The opposing coaches for next week’s New Mexico Bowl spent a good part of Thursday’s introductory luncheon praising each other.
“Wyoming has a lot of tradition,” Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. “It’s the second year in a row that we’re playing against a team that’s having a rebirth. I think those are always real positives when you’re playing against a team that's coming in for the first time. They’re going to be excited to play.”
While the Cowboys are in their first bowl game since 2004, the Bulldogs are playing in the post season for the 10th time in the last 11 years.
And that just might mean that Wyoming could have an edge, Hill said.
“I think sometimes the advantage may be with the team that hasn’t been there for awhile because it’s a new experience,” Hill said. “If you want to think of any advantage. But I don’t think any of that means anything once you get hit in the face. Once the game starts, I don’t think you care why you’re playing or who you’re playing, just that you're just playing.”
Wyoming coach Dave Christensen chuckled at that.
“That’s an advantage?” he asked. “My feelings are it’s more distractions. But, I don’t know that that’s necessarily an advantage. I know our kids are excited to be here. I would say the advantage is with the team with the most experience and has been through the bowl experience before.”
Coach Hill’s team has played in a lot of big football games and won a lot more big football games than we have.”
Fresno State enters the game on a roll, having won seven of its last eight after starting out 1-3.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, won 2-of-3 to get to 6-6 and become bowl eligible.
“I definitely think we deserve a bowl bid,” Christensen said.
And Hill shrugged off questions that FSU didn’t draw a quality opponent.
“We need to finish the job against a very good Wyoming team,” he said. “It’s going to be a battle here on Dec. 19 and we look forward to it. It’s going to be a tough game. It’s going to be an emotional game.”
And the Cowboys are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs.
“Anybody that gets to the postseason is very well deserving of it,” Hill said. “We’re going to have our hands full with the University of Wyoming. Both teams are very capable of scoring.”
Both squads are expecting turnouts, although there will likely be more from the north than from the west.
“I think we’ll have a pretty good fan following down here,” Christensen said. “They’ve followed us all around the country this year. We had a couple of thousand come down to Florida Atlantic. So if they’re going to travel all the way down there, they can make a jaunt down here.”
He’s also hoping to get some of the local fans to switch allegiance, if only for a day.
“I would hope that they would root for the Mountain West,” he said. “It’s not like there’s any real history between me and coaching Wyoming and New Mexico. They’ve had some struggles this year and we were lucky enough to win the game up in Laramie with up to 14 inches of snow and hazardous conditions. We got them in our element. I would hope they come out and support us because we’re the same conference.”
THURSDAY: UW coach Dave Christensen and Fresno State coach Pat Hill took part in the New Mexico Bowl introductory luncheon in Albuquerque.
I'M FLATTERED: Both coaches spent part of the luncheon praising the opposing program. And while neither coach could agree on who holds the advantage in the bowl, both were quick to point out that both teams deserved to be in Albuquerque.
HE SAID IT: "It's going to be a battle here on Dec. 19 and we look forward to it. It's going to be a tough game." -- Hill.
NEW MEXICO BOWL: Wyoming vs. Fresno State, 2:30 p.m., Dec. 19, University Stadium, Albuquerque, on ESPN.