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Boise State youngsters outgun Fresno

Boise State back Jeremy Avery, left, is tripped up at Fresno State.
Boise State back Jeremy Avery, left, is tripped up at Fresno State.
Joe Jaszewski, Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. — Jeremy Avery led Boise State's dominant running game with a career-high 124 yards and three touchdowns, and the Broncos avenged their only conference loss in the last half-decade with a 34-21 victory over Fresno State on Friday night.

D.J. Harper had a career-best 153 yards and a score for the five-time Western Athletic Conference champion Broncos (7-1, 4-0), whose sole loss in their last 44 WAC games was a 27-7 defeat in Fresno in 2005.

Boise State, which trounced the Bulldogs in Idaho last year during its undefeated season, controlled its latest trip to the Central Valley with 282 yards from its relentless ground game. With Ian Johnson sidelined by a bruised kidney, the Broncos' freshman ball-carriers patiently wore down the young Bulldogs.

Clifton Smith returned a punt 65 yards for a score for Fresno State (5-3, 4-1), which hoped to signal its return to the national stage with another win over last season's BCS darlings. Instead, the Bulldogs saw just how far they must go to rejoin Boise State and Hawaii atop the conference.

After the clubs scored two touchdowns apiece in a wild first quarter, Boise State's defense buckled down. The Broncos shut out Fresno State for nearly 47 minutes between the Bulldogs' opening drive and Marlon Moore's acrobatic TD catch with 8:13 to play.

Both teams played without their starting tailbacks. Johnson, the Broncos' Fiesta Bowl star, missed his second straight game, while Fresno State's Lonyae Miller has a knee injury. Ryan Mathews, the Bulldogs' own promising freshman tailback, had 47 of his 49 yards on a single first-quarter run.

But Boise State's backups were more than the Bulldogs could handle. Harper broke a 49-yard run on the Broncos' opening drive, and Boise State had 200 yards rushing by the second quarter.

Tom Brandstater passed for 263 yards for the Bulldogs, while Boise State's Taylor Tharp had 158 yards passing in a conservative game plan.

Neither program has been the same since Fresno State's cathartic victory in 2005. Boise State has lost only one game since then, while Fresno State fell back in the WAC pack, slipping to its worst season in nearly three decades in 2006 before getting it together this fall.