Mountain West football preview: Fresno State Bulldogs

LAS VEGAS – Most Mountain West defensive coordinators were happy to see Jake Haener run out of eligibility and move on to an NFL career.
But Haener wasn’t the primary issue for Wyoming the last two seasons. His counterparts were.
Fresno State defeated the Cowboys 17-0 in Laramie with Sean Chambers and Levi Williams taking turns throwing incompletions.
Last season Andrew Peasley was out of rhythm in his return from a concussion and UW was out of healthy bodies at key positions during a 30-0 drubbing at Bulldog Stadium to close the regular season.
The Bulldogs, who went on the win the MW in head coach Jeff Tedford’s return to the sideline, are picked to finish third in the preseason conference media poll despite losing Haener and a list of key players from the championship team.
“Obviously, I did not play well against Fresno last year,” Peasley said at the MW media day event earlier this month at Circa Resort & Casino. “They’re going to have a lot of new players on the field this year. I think I have to take a step up to prepare for that game and trust the game plan. They’re going to be one of the top dogs, they always are, in the conference.”
Tedford said the competition to replace Haener, who passed for 2,896 yards with 20 touchdowns and three interceptions in 10 games last season, will continue until one of the candidates separates himself as the clear QB1.
Logan Fife posted a 2-2 record when Haener missed four games with an injury, but the fourth-year junior had two touchdowns and six interceptions during the stretch. The UCF transfer has 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his career.
“Once he started getting comfortable, he started really taking strides and becoming his own self,” wide receiver Erik Brook said of Fife’s development behind Haener. “I feel like at first, he was trying to make the big play all the time, the Jake-esque play all the way down the field. Those will come but he started understanding the offense and understanding what defenses were giving him, which really helped his game evolve.”
Fresno State must also replace running back Jordan Mims (1,372 yards, 18 touchdowns) and wide receivers Jalen Moreno-Cropper (1,086 yards, five touchdowns), Nikko Remigio (852 yards, six touchdowns) and Zane Pope (623 yards, four touchdowns).
However, the Bulldogs return four starters on the offensive line and seven starters on a defense that ranked 14th in the FBS in points allowed (19.4 per game).
Tedford was the Bulldogs’ head coach from 2017-19 before taking two years off to focus on his health and returning in 2022 after Kalen DeBoer left to take the Washington job.
Fresno State has won two MW championships, three bowl games and posted three 10-win seasons during Tedford’s four seasons on the sideline.
The Bulldogs were 1-4 last season after a 40-20 loss at Boise State but finished the season on a nine-game winning streak that included a 28-16 atonement over the Broncos in the MW title game on the blue turf and a victory over Washington State in the L.A. Bowl.
The division-less 2023 MW schedule will send preseason favorite Boise State to Bulldog Stadium on Nov. 4.
"It seems like we play them like twice a year at Boise," Tedford said. "I have their locker-room memorized. I have my little thing in their laundry room. I know exactly where my chair is. We've been there so much it'll be nice to get them at our place."
The Pokes will try to close that 47-0 gap from the past two meetings on Oct. 7 at War Memorial Stadium.
COACH: Jeff Tedford, fifth year (36-18 overall, 23-9 MW)
KEY PLAYERS: QB Mikey Keene, QB Logan Fife, RB Malik Sherrod, DT Johnny Hudson, LB Levelle Bailey, CB Cam Lockridge
2022 RECORD: 10-4 overall, 8-1 conference
2023 PROJECTION: The Bulldogs are picked to finish third in the preseason MW media poll.
PLAYS WYOMING: Oct. 7 at War Memorial Stadium
FULL SCHEDULE: Sept. 2 at Purdue; Sept. 9 vs. Eastern Washington; Sept. 16 at Arizona State; Sept. 23 vs. Kent State; Sept. 30 vs. Nevada; Oct. 7 at Wyoming; Oct. 13 at Utah State; Oct. 28 vs. UNLV; Nov. 4 vs. Boise State; Nov. 11 at San Jose State; Nov. 18 vs. New Mexico; Nov. 25 at San Diego State
MONDAY'S PREVIEW: Air Force Falcons

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