Dani Jardine
Tanner Mangum throws the ball on the run against San Jose State. It was Mangum’s best performance of the season with 283 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. (Dani Jardine)

To preview BYU’s game at Fresno State, Universe Sports Editor Josh Ellis talked with Daniel Gligich, sports editor of Fresno State’s The Collegian, to see how the Bulldogs have fared this season.

  • Fresno State finds itself on top of the Mountain West West division at 5-3, 4-1 in conference play. What have the Bulldogs done to get to this point?

Gligich: The Bulldogs have played outstanding defense, minus last week’s shocker against UNLV. The defense shut down the running game of both San Diego State and New Mexico — two teams that are outstanding running teams. The defense even showed flashes of brilliance against Alabama. If the Bulldogs played the Crimson Tide now, I’m sure the defense would perform better. Another key to the team’s success is the offensive line. The line has given quarterback Marcus McMaryion great protection and has been outstanding at run-blocking for the various running backs in the backfield.

  • What went wrong during the Bulldogs’ loss vs. UNLV?

Gligich: Last week was very reminiscent of last year, and it was truly a shocker. The Bulldogs have been playing so well this season that no one would remember the fact that they only won one game last year. The defense just couldn’t get off the field, and contrary to the rest of the season, the run defense was paltry. The offense never got going. McMaryion was inconsistent with his throws. The killer was a bad snap on fourth down late in the fourth quarter. It was fourth and two, and the Bulldogs were lined up to go for it. Head coach Jeff Tedford called a timeout and sent the punt team out instead. Of course, instead of pinning UNLV deep in their own territory and setting up the defense to play the field position battle, the snap flew over punter Blake Cusick’s head and Fresno State lost 40 yards and possession on the play, effectively handing the Rebels the win.

  • These two teams last played in 2015 with BYU winning 52-10 at home. Do you think that result has any significance for this week’s game?

Gligich: I don’t think it has any significance on Fresno State’s side because the whole coaching staff is new, and there are not many players that started against the Cougars in 2015. The Bulldogs have put last season behind them, so I have no reason to think the 2015 loss is lingering.

Ellis: I wouldn’t think so because so much has changed here in Provo since then. A new coaching staff and the turmoil of this season have made the 2015 game seem like it was played an eternity ago. I can see it motivating the Bulldogs, but BYU is just looking to build off of last week and get its first winning streak of the year.

  • Coming off of a 1-11 year, how are the Bulldog’s campus and team reacting to the success this year?

Gligich: The team is having a great time. They’ve fully embraced the new coaching staff, and you can tell that there is a new energy surrounding the team that didn’t exist since Derek Carr was the quarterback a few years ago. The campus and community are happy that the team is headed in the right direction, but unfortunately for the athletic department, ticket sales are still struggling. If the Bulldogs can win most of their remaining games, I expect the community to respond better next year with more people in the stands.

  • Who should BYU look out for on defense?

Gligich: Two players have had excellent years so far and stand out above the rest: safety Juju Hughes and linebacker Jeffrey Allison. Both players seem to be in the middle of every play and have had the greatest impact on the defense.

  • Who should Fresno State fans look out for on defense?

Ellis: Linebacker Butch Pau’u and lineman Sione Takitaki. Both players have 52 total tackles this season and Takitaki has eight tackles for loss.

Additionally, Dayan Ghanwoloku has emerged as a solid defensive back this year. He has two interceptions, which leads the team, as well as 41 total tackles and five pass break-ups.

If Warner is healthy and plays against the Bulldogs, he’ll also be a must-watch.

  • Who has stood out on offense for the Bulldogs this season and how has Fresno State’s offense put points on the board?

Gligich: When McMaryion took over the starting job in the fourth game he breathed some life into the offense and made a good connection with top receiver KeeSean Johnson. McMaryion has fallen back down to Earth a little bit, but Johnson is as good as ever. The real stars of the offense though have been the trio of running backs: Ronnie Rivers, Josh Hokit and Jordan Mims. The three of them have caused problems for opposing defenses all year.

  • What is your game prediction?

Gligich: I expect the Bulldogs to bounce back and win 34-24.

Ellis: BYU leaves Fresno with a 28-24 win for its first winning streak since last year.

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