Avery had three plays of longer than 60 yards and Young scored two touchdowns, providing just some of the many highlight-reel plays in the 10th-ranked Broncos' 51-34 victory Friday night.
Avery scored on a 67-yard swing pass to break the game open in the fourth quarter and Young provided perhaps the biggest play of all, diving on Avery's fumble in the end zone to complete a 75-yard score as Boise State (3-0, 1-0) won for the 57th time in its past 59 Western Athletic Conference games.
Few were as entertaining as this one. The Broncos broke out to a 24-3 lead then had to scramble to win and keep alive its hopes for making it back to a Bowl Championship Series game.
"We knew we had to answer back as an offense," said Avery, who gained 269 yards from scrimmage. "We didn't let it get to us. We knew we had a high-powered offense and could do the same thing. We gathered our troops and we all clicked. When we all clicked there was no stopping us."
Fresno State (1-2, 0-1) got three touchdown runs of at least 60 yards from Ryan Mathews but again fell short against a ranked team, losing for the 10th straight time against teams in the Top 25. The skid started with a 50-42 loss to No. 1 Southern California in 2005. This game provided the appropriate bookend.
With the Friday night stage to themselves, Boise State and Fresno State provided enough big plays to last the weekend. The Broncos had two 77-yard kickoff returns, an interception return for a touchdown, a 60-yard touchdown run by D.J. Harper, and the big plays from Avery.
"A lot of playmakers making plays out there," said Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, who threw three touchdown passes. "Good running backs on both sides making plays out of nothing and breaking tackles here and there."
The first of Avery's plays came on a long run that appeared to be bound for the end zone. But A.J. Jefferson poked the ball loose just before Avery scored. With the ball rolling toward the back of the end zone for an apparent touchback and Boise State turnover, Young made a diving recovery before sliding out of bounds for the score that made it 34-24.
Avery then answered a Fresno State score with the long screen pass that restored a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter and he added a 69-yard run that set up a field goal. Avery finished with 186 yards on 11 carries, with 83 more yards receiving.
Fresno State had plenty of big plays of its own, starting with the touchdown runs of 69, 60 and 68 yards by Mathews. Chastin West made a leaping 41-yard catch that was nearly an interception as Brandyn Thompson tried to wrestle the ball away and Devon Wylie made an acrobatic 21-yard touchdown catch from Ryan Colburn on the next play.
Boise State appeared to pull away with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Moore to Austin Pettis in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, making it 41-27. But Mathews answered with his 68-yard run, part of a 234-yard night.
Then one play after Marvin Haynes dropped a potential interception for Fresno State, Avery took Moore's screen pass all the way for the third touchdown in the first 2 minutes of the fourth quarter, making it 48-34.
"Every time we closed the gap, Boise, to their credit, would make a big play," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "When it looked like we would have a chance to get the ball back, bang, they'd make a play."
The rout appeared to be on early for Boise State. Winston Venable returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game. The Broncos added a field goal by Kyle Brotzman and the long run by Harper to make it 17-0 before Fresno State even managed a first down. Harper finished with 107 yards rushing before leaving with an undisclosed injury.
That extended Boise State's run of consecutive points against Fresno State to 68, dating to late in the second quarter of last year's 61-10 Broncos' victory. The lead grew to 24-3 before Mathews single-handedly brought the Bulldogs back with two long touchdowns that cut Boise State's halftime lead to 24-17.
"When you can't control the run game, it's not a good feeling," Broncos coach Chris Petersen said. "We had that going on for both sides. We had guys in position, we just didn't tackle well. That's the bottom line. We're really fortunate we could miss tackles like that, give up that many yards and points and still come up with the `W."
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