In the hot summer months, Alexander Mattison was preparing himself for exactly this — cold, late fall games where he could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Boise State’s junior running back made a concerted effort before the season to “prehab,” spending as much time making sure he’s feeling as good as possible before practice as he does recovering afterward.
“It’s made a big difference. I had surgeries after my first two seasons here, had never had one before that,” Mattison said. “The way last year ended, I just did not want to let anyone down, I couldn’t afford to get hurt. I didn’t want to miss a game or even a quarter.”
In theory, you would like a running back to be better as the game goes on, and not only that, to be better as the season goes on.
That’s easier said than done, considering the workload, and the bumps and bruises that can accumulate — especially when playing nine straight weeks as the Broncos have.
But Mattison has done just that. He’s No. 1 in the FBS with 112 carries and eight touchdowns in November, his 578 yards rushing sixth. His two longest runs this season have come in the fourth quarter the Broncos’ last two games, too.
“It feels good, I feel good. It’s what you hope to do as a running back,” Mattison said. “If something doesn’t feel right, I don’t want for it to go away anymore, I get it treated. It’s like in the game, you want to stay ahead of the chains — I want to stay ahead of the injuries.”
With only four carries of 20 or more yards, Mattison frequently has moved the ball, but for tough yard after tough yard. He’s 15th nationally with 1,215 yards and tied for fifth with 16 touchdowns.
“I’ve been telling people this is the craziest 1,000-yard season I’ve ever seen, he’s been hit so many times, it’s unbelievable,” senior quarterback Brett Rypien said. “He’s been resilient, and we’ll need it again Saturday, too.”
Said sophomore offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland: “He’s been an animal.”
Mattison missed last year’s Mountain West championship game and only had three carries in the Las Vegas Bowl, clearly not close to 100 percent. Taking care of his body has been a major focus, from the physical to his nutrition.
It wasn’t easy, but Mattison cut out burgers from his diet, and has eaten more regularly to stay on schedule, he said. He also is often seen walking around the football facility with a bottle of water that looks like it was dipped into the murkiest of ponds.
He adds chlorophyll to his bottle of water, which is meant to detoxify and reduce inflammation, among other potential benefits. Mattison discovered it this summer going to eat with his cousin.
“We were at a restaurant and he popped it into his lemonade, it looked black, and we were all freaked out, but I tried it and have kind of made it a routine,” Mattison said.
Beyond just this season, Mattison noted that he wants to stay as healthy as possible because “I want to take care of it for the future, don’t want to be broken down, unable to barely walk when I’m 40.”
Part of that reasoning is he hopes to have an NFL career. With a big junior season, he’s entered the conversation among the best backs in the country. Predecessors Jay Ajayi and Jeremy McNichols left Boise State after their junior years. Mattison said he has not made a decision, but the fact it’s possible excites him.
“I’m focused on winning Saturday, I’m having fun with these guys,” Mattison said. “... It’s surreal, never thought I’d be in that talk. My mind wasn’t on really even considering that, but hearing that feedback, it’s an honor. I’ll take time to think about it down the road, but haven’t thought too much about it.”
LOTS OF YELLOW ON THE BLUE
According to the Boise State sports information department, Albertsons Stadium has seen the opponent flagged for more false starts than any venue in the country. Visitors have had 20 false starts, with Kentucky (19), Arizona (18), Texas Tech (18) and Clemson (16) next.
Following their loss Nov. 9, Fresno State players and coaches said the crowd was a factor, with three such flags.
“It’s one of the louder places I’ve ever been in,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said Monday.
THIRD DOWNS A MAJOR FACTOR
Turnovers, as usual, will be key Saturday, but keep an eye on third downs. Boise State is No. 2 in the nation in third-down offense (54.3 percent) and 12th in third-down defense (31.5). Fresno State is 17th and 22nd, respectively.
In Boise State’s two wins over Fresno State at home over the last year, the Broncos are 16-of-33, and the Bulldogs are 4-of-23. Rypien is a huge part — no quarterback in the nation has thrown for more yards (450) or converted more third-and-10s or longer into first downs (16).
“Its his ability to throw it from the pocket to any spot on the field,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.
Harsin already has seen his contract roll over through 2023 by virtue of winning eight games, but he also has earned a $10,000 bonus for beating BYU, $50,000 for winning seven conference games and $50,000 for winning the Mountain Division. He’ll earn a $100,000 bonus if the Broncos win Saturday. ... An underrated big play from the Utah State win? Junior STUD end Sam Whitney’s sack in the third quarter on a third down that forced a field goal that was missed from 50 yards out. It was just the ninth sack allowed by the Aggies — “Sam Whitney’s sack was huge,” defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. ... Ex-Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was named NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month on Thursday, the first such honor for a Dallas Cowboy since 2005.