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Boise State erupts in third quarter to push past North Texas, 35-32, in Frisco Bowl

QB Taylen Green wins Offensive MVP honors, while MLB Ezekiel Noa claims Defensive MVP.

NCAA Football: Frisco Bowl-North Texas at Boise State Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Star Spangled Banner and the opening kickoff at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX had one thing in common. Both spectacles to launch the 2022 Frisco Bowl were accompanied by an unfathomable amount of fireworks. They soared into the air and lit up the sky for seemingly minutes at a time. It looked like the gopher scene from the movie Caddyshack accompanied by the War of 1812 Overture.

The fireworks show resumed postgame when the trophy was bestowed upon the champion. But prior to the festivities, a figurative fireworks show erupted in the third quarter of the football game. The Boise State Broncos (10-4, 8-0 Mountain West) utilized a 22-point explosion in the third quarter to edge the North Texas Mean Green (7-7, 6-2 C-USA), 35-32, in the fifth iteration of the Frisco Bowl. The Broncos huddled on the field and commenced an on-field celebration to commemorate the signature victory.

“It’s so gratifying to be able to see these guys celebrate,” Boise State head coach Andy Avalos said. “It’s hard to leave the locker room being around the guys. They deserve this. Like we just told them, there’s so many great young men in there that they’re going to do even better things in their life for the ones that are moving on.”

NCAA Football: Frisco Bowl-North Texas at Boise State
Boise State head coach Andy Avalos hoists the Frisco Bowl trophy after defeating North Texas, 35-32.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It was a tale of two halves. The first half featured mundane showings from the offenses. Both teams struggled to cross the goal line upon reaching the red zone. North Texas entered halftime with a 10-6 advantage, scoring one touchdown set up by a 53-yard delivery from Austin Aune to Jordan Smart. Boise State entered the break with only two short Jonah Dalmas field goals as evidence on the scoreboard.

“I thought we were ready to play,” North Texas interim head coach Phil Bennett said about the first half. “I thought both sides were. We wasted a couple of possessions in the second quarter. We started off two or three possessions on 2nd and 10-plus, and you don’t ever like when you get behind the sticks like that.”

Everything changed coming out of the locker room in the fireworks-filled third quarter. Running back Ashton Jeanty picked up 34 yards on his first rush of the half. Quarterback Taylen Green followed it up with a 20-yard gain. Jeanty strung together the third long run in a row at 19 yards. Then several plays later, Green carried himself into the end zone with his mobility. That drive set up by Boise State’s rushing offense initiated an action-packed stanza.

“The message at halftime was keep doing what we were doing, but don’t stress. Be comfortable,” Green said on the offensive adjustments coming out of the break. “We had been in his position before and we already know we trust the gameplan and we trust the coaches, so we were just beating ourselves up (in the first half). We had holdings, we had false starts. We were just pressing too much, so we were telling ourselves stay calm and do what we do.”

The Broncos scored three third quarter touchdowns and even converted a 2-point attempt to finish the frame with 22 points — the most ever by the program in a single quarter of a bowl game. In between each of those touchdowns, North Texas answered with one of its own, bringing the third quarter scoring total to 36 between the opponents.

“They made some adjustments, and we did too,” Bennett said. “One of the things they did in the first half — they hadn’t run the quarterback. And they went into what we call a balanced tight situation. They were going trips, they were going to twins, and they knew what we played in trips. We were too slow to adjust to twins when they kept the ball.”

That quarter featured five full drives, and each one resulted in a lead-changing touchdown. North Texas produced highlight-worthy scoring plays including a 17-yard fake QB draw jump pass from wildcat quarterback Stone Earle to tight end Jake Roberts and a 30-yard bomb from Aune to Jyaire Shorter in the end zone. Green accounted for all three Boise State touchdowns in the quarter — two as a runner and one as a facilitator. When time exhausted of the eventful third quarter, Boise State held a 35-24 advantage.

NCAA Football: Frisco Bowl-North Texas at Boise State
North Texas tight end Jake Roberts scored one of the five total third quarter touchdowns in the Frisco Bowl.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The pivotal play which ended the touchdown exchanged transpired on the opening play of the fourth quarter. An errant pass by Aune landed in the hands of Boise State cornerback Jaylen Clark, who returned the goods 38 yards to invade North Texas territory. The Broncos capitalized on the Mean Green’s second interception of the game and moved the margin to 35-24 on a 4th and goal halfback dive by Jeanty. North Texas lost the turnover battle 2-0 and both interceptions were quite costly, resulting in 10 points for Boise State.

“I thought offensively Mike (Bloesch) called a really good game, I just wish we could have knocked the turnovers out,” Bennett said. “You’re looking at 10 points off turnovers which in a 3-point game is tough.”

North Texas closed the gap in the middle of the fourth quarter by sending Ikaika Ragsdale in for six on a short run and converting the subsequent two-point try on a trick play. However, the deficit remained at three as the defenses found their footing late in the fourth quarter — reminiscent of what was observed in the first half. The Mean Green offense received two opportunities in the final four minutes to tie or take the lead, but a relentless Boise State defense prevented them from crossing their own 20 on both occasions.

“Defense gave us a chance down three,” North Texas tight end Jake Roberts said. “We had been moving the ball well in the second half. Like coach said, a couple turnovers, but we felt good about what we were gonna do — and here and there, it just doesn’t go your way. But we fought to the end and I’m proud of this team.”

Green took home Offensive MVP honors for the night after producing 119 rushing yards on 12 carries, passing for another 137, and accounting for three touchdowns in an offensive-centric battle. The Lewisville, TX native put on a show for his hometown, as many friends and family were present to watch the 6’6” freshman quarterback guide the Broncos to victory.

“When we got the (Frisco Bowl selection) news, I was like, ‘Wow!’” Green said. “It’s just crazy. We’re literally in our backyard — me, Ashton, and Zion (Washington) — the people who live in Frisco. It’s just a blessing to play in front of friends and family for another time.”

NCAA Football: Frisco Bowl-North Texas at Boise State
Boise State quarterback Taylen Green locked up Offensive MVP honors after accruing more than 100 rushing yards and totaling three touchdowns.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Green contributed immensely to Boise State’s new Frisco Bowl rushing record. The Broncos totaled 318 yards on the ground, led by a career-high 178 from Jeanty. The true freshman took over the lead back role after George Holani — who entered the game battling an injury — was sidelined for the final three quarters of action. Jeanty’s explosiveness coming out of the half was the spark which turned the tide for Boise State’s offense.

“We have a big emphasis on just getting the drives started, just making positive plays even if they might be three or four yards. Ashton and George are really, really talented. When they’re doing good, it just makes it a lot easier,” Green said. “It gives confidence to the o-line. It gives confidence to me.”

Ezekiel Noa claimed Defensive MVP honors after securing the first interception of the night for the Broncos. His Saturday night résumé included 52 interception return yards, six total tackles, and one tackle for loss. It was a spectacular sendoff for the sixth-year senior, who remained a Bronco through it all — bowl wins, bowl losses, bowl cancelations, coaching changes, and conference championships.

“I’ve just been trying to soak it all in — the last couple of days, weeks,” Noa said after his final collegiate game. “I’m gonna miss it a lot. The program in general. The people. The connections and bonds we have and create throughout the game, not only between the coaches but the whole staff as well. The people that were around, we always try to make an impact on them and that’s what’s fun about it.”

After coming up short in the second half shootout, North Texas moved to .500 in a season which featured a conference championship game appearance and the subsequent firing of head coach Seth Littrell. The Mean Green extended their bowl losing streak to six games, losing in the same stadium they did last December. Saturday night marked the final game of Bennett in the interim role, as the program reins will be passed to newly hired head coach Eric Morris, who will oversee the program’s transition to the AAC.

“With what we’ve been through in the last few weeks, it would be easy for us to disband and start turning on each other and not be bought in,” Roberts said. “But we came ready to play and we played North Texas football. I love this team. It sucks when you come that close, but I leave the field knowing I gave it everything I had and I’m sure the rest of the team did too.”

The Frisco Bowl was Phil Bennett’s second bowl game as an interim coach. He won the 2010 BBVA Compass Bowl while operating in a similar role for Pitt.
Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Saturday was a re-coronation of a Boise State program which has become more accustomed to winning seasons than any other team in the land. By emerging in Frisco, the Broncos secured their 18th season featuring 10 or more wins in the last 25 years. The Frisco Bowl marked not only the first 10-win season of the Avalos era, but it also served as the second-year head coach’s bowl win at the helm.

“The standards at Boise State are extremely high and that’s why we’re here,” Avalos said. “Boise State hasn’t been a Division I program as long as some of the traditional powers, but to be able to establish a foundation in the threshold of college football and to be apart of something like that as a player and as an assistant coach and coordinator, and to be in the world we’re in now, we’re just blessed.”