FRESNO, Calif. – The Fresno State football team made it six wins in a row on Saturday night, with a dominating 41-14 win at struggling Nevada.
The win clinched the West Division title for Fresno State, and locked up a berth in the Mountain West Championship Game for the Bulldogs.
That game will take place in Boise on Saturday Dec. 3, as the Broncos clinched the Mountain Division and a spot in the title game on Saturday as well, thanks to their 20-17 win at Wyoming.
Having already clinched their division creates an interesting dynamic for Fresno State this week, since the Bulldogs will host Wyoming on Friday night in the regular-season finale.
The game will carry no meaning when it comes to the conference standings, but it certainly won’t be meaningless, since it will be “Senior Night” for the Bulldogs, and the program will honor 13 seniors before the game.
“(I) go back a long way with some of ’em,” said Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford at Monday’s press conference. “You know, guys like Zane Pope, and that crew. They’ve been around a long time, and (I) had the opportunity to recruit them, saw them grow from young kids into young men.”
Senior quarterback Jake Haener was already fighting back the emotion Monday, and is expecting that emotion to continue to build as the week goes on.
“This whole process has been crazy and coming here, going through it,” said Haener, who transferred to Fresno State from Washington in 2019. “I mean, I’m gonna be emotional. I get emotional just sitting here talking about it, yeah, this whole week’s gonna be filled with a lot of emotion.”
Haener is coming off another good game against the Wolf Pack, and was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, after he threw for 361 yards and accounted for four touchdowns (2 pass, 2 rush) against Nevada.
It’s the second time Haener has received the honor since returning from injury four games ago.
In those four games, Haener is passing at a 77 percent clip, with 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and has thrown for over 300 yards in each game.
While he was happy about getting the win, Haener was not even that impressed with his individual performance Saturday against Nevada.
“I thought we could have played a lot better,” said Haener postgame. “I was kind of disappointed in myself, how I played tonight, in leading those guys out there, and not having a third quarter lull like we did. It was a little frustrating. Just thought I needed to do a better job of composing myself there in the third quarter, and not getting super frustrated when things aren’t going our way. I always want us to be perfect, and us to be moving and clicking on all cylinders. And some of those things were a microcosm of things I was doing out there. So gotta improve, and gotta keep getting better.”
At this point, 13 is the official number of seniors who will be honored on Friday. Twelve have exhausted all their eligibility, including the extra Covid year. They are Jevon Bigelow (RB), Dontae Bull (OL), LJ Early (DB), Elijah Gates (DB), Haener (QB), Zach Hartsfield (TE), Ty Jones (WR), Jordan Mims (RB), Raymond Pauwels Jr. (TE), Pope (WR), and Nikko Remigio (WR).
According to Fresno State media relations, the Bulldogs will also honor fifth-year wide receiver Jalen Moreno-Cropper, who technically has one year of eligibility left, but has already made the decision not to use it.
There are also a few other listed seniors with eligibility remaining, who might end up not returning to Fresno State.
“With the whole COVID year and six years and things like that, there may be a couple guys that say, ‘you know, I’ve graduated, I’m ready to move on,'” said Tedford Monday. “So that’s a possibility that there could be one or two more.”
Speaking of Perales, he had a great argument for being named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week, an award that went to J.L. Skinner of Boise State, who intercepted two passes in the final two minutes of the Broncos win over Wyoming.
Perales, a sixth-year senior out of Merced High School, led the Bulldogs with six tackles against Nevada, all solo, had two tackles for loss, a sack, three quarterback hurries, a pass deflection, a forced fumble, and an interception. Combine that with the team win Saturday, and it’s a performance Perales ranked up there as one of his best ever.
“For me, it’s up there for sure, just to clinch the West Division,” said Perales, who spent a year at Merced College and Sacramento State, before he transferred to Fresno State. “It’s my first championship ever I’m going to so, it’s just a huge blessing. God presented us with these opportunities, and we’re so thankful for it.”
In his three years as a Bulldog, Perales has totaled 117 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, 21.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles and the one interception.
Among all active FBS players, Perales is second in the FBS in career forced fumbles (9) and sacks per game (0.73), and ranks third in tackles for loss per game (1.22).