Boise State vs. Southern Miss Football

Boise State players Taylor Loffler (24) and Charles Leno, Jr. (78) walk on the field with honorary captain Shane Swanson before the start of Saturday’s game against Southern Miss at Bronco Stadium.

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BOISE —The Boise State football team partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Idaho for the third time in four years Saturday to help make a wish come true.

Shane Swanson, a 12-year-old from Bloomington, Minn., suffers from a rare spinal nerve condition called Spina Bifida. His wish was “to go to a Boise State game and meet coach Petersen and the Bronco football team.”

The Boise State athletics department did plenty more than that, giving Swanson and his family the royal treatment from the moment they arrived at the Boise Airport on Thursday afternoon.

Swanson led the Broncos out of the tunnel and onto the field during an emotional moment prior to kickoff. Swanson raised a small hammer high in the air as senior offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. pushed him in his wheelchair onto the field alongside Taylor Loffler, who raised the team’s ceremonial sledgehammer next to him.

The rest of the Boise State players waited to give Swanson the stage to himself before finally following him into the field following a lengthy standing ovation.

“Our players did a great job with Shane the past two games, and we just feel so honored when somebody like that wants to come out and have a wish to spend with us,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “We’re just so honored and it was so awesome how the crowd reacted to him.

“It was probably the biggest cheer of the night and rightfully so.”

Swanson, who arrived at Bronco Stadium in a limo and was treated to a private tailgate party, took part in the opening coin toss at midfield and was introduced to the crowd on the video board.

He was introduced at a press conference on Friday as an introductory member of Bronco Nation.

BALTAZAR GETS FIRST CARRY, LEAVES INJURED

Running back Jay Ajayi technically started Saturday’s game but didn’t receive the first carry. Ajayi, who was benched during last week’s Fresno State game following his third fumble in the previous two games, served as a blocker on the Broncos’ opening play from scrimmage before heading to the bench.

True freshman Aaron Baltazar, who had two touchdowns in relief of Ajayi at Fresno State, took the field for the second play and served as the Broncos’ running back on each of the first two possessions.

Baltazar later left the game with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return.

Ajayi’s first carry came on the fourth Boise State possession late in the first quarter, a 10-yard run up the middle. He finished with 14 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown while Baltazar had four carries for 36 yards.

MOORE, HORN AMONG GROUP OUT WITH INJURIES

Senior Kirby Moore was among a large group of players to miss Saturday’s game due to injury.

Moore, the Broncos’ second leading receiver, had 25 catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns in the first four games of the season.

Moore had 17 catches the past two games but had a fourth-down pass slip off his hands during a last-minute drive in the 41-40 loss at Fresno State last week. His injury apparently happened during practice.

Junior defensive end Tyler Horn, senior wide receiver Aaron Burks and tight ends Gabe Linehan and Holden Huff also missed Saturday’s game due to injury.

“It’s frustrating that we seem to be getting that many guys injured,” Petersen said. “I don’t know, they kind of run in batches a little bit but hopefully we’ll get some guys back after the bye. It goes like that and nobody cares about your injuries, except for me and the coaching staff, but some young guys did a good job stepping up.”

BRONCO BITS

The Boise State defense opened the game with five defensive backs and two linebackers. Sophomore cornerback Jonathan Moxey got his first career start.

Ben Weaver and Blake Renaud served as the two linebackers. … Defensive tackle Armand Nance made his first career start in place of Horn.

B.J. Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013 and is a three-time winner of the NSMA Idaho Sportswriter of the Year Award. He appears on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket every Friday at 4 p.m. for the Blue Turf Sports report.

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