Fresno State and Boise State will meet in Albertsons Stadium for the second time this season, but this time, the Moutain West title is on the line. The blue turf will once again host the Mountain West Football Championship Game as the Broncos look to claim their fourth title in this format with a second victory this season over the Bulldogs. The two teams met on Oct. 8 with Boise State cruising to a 40-20 win.
In fact, that game was the last one Fresno State (8-4, 7-1 MW) has lost as the Bulldogs picked up the pieces after getting blown out by the Broncos and have rattled off seven straight wins. The latest victory was a 30-0 shutout of Wyoming last Friday. Jordan Mims had three short touchdown runs and the Fresno State defense held the Cowboys to 191 total yards of offense, limited them to 3-for-14 on third down, and recorded two interceptions.
Boise State (9-3, 8-0) did the Bulldogs one better, going perfect in conference play, capped off by a 42-23 win over Utah State on Senior Day. Taylen Green threw for 220 yards with four touchdowns and added a score (and 91 yards) on the ground. The Aggies outgained the Broncos (468 to 428) for the game but went just 6-for-19 on third down, and Seyi Oladipo returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.
This season's Mountain West Football Championship Game will feature the programs that have made the most appearances. Boise State is 3-2 (wins in 2014, '17, '19) while Fresno State is 2-2 (wins in 2013, '18). This also marks the fourth time the Broncos and Bulldogs will play each other for the conference crown. Boise State has a 2-1 edge in those matchups, all of which were played in Albertsons Stadium, but Fresno State won the most recent one, 19-16 in overtime in 2018.
Mountain West Football Championship Game: Fresno State at Boise State
When Fresno State Has the Ball
Head coach Jeff Tedford is in a better position this time around to attack Boise State's defense with quarterback Jake Haener available for the rematch. Haener has completed 73.5 percent of his passes this season for 2,432 yards and 17 touchdowns while throwing just three interceptions. This efficiency combined with his experience as a super senior and three-year starter for Fresno State will help the offense deal with what's sure to be a loud and fired-up crowd in Albertsons Stadium on Saturday. The Bulldogs will need more out of their running game this time as well. Jordan Mims was limited to 61 yards on 20 carries and Fresno State managed just 2.8 yards per carry. That simply won't cut it against a quality team like the Broncos on the road.
Boise State's defense knows it will be in for a new challenge as well with Haener at the helm this time rather than Logan Fife. The Broncos have had success against Haener before, intercepting him three times in a 40-14 win during the 2021 season, but much has changed for both teams since then. Boise State's defense has held up very well against the pass, with more interceptions (13) than touchdowns allowed (10). One key for the defense will be to find ways to come up with negative plays and keep the Bulldogs behind the sticks. To that end, look for linebacker DJ Schramm (team-high 10 tackles for a loss) to be around the ball all game long. It also would help the Broncos if they can get pressure on Haener and Fresno State is surrendering around three sacks per game.
When Boise State Has the Ball
Taylen Green took over at quarterback in late September after Hank Bachmeier announced he was entering the transfer portal, and the true freshman has made the most of this opportunity. A dual threat, Green has impacted games with both his arm and his leg, although he's still a work in progress as a passer. But most importantly, he's 7-1 as the starter and has played a big part in Boise State's perfect run through its Mountain West schedule.
In the first game against Fresno State, which was just his second start ever, Green went 10-for-18 for 127 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. But the Broncos rolled to an easy 40-20 victory behind 326 rushing yards, with both George Holani (157) and Ashton Janety (109) both going over the century mark. Obviously, they would love to have the same success on the ground again; Green's running threat is part of what makes the Bulldogs' task so difficult. He's third on the team with 437 rushing yards and averaging 7.2 per carry and has eight touchdowns.
When Green does decide to throw the ball, he'll probably try to hook up with Latrell Caples and Eric McAlister. The young wide receiver duo combined for seven receptions, 118 yards, and three touchdowns in last Friday's win over Utah State.
Fresno State will try to get pressure on Green in hopes of making the young quarterback force some throws and commit a turnover or two. David Perales leads the team with 10.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss, and he needs to have the full attention of Boise State's offensive line. Getting off the field on third down is another key for the Bulldogs. They allowed the Broncos to convert 10 of 18 such opportunities in the first meeting, which is significantly higher than Fresno State's season average (37.4 percent conversion rate).
Fresno State should end up performing much better this time around against Boise State. Jake Haener's presence will have a big impact on the offense's performance and could allow the Bulldogs to jump ahead early. But the Broncos will weather the initial storm and use their running game to take control. That will put more pressure on Fresno State's offense to come up with an answer, which will result in a key turnover late that Boise State will turn into points to put the game, and another Mountain West championship, away.