No. 24 Fresno State faces steep challenge this weekend in higher elevation at Wyoming
By RYAN THORBURN Associated Press
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — The road to a repeat gets steep for No. 24 Fresno State, with the reigning Mountain West Conference champions facing a challenge in the higher elevations of Wyoming.
The Bulldogs (5-0, 1-0 MWC) will be packing a 14-game winning streak, the nation’s second longest behind No. 1 Georgia (22), when they face the surprising Cowboys (4-1, 1-0) on Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium.
“There’s a reason why they’re 4-1 and they only lost to Texas,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said. “They’re a really good football team and they’re really well-coached. They’re tough and they’re physical and they play really hard. It’s going to be a battle.”
Wyoming opened the season with a 35-33 double-overtime win over Texas Tech in Laramie and was tied 10-10 at Texas entering the fourth quarter before falling to the now third-ranked Longhorns 31-10.
Fresno State has two Power 5 road wins on its resume (39-35 at Purdue and a 29-0 at Arizona State) and has only allowed 10 total points during a four-game winning streak against the Cowboys, which includes shutouts in the 2021 (17-0) and 2022 (30-0) meetings.
“We went out to Fresno last year and got taken to the woodshed,” said Wyoming coach Craig Bohl. “It was one of our worst offensive performances, and a lot of it had to do with them. And they had some players that are no longer there and they’ve restocked.”
Quarterback Mikey Keene is averaging 294.8 passing yards (13th in the FBS), and defensively the Bulldogs have forced three-and-outs on 45% of the opposing offenses’ drives, which ranks sixth nationally.
“If you’re fighting for the conference championship, I get offense scores points and that’s important,” Bohl said. “But you better have a daggone good defense, and (Tedford) does.”
Keene, who has picked up where current New Orleans Saints rookie Jake Haener left off in leading Fresno State’s offense, is a UCF transfer. The 5-foot-11 redshirt sophomore has 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. His 366 yards passing at Purdue were the most in program history for a quarterback debuting with the Bulldogs.
Last week wide receiver Jaelen Gill, a Boston College transfer, had 126 yards and two touchdowns in Fresno State’s 27-9 win over Nevada.
Bohl has also benefited from the portal. Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley is in his second season as a starter after transferring from Utah State. Last week the senior threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Holy Cross transfer Ayir Asante during a 35-29 win over New Mexico.
In his first three games with the Cowboys, starting tailback Harrison Waylee is averaging 152.3 rushing yards. That would lead the FBS if the Northern Illinois transfer, who was held out of the first two games while recovering from offseason knee surgery, had played in enough games to qualify.
LARAMIE SACK EXCHANGE
This game could come down to which pass rush makes the opposing quarterback more uncomfortable. Fresno State had 7.0 sacks against Nevada, which was the team total through the first four games. Wyoming free safety Wyett Ekeler was named the MWC defensive player of the week. He registered two sacks, including forcing and recovering a fumble on a violent quarterback hit, against New Mexico.
The game is scheduled to kickoff at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally on FOX, which picked the Fresno State-Wyoming matchup over a Big 12 game between 2022 national runner-up TCU and Iowa State. The teams will play at an elevation of 7,220 feet In Laramie, Wyoming.
“That platform changes things,” said Bohl, whose team beat Texas Tech on CBS on Sept. 2 in the same primetime window. “Perception becomes reality, people say.”
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll