Boise State versus Fresno State has become a bit of a rivalry game over the years. The two teams have met a total of 13 times, Boise State having the upper hand in the series with nine victories and only four defeats.
The first time these two teams met was in 1977—when disco was king, Boise State was still a Division II football team, and Pat Hill was an offensive line coach for the University of Utah. The game was an absolute blowout, with Fresno handling Boise 42-7.
They would only meet two more times over the next 20 years. In 1984, Fresno State had a bit of a challenge from the Broncos. The game ended up being 37-21 in favor of the Bulldogs. Then, in 1996, which was the first year Boise State entered the 1-A ranks joining the Big West Conference, the two teams played once again. Fresno State dismantled the Broncos 41-7.
It wasn't until 2001, when the Broncos joined the Western Athletic Conference, that these two teams would meet on a regular basis. Fresno State was already part of the WAC, and Boise State was the new kid on the block. The first meeting as WAC foes went well for the Broncos, and derailed a remarkable season that the Bulldogs were having.
In 2001, leading up to the matchup with the Broncos, Fresno State had upset the eventual Big 12 Champion Colorado Buffaloes 24-22 in Boulder, the Oregon State Beavers 44-24 at home, and the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison 32-20. Fresno also beat Tulsa, Louisiana Tech and Colorado State before the BSU game in Fresno.
The day, or I should say night, was Friday, October 19, 2001. The Fresno State Bulldogs were undefeated and ranked No. 8 in the polls. Boise State was quite unknown in those days, having only played Division 1-A football for five years. The Broncos were a quite average 3-3 coming into the contest, and not many people gave them a chance in the game. Sounds a little like this year's game in reverse, doesn't it?
That night, the quarterback for the Bulldogs was a guy named David Carr. His little brother is now the current Fresno State QB.
The dream season for Bulldogs ended in one nightmare of a game. The Boise State Broncos went on to defeat Pat Hill and his No. 8 team that night in Fresno 35-30, live on ESPN. You could say this was the night the country was introduced to Boise State football.
Since that night in 2001, the Broncos have owned the series.
They have met every year since 2001, and the only loss for Boise State came in 2005, with a 27-7 Bulldog victory. 2005 was also the year that the "battle for the milk can" was introduced into the mix. Dairy farmers in the Central Valley of California and the Treasure Valley of Idaho decided to sponsor the event with a trophy. Thus, the "milk can" was introduced, and the two teams have played for this trophy ever since.
Since 2006, every game has been won by the Broncos, and the average score of those victories has been 48-17. Last year's contest was the biggest lopsided victory of the series, and the only shutout, with BSU winning 51-0.
So what's next?
This year the Broncos and Bulldogs belong to different conferences, but that will not diminish the desire of Pat Hill and his bunch to upset the highly ranked Blue and Orange. In fact, since this year marks the 10th anniversary of that crushing upset in Fresno, and the younger Carr brother is at the helm of the Bulldogs, I would say emotions will be high, and Fresno State will be ready.
So what are keys to a Fresno State upset?
First, they must be on their game in every area. Their young sophomore quarterback Derek Carr has looked good this season. He has completed over 61 percent of his passes and thrown for 1,291 yards, 10 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He will have to continue this kind of play to keep his team in the game.
Their premiere running back, No. 8, has looked stellar as well. Robbie Rouse has rushed for 600 yards and four touchdowns so far this season. He is averaging a respectable 4.3 yards per carry, and knows how to hold on to the ball. Turnovers will play a big role, and if he can continue to hold on to the ball and gain his 4.3 yards per carry, he could cause problems for Boise State.
If the Bulldogs want to have a chance in this game, both of these guys will have to have amazing performances.
On defense, the Bulldogs are allowing just over 32 points per game. This is a big reason they currently have a record of 2-3. If they had played better defense, who knows where they would be sitting right now. After all, their offense is averaging 30 points per game.
If the Bulldogs want to win this Friday night matchup with BSU, they will have to have the defensive game of their season. However, as young as these guys are on that side of the ball, I just don't know if it is possible.
Keys to a Bronco victory
First, Kellen Moore will need to play just like...Kellen Moore. Last week Kellen had his "worst" game of the season. He threw two interceptions, went 19-of-33 passing and only threw for 142 yards. He did throw two touchdowns, but most were surprised at his subpar performance. So, if BSU wants another milk-can trophy, Kellen will need to return to form.
Doug Martin looked great last week, and if the running game continues to improve this week, it could make it a long night for the Fresno State defense. I expect D.J. Harper to get more involved in the game as well, and the two in tandem will be a force to be reckoned with.
The Broncos "D" was outstanding last week, and I expect that to carry over. I don't see Carr and Rouse having the games they are accustomed to this week against the Broncos. Mike Ball, the fine running back from Nevada, was averaging 5.5 yards per carry and 121 yards rushing per game coming into the game with Boise State. The Broncos shut him down and only allowed 35 yards on 15 carries.
Now, I don't expect the same results this week against Fresno, simply because the Bulldogs have a passing game. This will cause Boise to pay attention down field and give the Bulldogs' running game a little bit of room to move. However, I don't think Rouse will gain more than 75 yards, and I think the Broncos will keep him out of the end zone.
The Broncos match up well with the Bulldogs. The Broncos defense is stubborn and swarming. I don't see Fresno being able to score more than a touchdown or two. Fresno State has not competed against a defense as good as this one the entire year, and I am not sure they know what to expect.
On the offensive side, I see Boise having an amazing day. The Fresno defense is young, and so far this year have not proven they can keep a quality offense under 36 points.
Even though there are some eerie similarities between this game and the huge BSU victory 10 years ago this month, there will be no Hollywood finish for Fresno State.
Final score: Boise State 45, Fresno State 16