The Fresno State Bulldogs' mind-bending overtime victory at San Diego State has put them in position to qualify for the first BCS bowl game in school history, and the momentum generated by their best start in more than two decades is carrying over to the ticket office as well.
The Bulldogs moved up to No. 16 in the BCS standings released on Sunday and they remain ahead of the top three teams from the American Athletic Conference, which has an automatic berth into one of the lucrative bowl games. To qualify, a team from a non-AQ conference — which includes the Mountain West — has to finish in the Top 12 of the final BCS standings or in the Top 16 while ranking ahead of a champion of an automatic-qualifying conference. And that is where the Bulldogs stand with four regular-season games to play plus a potential berth in the conference championship game.
Coach Tim DeRuyter on Sunday still was relishing how the Bulldogs got there, to 7-0, while still trying to settle his nerves. "Never easy with this group," he chuckled between film sessions.
Fresno State had a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the Aztecs were able to tie the score at 28 with two touchdowns coming less than three minutes apart. San Diego State then had a game-winning field goal attempt from 37 yards at the end of regulation blocked by tight end Marcel Jensen, and the Bulldogs were able to end the four-hour marathon in overtime with a defensive stop. It was their fourth victory by one touchdown or fewer, their second in overtime.
"We know how to win close games," DeRuyter said. "I wish we'd finish things a little bit better. It'd make it easier on everybody. But we have some flaws. We have some things we have to work on, but at the same time we have a group of guys that know how to win.
"Each year, each team I think has a different personality and with this group, I think it started back in January. It really goes back to the bowl game. We got embarrassed. This group had a resolve in our year-round (strength and conditioning) program. Coach (Joey) Boese kicked their tails.
"They never flinched. They're in great shape and they really worked hard in that area and that galvanizes a team. Then you go through some games like we have, where we found ways to win, it just keeps reassuring and certifying in those guys minds that this is our year, this is a year for special things to happen."
The Bulldogs' next opportunity to add to it will come Saturday in a Mountain West game against Nevada, and it likely will be in front of the second sellout crowd of the season.
Bolstered by a Blackout promotion, where Fresno State will wear special all-black helmets, jerseys, pants and shoes, the Bulldogs already have sold more than 34,000 tickets for that game.
"We have never started the week with that many tickets out the door," said Paul Ladwig, senior associate athletic director/external relations, in his seventh year in the athletic department.
Fresno State had a sellout for its 41-40 victory over Boise State on Sept. 20, but it went into that game week with fewer than 30,000 tickets sold. The last ticket didn't sell until about 4:15 p.m., less than two hours before kickoff at Bulldog Stadium, which holds 41,031.
Fresno State has two home games remaining — Saturday against Nevada and Nov. 23 against New Mexico – and is in line to host the Mountain West championship game on Dec. 7.
"That sense of momentum, that sense of newness, and I think the momentum of the team and the Blackout is going to help us create that sellout for Saturday," Ladwig said.
"It's the first game week since I have been here that I feel that well before Saturday this game will be sold out. From the numbers that we have out the door already, from what I sense and feel from the momentum in the community from talking to people and social media … last week in the Bulldog Shop, and that's a real good barometer of what's going on in the community.
"Every day we went from $10,000 in sales to over $20,000 in sales on a daily basis in the middle of the week to just totally rocking it on Friday. I walked into the store Friday and we have shelves that are empty with all of the Blackout stuff and we can't order it fast enough to keep it in stock."
"We have never started the week with that many tickets out the door." — Paul Ladwig, senior associate athletic director/external relations on Saturday's Blackout game vs. Nevada"We know how to win close games." — Coach Tim DeRuyter
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