Fresno State kicker Kody Kroening awaits a snap during the ‘Dogs’ weekly practice Tuesday. Photo by Darlene Wendels/The Collegian
The mentality the rest of the way for the Fresno State football team is simple: win out and you’re in.
This was not the mood three weeks ago, however, when the Bulldogs fell against Wyoming for their third-consecutive conference loss. The blowout defeat put the ‘Dogs in a hole, but a 38-24 bounce-back win the following week over San Jose State gave them a sudden spark and kept them in the hunt.
“It’s crazy, but what we’re thinking about is going 1-0 this week,” senior wideout Josh Harper said. “Getting a win here is only going to get us one step closer to our goal.”
Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said the conference win over the in-state rival helped to fuel the team’s confidence as they near the end of the regular season.
“The big thing is that our guys’ confidence has returned,” DeRuyter said. “We played probably for the first time all year with some confidence and with some swagger against a quality opponent.”
The West Division of the Mountain West currently features a three-way tie for first place between the Bulldogs, Nevada and San Diego State.
The Wolf Pack (6-4, 3-3 MW) would solely be in first place, but last week’s 45-38 overtime loss to Air Force dropped the Wolf Pack into a three-way tie.
“It’s a little different,” DeRuyter said. “I think back three weeks ago how poor we played and how bad we felt, to think that a couple weeks later, we’re in a position where the path to the Mountain West Championship game is in our hands. We can control our destiny by winning out. It’s a heck of a testament to our seniors and their leadership.
“They kept the guys in the boat and kept our guys progressing. It also speaks to what we’ve spoken about since summer. There’s a ton of parity in this league. There’s good coaches, really good players and on any given Saturday, anybody can beat anybody. Obviously, it’s played itself out this year.”
Up next on the Bulldogs schedule is a must-win road game this Saturday in Reno, Nevada, against the Wolf Pack.
A win over Cody Fajardo and Nevada Saturday would give the Bulldogs the tiebreaker over the Wolf Pack and a first place standing in the West Division with one game remaining in the regular season.
“It’s pretty crazy,” nose guard Tyeler Davison said. “We’re pretty fortunate up to this point to have it end like this. But we can’t think too hard about that, we just have to worry about ourselves and worry about winning this next game.”
Kicking game providing reliability
After early season struggles, walk-on kicker Kody Kroening has come along for the Bulldogs in the kicking game. The freshman has converted 75 percent of his attempts, as he is 6-of-8 on the year.
Against his hometown San Jose Spartans last week, he nailed a 26-yarder in the fourth quarter to help the Bulldogs pull away. However, Kroening’s moment came against Boise State, when he nailed a pair of field goals including a career-long 44-yarder. Special teams will continue to play a critical role as the Bulldogs head into their final two — both must-win games.