He was out, then back in. Al Pacino in Godfather III? Nope. Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener, who had announced he was following coach Kalen DeBoer to Washington—where Haener had begun his collegiate career.
Late last week, however, Haener apologized for the drama he had created when he revealed he would remain in Fresno, for coach Jeff Tedford’s return, this bowl game and next season. Following?
DeBoer is off to the Emerald City, as is offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb. Running backs coach Lee Marks will be the Dogs’ interim coach for this game and wide receivers coach Kirby Moore, for the first time, will call plays as an OC.
Sounds like a mess.
Actually, that describes the UTEP Miners.
NCAAF · Sat (12/18) @ 2:15pm ET
|University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM|
UTEP Miners (7-5, 7-48-5 ATS)
They covered six of their first seven lined games, but the season went pear-shaped for the Miners after they beat Louisiana Tech, 19-3, at home.
Foes then averaged 32.4 points against UTEP in its final five games, in which it went 1-4, straight up and ATS. A defense that was taking pride in keeping the other guys below 300 total yards broke down, yielding 1,379 over a three-game span.
Over their final five games, the Miners gathered only one takeaway, an interception in the finale at Alabama–Birmingham. They gave away five interceptions and two fumbles. That’s a horrific scale.
Gavin Hardison is a capable quarterback, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound fourth-year junior who has accumulated nearly 3,000 yards, with a yards-per-attempt average of nearly nine. Twelve picks, though, to go with 16 TD throws are a pock.
Ronald Awatt has run for 804 yards, with a 5.5 average, and five TDs, while Deion Hankins has six rushing scores. Jacob Cowing, with nearly a 20-yard average on 67 catches, is Hardison’s main target and has seven TDs.
Money has come in on UTEP, slicing this opening number of 13.5 points, but it’s misinformed and ill-advised. The Miners stumbled toward the regular-season finish line.
They could very well fall flat on their mugs to cap their season against the Bulldogs.
Fresno State Bulldogs (9-3, 8-4 ATS)
It doesn’t take a rocketship scientist, as legendary Princeton hoops coach Pete Carril was fond of saying, to spot where the Bulldogs got into trouble this season.
At Hawaii, the 6-1, 195-pound Haener threw for 388 yards and three touchdowns, but he had four passes picked off by the Rainbow Warriors.
At home in an embarrassing 40-14 defeat to Boise State, he was held under 300 yards, completed two passes for TDs and had three intercepted by the Broncos.
In his other 10 games, Haener had 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, in 341 attempts. Only one of those was a loss—Oregon, at home, was just better.
Fresno State has covered three of its past four, and Haener has been a major reason for its success. Fans and alums must be happy he is staying, regardless of the maneuverings of the past 10 days.
Haener has thrown for 3,810 yards, ninth in the nation. He’s in the top 30 with 8.5 yards per attempt.
UTEP on the season has had a stingy pass defense, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete only 53.1% of their attempts. Only three teams in the country were stingier. However, Haener is the best one they will have faced all season.
Plus, the Miners’ secondary has slipped in the second half. It has only that single interception over UTEP’s past five games, That’s 152 throws. Haener might have a field day.
Between them, Fresno tailbacks Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims have totaled more than 1,300 yards, with nine touchdowns. Haener has shown a glimpse of his wheels, too, scoring three times on the ground.
Through the air, he mostly trusts Jalen Cropper, who has a team-high 11 TDs and an average of nearly 11 yards on 76 catches. Zane Pope (18.1-yard average on 24 receptions, four TDs) and Keric Wheatfall (16.2, 36, four) complement Cropper.
And Josh Kelly averages 15.4 yards on 50 catches.
Fresno State Vs. UTEP Pick
With an impressive arsenal and maybe some renewed vigor, that Haener is sticking around for a little while longer, watch Marks and Moore open up the Fresno State attack even more and end its season with a big bang.
Our Pick: Bulldogs -11.5 (FanDuel)