Today: Fresno State at New Mexico
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Dreamstyle Stadium
TV: AT&T Sports Network
Radio: KKOB 94.5 FM, 770 AM
Line: Fresno State favored by 13 1/2
By Greg Archuleta
Enchantment Sports Assistant Editor
It’s not just the fact that the Fresno State Bulldogs football team owns a 12-4 series lead — and a six-game winning streak dating back to 1995 — over the University of New Mexico.
It’s the manner by which Fresno State has run roughshod that should have UNM on high alert today.
The Bulldogs bring a 5-1 overall record and spotless, 2-0 mark in Mountain West play to Dreamstyle Stadium to take on the up-and-down Lobos (3-3, 1-1).
Some previous scores: 1988 — Fresno State 68, UNM 21. 1995 — Fresno State 51, UNM 34. 2013 — Fresno State 69, UNM 28. 2017 — Fresno State 38, UNM 0.
And what Lobo fan can forget 1991 — Fresno State 94, UNM 17? In that UNM nightmare, the Bulldogs called a late second-quarter timeout so they could score a touchdown to make it 66-7 at the half. FS also actually recovered a Lobo fumble in the end zone that should’ve helped the Bulldogs crack the century mark.
Protective officials, however, denied the fumble recovery, giving UNM the ball at its one and helping the Lobos escape giving up 100 points.
Earlier this week, UNM coach Bob Davie lamented the MW scheduling procedure in which Mountain Division teams (of which New Mexico is a part) refrain from playing certain West Division teams (including the Bulldogs) for two consecutive seasons.
UNM and Fresno State didn’t play each other in 2015-16 in which the Lobos had a combined 15-10 record while the Bulldogs went 4-20.
When the series resumed last year, Fresno State drilled UNM in its shutout victory en route to a 10-4 season. The loss marked the beginning of a seven-game losing streak to end New Mexico’s season.
“We went up there and got whipped. Bad,” Davie said. “When you go back and look at the tape from last year, it was bad. It was bad, schematically, on our part. They got after us.”
This year’s Bulldogs have no signs of slowing down.
“They are a 5-1 team,” Davie said. “I think they should be undefeated. Quite honestly, if they played Minnesota (Fresno State’s one loss) again, they’re going to beat Minnesota.”
Senior quarterback Marcus McMaryion leads a Bulldogs offense that averages 38 points per game, accounting for 18 touchdowns by himself (11 passing, seven rushing). He has thrown for 1,578 yards halfway through the 2018 season.
“They hit the jackpot on the quarterback,” Davie said. “A year ago, (coach) Jeff Tedford comes to Fresno State, and the graduate transfer from Oregon State (McMaryion) comes during training camp, and he’s done nothing but get better.”
And as good as McMaryion has been, the Bulldogs defense has been even better. The unit ranks No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense at 13.5 points per game allowed. They are No. 1 in red zone defense, allowing only six scores (five TDs, one field goal) in 11 red zone possessions.
Fresno State has forced 17 turnovers so far this season.
Fortunately for the Lobos, all of the blowouts mentioned above occurred in Fresno, Calif. The most impressive recent victory Fresno State scored over New Mexico came in 2012.
The Bulldogs spotted the UNM a 21-0 lead before storming back to win 49-32.
Tedford said the Lobos’ versatility and multiplicity on offense causes a concern for his defense. He noted that UNM has gone away from the triple-option this season, but the Bulldogs must be prepared for the possibility that the Lobos could pull out parts of what was the traditional offense under Davie until this year.
“They do a nice job keeping you off balance and spreading you out,” Tedford said. “But you know that that’s there (the triple-option) and they can pull it out of their pocket at any point.
“They have a lot of moving parts to what they do. They have a lot of skill guys with the ball in their hands that can make big plays. The quarterback is a good size guy that can break tackles and he has speed, They have a lot of speed and a good offensive line. They have a lot of playmakers if you don’t get ’em on the ground, they can make a lot of big plays.”
Tedford added he was impressed with the Lobo defense’s ability to hold Colorado State to 20 points last week.
Davie said the overall goal for the Lobos remains to get better on a weekly basis, but starting with the Bulldogs this week, their schedule is grueling to close the regular season, with games against 5-1 Utah State and 5-1 San Diego State to follow today’s game.
“I do think that we’re an improving team,” Davie said. “I really like this team and the coaching staff.
“Having said that, obviously the challenge heightens even more — the next three teams we play have combined 15-3 records. We get an opportunity the rest of the season to play some really good teams. That’s just how I look at it.”
As underdogs, the Lobos will have to play a mistake-free game to compete with the Bulldogs. Even if UNM can’t pull off the upset, it has to avoid the beatdown Fresno State is capable of delivering and that it delivered last season to derail New Mexico’s 2017 season.