David White

What a difference a year – and a new coach and QB – has made for this football team

Editor’s note: An earlier version incorrectly referred to Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien as Mark Rypien.

We’ve seen this before, just not like this.

New football coach comes to Fresno State. New coach inherits someone else’s underperforming players. New coach takes them to a conference championship game playing defense with hair on fire.

That, ladies and otherwise, is where the comparisons of the departed Tim DeRuyter, circa 2012, and present seat holder Jeff Tedford go their separate ways.

Tedford’s defense plays as if a puppy dies every time the other team scores, just like DeRuyter’s first-year team. The difference is, Tedford runs an offense that does not require a Derek Carr under center.

Which is to say, Tedford has assembled a team that’s big on team, and not on future NFL commodities.

That’s how you beat No. 25 Boise State, 28-17, in Saturday’s regular-season curtain drop at Bulldog Stadium. That’s how you beat a nationally-ranked Broncos team for the first time in nine tries, and a nationally-ranked anybody for the first time in 22 tries going back to Fresno State vs. Virginia in the Humanitarian-Potato-Whatever They Call the Boise Bowl These Days.

At this point, it doesn’t matter if Fresno State doubles down and sweeps the Broncos in next Saturday’s Mountain West Conference championship game (site TBD). The Bulldogs have already served notice that everything has changed under Old Man Tedford.

No more losing to Boise State by half a hundred. No more sending a Broncos quarterback straight to a postseason All-Star game in Mobile.

And, no more reason to ever speak again of last season’s 1-11 debacle, which is so eight-win differential ago.

Tedford took quarterback Marcus McMaryion, the Oregon State throwaway – you know, the Pac-12 team that just fired its own coach – issued him a playbook for summer vacation, and came up with a proficient passing game that bleeds out defenses with 8-yard paper cuts, and delivers final blows by way of an 81-yard touchdown shot to KeeSean Johnson in the fourth quarter.

In other words, he puts out an offense that gives the defense all the rest it ever needs – and oh, what a rested Bulldogs defense is doing these days.

They held Boise State to a single touchdown in the first half Saturday for the first time since the teams became conference bunkmates in 2001.

Their linebackers ran down running backs near the line of scrimmage just for the George Helmuth of it. Defensive tackle Malik Forrester, time and again, knocked north-south ball carriers into the horizontal direction.

EPZ DOGFOOT 02
Boise State’s Montel Cozart,center, tries to elude the grasp of Fresno State’s George Helmuth, left, and Tank Kelly during first-half action Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, at Bulldog Stadium. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

They stuffed Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien on a 4th-and-1 sneak in the second quarter to end one scoring drive. Helmuth dropped Montell Cozart for a 3-yard loss inside the 10-yard line to force a third-quarter field goal.

Four times, Boise State entered Fresno State real estate in the first half. Three times, they got nothing for their trouble.

With the game ticking away in the fourth quarter, it was defensive end Robert Stanley swallowing Cozart whole for a punt-inducing quarterback sack. With one last gasp remaining, Forrester dropped the quarterback for a safety.

On this defense, it was always somebody making a devastating play, yet it was never anybody in particular.

No need for another Derek Carr when Tedford has the Bulldogs playing team football like this.

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