Fresno State is not lacking for motivation headed to Boise State on Friday, having lost the Mountain West Championship game 17-14 the last time it played at Albertsons Stadium and looking to move up from No. 23 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
And now comments made by Boise State coach Bryan Harsin after last year’s championship game are making the rounds. Some of the Bulldogs had not heard the sound bite from the end of Harsin’s postgame news conference until this week.
To recap: “Our guys came to play tonight,” Harsin said. “It was a physical football game. We beat that team. We physically beat them when it was all said and done, and that’s the bottom line. I have to give our guys credit for that because that’s how it was. The execution part of it, we’ll go back and we’ll look at that and we’ll figure out how we’re going to be better from it, but physically when it came down to it and it really mattered out guys got it done and they physically beat the other team.”
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That was an interesting take, considering …
Fresno State for a second week in a row had held the Broncos to a season-low 17 points – they averaged 38.3 points against the rest of the conference.
The Bulldogs held Boise State to an average of 2.9 yards per rushing play, its lowest against a Mountain West opponent. Fresno State also rushed for 3.9 yards per play, more than it had one week earlier in beating the Broncos in the final regular-season game.
Fresno State had four sacks to the Broncos’ two. It also had six tackles for loss to the Broncos’ three.
Boise State was losing 14-10 inside of seven minutes to play when quarterback Brett Rypien hit Cedric Wilson on a 59-yard pass play to set up the winning score.
Safety Mike Bell said he came across the comments by Harsin this week, watching them on video for the first time.
He said it gave him a bit of an edge.
“I just take it as motivation,” Bell said. “We pride ourselves here on being physical and being more physical than other teams and hearing someone say that with so much passion behind it kind of hurt me a little bit, so I’m really dialing in this week on being physical.”
Time and TV
Friday’s game at Albertsons Stadium starts at 7:15 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.
Bulldogs are 8-1 overall, 5-0 in the Mountain West Conference. Boise State is 7-2, 4-1.
The Bulldogs offensively are a few miles ahead of where they were a year ago when playing Boise State at the end of the regular season and the following week in the MW championship game.
Last year, quarterback Marcus McMaryion had not made many plays in the run game; in the three games leading into the first Boise State game, he had rushed the ball a total of four times. But against the Broncos he ran it four times for 27 yards, then seven times for 33 yards including two red zone touchdowns. This season, McMaryioni is a threat in the run game and not just in the red zone where he has racked up seven rushing touchdowns.
In a victory last week at UNLV, the Bulldogs’ targets to wideouts and tight ends were well spread out, making it difficult for a defense to focus on any one receiver.
But the “Y” factor in this game could be the tight end position.
Jared Rice last season had caught one pass or no passes in nine of the first 11 games and was mostly a red zone threat, but was a factor in those two games and comes into this game as the Bulldogs’ second-leading receiver to KeeSean Johnson.
Boise State will have to account for Rice, as well as the Bulldogs’ other tight ends. That unit has totaled seven touchdowns this season, three apiece by Rice and Kyle Riddering and one for David Tangipa.
Boise State lost linebacker Riley Whimpey for the season with a torn ACL in the Broncos’ victory last week over BYU, the third defensive starter who is out for the year.
The Broncos also have been playing without defensive tackle David Moa (calf) and safety DeAndre Pierce (spleen).
Boise State has allowed 2.6 sacks per game, ranking eighth in the conference, and the Bulldogs are hoping to get to quarterback Brett Rypien more than a few times.
“We have to affect Brett – No. 4,” defensive tackle Jasad Haynes said. “We know what he’s capable of, what the offensive line is capable of, so we have to get there.”
Rypien, who has completed 67.7 percent of his passes this season, has been sacked often in the Broncos’ only two losses – seven times at Oklahoma State and four times at home against San Diego State.
Against the Cowboys and Aztecs, he hit 61.9 percent of his passes, averaging 5.7 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and two interceptions. In the Broncos’ seven wins he hit 70.1 percent of his passes, averaging 9.6 yards per attempt with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions.
“Any pressure affects any quarterback,” Haynes said. “If we get there, we get him antsy, and hopefully affect his game.”
- The Bulldogs under Tedford are 7-0 in conference regular-season road games.
- The Broncos and Washington State are the only two teams in the nation to have eight or more receivers catch at least one pass in every game this season.
- Boise State is 0-4 against ranked teams in the month of November, losing at No. 20 Fresno State in 2005, at No. 14 Hawaii in 2007 and at No. 19 Nevada in 2010 and against No. 19 TCU in 2011. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25, No. 17 in the Coaches Poll and No. 23 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
- If the Bulldogs win at Boise State they would match the longest winning streak by a team coached by Jeff Tedford. Cal in 2006 had an eight-game winning streak.
- In its five Mountain West Conference games, Fresno State has had an average starting position inside its 30-yard line just once. That was at New Mexico, and that was at the 29. Fresno State’s average starting position was its 32 at Nevada, its 36 against Wyoming, its 48 against Hawaii and its 38 at UNLV.
- In the Mountain West championship game last season the Bulldogs had six series in the second half and three of them started inside their 20 at the 13-, 10- and 14-yard lines.
- The Bulldogs’ KeeSean Johnson has a streak of 45 consecutive games with at least one reception, the longest active streak in the nation. The senior wideout is closing in on the Mountain West record set by Dominic Rufran, who at Wyoming from 2011 to ‘14 caught a pass in 49 games in a row. Casey Flair (UNLV, 2005-08) and Jovon Bouknight (Wyoming, 2002-05) are tied for second on that list at 47 games.
- Fresno State is a 2.5-point favorite over the Broncos, the first time Boise State has been an underdog on its blue turf at Albertsons Stadium since the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl when it was a 3-point ‘dog to Boston College and for the first time in a regular-season game since 2001 when it was a 6-point ‘dog to Washington State. Boise State lost to Boston College 27-21 and to Washington State 41-20.