of guys make plays and do a lot of good things.”
Boise State racked up 498 total yards and scored touchdowns on its first five possessions as it had its way against the nation’s fifth-best scoring defense.
“I think everyone knows that’s not one of our best performances, and that’s not how we want to play Aggie defense,” Utah State safety Frankie Sutera said. “Our number one goal going into the game was to stop Ajayi. We didn’t, and he made us pay.”
Ajayi, whose trademark fist pump is accompanied by a train whistle blaring over the public address system when he scores, sparked the Boise State offense early and often in torching the Aggies.
“We knew Utah State had a great defense and we had to take advantage of each and every drive,” said Ajayi, who eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the seventh consecutive game. “But when we were able to put so many points on the board early, we knew the defense would do their thing, and we’d be all right.”
In the game’s opening moments it appeared as though the teams might be gearing up for a high-scoring duel.
Utah State’s LaJuan Hunt raced 55 yards on the Aggies’ first offensive play, but the drive stalled, and then ended when Nick Diaz missed a 39-yard field goal wide right.
On its first possession, Boise State marched 79 yards in nine plays and scored on a 9-yard run by Ajayi to set the tone.
The Broncos built a 14-0 lead when Hedrick hit Alec Dhaenens on a 2-yard pass play.
Utah State responded with a seven-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a 9-yard touchdown run by Kent Myers. Diaz’s extra point cut Boise State’s lead to 14-7.
But then the Boise State defense took over - and its offense never stopped.
Ajayi capped a six-play, 72-yard drive with a jaw-dropping touchdown run. From the Aggies 18, Ajayi took a handoff up the middle and appeared to be stuffed at the line before bouncing backward and spinning outside. He outran a host of Utah State defenders to the far corner of the end zone.
“That touchdown run he had was unbelievable,” Hedrick said. “My favorite part of the game is getting to watch him run. He’s playing great right now.”
Ajayi added another 8-yard scoring run, followed by a 24-yard scoring strike from Hedrick to Thomas Sperbeck as Boise State built a 34-9 lead.
Utah State added a 46-yard field goal by Diaz to trim the deficit to 34-12 heading into halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, Ajayi helped Boise State put the game away with scoring runs of 62 yards and 1 yard.
The Broncos hope to maintain their momentum as they find themselves on the cusp of returning to the national spotlight.
“It’s a dream come true, really,” Hedrick said. “Being in the position to have this opportunity, is exciting.
“I remember playing basketball in high school and watching Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl and thinking I’d love to be in that spot someday.”
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