By Bill McEwen
Yes, the Fresno State Bulldogs deserved the home-field advantage in Saturday’s Mountain West Conference football title game.
They earned it with their solid victory over Boise State last week and with their No. 25 position in the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings.
And, yes, the Mountain West handed Boise State everything but the kitchen sink in 2012 when the Broncos reversed field (they are famous for their gadget plays, after all) and stayed in the conference instead of bolting for the Big East.
Go ahead and be angry. Curse, kick and scream about the unfairness of it all.
Get all of that out of your system and then embrace the grand possibilities for Bulldogs quarterback Marcus McMaryion, linebacker Jeffrey Allison and their teammates.
With the odds piled high against them, the Bulldogs and Coach Jeff Tedford have an opportunity to become Fresno State legends.
Win or Lose, This Team is Special
Regardless of how Saturday’s game turns out, they’ve already accomplished a lot. They are the Turnaround Kids. The team that put a 1-11 season in the rear-view mirror and shocked the Mountain West and the nation with a conference division title and a 9-3 record.
But a victory Saturday on Boise State’s blue turf would put them on par with the Trent Dilfer-Lorenzo Neal-Ron Rivers squad that rocked USC 24-7 in the 1992 Freedom Bowl. And with Jim Sweeney’s 1977 “Stadium Builders” team.
Old-timers might even look at these Bulldogs with the same affection they have for the 10-0 Mercy Bowl team that destroyed Bowling Green 36-6 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Bulldogs long laid to rest might embrace Tedford’s crew the way they did those small-college powerhouse teams of Coach James W. “Rabbit” Bradshaw before World War II.
Savor this: The Bulldogs have already beaten Boise State, their most-hated opponent, this year. Now they have a chance to do it twice in one season. From 2001 to 2012, the Bulldogs only defeated the Broncos once. Two victories would make them a Fresno State team for the ages.
I am glad they have. Being the underdog sweetens the plot for Fresno State.
Though I covered Tedford back when he was a young Fresno State quarterback (and I was a cub sports reporter) and then again when he was an assistant Fresno State coach, I can’t say that I know him well. He impressed me as tough and intelligent and someone who preferred to let the scoreboard do his talking.
Imagine if Sweeney Were Alive to Deliver Saturday’s Pre-Game Speech
Thus I don’t know how he motivates his players. But I do know the kind of speech that Sweeney would have delivered before a game like this.
“No one gives us a chance. The referees will be against us. The conference wants Boise State to win. But you’re Bulldog born. You’re Bulldog bred. And the pressure is all on them. We’re going to punch these guys in the nose. Out-hit ’em. Out-smart ’em. Out-run ’em.
“This game should be at our place. It’s not, and we’re not going to use that as an excuse. We’re going to play snap-to-whistle. On every play. They’re a good team. We can’t forget that. There will be temporary setbacks. But we’ve come too far and accomplished too much to be satisfied with anything less than winning. Now go out there and show them one more time what it means to be a Bulldog.”
Understand: Fresno State teams have always played their best with a chip on their shoulder. That’s a big part of why we love our ‘Dogs.
Fresno State is a 10-point underdog and has to fly to rainy Boise?
Sure, they’d rather play at home. But the Bulldogs have the Broncos exactly where they want them.