Sports

Bulldogs’ bad start doesn’t matter. There’s still plenty of reasons to believe they can beat Boise

Fresno State isn’t a Top 25 football program. Last-gasp losses to USC and Minnesota settled that argument before the season reached its three-week anniversary.

Get over it, because this season isn’t over yet.

Yes, we know they couldn’t beat a quarterback-less USC team, or a Minnesota guest that has 6-5 green-inked on its neck.

Maybe you came expecting this column to leg-snap these ’Dogs while they’re down. For once, you’d be wrong.

The Bulldogs aren’t out. Not in this football conference, not with this coach, not by any means. Unless they somehow lost to Sacramento State on Saturday night, in which case, never mind.

We’ve seen enough of this team to bet everyone else’s money they’ll win eight games, go to a bowl game, and look unspeakably better than anything the previous regime offered up after Derek Carr capped and gowned it to Las Oakland.

Top 25 good? Probably not during this regular season. But they don’t have to be, not any time soon.

They started the turnaround Saturday against Sacramento State. (Sure, it wasn’t pretty, but Fresno State responded when it needed to.)

That leaves the Bulldogs nine games over 10 weeks to build a proper defense for the Mountain West Conference belt. They don’t have to be better than No. 20 Boise State today. If you remember, they sure weren’t better than the Broncos during the 2018 regular season, if scoreboards mean anything to you.

The Bulldogs just have to better in the end, like they were last year. We still think they have a fighting chance, and when’s the last time we typed that without being in the concussion protocol?

Quarterback Jorge Reyna looks really good when he’s not throwing game-ending interceptions, as far as fifth-year rookies go. Running back Ronnie Rivers is the single-best entity on this team. There’s enough offense to beat all the beatables on the docket, and we count at least five such schmucks.

The defense won’t give up third-and-infinities forever. If they’re good enough to put offenses in third-and-long, they’re good enough to get the punt-return team on the field at some point.

They can still lose to the best four teams left on the schedule, because of course they can. They can also beat them without making the stock market crash in utter shock.

Think about that. Utter suspense of what could be in the Mountain West, beyond having to beat Boise State. Is that such a terrible thing?

Tedford is trotting six true freshmen out there. What did you expect, pixie dust and rainbow unicorns? There is no passing Go without going around the board a first time.

Of course this is going to take a minute. It was always going to take a minute. Be glad the grindiest part of the grind comes on the back half of the to-do list: Utah State and Nevada here, Hawaii and San Diego State there.

One good thing about falling out of the OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES crowd? No one expects a thing out of Tedford or this team.

Given the past two seasons, we’re starting to think that’s when The Jeff does his best work.

David White is a former Fresno Bee staff writer and NFL beat writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, now a pastor and Sunday sports columnist for The Bee: bydw@sbcglobal.net, @bydavidwhite

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