Fresno State showed little signs of sluggishness during practice Monday, even after players received the past three days off during the bye.
And coach Tim DeRuyter knew exactly what buttons to press to make that happen and get his 17th-ranked Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0) focused on Saturday's Mountain West Conference game against UNLV (4-2, 2-0).
"We told everyone at the start of practice: You don't beat UNLV on Saturday," DeRuyter said. "You beat them today, tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday. If you prepare — and our guys have done it all season long — then Saturdays take care of themselves."
One of Monday's early drills immediately forced the offense to focus and prevented the unit from easing into practice.
Running a series of rushing plays that allowed the scout-team defense a rare opportunity to strip and swat the ball free, a few Bulldogs running backs seemed to get upset and annoyed at the sometimes excessive or late swings at their arms.
But their reaction also seemed to get the entire unit fired up. That energy carried over into other parts of practice, DeRuyter said.
"Anytime you go ball security (drills) and you let the scouts go off a little bit, it gets guys a bit on edge — not a bad way to start," DeRuyter said with a big smile. "You give guys a couple of days off, sometimes you have worries. I know back in the springtime, you give them a couple of days off and you're a little rusty. Today, we (weren't)."
Though UNLV hasn't been much of an opponent to worry about in recent seasons — its last winning season was a 6-6 showing in 2003 — this year's Rebels have momentum going into Saturday.
UNLV has won four straight games for the first time since 2000, including 39-37 against Hawaii last week. After Hawaii scored three straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take a lead, Nolan Kohorst nailed a 44-yard field goal as time expired.
UNLV, with a fast-paced and no-huddle offense, set a Mountain West record in the game by running 114 offensive plays.
"They're a team with a lot of confidence and momentum, and we've got to do something to stop it," DeRuyter said. "In an ideal situation, you create negative yardage-type plays so that they're off schedule."
Reaction to rankings
DeRuyter found some amusement in Fresno State's largest climb in the national rankings over the weekend while on a bye week. The Bulldogs jumped four spots to No. 17 in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings and checked in at No. 19 in the USA Today coaches' poll, three spots better than a week ago.
"My thought is: Let's take another couple of weekends off, and be in the top 10," DeRuyter said.
"To me, that's what it means. It's kind of fun to talk about right now. But it doesn't mean anything. I don't think (No.) 17 is a stop sign for our guys. We've just got to get better every single week and then just see how it goes."
-- Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr is three touchdown passes and 33 completions from Fresno State career records. If he passes for 376 yards, he'll also reach 10,000 passing yards in his career.
"I'm fired up to be that close," he said. "Hopefully, I'll have a chance to do those things. But again, my focus is to win. If we don't win, and I break a record, I promise it's going to be the worst day."
-- College football is Bahamas bound. A new bowl game will be played in Nassau starting in 2014. The Bahamas Bowl will be part of a series of bowls shared by the Mid-American Conference, American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt, Mountain West and Conference USA.
The MAC will be the anchor team for the first four seasons. The American Athletic will provide the opponent for the MAC in 2014 and '16. C-USA will send a team in 2015 and the Sun Belt in 2017. The matchups for 2018 and '19 are to be determined.
-- Fresno State's Oct. 26 game at San Diego State was selected for a national telecast on ESPN2 and kickoff was set for 7:30 p.m. from Qualcomm Stadium.
Back in action
No. 17 FRESNO STATE vs. UNLV
Homecoming: 7 p.m. Saturday at Bulldog Stadium
Records: Bulldogs 5-0, 2-0 MW; Rebels 4-2, 2-0
TV (online only): Mountain West Network at
Radio: KFIG (940 AM), KGST (1600 AM)
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