For the first time in Fresno State history, a 0-3 football team to start the season is bowl eligible and on the verge of conference title. At the Fresno State press conference today Coach Tim DeRuyter though ever determined in his resolve, admitted to being a little astonished himself with the way the team has performed as of late...
"The only people who believed we would be here were our players, our coaching staff...probably a little doubt in that group after the way we played particularly in that Wyoming game." Quarterback Brian Burrell was honest about his thoughts when asked if he believed the Bulldogs would be playing for the conference title, "honestly, probably not. We're definitely a little bit lucky...we're going to make the most of the situation."
And how could we blame them for having some doubt? Less than a month after getting trounced by a 3-5 team at home, 45-17, the Fresno State Bulldogs have won three in a row and have a date with Boise State in a nationally televised game on CBS Saturday night.
"Really impressed with the way our guys rallied. The way our assistants got our guys to really improve, develop during the year and find way to win."
A major part of that development has been the improved play of Burrell. Said DeRuyter, "The fact that he's really improved his game is why I think we're in [the conference championship]."
The overall improvement in the play of the defense has also been a key factor in the Bulldogs' three game winning streak. Though DeRuyter mentioned the steady, consistent play of Tyeler Davison and Derron Smith, there were two other seniors who have stood out to him on the defensive side of the ball, ILB Karl Mickelsen and OLB Donavon Lewis, "The guy who has really improved down the stretch has been Karl." While Lewis, DeRuyter said "he's playing as well as any outside linebacker or defensive end in the conference. He's been a very physical football player and as I talk to other head coaches they notice 27, they think he's a terrific football player as well."
For as well as the Bulldogs have played though, so has Boise State, in the midst of a seven game winning streak, that included a 37-27 win over Fresno State, in which they're averaging over 50 points a game. Said DeRuyter, "They're playing with a ton of confidence. I think [Grant Hendrick} playing as well as anyone in this conference... He's throwing the ball in rhythm and on time and hurting people with his feet." DeRuyter also acknowledged the difficulty in playing at Albertson's Stadium, "I think it's probably the second loudest in the conference. They have a very educated fan base that knows to get on an opposing offense when they're on the field. They've had a lot of success there." Burrell agreed, "I definitely noticed it was loud. It was louder than I thought it was going to be."
If it was loud for a game in October, we can only imagine that it will be even louder for the conference title game.
As DeRuyter said, "We had a strange path to get here." The Fresno State coaches, players and fans are no doubt glad they made it there and though a victory against a nearly three touchdown favorite seems unlikely, if these Bulldogs have taught us anything this year, it's that they have the resolve and the resilience to make the unthinkable, possible.
Here is his DeRuyter's full press conference.