Fresno State’s 1-4 start to the season was capped by a 40-20 loss to Boise State on the blue turf.
Seven games – and seven wins – later, the Bulldogs have an opportunity for revenge as they once again take on the Broncos on the road in the Mountain West Championship Game.
“Both teams have played well through the year and I think are deserving of being in this game,” Head Coach Jeff Tedford said Monday. “We have a lot of respect for them and who they are and what they do. It’s going to be a great matchup. They handled us pretty well the first time out, so we’re hoping to improve on that.”
Fresno State has already improved on paper from the early-season loss due to the fact that quarterback Jake Haener and Safety Evan Williams are back in action.
But the Bulldogs could be without defensive end David Perales, who suffered an ankle injury in the Wyoming game and is considered day-to-day, Tedford said.
Perales’ impact on the championship game cannot be understated as he is Fresno State’s only effective pass rusher. He leads the team with 10.5 sacks, while the next highest total comes from cornerback Bralyn Lux with 2.
Perales also leads the ‘Dogs with 15 tackles for loss – 9 more than the next highest Bulldog – and he has 2 forced fumbles and an interception.
His presence will be sorely needed to stop the conference’s second-best scoring offense.
Fresno State and Boise State rank first and second in scoring offense with 30.9 and 30.2 points per game, respectively.
With 190 rushing yards per game, the Broncos have the second-best rush attack in the conference, only behind the Air Force ground-based triple option attack.
Boise State quarterback Taylen Green only threw for 127 yards against the Bulldogs in their first matchup, but he threw 2 touchdown passes and has topped 200 passing yards each game since.
The strength of Boise State, though, lies in the defense.
The Broncos rank second in the Mountain West giving up 17.8 points per game and boast a top three unit against both the pass and the run.
Boise State also boasts a top 10 defense nationally in both points per game allowed and yards per game allowed (284.3).
“I think if you look at the stats of where they rank nationally, they’ve done an excellent job,” Tedford said. “Very stingy, very hard to score on, very well coached, physical, good on all three levels in the front, at linebacker and in the secondary. They do a great job.”
Along with their defensive prowess, Tedford praised Boise State’s offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for helping Green improve since their matchup earlier in the season.
“They’re always really solid on defense, but I think their quarterback has really taken a big step as he’s matured through the year. I think they’ve done a really nice job with him,” Tedford said.
“Coach Koetter, their offensive coordinator, has done an excellent job of creating balance on their offense and using him in ways that’s very effective. They’re very balanced. They can run the football. They can play-action pass it. They can throw it. He can use his legs to hurt you. They’re a very dangerous group, and I think the quarterback has really matured through the year.”
It’s a familiar atmosphere for the Bulldogs under Tedford. They played on the blue turf for the Mountain West title twice in Tedford’s first tenure, winning the 2018 game in overtime. Now, in Tedford’s first year back, Fresno State can yet again send off a talented group of seniors with a title.
“We’re familiar with what that environment’s like. They do a great job there. The fans are into it,” Tedford said. “There definitely is an advantage for them because of their fans. It’s very loud there. They do a great job. We’ve been there a few times to do this, and we know we’re in for a really tough game as it should be in this type of championship game.”