Fresno State last season ended a seven-year losing streak to Boise State in dramatic fashion, but the truly daunting challenge has yet to be successfully completed.
At least, it’s never been done during the lifetime of these current Bulldogs players.
The last time Fresno State beat the Broncos at Boise State: the first Apple Macintosh computers were being sold, the song “Ghostbusters” was a top-10 hit and Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter was a senior linebacker at Air Force.
Oh, and Boise State’s signature blue field was green back in 1984.
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But the Bulldogs can end that 30-year streak Friday when they visit Boise State on the “Smurf Turf” of Albertsons Stadium in the latest installment of the Milk Can rivalry.
“We know it's going to be a difficult chore against a very well-coached, very talented team,” said DeRuyter, whose Bulldogs are playing the last of four straight Friday games before heading into a bye next week.
Fresno State is 1-6 all-time against the Broncos in Boise, with the victory occurring two years before Boise State first installed its blue turf. The Bulldogs did win two other times in Boise, bowl victories against Virginia in 2004 and Georgia Tech in 2007.
Boise State is 95-4 overall at home since 1999, which includes six straight wins against Fresno State by an average score of 40-13.
“There’s nothing about the blue turf; that’s a great marketing thing for them,” DeRuyter said. “They’ve got good players. They've had them for quite a long time now. We know that when you go up in Boise, you’ve got to play your best game to have a chance to win.
“But it’s nothing to do with the field, nothing to do with the color of the uniforms. It’s them playing well and teams playing against them not executing as well.”
The Bulldogs did appear to reduce the gap in their last visit to Boise during DeRuyter’s first season, losing 20-10 in 2012.
Then last season, Fresno State defeated Boise State for the first time in any venue since 2005 with a 41-40 victory at Bulldog Stadium. Former quarterback Derek Carr did the heavy lifting with 460 passing yards and four touchdowns, while ex-defensive back Jonathan Norton provided the finishing touch with a deflected pass near midfield to halt Boise State’s final drive.
Both programs have gone through significant changes since that last meeting — Fresno State is enduring its first season without the record-setting Carr and Boise State no longer is under the direction of coaching wiz Chris Petersen.
These Bulldogs have been searching all season for consistent and reliable execution by both their offense and defense.
Then there’s the emotional funk Fresno State has had to overcome this week after getting stunned 30-27 at UNLV last weekend — the Bulldogs’ first loss to the Rebels since 1984.
Fresno State quarterback Brian Burrell said the Bulldogs didn’t have good practices leading into the UNLV game and that carried over into their game performance. Fresno State, however, has had better focus preparing for the Broncos, coaches said.
Perhaps that’s because Fresno State is playing its rival, though the Broncos are considered a 17-point favorite and the Bulldogs just learned the hard way that they must have crisp practices each day to have a chance to win games.
“I’m excited,” Burrell said. “I’ve never even seen the blue turf. We’re not going to focus on the turf but on things that’ll help us prepare to win. We’re going to go out there and do everything we can, and have a good game plan. We’ll be ready.”
Boise State’s main problems under first-year coach Bryan Harsin: The Broncos have 16 turnovers — tied for third-most in the nation.
During Boise State’s two losses — 35-13 at Ole Miss and 28-14 at Air Force — the Broncos committed a combined 11 turnovers.
“They’ve had some turnover issues,” Bulldogs linebacker Ejiro Ederaine said, “so maybe some blitzing and stuff will make (the quarterback) uneasy in the pocket and rush into some mistakes.”
The Broncos have made up for some for their mistakes by forcing opponents into a rash of turnovers themselves — 16 on the season (12 interceptions, four fumbles recovered), which ranks eighth in the nation.
Since both teams already have lost a conference game, a loss Friday could prevent either program from winning their division in the Mountain West and reaching the conference title game.
For Fresno State, a win would be historic (the first on the blue turf against Boise State in school history) and could do wonders for the team’s confidence. But a loss would significantly reduce the margin for error the rest of the season as the Bulldogs attempt to reach a bowl (must finish at least 6-6 to be bowl eligible).
“We can’t afford to lose in conference anymore,” Bulldogs receiver Josh Harper said. “So a win in Boise, especially in Boise, would do great things for us. And I feel like it’ll get our confidence back to where it needs to be.”