Preying on San Diego State, Boise State’s ‘predator’ delivers road win in league opener

The beeping sound of a forklift backing up briefly interrupted Ashton Jeanty’s postgame interview Friday night at Snapdragon Stadium.

Fittingly, only heavy machinery could stop him Friday night.

Jeanty ran for a career-high 205 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries to assure Boise State a 34-31 victory over San Diego State in the Mountain West opener for both teams. It was the Broncos’ 24th consecutive win in a conference opener, including 13 straight in Mountain West play.

“He’s a mix of like a predator and something else. That dude is unbelievable,” Boise State edge Demitri Washington said. “I’m grateful that he’s here. It’s incredible that he’s here, and he’s an incredible player. And one of the hardest workers I’ve seen and one of the hardest runners I’ve ever seen.”

Jeanty became the first Boise State running back to rush for 200-plus yards in a game since Alexander Mattison — now with the Minnesota Vikings — did it in 2018 against Fresno State. Jeanty also caught four passes for 49 yards, giving him 254 all-purpose yards against the Aztecs. He accounted for 12 of Boise State’s 19 first downs, and he made the SDSU defense look helpless all night.

“I think it’s just a mentality I come up with that I’m not gonna go down,” Jeanty said. “It’s my job to make guys miss and break tackles. And when your O-line gives you holes like that, you’ve gotta finish the job for them.”

After Boise State managed just 26 yards and zero points in the first quarter, the Broncos put Jeanty to work. He had just two carries in the opening 15 minutes, but he kickstarted the Broncos’ first scoring drive of the second quarter with a 37-yard scamper on a screen pass.

Jeanty later gave Boise State a 14-10 lead on a 58-yard scoring run that saw him break two tackles and evade a diving defender as he raced to the end zone. Jeanty had 137 rushing yards by halftime.

“We said at halftime, we’re gonna keep feeding the horse,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said. “The O-line was all in. I’d take those guys every day of the week, and they continued to do it. We got right back to it after that first drive in the second half, and Ashton kept doing it. Just really proud of him.”

The score was tied 17-17 at halftime, but Boise State went ahead for good on a 27-yard field goal from Jonah Dalmas with 4:52 to play in the third quarter. Quarterback Taylen Green added a third-quarter score on a 10-yard run following a fumble, and Jeanty polished off the Broncos’ scoring with a 6-yard run with 2:02 remaining in the game.

Green completed 12-of-22 passes for 162 yards and a 25-yard TD toss to redshirt sophomore Eric McAlister in the second quarter. He also rushed for 25 yards and another score. McAlister was Green’s top target with five grabs for 90 yards.

“I’m proud of the team for coming on the road here, in our first conference game, to play a very tough and physical opponent,” Avalos said. “I love the way the team worked together tonight in all three phases. It wasn’t perfect, it never is. We’re going to watch a lot of film and find some things we need to clean up, but there’s a lot of things to celebrate.”

Boise State is on the road again next week against Memphis in the first meeting between the two programs. Kickoff is 2 p.m. Mountain time Sept. 30 at Liberty Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

Defense forces two fumbles

The Boise State defense bailed itself out on San Diego State’s opening drive after allowing a 71-yard kick return.

Safety Rodney Robinson forced his first career fumble when he knocked the ball loose from SDSU quarterback Jalen Mayden, and linebacker Andrew Simpson swooped in for his second fumble recovery in as many games.

“I love our guys and how, you know, when their back was against the wall down there, they came up with takeaways and they fought,” Avalos said.

The Broncos managed another takeaway in the third quarter when defensive end Ahmed Hassanein forced Mayden’s second fumble, with edge Jayden Virgin collecting his first career recovery.

True freshman jumps in on kick return

Rocky Mountain High standout Troy Wilkey wasn’t about to miss his opportunity.

Standing beside fellow kick returner Kaden Dudley, Wilkey — a true freshman — stepped in front and fielded a kick for a 19-yard return, which was the first of his collegiate career.

“The whole team will tell you that Troy’s a dude,” Avalos said. “And what I mean by that is he is so passionate in his mentality. Talk about a guy that shows up every single day and has fun playing the game, and plays it a certain way, the way it should be played.”

As a senior at Rocky Mountain, Wilkey totaled 64 tackles and added four scores on special teams to earn first-team All-Idaho honors.

Boise State without two starters

Boise State played Friday’s Mountain West opener against San Diego State without six players, including two starters.

Running back George Holani has not played since the Broncos’ season opener at Washington and was out once again against the Aztecs. Fellow starter Ben Dooley, the team’s left guard, also was out, according to a Boise State spokesperson.

Joining Holani and Dooley on the injury list were wide receivers Chase Penry and Cole Wright, running back Tyler Crowe and offensive lineman Ethan Carde.

Of note, starting linebacker DJ Schramm, who missed last week’s victory over North Dakota, was declared active for Friday’s game and played in a limited role. Schramm led the Boise State defense last season with 107 tackles.


The Broncos wore white jerseys, blue pants and blue helmets. ... Team captains DJ Schramm and Riley Smith were joined by wide receiver Billy Bowens and defensive tackle Michael Callahan as game captains. ... Boise State won the coin toss and elected to defer. ... Boise State was led onto the field by safety Bryce Cleave, with the Dan Paul Hammer. ... Edge Demitri Washington carried the American flag and center Garrett Curran the Bleed Blue flag.