It’s a matter of getting back now. It’s going to sting for a little while, but you have to let it go. It has to resonate with what it takes to win a football game. —Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford
FRESNO, Calif. — For a BYU program that’s slogging through its worst season in decades, maybe it can learn some lessons from, and take some solace in, Fresno State’s impressive turnaround.
A year ago, the Bulldogs finished 1-11 — regarded as the program's worst season ever.
It featured the midseason firing of coach Tim DeRuyter, who was replaced by Fresno State alum Jeff Tedford.
In his first full season at the helm, Tedford’s Bulldogs are 5-3, with a big victory over San Diego State a couple of weeks ago.
FSU suffered lopsided losses at No. 1 Alabama and at No. 6 Washington early in the season, but it was cruising before losing a stunner at home to UNLV, 26-16, last Saturday. The loss was the Bulldogs’ first Mountain West Conference setback.
Fresno State, which remains in the hunt for the Mountain West title, is looking to bounce back again, and get bowl eligible, when it hosts 2-7 BYU Saturday (8:45 p.m. MDT, ESPN2).
“It’s a matter of getting back now. It’s going to sting for a little while, but you have to let it go. It has to resonate with what it takes to win a football game,” Tedford, the former coach at California, told the Fresno Bee. “I don’t care who you’re playing. The details are always critical.
"We will do just that. We will make sure that we approach every week the same. It will be no different than how we approach any game. We uncover the mistakes, we look at them, and we work on them every day in practice.”
FSU made critical blunders against UNLV, including a muffed punt.
BYU assistant coach Ed Lamb is aware of the challenge Fresno State poses.
“From an offense, defense and special teams standpoint, they are the most sound football team that we’ve faced,” Lamb said. “The head coach is an over 20-year head coaching veteran in the professional and college ranks. You can see that throughout their team They’re a team that you have to go in planning to beat in all phases. They’re not going to just hand the game away by being overly aggressive.”
Meanwhile, Fresno State ranks among the upper echelon in college football on the defensive side of the ball.
BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum knows FSU is eager to play well against the Cougars.
“They’re a good team. They had a little bit of an upset (last) Saturday. That’s going to motivate them and they’re going to come out swinging, ready to go,” Mangum said. “They’ve done well this season. Athletically, looking at their defense, they have some good players. They have some good defensive linemen and linebackers. Their front seven will be a challenge.”
BYU coach Kalani Sitake, whose team just snapped a seven-game losing streak, is impressed with the turnaround at Fresno State.
“Things can turn around real quickly," he said. "Look at Michigan State last year to this year. You see a lot of programs that have gone through it. As a coach, I’m the guy that’s going to say to be consistent and give the coaches, the head coach, some time to make it work and establish their culture. It’s an impatient world. We get it sometimes as a profession. You have to live with it and keep working as hard as you can.”
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion, an Oregon State transfer, has been solid this season. FSU ranks No. 36 in the nation in passing efficiency and No. 57 in passing offense.
After the loss to UNLV, the Bulldogs won’t allow the Cougars to sneak up on them.
“You cannot overlook any opponent,” McMaryion said. “I’m not saying we were lackadaisical at practice or anything like that. We just have to come in and treat every game like it’s a big game and a big week. We just can’t be shooting ourselves in the foot. That’s the biggest thing.”
After a miserable season a year ago, Fresno State is poised to regain its momentum with a win over BYU.
“I think it’s going to be a test for us,” McMaryion said. “It’s a humbling loss and we can either fold or we can bounce back and come out even stronger. It’s going to test our team in a good way and it’s going to be a humbling experience for us to step back and see what we’re made of as a team.”
• • •
at Fresno State (5-3)
Saturday, 8:45 p.m. MDT Bulldog Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM