Fresno State free safety Derron Smith returns an interception during the Bulldogs’ home win over San Diego State last year. Roe Borunda/The Collegian.
Maybe it’s not. Maybe it is. Really, it depends on the times.
From the late 1940s through the 70s, you bet it was. Fresno State and San Diego State played against each other every year from 1945 to 1979. The series started in 1923, and Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium will be the 53rd meeting between the two programs.
But that was light years ago. Now? Fresno State and San Diego State, division mates in the Mountain West Conference’s West Division, square off in the third meeting in as many years – a rematch of between last year’s conference champions and a makeshift division championship game between the only remaining Mountain West teams undefeated in conference play.
No. 17 Fresno State enters 6-0 overall and 3-0 in Mountain West play. The Aztecs are 3-3 and 2-0 in the conference.
But is this a rivalry? A Boise State-Fresno State rivalry? A Fresno State-Nevada rivalry?
No, said Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter, it’s the start of it.
“It’s probably more of a past rivalry,” DeRuyter said. “But I think that with both of us and San Jose State being in this division of the Mountain West, I think it’s really going to start to take off.
“I think there’s a lot of natural rivalry between graduates in California that went to those institutions. Any time you have that, I think it adds to it. And in recruiting, we go head to head with those schools. I think its probably further back in the past a big rivalry, but heading toward the future, it’s continuing to grow.”
Fresno State and San Diego State – and San Jose State – recruit in the same state and eye the same talent.
The Bulldogs enter Saturday’s matchup as the clear favorites. Their record is better, and in a recruiting tug-of-war, there’s a powerful statement made in beating a school competing for a recruit’s signature.
“Most kids, winning is a key factor in them making their decision,” DeRuyter said. “It’s the guys that we want to recruit.”
Those recruiting victories against the Aztecs – much like the teams’ recent games – have gone “back and forth,” DeRuyter said.
“We’ve won our share, and they’ve won their share. I think that we go further on hoping that we can win those games to differentiate ourselves,” he said.
For Bulldogs who’ve played in the recent series, it’s a rivalry. Fresno State won last year’s meeting 52-40 at Bulldog Stadium, overcoming a 21-point deficit. San Diego State won 2011’s meeting 35-28 at home, putting the final stamp on the Bulldogs’ 4-9 season that year.
“They’re right there in the rivalry aspect with all those other teams,” said junior safety Derron Smith.
“A lot of us had offers to San Diego State and a lot of the players from San Diego State had offers here [Fresno State], so it’s definitely a rivalry game. I know a lot of guys will have a lot of family down there because a lot of us are from Southern California.”
San Diego State leads the all-time series 27-21-4. Saturday’s game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.
Adams answers challenge
Fresno State wide receiver Davante Adams didn’t have a good game against Hawaii, and the Bulldogs coaching staff publicly voiced it: Adams hadn’t been performing to the capabilities they knew he was able to perform.
Five catches for 22 yards against a team that remains winless was not the production coaches expected from Adams, even if he was getting double-teamed and the added attention of opposing defenses was honed in on him.
He heard the call, and he answered it.
Two games later, Adams has had seven touchdown receptions – he’s tied the school record for most career touchdown receptions. Defenses – Idaho’s and UNLV’s – were less stubborn about double-covering Adams and more adamant on playing him in man coverage.
Didn’t work. Here’s what did:
“Their job is to let me know when I’m not performing the way I should be,” Adams said of the coaching staff.
“… My whole life, in basketball and football, I really can’t name a coach that wasn’t really on me. I’ve never had coaches be like, ‘Good job, ‘Te, good job.’ I’m not looking for things like that.
“I’m looking for guys who get on me. I’m supposed to get touchdowns. I’m supposed to maybe catch 14, 16, whatever balls thrown at me. That’s the standard.”
Adams scored on the first play from scrimmage on a 75-yard pass from Derek Carr. After the game, DeRuyter said UNLV coach Bobby Hauck told him, “We had no idea he was that good just watching the tape.”
He joked that they were probably watching the Hawaii game tape.
“I think he just started holding himself more accountable. Davante’s a mature guy,” DeRuyter said.
“He wants to be coached hard. I think it hurt him to be called out and he responded the right way. I appreciate his effort since then. I think he realizes there’s a method to our madness since doing it. Like I said, he’s responded exactly the way I wanted him to respond and he’s become one of the dominant players in this league.”