No longer combatants in the Western Athletic ranked Boise State Broncos carries on this week as the teams meet in a Friday night affair in California.
Boise State, which made the jump to the Mountain West Conference beginning this season, is picking up where it left off last year by posting four straight wins to begin the 2011 campaign. Last weekend, the Broncos clashed with another former conference rival in Nevada and took advantage of the fact that the Wolf Pack was playing on the road for the fourth time in as many games, by claiming a 30-10 victory. The 30 points were the fewest put up by the Broncos this season, but still the effort allowed BSU to log its 34th straight home win, second-longest behind the 39 in a row logged by Oklahoma.
Since 2000, Boise State has a mark of 70-2 at home, a winning percentage of .972 which is the best in the Football Bowl Subdivision during that stretch.
As for the Bulldogs, a team which will also be taking leave of the WAC and soon joining Boise State in the Mountain West, their willingness to play anybody, anytime, anywhere may have caught up with them because the team is just 2-3 on the season thus far, and only one of those victories has come against another member of the FBS (Idaho).
In addition to back-to-back road defeats at California and Nebraska to begin the season, the Bulldogs also suffered a 38-28 setback to Ole Miss at home last weekend to drop them back under .500 on the season.
BSU owns a 9-4 edge in the all-time series and crushed the Bulldogs in an ugly 51-0 decision last season.
That setback is not something Fresno State head coach Pat Hill will soon forget, "Boise State is one of the best teams to come down the ramp since I've been here, and one of the best teams we've ever played. When I say the word 'Team,' that's why... they're a great football team in all phases. They might not have the five star (recruits) or the four stars like some of the individual athletes from teams we've played, but they play as a team which is a very strong compliment to them. They are tied together, they don't make many mistakes."
Last season Nevada ruined Boise State's chances of running the table for the second year in a row and perhaps challenging for the national title, so last week the Broncos had something to prove as they suited up against the Wolf Pack and pulled out the 20-point win. The victory could have easily been more lopsided, but once again the Broncos brought quarterback Kellen Moore to the sidelines long before the final gun in order to get some snaps for Joe Southwick. Moore finished the day just 19-of-33 for 142 yards and a couple of touchdowns, not to mention a pair of interceptions which were uncharacteristic for him.
Doug Martin, who ripped off several impressive runs, finished with 126 yards and two touchdowns, easily topping the combined efforts of the Wolf Pack who tallied a collective 59 yards.
"The line did a really good job today, as well as the receivers blocking down field," Martin said after he helped carry the Broncos to victory.
From a defensive standpoint, BSU had a rather easy time of it as the group held Nevada to a mere 123 yards through the air, not to mention just 59 yards on the ground by a team that, until this season, had been one of the best in the nation at charging up and down the field, and the effort was not lost on Boise State head coach Chris Petersen.
"They (the defensive line) stepped up and we were proud of those guys. There are some good players there and when they can get in that backfield, it's going to give our defense a good chance to be good that day."
So far this season the Broncos have managed to hold opponents to just 298.8 ypg of total offense and a mere 16.8 ppg, which is something that frequently goes unnoticed given the dominance of guys like Martin and Moore on the other side of the ball.
Perhaps most encouraging for the Broncos last week was finding out that the team could still dominate even though Moore had a sub par effort. One of the top passers the last several years in college football, Moore is on his way to becoming the winningest starting quarterback in NCAA history, yet he can now see that he doesn't have to do it all by himself. Then again, it doesn't hurt that Moore has thrown multiple TD passes in 17 straight games.
The Bulldogs know all about how crushing it can be to settle in against Moore after the signal-caller threw for 333 yards and four TDs in last year's debacle.
"The guy is uncanny accurate with the ball," notes coach Hill. "Up until this last week against Reno, he was completing 80 percent of his passes. That's unheard of. That guy is really special and he has the eyes to be able to see where the matchups are going to come and he gets the ball delivered to where it's got to go, with pin-point accuracy."
For the most part this season, the pass defense for Fresno State has been rather solid, limiting foes to 209.0 ypg and showing an efficiency rating of 120.14 which is second-best in the WAC right now, but the Bulldogs also have to recognize that they really haven't gone up against a passer as great as Moore in 2011.
Against Ole Miss, the Bulldogs permitted a modest 214 yards and just a single TD through the air. It was the run defense that took most of the hits as the group gave up 216 yards and four touchdowns, wearing down the defensive line as much as it could. Logan Harrell responded with five quarterback hurries and Kyle Know tallied a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss for the Bulldogs, but it wasn't nearly enough.
Derek Carr continued his growth at quarterback as he hit 25-of-37 passes for 281 yards and a score, while Jalen Saunders caught six balls for 127 yards and also scored once on a 26-yard run as well. Robbie Rouse checked in with a team-best 123 yards and a TD on 28 carries, but his handle on the ball wasn't all it could have been.
Rouse has four straight 100-yard rushing games for the Bulldogs, matching his career total heading into this season, but those efforts have not always paid the ultimate dividend in the win column and that can be troubling for someone like Carr, who is trying to keep himself upright in the pocket as the offensive line allows just over two sacks per game.