Fresno State quarterback Brian Burrell rushes through Boise State’s defense during the ‘Dogs’ loss to the Broncos in the Mountain West Championship. Photo courtesy of NCAA Photos
The 2014 season was like a roller coaster ride for the Fresno State football team that finished the year with an overall record of 6-7.
Things were tough early on, and the Bulldogs fell in a hole after suffering three straight blowout losses to teams from Power Five conferences in USC, Utah and Nebraska. But the ‘Dogs were able to rebound and win their next three against Southern Utah, New Mexico and San Diego State to get to .500.
However, three more losses followed, all to Mountain West opponents. That included upset losses to UNLV and Wyoming to put Fresno State at 3-6.
The three-loss span was capped by a lopsided 45-17 loss to the Cowboys in a game in which redshirt freshman quarterback Zack Greenlee got the nod over regular starter Brian Burrell. The Nov. 1 loss to Wyoming was the low point of the season that, at the moment, appeared to damage the ‘Dogs’ hopes of a third-straight league title.
Head coach Tim DeRuyter and his squad bounced back from the three-straight losses by beating San Jose State, Nevada on the road and Hawaii to helped them end the year 5-3 in conference play. The strong late season performances along with losses from others in the West Division helped the ‘Dogs capture the West Division crown and reach the Mountain West championship game for the second-consecutive season. There, the Bulldogs met with Boise State for the second time this season falling 28-14. The Broncos also got the best of the Bulldogs in the tight Oct. 27 meeting, pulling away in the fourth quarter to win that one 37-27.
Bright spots included junior running back and second-team all conference selection Marteze Waller, who rushed for 1,292 yards and 11 touchdowns. Waller had his most outstanding game of the year in Boise, where he rushed for a career-high 164 yards and two scores.
Senior wide receiver Josh Harper also had a stellar season, racking up 1,072 receiving yards on the year en route to earning first-team All-Mountain West honors. This marks back-to-back years in which the senior has has accounted for over 1,000 yards. Harper will be participating in the 2015 Reese’s Senior Bowl on Jan. 24 in Mobile, Alabama, along with teammate and free safety Derron Smith.
After struggling early in the season, quarterback Brian Burrell elevated his game and played better in the later portion of the year. Burrell had strong performances in the final three regular season games to help get the Bulldogs in the conference title game and bowl eligible. His best outing came against Nevada, where the junior threw for 313 yards and accounted for five total touchdowns.
Burrell finished the year with 2,576 yards and 22 scores, including three on the ground.
Fresno State will look to win its first bowl game under DeRuyter on Christmas Eve when it battles Rice (7-5) in the Hawaii Bowl.
The Bulldogs have won three of their last four while the Owls come in having won two of their last four. The Bulldogs made an appearance in the Hawaii Bowl back in 2012 where they fell to SMU 43-10.