Dec 16, 2019

Rivalry continues between MWC contenders

Storied rivalry continues with two MWC contenders.

Everyone has a foe that stands as a roadblock between them and achieving greatness.

Whether that foe is a person, place, or thing, there’s always a struggle between the two parties.

Well, in the case of the Bulldogs, that foe stands as Boise State. With a rivalry that goes back to the 1970s, the Broncos and ’Dogs will do battle once again come this Saturday at Lyle Smith Field.

“It’s a fierce rivalry and I think it brings competition,” safety Phillip Thomas said. “I’m just excited for it as I know we haven’t won it in the past.”

Boise State has an overpowering grip on this series as they lead 10-4. The Bulldogs have not won a matchup between the two teams since the days of head coach Jim Sweeney. In the last 10 years, the Broncos have held a strong lead over Fresno State, winning nine out of the last 10 meetings.

“It always adds extra motivation for when we go out on the blue turf or whether we play them at home, they’re a fierce competitive and they have had our number for the past couple of years,” Thomas said.

However, a new era has dawned. Under the tutelage of head coach Tim DeRuyter, the Bulldogs are off to their best start offensively and defensively in recent memory. What stands out this year from last year is the resurgence of Fresno State’s defense.

“I think our defensive staff is doing a great job,” DeRuyter said. “I think our players have done a really great job buying in. But I’m really proud of our staff and instilling the style of defense that we want to play.”

The skills of Thomas as a takeaway machine will be greatly needed in the upcoming game against Boise State. The Broncos also bring takeaway machines in Jeremy Ioane and Jamar Taylor.

“I think what they do is that they play their technique well. They play in the right position pretty much all the time. And they’re opportunistic,” assistant coach Ron Antoine said. “If someone fumbles the ball or there’s a tip ball, they’re right there on the scene.”

These players will be key elements to winning this Saturday’s game at Bronco Stadium. A war will be waged in the trenches between the defensive and offensive linemen.

In between the hash marks, running backs and receivers will square off against linebackers and defensive backs. Men will be measured by their success on the field.

Yet, Fresno State possesses its best chance in several years to claim victory over its hated rival. If the football gods are generous, and Boise State’s offense remains less than stellar (ranked 77th overall), the ’Dogs may prove victorious against all odds.

The Bulldogs, who were predicted to finish third in the Mountain West Conference by football college analysts, appear on track to finish better than predicted. The difference this year is that both Fresno State and Boise State could be potential Mountain West Conference champions this year.

“Predictions are predictions, they don’t mean anything to us,” Thomas said. “Predictions don’t calculate the spirit and pride we have in our school and team. Nobody wants to go out there and compete for third. We’re out there competing for first. We all are competing to win the Mountain West. That’s what we share and that’s our number one goal.”

As this Saturday’s game creeps closer, Fresno State will continue to prepare for the matchup that most players won’t admit they’ve been waiting for all season long. But, until then, feelings of anticipation and excitement will be masked in preparation for Fresno State’s game of the season.

“I feel that we have the players and scheme and coaching staff to do it this year,” Thomas said. “I think that we can 100 percent beat them this year and that’s what we’re going to go out and do.”

DeRuyter added, “If you want to contend for a conference championship, then you have to go through Boise. Our guys realize that and we’ve been looking forward to this date since camp started.”

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