Trick plays? Check. Long bombs and ‘Holy Moly’ catches? Check. Trade-off interceptions? Check. Drama every drive? Check.
No. 20 Boise State’s 38-30 win over the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats in the 2014 VIZIO Fiesta Bowl Wednesday had it all.
The theatrics began early, when Broncos quarterback Grant Hendrick and running back Jay Ajayi pulled a throwback out of the playbook — a mirror image of the Statue of Liberty play that Boise State made in the Fiesta Bowl almost eight years ago against Oklahoma (that play was off a two-point conversion in overtime for the win).
The resulting touchdown put the Broncos up 21-0 with over five minutes left in the first quarter.
Arizona rallied with a rushing touchdown by quarterback Anu Solomon to end the first, and the ‘Cats continued to fight back, trailing 31-17 at the half and holding the Broncos to just two yards on 14 plays in the third quarter.
Yet Arizona’s trouble finishing drives (they settled for three field goals in Boise State territory and gave up a third-quarter pick-six) stifled their momentum.
A Boise State turnover on downs gave Arizona the ball back down eight points with 2:53 left. Solomon drove his team into Broncos territory with some help from a 43-yard catch by Cayleb Jones.
But a game that “had it all” also had a colossal freshman mistake. Solomon took a sack from Boise State’s Kamalei Correa at the 10-yard line instead of running out of bounds as the final seconds ticked off the clock, and Boise State took home its third Fiesta Bowl victory.
The Wildcats finished their season at 10-4. What did the loss look like, by the numbers?
Boise State’s Hederick went 14-of-14 for 215 yards to begin the game. In fact, Hederick’s first incomplete pass of the night resulted in a pick by Arizona’s Cameron Denson with 53 seconds left in the first half.
Hederick would finish the game 24-of-34 for 309 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 29 yards on eight attempts.
Arizona’s Solomon threw for 335 yards to eight different receivers on the night. His top target, Cayleb Jones, caught eight passes for 117 yards for an average of 14.6 yards per catch.
Solomon also threw a touchdown pass to Samajie Grant, who had four receptions for 69 yards. The quarterback finished the game 28-for-49 with 335 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Boise State standout Ajayi had 134 yards off 22 carries and scored three times against the ‘Cats, averaging over six yards per carry.
Broncos receiver Thomas Sperbeck contributed 12 catches for 199 yards, just seven yards short of a Fiesta Bowl receiving record.
The two teams showed similar offensive stats with Arizona racking up 492 total yards (335 yards in the air, 157 on the ground) to Boise State’s 471 (309 yards in the air, 162 on the ground).
Though the offensive production looked similar, Boise State managed 14 points off of two Arizona turnovers, while the latter only had six points off two Broncos turnovers.
Arizona pushed the tempo, running 106 plays as opposed to Boise State’s 69.
Arizona’s signature defensive players Scooby Wright III and Tremayne Bondurant combined for 21 tackles to contribute to the Wildcats’ 62 total tackles and one sack.
They were out-performed by Boise State’s defense, however, as Tanner Vallejo led the Broncos with 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks, followed by Darian Thompson and Correa’s 10 tackles apiece. Boise State had 95 tackles and eight sacks.
Arizona held the Boise State to 74 yards in the second half after the Broncos had racked up 397 in the first.
Boise State is now 10-5 all-time in bowl appearances and 5-1 in their last six appearances. Arizona is 8-9-1 in all bowl appearances (1-1-1 in the Fiesta Bowl).
The losers of the last four Pac-12 Championship games have gone on to then lose their respective bowl game.