Talk about mid to late-season comebacks.
Fresno State had a banged-up quarterback and a losing record. Things didn’t look too bright when the Bulldogs started the year 1-4. Standout quarterback Jake Haener was injured in the second half of the third game of the season, a 45-17 loss to USC that dropped the Bulldogs’ record to 1-2.
Fresno State would then lose the next two games to fall to 1-4. The Bulldogs went 2-2 in the four full games Haener missed and were 3-4 when he returned to start the win streak with a 32-28 win victory over San Diego State.
One of the keys during that time was staying competitive without Haener in the lineup. Sophomore quarterback Logan Fife went 2-2 as a starter.
His first two starts resulted in losses to Connecticut, 19-14, and Boise State, 40-20, but then Fife guided the Bulldogs to a 17-10 win over San Jose State and a 41-9 rout of New Mexico. As the score suggested, the defense was stellar against San Jose State. Meanwhile, New Mexico was 0-8 in the Mountain West.
Still, Fife was needed to steady the ship and when Haefner returned, the team ran the table in the final seven games. In those games, Haener threw 16 touchdown passes and just two interceptions and didn’t throw an INT in the final six contests.
Fresno State eventually qualified for the Mountain West championship and then won 28-16 at Boise State, avenging the regular season loss to the Broncos.
In the title game, Haener was named the game’s offensive MVP, with a modest, but effective 17-of-27 passing for 184 yards and a touchdown.
Then the Bulldogs followed that up by becoming the first G5 team this season to beat a P5 team in a bowl game with a 29-6 rout of Washington State in the Jimmy Kimmel Los Angeles Bowl.
Not a bad finish for coach Jeff Tedford, who returned this season for his second stint at Fresno State.
Tedford, a former quarterback at Fresno State, coached the school from 2017-2019 before stepping down for health reasons. He inherited a 1-11 team from 2016 and went 10-4 and lost in the Mountain West championship game his first season in 2017 and then went 12-2 the next season and won the Mountain West title.
The Bulldogs slipped to 4-8 in his third season and then he resigned.
Tedford, also a former long-time head coach at Cal, then replaced Kalen DeBoer, after he departed for the head coaching job at Washington following a 10-3 season in 2021.
What made Fresno State so dangerous this year is that the Bulldogs were effective on the ground and in the air. Senior running back Jordan Mims was named the bowl game offensive MVP with a career-high 209 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
It was also one of the most impressive defensive efforts against a Washington State team that entered the game averaging 27.75 points per game.
Leading the charge was defensive lineman Devo Bridges. With a career-highs in tackles (8) tackles for loss (2) and sacks (2), Bevo was the easy choice for the game’s defensive MVP.
The bowl game was a microcosm of the season for Fresno State, with the offense and defense both more than carrying their weight.
With the bowl season continuing, Fresno State is first in the Mountain West in scoring, averaging 30.6 PPG. The Bulldogs are second in scoring defense, allowing 19.4 per game.
The momentum appeared to continue during the early signing period, where Fresno State welcomed 16 new players, including quarterback Mikey Keene, a transfer from UCF, who threw for 2.377 yards and 23 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Knights, which included just four games this past year.
The Bulldogs hope their end-of-the-season momentum carries into next season, one where they were able to withstand a rough start to earn a fourth double-digit win total since 2017.