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CARSON, Calif. – The Boise State football team led 13-3 and could have gone for the knockout punch midway through the second quarter against No. 21 San Diego State.

But instead of going for it on fourth-and-2 from the 5-yard line, the Broncos elected for a 22-yard field goal to take a 16-3 lead.

Given life, the Aztecs took advantage.

San Diego State scored the next 24 points to take a double-digit lead and never looked back, handing the Broncos a devastating 27-16 loss at Dignity Health Sports Park to end the regular season.

With the loss Boise State was eliminated from the Mountain Division race and will now await a bowl invitation on Dec. 5. The Broncos had needed a win and an Air Force loss later Friday to advance to the title game, but left no drama for later in the day by being shut out in the second half.

The Broncos (7-5) finished with five regular season losses for the first time since they went 6-5 back in 1998.

“There’s nothing that can be said to make us feel good about what happened today,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said. “There are no moral victories. So today we learn from what happened and we grow forward.

“We played an unbelievable team today and they were better than us. They finished. They played for four quarters. They were the best team today. But it doesn’t take away anything from what we’ve built and it doesn’t take anything from what we’ve grown on. And we’ll have one more opportunity this year.”

San Diego State secured the West Division title with the win and play in the Mountain West title game for the first time since 2016.

Jake Stetz might have earned some team MVP votes Friday and he didn’t even play. The All-Mountain West offensive line candidate missed the game due to a knee injury – and the line struggled badly without him.

Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier was sacked four times and knocked to the ground on several other plays as a talented San Diego State defensive front had him running for his life all game.

Things were so bad that Avalos finally decided to get Bachmeier out of the game late in the fourth quarter to avoid him getting injured.

“Hank obviously got hit a ton of times there and his mobility wasn’t great and were unable to protect him,” Avalos said. “Hank battled today. Hank did an unbelievable job considering all the pressure and all the hits he got and he was hanging in the pocket. There was nothing on Hank.”

According to the research by the CBS television broadcast, Bachmeier had been hit 67 times entering the game – more than any other quarterback in the country. That number went way up on Friday.

“Through the course of the season hank has been battling,” Avalos said. “I’m not going to go into all the details but he’s wearing a knee brace for a reason and he was out there all day battling and trying to make plays.”

The game flipped when two things happened – Boise State elected to kick a field goal instead of going for it near the goal line in the second quarter and when the Aztecs made a switch at quarterback to Jordon Brookshire.

As for the field goal, Avalos gave a short and simple “no” when asked if he considered going for it.

San Diego State had done very little on offense when Brookshire entered with 3:04 left in the half. He had played in each of the first four games of the season for the Aztecs but hadn’t played since Oct. 15 due to an injury.

He immediately led San Diego State on a long touchdown drive and after the Broncos quickly went three and out, got the Aztecs back into field goal range just before the half.

San Diego State scored 10 points in the final 1:30 of the half and then used a long touchdown drive to start the third quarter to turn a 16-3 Boise State lead into a 20-16 lead for the Aztecs.

“We got them to switch to more of a passing offense which was really good for us because we knew they wanted to come in and establish the run,” senior nickel Kekaula Kaniho said. “We just have to do a better job of making adjustments.

“We prepared for anything they could have given us but we just needed to have a quicker adjustment to the passing game. … They are good team, they have good players too, and he’s a good quarterback. We needed to finish on a lot of those plays. The ball was in the air and on the ground and we didn’t come up with it. They got the takeaways and we didn’t.”

Bachmeier’s pass was tipped and intercepted on Boise State’s drive and San Diego State scored again to suddenly lead by double digits at 27-16.

Boise State’s start was great. The rest of it was disastrous.

It was particularly bad offensively in the second half. The Broncos ran 32 plays for 71 yards, didn’t score, threw two interceptions, got sacked five times and went 2 for 7 on third down – all in the third and forth quarters.

“We just couldn’t execute,” Shakir said. “We couldn’t do our jobs, couldn’t win our one-on-ones. It comes down to us players executing and going out there and doing our job.

“Sacks are drive killers, QB hits are tough. He just didn’t have enough time back there. … When the time came for somebody on the offense to make a play or for the o-line to block, everybody was just off and the type of offense we run, it can’t be like that.”

“It’s really tough,” Kaniho said. “They are a really good team as you can see, they’ve only lost one game, and they made plays when they needed to and we couldn’t come out on top.

“Obviously we’ll digest this, think about it and look ad the things we need to fix. We know we’ll have one more opportunity to finish the season and we’re excited to do that.”

This article originally ran on idahopress.com.

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