Fresno State’s Valley Cup Floodeth Over
Find out who our staff likes this week
There are three Mountain West games this week, who is our staff taking?
Anybody else gettin’ that deja vu vibe?
The Fresno State University Bulldogs are dealing with flooded fields. The football program’s new coach (Jeff Tedford—the hiring of whom @MWCwire Matthew Kenerly called the “dumbest coaching move in Mountain West history” seems to be finding his footing. After defeating Nevada 41-28, the team has a bit of momentum. Now the betting lines have the Bulldogs as heavy favorites to go into CEFCU Stadium on Saturday and beat longtime rival San Jose State University for the Valley Cup.
Yeah we’ve heard this before.
Sort of. It was 2013.
It wasn’t so long ago, just back to 2013, that Fresno State was quarterbacked by a future NFL Pro Bowler. The Tim DeRuyter-led program seemed poised to make some BCS-busting noise. During the first 10 games of its 2013 schedule, Fresno State tore through its opponents, scoring more than 44 points per contest.
The whole thing—especially Derek Carr’s “The West’s Underdog Wonderdog” Heisman run—had started off with a bang. Rutgers University, then of the American Athletic Conference, traveled the nearly 3,000 miles from New Jersey to California’s Central Valley for the August 29th season opener. Senior quarterback Carr came out slinging. The teams traded blows. With 1 second remaining in the first half, Carr completed a 2 yard pass to Davante Adams to make the score 21-20.
In the second half, the offenses really found their strides. Touchdown passes begot more touchdown passes. Fresno completely abandoned its running game and let Carr carry the load. By night’s end, he had attempted 73 passes, thrown for 456 yards and 5 TDs, and proved just how special his senior campaign might be. The game ended in a 52-51 overtime victory for the Bulldogs.
Things only got better from there. Leading up to the ‘13 Valley Cup, Fresno dispatched one Mountain West foe after another. Carr threw for more than 400 yards eight times over the course of the season. There was really only one early season hiccup: a flooded field.
The 2013 Fresno State Bulldogs were slated to visit Boulder and the Colorado University Buffalos on September 14, 2013. It was a chance for the Bulldogs to secure an important non-conference, power-five victory. Colorado, mired in the last months of the disastrous Mike MacIntyre regime, looked ripe for the picking. Alas, the game never happened.
CU was forced to cancel the contest due to the after effects of the Colorado Front Range Floods. The campus simply wasn’t accessible for the game. CU eventually decided to replace the game with a late season contest against Charleston Southern; Fresno lost its chance at a Pac 12 win.
Still, Fresno State powered ahead. It entered the day-after Thanksgiving Valley Cup contest 10-0. The teamed had inched its way up to No. 16 in the national rankings. The San Jose State Spartans, on the other hand, came into the contest 6-5, on the heels of a three game losing skid.
The game was close throughout. Carr couldn’t miss, passing for 519 yards and six TDs. The problem for the Bulldogs, though, was that SJSU’s QB David Fales was even better, amassing 547 yards. He too threw for six TDs, and, unlike Carr, finished the day without an interception.
The Spartans pulled away in the fourth quarter, eating away the clock with first down after first down. When time expired, SJSU had a season making 62-52 victory. Fresno State’s run at a major bowl bid was short circuited. Fresno’s season sputtered to an end a month later with a 20-45 loss to USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.
It hasn’t been much fun (to put it mildly for Bulldog fans) for FSU football since then. Head coach Tim DeRuyter went 11-25 following the 2013 Valley Cup, before getting fired in 2016.
Enter Jeff “I’m not the worst coaching hire in MWC history” Tedford. The 2017 season is off to a promising start. In four games thus far, the Bulldogs have won all the games they had a chance to win (66-0 v. Incarnate Word; 41-21 v. Nevada). The team did just fine versus top-ranked Alabama and No. 6 Washington, keeping the scores respectable and collecting $2.4 million in come-to-us-and-get-whupped money.
And yes, there is a flooding connection. It’s not, thankfully, anything in the order of the devastating floods that canceled the 2013 CU-FSU contest. This time it was just a broken irrigation line at Fresno’s Bulldog Stadium. It flooded the field. Leading up to last week’s Nevada game there were some tense moments.
Field turf experts were brought in. As the Fresno Bee reported, Nevada arrived at its Friday evening walkthrough only to find equipment on the field and piles of sand in the endzone. The university ended up closing stadium Section 38, where the irrigation break originally occurred, for the game, but fortunately the contest went off otherwise unimpeded.
Strange. The Bulldogs and flooded fields seem to have become a thing.
This brings us, finally, to the contest at hand: the 81st playing of the FSU-SJSU Valley Cup. Fresno holds a slight edge in the rivalry, which stands at 40-37-3. The Spartans enter the Cup 1-5, having lost its two Mountain West contests (Utah State and UNLV) by a combined score of 102-23. The Bulldog’s comfortable victory over Nevada, while promising, is somewhat lessened by the fact that Nevada is winless through five contests.
Prediction? I’ll leave that to the experts. But if recent history has shown us anything, it’s that when Fresno travels the 155 miles to San Jose to battle for the V-shaped Valley Trophy anything can happen.