Jake Haener could be limited Saturday in Laramie
LARAMIE -- If Fresno State played a game last Saturday, chances are its star quarterback would've been in street clothes on the sideline.
If not, he would've been limited -- to say the least.
Jake Haener suffered a sprained right foot/ ankle in the third quarter a week prior at Hawaii. He got rolled up on and missed the remainder of the series. He came back and completed just five of his 15 attempts in the fourth quarter.
Haener, who is also dealing with a nagging hip injury, was picked off twice in the final frame, including a dagger with the Bulldogs at the 'Bows 11-yard line as time trickled off the clock. Hawaii held on for the 27-24 win on the islands.
Haener's final stat line read like this: 28-of-50, 388 yards, 3 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, fumble
Though the Bulldogs (4-2, 1-1) wanted to play immediately and get that unusual taste out of their collective mouths, the bye week couldn't have come at a better time for their signal caller, who is the third-leading passer in the country with 2,230 yards through six games.
"This last week would have been tough, as far as being 100%," Fresno State's head coach Kalen DeBoer said of Haener's availability. "You know, it's very fortunate for him that he has this extra week to be able to take precautions and things like that. But, you know, he needs to get back and get some reps in for practice."
While his teammates and coaches took some time off, Haener spent his break in the training room. He was accompanied by a walking boot, one he sported early this week in practice.
Will Haener really be ready to go this Saturday in Laramie?
"I know that every day he's getting better," DeBoer said. "... I don't think just right away tomorrow he's going to be almost 100%, you know, but I don't know how many football players step on the football field at this time of the year that are 100%."
Fresno State offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb is a tad more optimistic.
"Yeah, he's good to go," he said of Haener. "He'll be on the field tomorrow, full speed and ready to go. So, I think we're just being pretty cautious over the weekend, making sure that he was good to go. I know today -- I just was talking to him five minutes ago -- he's in the weight room right now working out. So, he should be should be all set."
Craig Bohl is preparing for Haener either way.
Wyoming's eighth-year head coach said his cornerbacks -- CJ Coldon and Azizi Hearn -- are up for the challenge.
"Haener throws great balls," Bohl said. "He's able to throw the ball in all kinds of different places, from the hash over the sticks and he can throw back-shoulder fades.
"... Now, it's going to be wide-open football and they do it really well. I'm encouraged because I really have great confidence in our secondary that they'll play well."
Haener, who is on the Maxwell, O'Brien and Senior Bowl watch list, is completing nearly 70% of his passes. He has 18 touchdown passes to go along with six interceptions, four of which came in that setback at Hawaii.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Washington transfer is in the Top 10 in the country in six statistical categories: Yards (No. 3-2,230), passing touchdowns (No. 5-18), points responsible for (No. 3-128), Passing yards per game (No. 4-372), total offense (No. 3-379) and points responsible for per game (No. 6-21.3). Haener has eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark in nine of his 12 games as a college quarterback.
That's on par with the Carr Bros., David and Derek, who are royalty in California's Central Valley.
Hearn said he's looking forward to facing a spread attack after Air Force ran the ball 64 times last Saturday in Colorado Springs. He looks at the matchup with Haener -- and his three top wide outs: Jalen Cropper, Josh Kelly and Keric Wheatfall -- as an opportunity to shut down one of the most prolific passing attacks in the country.
"For me, I don't think it's that difficult," Hearn said of making the adjustment from the Falcons to the Bulldogs. "That's where I make my living. I'm very excited to see this team. If we can stop them from passing the ball, we win the game. Maybe we dominate the game?"
Easier said than done.
Haener and Co. knocked off No. 13 UCLA in the Rose Bowl in mid-September. The 'Dogs quarterback completed 39-of-53 passes for 455 yards and two touchdowns. Fresno State also gave No. 11 Oregon all it could handle in Eugene. Haener threw for nearly 300 yards and added a touchdown in a 31-24 loss.
Coldon said one of the keys will be to give Haener different defensive looks every snap. Either way, the sophomore said Wyoming (4-1, 0-1) won't be intimidated by what Fresno State's offense has done through six games.
"(We'll) just go out there and play ball -- nothing more, nothing less," Coldon said. "(They're) another opponent to face and another 'W' we want to get."
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