With the COVID-19 pandemic knocking out two football games for Fresno State, to go along with many others across the country, it begs the question: Does this season even count?
Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener had an interesting take when he spoke to reporters Tuesday over Zoom. When asked what these last two weeks have been like having the rivalry games against San Jose State and San Diego State cancelled, Haener had an interesting take.
“It’s obviously tough,” Haener said. “You want to get every game in possible, and you want to compete at a high level against some really good teams. So when we have to cancel those games it’s obviously unfortunate, but going into the season we kind of knew that there was going to be bumps in the road. And we knew things like this were going to happen.
“We’ve just got to stay positive, which I think we’ve done a really good job of doing. That’s all you can do, and that’s why this season doesn’t count. You get what you get.”
Haener is right in a sense. This season, given current events, just does not have the same feel to it as normal, making it feel like it does not really count.
But if the Bulldogs manage to win the last two games against Nevada and New Mexico and – with some outside help – secure a spot in the Mountain West Championship Game, that would make things interesting. Would winning the championship count?
“Yeah that would,” Haener said.
It’s an interesting thought. Games are getting cancelled left and right as coronavirus cases rise across the country. Fresno State will hopefully be fortunate enough to evade any further COVID-19 concerns as the season comes to an end, but the pandemic looms every day and threatens an early exit to the season.
Over 100 games have been cancelled due to the pandemic this season, including eight in the Mountain West. If Fresno State doesn’t run into another stroke of bad luck and is able to play out the season without another COVID-19 scare, the Bulldogs will finish the season having only played six games, half of what they would in a normal year.
The games that have been played certainly count.
If the Bulldogs manage to win the conference title, there won’t be an asterisk placed next to it in the eyes of the fans. This isn’t like Barry Bonds’ home run record.
There won’t be any asterisks next to the 2020 Mountain West champion, because every team has faced a level playing field.
More importantly, the stats count.
Assuming running back Ronnie Rivers finds the end zone at least once over the next couple of weeks, he will be the all-time touchdown leader in program history. Rivers will be celebrated as one of the greatest to ever take the field at Bulldog Stadium, as he should be.
To Haener’s point, what wouldn’t matter as much this year would be if the Bulldogs lost. No one could fault Fresno State – or any team for that matter – for not playing up to par given the external challenges.
Add that to the fact that the NCAA is not counting this year against the eligibility clock for the players, this year is effectively a wash. Whatever negatives appear – for the Bulldogs at least – just don’t bear as much weight as they would in a normal season.
Haener will be back next year with some game experience under his belt. Head coach Kalen DeBoer will be too, and that wouldn’t even be a question even if the Bulldogs were winless up to this point.
If Fresno State loses the last two games, oh well. That’s OK. Like Haener said, the Bulldogs will take what they can get, stay positive and give it their all on the field. They can take pride in the fact that they have managed to make it this far despite the countless naysayers pushing back against sports even competing right now.
If all goes well and Fresno State pulls off a magical run to the Mountain West title, the Valley would remember it as one of the brightest spots in an otherwise gloomy 2020.
That would count.
Photo: Fresno State Athletics