Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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Column: New Mexico Bowl game is underwhelming but deserved

Jacqueline Carrillo/The Collegian
Makei Thompson (left) and Mikel Barkley (right) look at the field during the game against UNLV at Valley Children’s Stadium on Oct. 28.

A lackluster season capped off by an underwhelming bowl game. That is the predicament the Fresno State football team finds itself in this year.

The Bulldogs (8-4) are slated to play New Mexico State (10-4) on Saturday, Dec. 16, in the Isleta New Mexico Bowl

The Aggies are no slouch. The 10-win team beat Auburn 31-10 on the road on Nov. 18 and only had four losses on the year, including two to an undefeated Liberty University team. 

Fresno State came into the 2023 season with mild expectations, especially after losing more than half of its starters on offense.

Despite this, a berth in the New Mexico Bowl game feels like a disappointment. 

Fresno State found itself ranked on multiple occasions, including No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll as late as Nov. 5, following the ‘Dogs 37-30 victory over rival and eventual conference champion Boise State. 

Instead, three devastating losses led to the team having to settle for an inferior bowl game. 

The win against the Broncos left fans yearning for more and on the edge of their seats as all the team needed to do to make the conference title game was win its final three games of the season.  

While easier said than done, the schedule ahead of them seemed to be manageable. Between playing a San Jose State team that started out 1-5 before finishing with the two worst teams in the conference (New Mexico and San Diego State), the path to repeating as conference champs seemed very plausible. 

Then disaster struck. 

The Bulldogs then lost starting tackle Jacob Spomer for the season during the game against the Spartans. This was a big loss for an offensive line that already struggled mightily at times. 

As a team, Fresno State managed to score just 17.67 points per game during the final three games of the season. This came after averaging 34 points per game during the first nine games. 

Meanwhile, the defense was incapable of stopping the run, allowing an absurd 294.67 yards per game from the ground alone. 

For a program with high expectations on a yearly basis, this season has been a letdown. In a year where the Mountain West lacked a clear frontrunner, the Bulldogs had a clear shot at defending the conference title and fell short.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Bulldogs will be without Head Coach Jeff Tedford, who is dealing with health issues. 

Does that make the bowl game pointless? Absolutely not. 

Fresno State still has four quarters of opportunity for seniors to make final memories and for underclassmen to get valuable playing time as they prepare for next season. 

Under the leadership of Asst. Head Coach Tim Skipper, Fresno State still has an opportunity at a respectable 9-4 record with a win over the Aggies. 

New Mexico State is led by junior quarterback Diego Pavia, who was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year after recording 32 touchdowns on 3,766 total yards.

Pavia presents a difficult matchup for the Bulldogs given his ability to make plays both through the air and on the ground. 

If Fresno State wants to finish the season strong, it’s imperative it contains Pavia. 

The matchup will serve as a preview of sorts. The Aggies are traveling to Valley Children’s Stadium on Sept. 21, 2024 for Week 4 of next season. 

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  • J

    Jeff ‘83Dec 9, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    Choking on a national ranking gets Fresno State what it deserves: a nowheresville bowl against a nowheresville opponent. It’s not one to build on; it’s yet another failure. Real bowl games are named after fruit and flowers, not their locations. FSU’s goals need to be bigger than consolation prizes.

  • W

    We chokedDec 7, 2023 at 8:17 pm