Bronco Beat

Boise State, Fresno State football teams have changed since first meeting

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin cautioned against reading too much into the first meeting between his Broncos and the Fresno State Bulldogs.

Boise State won 37-27 on Oct. 17 at Albertsons Stadium.

They’ll meet again Saturday night at Albertsons Stadium in the Mountain West championship game (8 p.m., CBS).

“You can take that game and watch it, but the teams are both different from where we were,” Harsin said.

Fresno State (6-6) lost its next game, at home against Wyoming, 45-17. Since then, the Bulldogs are 3-0 with wins against San Jose State, Nevada and Hawaii.

Boise State (10-2) is 5-0 since the Fresno State game and has scored at least 50 points in four of those games. Through the Fresno State game, the Broncos had scored 40 just once.

The Broncos have won seven straight overall.

“You go back and look at our team five or six weeks ago, we’re a different football team,” Harsin said. “Guys are just executing and playing at a better level.”

For Fresno State, the Wyoming game was its version of Boise State’s Air Force game. The Bulldogs were embarrassed, but they responded the right way.

“We’ve been playing with a different energy the last three weeks,” said coach Tim DeRuyter, whose team won the Mountain West last year. “Having (quarterback Brian Burrell) come on has really been a huge factor in our success. He hasn’t played perfect, but he’s led us and inspired the guys around him.”

The Broncos trotted out the old “tough to beat a good team twice” line Saturday night. The Bulldogs have heard that cliché, too.

“It’s hard to beat a good team twice,” Burrell said, “and I consider us one of those.”

Said DeRuyter: "If we play four quarters of good football, we'll have a shot. If we don't, we'll be like their last seven opponents."

Other notes from Harsin:

— Senior tight end Connor Peters is out this week. He sustained a leg injury against Utah State. The Broncos hope to get him back for the bowl game.

— On playing the championship game at home: “We need the place packed. It’s the first time, and you don’t want to miss it.”

— On the first game against Fresno State, a 37-27 win: “There wasn’t a large margin of victory. We felt like we had played a very physical football game against a very good team.”

— On the Mountain West: “We played a heck of a schedule to get to where we are right now. It’s made us a better football team. I’m really excited about where we are as a conference and where we’re headed. Every single week, it’s a battle and, man, I love it. I like what the coaches and teams are doing. It just makes us better and better.”

— The Milk Can — the traveling trophy for the Boise State-Fresno State series — will not be on the line. “That one we’re going to keep,” Harsin said. “We earned that one in the game. I’m sure that could get brought up.”

— On whether the team knows about the New Year’s Six bowl berth on the line and if he will bring it up: “Every player’s got one of these (holding his phone), so they’re aware of it. You can’t hide from that. But no, the only thing we know for a fact is that we get to play on Saturday night for a championship. All the speculation of where we could go fro a bowl game, that doesn’t really matter right now. Guys would be nuts if they’re not focused on (Fresno State).”

— Comparing this year to 2006, when the Broncos won the Fiesta Bowl with a first-year staff: “That first year in ’06, we were just trying to keep our heads above water. (Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox) and I were trying not to get fired. That was kind of the running joke between the two of us. He and I were both (29) at the time and trying to figure it out. And we didn’t really think about (the postseason). We were just trying to win games. That’s similar now. I don’t think any of us put stock into where we’re going postseason.”

— On the offense: “We’re still growing. We’re in our infancy of offensively what we can be.”

— On the Utah State game: “That was probably one of the best games our O-line has played. That’s really encouraging.”

— Boise State’s players of the game last week were tailback Jay Ajayi (offense), linebacker Tanner Vallejo and cornerback Jonathan Moxey (defense), true freshman Jeremy McNichols (special teams), guard Mario Yakoo (offensive line) and end Beau Martin (defensive line).

— In case you missed it, the Broncos’ team awards were announced Sunday. Find the list here.

Other notes from DeRuyter:

— “It’s great to be in the championship game again. We took a completely different route than we did a year ago. I’m impressed with the resolve of this team. We found a way to win the right ones and get to this game.”

— “(Boise State) played an excellent defense last week that Utah State brought in and it didn’t mater. They’re executing at a very, very high rate.”

— On Ajayi: “He’s more physical this year. He’s always been a physical back. He’s more explosive. He gets the ball in space and makes guys miss. He can run through tackles. You better have more than one guy at the point of attack because 1-on-1 he’s going to win more than his share of those battles. He’s a terrific weapon in the passing game. He’s a complete back. I voted for him as offensive player of the year for the conference.”

Boise State OC Mike Sanford

— On Fresno State: “Their defense presented quite a few problems. I’ve watched that tape. I didn’t come away quite as encouraged as I thought I would. We have a lot of motivation to play better.”

— On quarterback Grant Hedrick: “He’s become a more aggressive decision-maker, in a positive way. The offense and really this football team has started to galvanize around him.”

— On the importance of winning the conference title: “I think there’s a misconception around the program that Boise State just automatically wins a conference championship every year. We’ve won three outright in the last nine years. We want to get that done. We want to be the fourth team to do that in the last decade.” Boise State won outright titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and shared titles in 2005, 2010 and 2012. It didn’t win a championship in 2007, 2011 or 2013.

Boise State DC Marcel Yates

— On watching Fresno State: “If you would have told me there were 6-6, I would have told you you were lying to me.”

LINKS

Jeremy Ioane talks about his Senior Day moment

Jay Ajayi named player of the week

Hedrick named team MVP

Broncos climb to No. 22 in the poll

Email me at ccripe@idahostatesman.com.

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