2022 Mountain West Football Championship: Seven Statistics That Could Decide The Game
The title bout between Fresno State and Boise State could be decided by a handful of key factors. We dive into the numbers you need to know.
Stats don’t lie.
That’s the number of interceptions that Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener threw in four November games, one of just seven FBS quarterbacks to take such good care of the football in that stretch.
However, Boise State quarterback Taylen Green also happens to be another of that seven. As KTVB’s Jay Tust helpfully pointed out, Green is the only player in the country with ten passing touchdowns and zero picks in the last five weeks, which is a long way of saying both athletes have played at the very top of their games down the stretch. If one or both can do so one more time, we could have a banger of a championship on our hands.
That’s the number of yards per carry that Boise State averaged in the first matchup between these two teams back in October. Both George Holani and Ashton Jeanty ran for over 100 yards, the only time this year they did so, while the Fresno State defense managed only three tackles for loss. This is a script which will have to change if the if the Bulldogs want to beat the favored Broncos at home.
Despite significant injuries to the likes of Bralyn Lux, Evan Williams, and Tyreque Jones at different points this year, both Fresno State and Boise State have been pretty stingy in defending against the pass. Coincidentally or not, both the Bulldogs and Broncos have allowed 6.4 yards per attempt, the best figure in the conference, while finishing second and first, respectively, in opponent passer rating.
In other words, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that both Haener and Green find it harder to be productive than it was against the likes of Nevada and Wyoming.
Could generating a consistent pass rush be a problem on both sides this Saturday? While both Fresno State and Boise State rank in the top 50 nationally by team sack rate, they combined for just 11 sacks in November and finished at the bottom of the Mountain West on that front in the stretch run.
This is where injuries on defense could be a major factor. Boise State has already seen George Tarlas sidelined for the season with injury while others like Demitri Washington, Ezekiel Noa, and Ahmed Hassanein have been limited in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Fresno State defensive end David Perales ended the season finale against Wyoming on crutches and is currently “day-to-day” with an ankle injury, a critical development to watch considering he has racked up 10.5 of the Bulldogs’ 24 sacks this season.
If the game is as hotly contested as it was between these two teams in 2018, you can expect a lot of nervous excitement from both fan bases since both kickers, Fresno State’s Dylan Lynch and Boise State’s Jonah Dalmas, have converted at least 80% of their field goal tries.
Dalmas, a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, has connected on 18-of-22 opportunities while the true freshman Lynch has been key in replacing the injured Abraham Montano throughout November, successful on 6-of-7 field goals.
A lack of pass rush could help both offenses turn the game into a track meet. Boise State (44) and Fresno State (41) finished first and second in Mountain West play, respectively, with 85 combined plays of 20 or more yards. That includes eight different players — Jalen Moreno-Cropper, Billy Bowens, Jordan Mims, Nikko Remigio, George Holani, Stefan Cobbs, Ashton Jeanty, and Zane Pope — who have at least six such plays each, meaning that just about anyone could emerge as a hero if given the opportunity.
It may not surprise you to learn that Jake Haener’s return from a high ankle sprain has helped Fresno State’s offense get back to putting up numbers, and few statistics demonstrate that better than the one above. That happens to be the Bulldogs’ red zone conversion percentage in November, as the unit has earned points on 19 of a conference-high 20 trips inside the 20-yard line, including 13 touchdowns.
For Boise State’s part, Spencer Danielson’s defense has been as stingy as ever when pushed in November. The Broncos allowed a touchdown on just 40.7% of their opponents’ 27 red zone possessions this year, the second-best rate in the Mountain West, and were 5-of-11 in that regard across four November contests.