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Fresno State, minus head coach, stumbles into New Mexico Bowl

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Fresno State finished the regular season with a three-game losing streak that ended its hopes for a potential 10-win season and a more prestigious bowl bid.

Now the Bulldogs go into the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday in Albuquerque without their coach for their matchup with New Mexico State.

Jeff Tedford announced on Dec. 1 that he was stepping away from the program to address personal health concerns. Assistant head coach and linebackers coach Tim Skipper will run the team for the bowl game.

In the second year of a five-year contract, Tedford led Fresno State (8-4) to an 8-1 start that included a win at Purdue in the season opener and a Top 25 ranking early in the season. Dating back to a nine-game winning streak that ended 2022, the Bulldogs were 17-1 before their late skid.

With Tedford away, Skipper has the responsibility of extracting a winning effort out of a team that ended the regular season by being blown out 33-18 at San Diego State on Nov. 25.

“The transition (to life without Tedford has) been as good as it can be because of the support staff and these players,” Skipper said. “Everybody is bought in. We all know we got a higher sense of urgency. We gotta have attention to detail and the people that surround me are awesome. It’s made everything a lot easier than it could be.”

Fresno State will need a big game from quarterback Mikey Keene, who threw for 2,596 yards and 21 touchdowns in the regular season despite missing time with a concussion. He was intercepted nine times.

Erik Brooks caught 55 passes for 711 yards and five touchdowns, leading four Bulldogs with at least 44 receptions. Malik Sherrod carried the load in the rushing game with 876 yards and nine scores on 152 carries.

Meanwhile, the Aggies (10-4) will try to cap off one of the best seasons in school history with their second win of 2023 in Albuquerque. On Sept. 16, they made the trip north from Las Cruces and stopped New Mexico 27-17.

After losing the following week at Hawaii, New Mexico State embarked on an eight-game winning streak that included the school’s first-ever win over an SEC team, a 31-10 thumping at Auburn on Nov. 18. The Aggies reached the Conference USA title game but lost 49-35 at Liberty.

Still, New Mexico State added to the resume of veteran coach Jerry Kill as one of the ultimate program-builders. He oversaw just the second 10-win season in program history and is in line for a contract extension that would include a raise from his current $600,000 deal.

A more immediate concern to Kill might be the status of starting quarterback Diego Pavia, who threw for 2,915 yards, rushed for 851 yards and had a hand in 32 touchdowns this year. However, Pavia left the game at Liberty with an upper-body injury.

“He is the toughest kid I’ve ever been around — and I have coached for 40 years,” said Kill, who was confident Pavia would be ready to face the Bulldogs.

Fresno State leads the all-time series 18-1, with the Aggies’ only win coming in 2011.

–Field Level Media

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