First Look: Fresno State vs UConn
Can the Bulldogs start the season off with a victory?
UConn will travel west to the Valley
The first-ever meeting between Fresno State and UConn will take place at the end of August at Bulldog Stadium. After UConn cancelled their 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are ready to play football again. For Fresno State, they return a lot of key pieces and aim to make some noise in the Mountain West.
Location: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, Ca
2020 Record: N/A
Head Coach: Randy Edsall
Edsall is in his second stint as the Huskies’ head coach and has his work cut out for him. They played zero games last season due to the coronavirus and are looking to find a way to gain momentum in 2021.
2020 Fresno State Recap
The Bulldogs finished 3-3 in the Mountain West shortened season. They lost to Hawaii to start the year before rattling off three straight and looking like a possible pick to win the conference. Then they had two games cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols. After that, they lost their final two games to end the year at 3-3.
Quarterback Jake Haener tossed for 2021 yards with 14 touchdowns and five picks and looked every part the player they wanted when he transferred to Fresno. Senior running back Ronnie Rivers was once again fantastic, despite battling an injury down the stretch. Rivers still finished with 507 yards and seven scores on 100 carries while making school history.
The Bulldogs failed to make a bowl game but showed a lot of promise that could carry over into the 2021 season.
Fresno State 2021 outlook
Well, the good news is that Rivers and Haener are both back. The Dogs will also have a full offseason program and be able to have practices and workouts, something they were extremely limited on last season due to the pandemic tightening up protocols across the country.
Offensive lineman Syrus Tuitele ended up signing with the Buffalo Bills on an undrafted free agent deal and should be able to crack the 53-man roster. Besides that, the majority of the Bulldogs’ major contributors are returning, with Rivers being the biggest piece of the puzzle.
Perhaps an encouraging sign was Haener seen working out with Derek and David Carr.
— Fresno State Football (@FresnoStateFB) May 7, 2021
Jalen Cropper and Keric Wheatfall return as the top pass catchers for Haener and the Bulldogs offense. Cropper stole the national attention with some huge games, including a 10-catch, 202-yard performance with three scores against Utah State and his potential will be untapped with a full season and a full offseason of workouts and practices.
In the spring preview, Haener and Cropper already got busy connecting on a touchdown pass.
— Gabe Camarillo (@gabecamarillo_) May 1, 2021
The defense returns quite a number of starters, but this team will live and die with their offensive production as they look to spread the field.
Final thoughts & Prediction
UConn is severely unmatched, especially with the insane number of playmakers the Bulldogs carry on the offensive side of the ball. Also, the fact the Huskies haven’t played a game in a long time is going to be tough.
Oh, and after a year of no fans watching the games, the Bulldogs’ fans should be filling the stands. They have been waiting for this moment for a long time and will be more than ecstatic to be back at Bulldog Stadium watching their team aim for a shot at a bowl game.
After all, the Bulldogs need to start the season off on a good foot. The very next week they will travel to Oregon and then head back home to play Cal Poly before finishing off their non-conference slate against UCLA, on the road of all places.
Final Score prediction: Fresno State Bulldogs 52, UConn Huskies 20