Utah State football: Aggies looking to break Fresno's home streak
Logan •Â If Utah State is the unlikely underdog in this weekend's Mountain West Championship game, Fresno State will play Goliath. And being Goliath comes with many advantages, including playing at home.
The Bulldogs' main weapon will be the No. 4-scoring offense in the nation, behind stars Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper. But they also have Bulldog Stadium, one of the toughest venues in the West, if not the nation. The red and white bowl, with a 41,031-person capacity, may be one of the best tools in the team's arsenal.
Fresno State (10-1, 7-1) has won 12 straight games there. And Utah State (8-4, 7-1) hasn't so much as sniffed a victory there in at least two decades. The closest the Aggies have gotten in the span was a 24-24 tie in 1990.
"I played there as a player when I was here, I coached there at Tulsa, I've coached there here at Utah State," coach Matt Wells said. "It's a tough place to play. It'll be loud. They play well at home and it's a good crowd. It will be a big challenge."
Fresno State is coming off its first loss of the season in a 62-52 shootout with San Jose State. Coach Tim DeRuyter said his team was understandably feeling low about the loss, which all but sinks its BCS hopes.
Still, DeRuyter said, his program has been galvanized by the prospect of playing one more game on its home field, with a conference championship on the line.
"Our No. 1 goal in our program is to win the Mountain West championship, and we get to do that at our home stadium where we haven't lost in two years," DeRuyter said. "I think our guys are really excited about that. They'll have a terrific resolve."
Wells and his players were complimentary of each of Fresno State's offensive skill players Monday at a team news conference. Quarterback Carr leads the nation in passing yards (405.6 ypg) and has thrown 45 touchdowns while throwing only five interceptions. His three best targets Adams, Harper and Burse each have 77 receptions or more, while Adams is No. 2 in receiving yards nationally (134.3 ypg).
But as talented as the Bulldogs are, they've had some home-field magic to help them get to the top of the West division. It started at the beginning of the year, when Fresno State had to outlast Rutgers in a 52-51 overtime battle by stopping a two-point conversion attempt. Weeks later, the Bulldogs had a late drive and a fourth-down pass breakup that sealed a 41-40 win over Boise State.
Since then, Bulldog Stadium has been the one place where they haven't struggled. They've outscored opponents there 148-65 in their last three games.
Still, Utah State feels it has the kind of team that can break the streak after going 4-0 on the road in conference play, which includes a win at San Jose State's Spartan Stadium, where Fresno State fell last week.
The Aggies know some are counting them out against a tough offense in a tough stadium.
For those people, junior linebacker Zach Vigil had a message: Tune in Saturday night.
"What we've done in the past few years has spoken for itself and people are finally tuned in," he said. "They know every time you schedule the Aggies they're going to come to play."
Mountain West Championship Game
P Utah State at Fresno State, Saturday, 8 p.m. MST, TV • Ch. 2