Attack the Opponent: Fresno State Bulldogs

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Fresno State and the Broncos have baggage and history. The series between the two teams started in 1977, with a 42-7 loss at Bulldog Stadium for Boise State. It took 2 more meetings and another 24 years for Boise to finally get a win against Fresno, and boy was it a glorious one. After eating losses in 1984 and again in 1996 (Harsin and Yate’s freshman season, incidentally), Boise State waltzed into Fresno with a 3-3 record and took down the mighty Dawgs, who had a #10 ranking after beating Oregon State and Wisconsin earlier in the season. (Guess who was around for that one? Only Coaches Sanford, Riddle, Huff, Avalos, and Pitman.) Since 2001, the series is 11-2, with Fresno stealing wins in 2005, and 2013.

The victory in Fresno in the 2001 season is definitely in the top 3 of best Bronco wins. It kicked off the modern era of beating the crap out of everybody.

The rivalry with FSU, while having a silly trophy that is a chromed out milk jug as the prize, commands respect from the conference and the fan bases. Sure, it’s 11-5 all time with Boise State firmly in control, but Fresno winning is happening more and more often. Fresno is now winning a game every 8 years, and well, that’s just far too close for comfort. Just because the match-up garners a healthy level of respect by both sides, doesn’t mean that the hate isn’t there. Boise State ruined what was a magical season for Fresno in 2001. Fresno kicked a team that was down with a terminally ill coach in their first season of 1A football in 1996. Both sets of coaches do a good job of staying classy, but the game can get chippy quite quickly. Fresno fans HATE losing to Boise just as much as Boise fans hate losing to Fresno, and both fan bases are vocal about it. Both teams are blue-collar, hard-working groups of guys who are known for killing giants and winning games they have no business competing in. Both teams are also currently in rebuilding phases.

Losing quarterback Derek Carr was painful for the Bulldogs. The 2014 team is an almost respectable 3-4, coming off a rather pathetic loss to UNLV. They are not strong at the quarterback position. If history teaches anything, it’s that once Fresno gets embarrassed, they are not good at bouncing back and getting wins. That’s always been Fresno’s issue, really. They’re tough, sure. But they don’t have that same magical, indescribable quality that has confounded the programs that came up against Boise State. The will to win that separates Boise from nearly every other program in the country and what keeps a lot of fans bleeding blue. Fresno likes to collapse. In 2001, they lost their next game to Hawaii after the fateful night they lost to Boise. In 2002, Boise curb-stomped the Bulldogs 67-21, and they immediately turned around and lost to Hawaii for the second year in a row. In 2006, after beating Boise State, they very nearly lost to New Mexico State. Almost losing to New Mexico State is 99.9999999% as bad as actually losing to them. The more emotion filled the game against Boise is, the worse Fresno does both in their next game and the next time they face Boise.

The Bronco’s coaching staff seems to understand this tendency. Fresno is missing Carr like Boise was missing Kellen Moore last year. They’re off to a rough start this season, and they just lost to UNLV for the first time in thirty years. Who better to come along and rub salt in an open wound than Coach Harsin and Coach Yates and a team who is bitter and probably pissed off at losing to them in 2013? Yes, there’s an overarching theme to the whole “Respect the Past” idea. It’s a brilliant opportunity to educate the team on exactly what each of these games, each of these rivalries means to the program, the university, to the city of Boise itself. That’s why Harsin banned the color red from practice. A move like that drives emotion, and making sure that emotion and intensity are there each week is on the coaches as much as the players. There is urgency to stay sharp after beating Nevada, to always be ready because the Mountain West of 2014 is unpredictable at best.

It feels like Boise State is on the verge of truly putting together a great game on both sides of the ball. It also feels like the coaches have some animosity toward Fresno that needs exorcised. In an old skool, Coach Hawk style beatdown kinda way. The guys put 51 on Nevada last week, but we haven’t seen a good ol’ fashioned 2003 style butt kicking on anybody in a while. Hey Broncos! Let’s see if you guys can put 80 on Fresno, just for funsies. It will make Bronco fans happy because there were a lot of Bulldog people jawing about owning the Broncos now after squeaking past for a win in 2013.

Fresno did not have a good time against UNLV on Saturday, even if it was an OT game. Fresno got down big, early (because whoa, hideous defense allowing UNLV 478 yards) managed to mount a sad little comeback on the Rebs’s terrible defense, only to minicoug it and get #collegekicker-ed into OT by missing a PAT. UNLV then put the game away on a made FG. Since the Mountain West is reflecting in fun house mirrors this season, the Dawgs managed to beat New Mexico and SDSU, but turned around and lost to the 2-5 Rebels.

Sleepy-bulldog-falls-asleepWay to snatch that defeat from the jaws of victory there, boy.

Of course, it’s not like Boise looked much better against Air Force recently…

rollersk8horsefailThe AFA/Boise State game, as acted out by someone trying to roller skate over a brick wall wearing a racehorse costume on bbq wheels.

Look, there isn’t a team in the MWC this season that is highly ranked or even threatening for a playoff spot at this point. This conference is doing well at cannibalizing itself though, and for the first time in a long time, it’s consistently entertaining. Boise State has a nice home stand coming up, with a lineup of conference foes to make any fan drool a little. Fresno kicks us off next week with a game that is meaningful to not only the teams and schools but the fan bases and cities involved. California’s Central Valley is having a rough go of it right now as a whole, while the Treasure Valley grows and fights its own battles. Football is a great distraction from what goes on in the serious world and for a few hours next weekend, we can get together and watch these teams, trash talk each other in good fun, and Fresno can show Reno how to have a rivalry with at least a little mutual respect.

Or, yanno, Boise can just put 90 points on the Dogs and we can make this turn from a nice little mid-major rivalry to a Vandal-style hate inferno with just a little fuel. It’s going to be the Bronco’s choice, because Fresno isn’t going to be able to do a thing about what is going to happen to them this weekend.

ponymoonwalkshore

Makin’ this look good since 2001.

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