The Fresno State Bulldogs’ wideouts have made some stellar catches this season and Jamire Jordan added one to the list in their victory over Boise State to end the regular season.
Separating late from a cornerback and pressed against the right sideline, Jordan made a lunge toward a high pass from quarterback Marcus McMaryion and pulled the ball down for a 39-yard gain and a first down.
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On that play Jordan had his hands set the only way he could have to catch the ball, but hand placement is something he has been working on after an inconsistent start to the season.
“Jamire is getting really good with it,” receivers coach Kirby Moore said. “He has been working hard in practice, staying and catching after practice and working with the quarterbacks. He’s catching the ball with his eyes, when it’s low flipping it and making sure he’s catching the ball with his pinkies.
“It’s just getting his eyes to the football. A lot of times when you let it get into your chest, it gets past your eyes. When you’re catching it out front your eyes are on it and if it slips past you can still catch the back half of the football.”
The work again has that X receiver spot coming into focus for the Bulldogs, which could complicate matters for the Boise State defense on Saturday in the Mountain West championship.
Jordan had eight targets in the game at Bulldog Stadium, the same number as leading receiver KeeSean Johnson and as many as Jordan had in the five previous games combined.
It was the most balanced game the Bulldogs have targeting Johnson, Jordan and senior Da’Mari Scott, who had five targets and three receptions including a 26-yard gain on a third-and-9 on their first drive, which ended with a touchdown.
Jordan was not targeted at all in a victory at Hawaii or a loss to UNLV, had two in wins at Wyoming and at San Diego State and four in a victory over Brigham Young.
“Hopefully he has another one in him just like last week,” offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said.
“He caught some controlled passing routes, too. There were a couple of slants and things like that where it isn’t just balls down the field that he has kind of been known for. It was good to see those guys connecting.”
Injured Madsen making the trip – Fresno State is taking defensive tackle Nate Madsen to the championship game, though the senior will not play after suffering a serious right knee injury in the final regular-season game.
“He’ll be there with us,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “He’s not all that vocal, but I think just having him around will be great. He’s a guy that’s responsible enough to know, to stay locked into the game, because it means a lot to him. He’ll take it seriously and be there for his teammates and help support his teammates.”
Under Mountain West rules teams can take and dress 70 players to conference road games, but they are allowed 72 for the championship game.
Madsen is scheduled for surgery next week.
Bowling – The Las Vegas Bowl gets first pick of bowl eligible teams from the Mountain West. It is not obligated to take the conference champion, but John Saccenti, executive director of the game, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that is likely to happen.
“We have full intention of taking the winner of the championship game,” Saccenti said. “We certainly don’t want to 100 percent commit to that at this point. You never know what could happen.”
If Fresno State is not in the Las Vegas Bowl, the conference works with the New Mexico Bowl, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and Hawaii Bowl to slot its teams into those games.
The Las Vegas Bowl New Mexico Bowl will be played on Dec. 16, which would conflict with the Bulldogs basketball game against Oregon at the Save Mart Center, the hottest ticket on their nonconference basketball schedule. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is Dec. 22, but would mean a return trip to Boise after playing in the conference championship game.
The Hawaii Bowl is played Dec. 24 – and if there is an open bowl slot from the Big Ten and Pac-12 a spot could open in the Dec. 27 Foster Farms Bowl in San Francisco.
Double-digit difference – The Bulldogs with a victory Saturday or in their bowl game can become only the second team in history to go from having 10 or more losses in a season to 10 or more victories the following year.
Miami (Ohio) did it in 2010, going from 1-11 to 10-4.
The Bulldogs are ahead of the Red Hawks at this point in the season, though, with their nine regular-season wins. In 2010 Miami won eight regular-season games, won its ninth in the MAC championship game and its 10th in GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Fourth down – History may or may not play a part in it, but Fresno State has been one of the better teams in the nation defending fourth-down plays all season, and still opponents keep trying.
The Bulldogs have defended 22 plays with a conversion rate of 27.3, sixth best in the FBS.
The Broncos tried it twice last week, coming up empty both times. They were stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-1 and took a sack and a loss of 10 yards on a fourth-and-10.
It is one of the biggest mismatches in the conference championship.
Boise State has converted only 2 of 16 fourth-down plays and at 12.5 percent has the worst conversion rate in the nation.
“I think our defense plays one play at a time like it’s the play of the game,” Tedford said. “They play really hard, and you don’t know which plays is going to be the play of the game. You never know. But I’ve been really impressed by our defense’s effort. I think back to the Incarnate Word game when the game is way out of hand and they’re kicking a field goal at the very end and the effort to block the field goal.
“It’s a consistent effort that comes every single play. That’s what good defenses are made of. They take a lot of pride in what they do. They play really hard. They play together. They care for each other and they take great pride in it.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. BOISE STATE
- Saturday: 4:45 p.m., Albertsons Stadium (36,387) in Boise, Idaho
- Records: Bulldogs 9-3, 7-1 Mountain West; Broncos 9-3, 7-1
- TV/radio: ESPN/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600).
- Of note: The Bulldogs are playing in their third Mountain West Conference championship game, having beaten Utah State in 2013 and lost at Boise State in 2014. The Bulldogs have 18 players from that 2014 team on the roster and four who played in that game – wideout Da’Mari Scott, outside linebacker Justin Green, kicker Kody Kroening and defensive tackle Nate Madsen. Madsen has been ruled out of the game due to a leg injury suffered in the Bulldogs’ victory over Boise State in their final regular-season game. Boise State is 8-1 against Fresno State on its home field and has won eight in a row, all of them coming by 10 or more points. The Bulldogs’ victory was in their first trip to Boise in 1984.