Fresno State fans have another reason to dislike Boise State. But with their hopes of winning the West Division in the Mountain West Conference evaporating with the Broncos’ loss at San Diego State on Friday, the Bulldogs need only look at the lost opportunities along the way.
Fresno State had a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter at Hawaii and lost to a team that is 5-7.
It also had its destiny in the division race in its hands when the Bulldogs were blown out by Boise State, playing in front of the first sellout at Bulldog Stadium since 2014.
Win one of those two games and the Bulldogs are not needing help to reach the conference title game for a fifth time since 2013, when the Mountain West went to divisional play.
Still, Fresno State finishes 9-3 with a chance to add a 10th win in a bowl game and that isn’t bad, which coach Kalen DeBoer told the Bulldogs after beating San Jose State 40-9 on Thanksgiving Day to keep their title chances alive.
“I just shared that with the guys,” DeBoer said, afterward. “I said, 9-3, forget anything else that happens from here on out, 9-3 is a heck of a year. There have been so many neat moments along the way, on the journey. I use the word character a lot. I just think that’s what this team is made of, I think so fondly of what we’ve been doing here when our backs have been to the wall at different times throughout the year.
“Yeah, we slipped up a time or two here and there. Things that we wish would have gone a different way. But being 9-3, and we had some close games early, I just think what we’re right now the last couple games is playing some really good football. We’re playing some of our best football at the end of the year. That’s exciting.”
Fresno State has won 10 games in a season only five times since 1990, most recently in going 12-2 and winning a Mountain West championship in 2018.
The Bulldogs did play some very good football when dispatching San Jose State, maybe their best of the season. But they needed Boise State to beat San Diego State, to hand the Aztecs a second conference loss. Fresno State and San Diego State would be 6-2 in conference games, with that result, and the Bulldogs held a head-to-head tiebreaker having beaten the Aztecs 30-20 at the end of October.
The Broncos had a 16-3 lead midway through the second quarter. But San Diego State ditched its struggling starting quarterback, inserting Jordon Brookshire into the lineup for Lucas Johnson.
Brookshire, who was the Aztecs’ starter at the beginning of the year, led San Diego State to a touchdown and a field goal before the end of the first half, closing to within 16-13.
He kept going in the second half, leading two more touchdown drives.
San Diego State (11-1, 7-1), its only loss this season against the Bulldogs, won the West Division. With Boise State losing, the Aztecs will play Utah State in the conference championship game Dec. 4.
The MW champion will play in the inaugural LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium on Dec. 18. The bowl lineup will be set Dec. 5 and the Mountain West has four more locked-in spots: New Mexico (Dec. 18), Potato (Dec. 21), Hawaii (Dec. 24) and Arizona (Dec. 31), plus other options including an affiliate berth in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix on Dec. 28.