When Fresno State was on the blue turf back in October, it got to the fourth quarter with the score tied at 27, but at that point Boise State had started a drive that would take up 17 plays, consume 75 yards and 7:46 of game time and produce a 34-27 lead for the Broncos.
In there was a fourth-and-2 play, and Boise State hit a pass for 14 yards.
In there was a third-and-9 play, and it a pass for 10 yards.
In there was a fourth-and-1 play, and it gained two yards and a first-and-goal.
The Broncos were 9 of 19 on third downs, 2 of 2 on fourth downs. And turning that around in a second matchup could require more than a schematic tweak here or there.
"We have to be a more physical team," defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. "We have to be more physical than we were in that game. We have to exceed the physicality we've had the last three or four weeks. That's going to be key. We were not near physical enough in that game."
The Bulldogs have improved there since that game -- really, since getting thumped by Wyoming in their next game. Fresno State, with a more settled lineup and the reps distributed more evenly to keep fresh bodies on the field, has tackled better, been more physical.
In a victory over Hawaii last week, the Bulldogs held 240-pound running back Joey Iosefa to just 69 yards on 22 plays and did not allow a rushing touchdown for the first time since a victory over San Diego State in Week 6. Iosefa had rushed for at least one touchdown in nine consecutive games.
"It's coming down to what we've talked about for the past four weeks, five weeks," Toth said. "It comes down to, one, execution, guys executing the call that's called, whatever their job is doing their job, and then doing it with fanatical effort, with 'I'm not going to be denied getting to the ball,' and with as much physicality as you can put into it. That sounds cliché, but that's what it is because that's what they do on offense. They execute their scheme. They do it as fast as they can go and they're trying to push you around and be as physical as they can while they're doing it.
"We have to match it and exceed it, because they're going to have some things. They're so dynamic on offense and so well coached, they've got a great scheme, they're well rounded, that you've got to match them on the things that you can and hang on tight on some of the things that are going to be crazy because they're going to do some stuff that they've gotten everybody with whether it's Ole Miss or whoever. They've gotten everybody with some their stuff.
"You have to make sure you try to dictate a little bit of tempo to them, not be afraid to blitz. But you have to match their attention to detail, because they are a detail-oriented team. They're very good at what they do."
Young players coming through
Fresno State has played 21 first-year players in winning the West Division in the Mountain West Conference including 16 true and redshirt freshmen.
But Boise State also has some young players in its two-deep. Of the 50 players listed on the depth chart for the conference championship game, 15 are sophomores and 10 are freshmen.
Scott to return kickoffs
The Bulldogs' Da'Mari Scott handled kickoff return duties in the victory over Hawaii, taking over after Dillon Root fumbled one away in the victory at Nevada, and returned two kickoffs for 56 yards including a 37-yarder in the fourth quarter. Scott will be back there again in the championship game.
"I liked how he ran the ball," Coach Tim DeRuyter said. "He didn't get many opportunities, but he attacks it with the right mentality and I think he's getting better at it. I think he's a block away from springing one."
Fresno State has not had a kickoff return for a touchdown since Nov. 7, 2008 when A.J. Jefferson took one back 92 yards in a 41-28 loss to Nevada.
• Fresno State ran only 59 plays in the first meeting with Boise State this season, its fewest in a game since the 57-7 loss to the Broncos in 2011. The Bulldogs ran 57 plays in that game, gaining only 270 yards.
• DeRuyter on the Broncos' offense, which has topped 50 points five times in a seven-game winning streak: "They're playing much more efficiently than they did early in the year, which is to be expected. You have a new coaching staff, new terminology, at first it takes a little while. They're into it now and they're just playing at a much higher rate. The quarterback is playing really well and (Jay) Ajayi is really running the ball fiercely. I mean, he's getting after it. Last week against Utah State, the No. 1 rush defense in the conference, he runs for about 230. He's going to be a load."
• The Bulldogs will be the 10th bowl eligible team Boise State will have faced this season, tied for most in the country. The others are Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia and Syracuse.
• Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, like DeRuyter, has played against the same team twice in one season. In 2004, Schramm was coaching the offensive tackles and tight ends at Montana when the Grizzlies lost at Sam Houston State 41-29 in the third game of the season and came back to beat them in a FCS semifinal 47-17 to advance to the national championship game. "I'd say it worked out good," he said. "It's a heck of a lot colder in Montana than it is in Texas at that time of year."