Bolstered by dominant defense, No. 24 Fresno State visits Wyoming

Field Level Media

October 03, 2023 at 4:58 pm.

If the first thing fans want to think about with No. 24 Fresno State is offense, that’s fine. With UCF transfer Mikey Keene throwing for an average of nearly 300 yards per game, the Bulldogs are chipping in 36.4 points a game.

But if fans want the real reason why Fresno State is undefeated and has a legitimate possibility to earn the Group of Five’s New Year’s Day bowl berth, one might want to look at the defense. In the last three games, all blowout wins, it has permitted only 19 points, with a shutout of Arizona State starting that stretch.

The Bulldogs (5-0, 1-0) will try to make it six wins in a row and take a big step toward a Mountain West Conference title Saturday night when they visit Wyoming (4-1, 1-0) in Laramie.

Making Fresno State’s recent stretch of dominance even more impressive is that the defense was missing three starters last week at home in the team’s conference opener against Nevada. Fresno State didn’t allow a touchdown until 11 seconds remained in a 27-9 win.

Over the past three contests, the Bulldogs have been on the field for 35 possessions. They have forced 11 three-and-outs and 10 turnovers — eight against Arizona State — while permitting only two touchdowns. Opponents are averaging only 282 total yards per game.

“The defense played excellent the whole game,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said after the win over Nevada. “I thought they did a nice job pressuring the passer and played good in the secondary … got two picks, so that was nice. They did a nice job of flying around.”

Keene contributed 269 passing yards and tossed his 13th and 14th touchdown passes of the year. Both scoring strikes went to Jaelen Gill, a Boston College transfer whose 28 receptions are one more than he had all of last season.

Meanwhile, Wyoming started Mountain West play last week by stopping New Mexico 35-26. The Cowboys exhibited good offensive balance, running for 239 yards and throwing for 194, and used explosive plays to break open a close game in the third quarter.

Harrison Waylee ran for a 46-yard touchdown, and Andrew Peasley hooked up with Ayir Asante on a bubble screen for a 66-yard score. Asante ran across the field to find open space and then evaded multiple tacklers to give Wyoming a 29-12 lead after three quarters.

“There were some explosive plays we made today, which I was really pleased with,” Cowboys coach Craig Bohl said. “The game had a lot of ebbs and flows, and so we are going to take this win. I was really concerned coming into this game.”

One thing that doesn’t concern Bohl is kicker John Hoyland, who hit four field goals against New Mexico, the fourth time in his career he’s done that. Bohl said Hoyland, who has hit 53 of 61 attempts while at Wyoming, is the best kicker in the country.

Fresno State leads the teams’ series 9-5, including a 30-0 win last November in California.