Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State Quarterback Jake Haener runs a drill during practice on Sept. 6, 2021 at Valley Children’s Stadium. (Melina Kazanjian/The Collegian)

Fresno State football returns with a newfound purpose

As school begins and students return to campus, Fresno State’s football team is entering one of its most anticipated seasons in the past decade.  

The ‘Dogs are coming off a 2021 season where they went 10-3 and ended one win short of a Mountain West Conference Championship appearance. 

With the conclusion of their fall camp, head coach Jeff Tedford has plenty of positive takeaways for his team as they head into their first week of play. 

“I’m encouraged by the leadership, togetherness and the willingness to grind,” Tedford said. “I don’t think I’ve heard a complaint about anything… I just think it’s a team that’s very together and very driven.” 

The Bulldogs are set to host their season opener this Thursday versus Cal Poly at 7:30 p.m. 

Despite posting double-digit wins and earning a bowl game victory last season, the expectations are even higher for a team full of talent and experience.

With the amount of excitement surrounding the team, here is what to look forward to this season. 

Coach Tedford is back with renewed purpose

After an eventful end to the 2021 season the Bulldogs lost their former head coach Kalen DeBoer to Washington. However, his predecessor, Tedford, returned to lead the team once again

Only two seasons removed from the head coaching spot and having recruited the majority of the players on Fresno State’s roster, Tedford expressed that he is the same coach as before. 

“It’s not much different to tell you the truth. It’s the same type of preparation, the same attention to detail. It’s all the same,” Tedford said.

While Tedford might be the same in his day-to-day operations, his time away from the game has given him a new perspective on what it means to lead the Bulldogs, he said.

“The only thing I can say that’s probably different for me is that I have a much better appreciation for being around the game and being around the kids,” he said. 

This newfound appreciation has provided a new purpose for Tedford, who reflected on his past during his brief retirement. 

“The purpose that I had every day when I got out of bed is a little bit different now for me. Before, it was so consistent for however many years I coached that I don’t know that I really ever took the time to be thankful… And now I do, and it is a meaningful purpose,” Tedford said. 

All eyes are on Jake Haener, and he’s ready for it

Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener is set to lead the team after a breakout 2021 season in which  he posted 4,096 yards and 33 touchdowns while earning All-Mountain West Second Team honors.

The fifth-year senior burst onto the scene on a national level after the Bulldogs back-and-forth victory against UCLA, and he has been solidified as the face of Fresno State football. 

This season, he reunited with the head coach who  recruited him, and Tedford had nothing but praise for the ‘Dogs gunslinger. 

“Coming to work every day with Jake is just a true pleasure,” Tedford said. “I worked with Jake when he was 9 years old, so we went way back. And so finally to be around him on the field, it’s unbelievable.” 

Haener also shared Tedford’s sentiments on working together, expressing his own excitement at working with him at the collegiate level. 

“It’s cool having that relationship with him. Just being able to grow up and have him as one of my mentors through peewee football, junior high, high school and even into college. And just having him as a resource for me, he’s been someone that’s always been there for me,” Haener said.

Now paired with his lifelong mentor, expectations for Haener have never been higher; however, he is confident in his ability to prioritize his foundation. 

“With this whole deal, being a college quarterback with expectations being high during the season, I think the one thing you need to do is focus on your preparation and focus on the things that got you here,” Haener said. 

The schedule is full of impactful games

As the college football landscape is making dramatic shifts due to various conference realignments, Fresno State’s schedule is full of opportunities for the ‘Dogs to prove themselves on a larger stage. 

Although predicted by many to win the Mountain West outright, their non-conference schedule may be more impactful as the Bulldogs currently sit as a contender to join the Pac-12 conference. 

The two most anticipated non-conference games happen to occur in back-to-back weeks as the ‘Dogs host Oregon State Saturday, Sept. 10. Then they travel to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans in the Coliseum. 

The game against No. 14 ranked USC, set for Sept, 17, 2022, is particularly exciting for most fans for multiple reasons. One being the Trojans’ recent revamp of the program with additions such as head coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams. 

And the other being the ‘Dogs miraculous win over a No. 17 ranked UCLA team last season, which garnered national attention and put them into the AP Top-25 poll. 

Fresno State’s conference schedule can be considered just as exciting. Mountain West play begins against rival Boise State on Saturday Oct. 8 and also includes home games against rivals San Jose State on Saturday Oct. 15, and San Diego State on Saturday Oct. 29. 

Despite the schedule buzz, Haener and Tedford alike are choosing to focus on the opponents at hand rather than future implications. 

“I really haven’t thought or focused on that… All that other stuff is going to be what it is. We can’t control that. All we can do is control what we do here every day and every single week,” Tedford said. 

Haener shared similar sentiments as Tedford, speaking on the issue from a player’s perspective. 

“I’m just really focused on winning. I think we take care of business, work really hard, prepare at a really high level and go out on Fridays and Saturdays and take care of business,” Haener said.

Transfers may make  an immediate impact

Despite having a talented core of returning wide receivers, senior transfer Nikko Remigio has climbed the ‘Dogs depth chart and earned himself a starting role. 

The Orange County native has racked up considerable numbers through his last four seasons playing for the Cal Golden Bears. This, combined with his work ethic throughout fall camp, did not go unnoticed by Tedford. 

“I think Nikko really proved early on that it’s not only his abilities on the field but his work ethic,” said Tedford. “I think it just stood out, and every single day if you’ve been at practice you know what I’m talking about. Every play he goes 100%, takes care of his body and is really just committed to what’s going on.” 

The team also had the opportunity to bolster its defense with the addition of Raymond Scott. The USC transfer spent four years with the Trojans, with the latest being his breakout season where he registered 27 tackles. 

Now, currently holding the starting linebacker job, Scott joins a group of newcomers who  have ingrained themselves into the Fresno State football culture built under Tedford. 

“Anytime you come to a new place it takes a while.  You’re not committed immediately to the program until you’ve built some of that. I think that the spring, summer and the last 27 days have built and strengthened our commitment. Especially for the new guys that are here,” Tedford said. 

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