Bull­dogs tak­ing Boise State coach’s com­ments to heart

The Fresno Bee - - Front Page - BY ROBERT KUWADA rkuwada@fres­nobee.com

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 mov­ing 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.”

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 reg­u­larsea­son 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.”

‘Y’ FAC­TOR

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 next week in the MW cham­pi­onship game.

Last year, quar­ter­back Mar­cus McMaryion hadn’t 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, McMaryion is a threat in the run game and not just in the red zone, where he has 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.

Last sea­son, Jared Rice had caught one pass or no passes in nine of the first 11 games and was mostly a red zone threat, but he 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.

SHORT-HANDED

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).

PRES­SURE PLAYS

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.”

QUICK HIT­TERS

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, 200508) and Jovon Bouknight (Wy­oming, 2002-05) are tied for sec­ond on that list at 47 games.

Fresno State is a 2.5point 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 un­der­dog to Bos­ton Col­lege and for the first time in a reg­u­larsea­son game since 2001 when it was a 6-point un­der­dog to Wash­ing­ton State. Boise State lost to Bos­ton Col­lege 27-21 and to Wash­ing­ton State 4120.

DARIN OSWALD doswald@ida­hostates­man.com

Boise State foot­ball coach Bryan Harsin watches his team along the side­line dur­ing the Bron­cos’ home opener against UConn. Boise State, which beat Fresno State last year in the Moun­tain West cham­pi­onship game, hosts the Bull­dogs on Satur­day.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fres­nobee.com

Fresno State wide­out KeeSean John­son pulls in an 81-yard touch­down pass from quar­ter­back Mar­cus McMaryion in a 28-17 vic­tory over Boise State on Nov. 24, 2017. John­son comes into the 2018 re­match with a streak of 45 con­sec­u­tive games with at least one re­cep­tion, the long­est ac­tive streak in the na­tion.

DARIN OSWALD doswald@ida­hostates­man.com

Fresno State quar­ter­back Kyle Lindquist catches a mid­field pass in front of Boise State safety Kekoa Nawahine in the Moun­tain West Con­fer­ence Cham­pi­onship on Dec. 2 in Boise.

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