Keene, Bailey earn MW Player of the Week honors

Fresno State’s statement win over Purdue was fueled by two outstanding performances by a newcomer to the program and a longtime Bulldog.

Jake Haener is gone, off to the New Orleans Saints, but that didn’t cause any problems for Fresno State last Saturday. 

UCF transfer Mikey Keene stepped in at quarterback and led the Bulldogs to a 39-35 win over Purdue to open the season, earning himself his first Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week Award. 


Linebacker Levelle Bailey, one of the longest-tenured Bulldogs, led the defensive side of the ball to earn Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week honors, getting Fresno State off to a great start in 2023. 

Driving the news: Statistically, Keene had the best start to a career out of any quarterback in Fresno State history. The redshirt sophomore threw for 366 yards and 4 touchdowns, completing 31 of his 44 passes. 

  • He was also perfect on the game winning drive, going 6-6 and hitting wide receiver Erik Brooks for a touchdown with just under one minute left on the clock. 
  • Bailey, a senior, only tallied five tackles against Purdue, but he forced a fumble, broke up two passes and shared a tackle for loss with fellow linebacker Malachi Langley. 
  • One of those pass breakups came on Purdue’s final pass attempt of the game, securing the win for the Bulldogs. 

What we’re watching: Heading back home with a road win against a Big 10 school, Fresno State will kickoff its home opener on Saturday against Eastern Washington. 

  • While Eastern Washington plays in the lower-tier FCS, the school has routinely been one of the better FCS schools in the nation, including last year’s 10-3 team. 
  • Saturday’s home opener will also mark the beginning of Fresno State’s new Ring of Honor system, inducting former head coach Jim Sweeney posthumously during halftime. His son Kevin Sweeney, who quarterbacked the Bulldogs in the 1980s, will be on hand with his family for the ceremony. 

What they’re saying: During his weekly press conference on Monday, Tedford praised Keene for controlling the game with his poise. 

  • “You can tell that he’s been in the arena before, had a lot of poise throughout the game,” Tedford said. “Took some shots for sure, because they were very physical up front. He did a really good job. I think he really showed his toughness as well. But his poise, I think, really stood out. The whole team kind of did the same, really. But I think he did a really good job of doing his job, not really forcing the ball, throwing the ball away when he needed to.” 
  • Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Bailey stood out as one of the best players on the field against Purdue. 
  • “Levelle had an outstanding game,” Coyle said. “He’s very athletic. He can do a lot of things. He’s a very instinctive player, very smart player. He got himself in position to make some plays throughout the game, both in the run game. And then had a couple PBUs in the game, batted a ball at the line of scrimmage, made the play at the end of the game. Just came through in a big way, as did a lot of the guys.” 
  • Looking ahead to Eastern Washington, Coyle pointed to the team’s potent offense as one of the most impressive units on film that he has watched. 
  • “When we broke down a number of teams prior to the season over the spring and summer, the one that schematically poses some very very difficult challenges, I felt, was Eastern Washington,” Coyle said. “They’ve had a history of being very good on offense through the years, and if you watch them they’re unique in a lot of ways – multiple formation team, multiple movement shifting, motion team. They will feature unbalanced formations out of every grouping. They come out with empty looks, quad looks, they test you mentally as well as physically. They get the ball out on the perimeter throughout a very good screen game. They have gadget plays that are not just one time a game. You may see four, five, six different trick type plays. It’s all part of their offense and their scheme.”
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