Fresno State Bulldogs

Believe it or not: Bulldogs still have path to Mountain West crown

Somehow, against all odds, the Bulldogs still control their own destiny in the Mountain West. If they win out, they’re in – even after losing to Utah State last Saturday.

Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford stressed the importance of taking it one day at a time at his press conference Monday.

“Take the lessons learned from last week and move forward, take one day at a time,” Tedford said. “We play all three Western Division teams, as you mentioned, starting with a great San Diego State team. So the focus has to be on one day at a time and getting better.”

Nevada gifted Fresno State a second chance at the season with the Wolfpack’s 17-13 win at San Diego State, which finished just a couple hours after Fresno State’s last-second lost.

“Nevada did just enough to win,” Tedford said You have to give them credit. There’s not a lot of points scored against San Diego State’s defense, No. 1 in the conference and only give up 14 points a game. I think they’ve only had 20 points scored on them all year long twice. They made just enough plays to put themselves in a position to win, and you’ve got to give them credit for that.”

After the battle with the Aztecs on Friday, the Bulldogs have Nevada and San Jose State to close out the season. All three programs have impressive wins this season, even though the division as a whole doesn’t have a great record.

Here’s the West Division standings sorted by conference record:

San Diego State4-2
Hawaii3-3
Nevada3-3
Fresno State2-3
San Jose State1-5
UNLV0-5

It looked like San Diego State was going to run away with the division and Friday’s game would’ve been mostly inconsequential, but now it’s become appointment television.

On the other side, in the Mountain Division, Boise State is once again in the driver’s seat to play in the championship game. If the Broncos falter in the next few weeks, Air Force and Utah State are on their heels and could slip into the game.

Even if the Bulldogs are able to win the division, the hypothetical championship matchup would be against a team that they’ve already lost to or a very good Boise State team that’s ranked in the top 25 by the College Football Playoff Committee.

“There’s a lot of football left at this time of the year in November,” Tedford said. “You’re in a place where if you can execute and you’re fortunate enough to be successful, then it’s one week at a time. There’s a lot riding on each week, but every team we play is a very good football team. We can’t look ahead. I think it’s important to know that those things are still there, but it really means nothing if we don’t come to work tomorrow ready to play and ready to practice hard.”

On the injury front, Tedford announced defensive end Isaiah Johnson is out for the season after having knee surgery. Right tackle Syrus Tuitele and right guard Quireo Woodley are both day-to-day.

Here’s more of what Tedford had to say at his press conference:

On what was the toughest thing in the Utah State loss:

“Obviously the loss in general. I was proud of our team coming back from 28-14 to take the lead, and a couple key penalties really hurt us. Just when you work so hard, and guys fight back, and you put yourself in a position and then it doesn’t happen. That’s always disappointing, not discouraging, but disappointing. We need to keep our focus and trust the process and keep working hard. There’s a lot left in front of us against three really good football teams. San Diego State plays great defense, No. 1 defense in the conference in pretty much every category. Very physical on offense. Short week, traveling, we’ve just got to make sure that we’re focused every single day on what we’re doing.”

On San Diego State quarterback Ryan Agnew:

“They used to really rely on just two back type stuff and play action. They still do that quite a bit, but they’ll spread you out a little bit more now, so obviously they have more confidence in his ability to spread the field. So they’re a little bit different than they have been, a few new wrinkles in there. But still, they are who they are as far as they want to be physical. They are very physical upfront. Really good running backs, really good tight ends, fullback – very physical team.”

On the rivalry against San Diego State and the Old Oil Can Trophy:

“Anytime that we have something like that that we’re playing for – there’s enough motivation to play, that’s just one more thing that you take pride in being able to keep that. It’s just one more thing, but there’s enough on this game that the Oil Can’s just one more thing on top of it.

On the defense’s struggles and what the unit needs to do to improve:

“We’ve given up some big plays. We’ve got to eliminate the big play because we’ve let some big plays happen. We’ve played some pretty good guys that could throw the ball down the field and do some things, but, still, can’t allow the big plays and try to limit the points. It’s very difficult every week to try to outscore everybody.”

On defensive end Kwami Jones making his season-debut coming off an injury:

“Kwami did a good job. It was nice to see him back in there. He got a sack, one and a half tackles for loss, so it was nice to see him back playing because we’ve missed him. Hopefully we can keep him healthy and he can stay part of the plan.”

On preparing quarterback Jorge Reyna for San Diego State’s defense:

“Well it’s always a challenge playing against them. They’re very sound. They do a lot of things. They play very very hard. They’re really sound. They don’t give up big plays. You have to earn everything that you get against them. That’s evident by looking at their stats – No. 1 in scoring defense, No. 1 in rushing defense, No. 1 in total defense. They do an excellent job. No one really takes the ball and just moves it up and down the field on them, that’s for sure. So you have to be patient. You have to make sure that we try to win the field position game. It’s going to take all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams – to be able to be successful against them because they’re very sound in what they do.”

Photo: Fresno State Athletics

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.