Fresno State Keys to Success
Push the quarterback to the point of implosion. Quinn Kaehler has led the Aztecs to three straight wins, but vs. three of the nation's worst defensive teams in New Mexico State (123rd and last in total defense), Nevada (119th) and Air Force (116th). The walk-on JC transfer should see things from the Bulldogs he has yet to deal with.
San Diego State Keys to Success
Find a way to cover. Expectations are that the Aztecs will be in man coverage throughout, which is a dangerous proposition against Derek Carr and a receivers group led by Davante Adams, Josh Harper and Isaiah Burse. They will have to do much better than they have to this point — ranking 106th in passing efficiency defense.
Waller on fence: Fresno State running back Marteze Waller, who came out of last week's eventual victory over UNLV with a lower leg injury, participated in some team periods during the week of practice. But his status against the Aztecs remains in doubt, coach Tim DeRuyter said.
Waller is the Bulldogs' leading rusher with 408 yards on 75 carries (5.4 average), splitting reps with Josh Quezada. If Waller is not able to go, Fresno State is likely to use a committee approach, rather than add to the workload for Quezada, with Malique Micenheimer moving up. T.J. Thomas and Darryl Cash are the third and fourth backs.
"It's a sport where there are going to be injuries — it creates opportunities for other guys and it's next guy up," DeRuyter said. "I like the competition we have with Juice (Quezada) and with Marteze. I think it has brought the best out of both of them and we have to keep it competitive."
Micenheimer was proving capable of being more than a short-yardage back in fall camp when he was sidelined by an Achilles injury. He was able to get some reps in the opener against Rutgers while still not 100%, but has been getting closer to it the past few weeks.
"He's gotten better, but you know this is the first time he's actually done it competitively so it's hard to hold him to a standard that he had last spring going against real competition all the time," DeRuyter said. "But he's making progress and hopefully he'll continue to as he feels more comfortable. The last couple weeks in practice he's done a nice job catching the ball out of the backfield. He's always been a physical presence in there as a fullback and I think he can really get us some tough yards."
Hello, bye: San Diego State comes in off a well-deserved week off, having played and won at New Mexico State, against Nevada and at Air Force in just 13 days.
The Aztecs are the only bowl subdivision team to play consecutive games on short rest this season and the 15th going back to 1980. Four of those managed to navigate those stretches undefeated — Miami, Ohio in 2003, Boise State in 2007, Ohio in 2011 and San Diego State this season.
Receiving notice: Fresno State's receivers figure to have the much better end of matchups against San Diego State, starting with Davante Adams, who has caught seven touchdown passes over the past two games.
That is a huge number — nine times over the past 13 years, the leader in touchdown receptions at Fresno State had seven or fewer. Charles Smith led the Bulldogs with six in 2000, Marque Davis seven in 2002, Bernard Berrian four in 2003, Adam Jennings five in 2004, Joe Fernandez four in 2006, Marlon Moore five in 2007, Seyi Ajirotutu five in 2008 and seven in 2009 and Jamel Hamler a team-leading six in 2010.
Aerial approach: Facing a UNLV defense ranked No. 1 in the Mountain West Conference and No. 10 in the bowl subdivision in passing efficiency defense, the Bulldogs rolled up 435 passing and 641 total yards in a 38-14 victory.
Derek Carr had seven pass plays of 20 or more yards against the Rebels, who had allowed only 13 explosive pass plays in their first six games. UNLV fell from 10th in efficiency defense with a 99.45 rating to 23rd at 113.56.
The Aztecs are 106th with a rating of 145.90. They have allowed opposing quarterbacks to hit 152 of 229 passes (66.4%) for 1,682 yards and 13 TDs with only one interception.
Stopping a run: The Aztecs enter with a nine-game winning streak in Mountain West play. Their last loss was a year ago to the Bulldogs.
Defense toughens: Fresno State has been able to fit the pieces together defensively over the past three games, victories at Hawaii, at Idaho and against UNLV. Over that stretch, the Bulldogs have 16 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and have allowed 285 rushing yards on 103 plays (2.8 ypp) — and 73 came on one play. The Aztecs present a more difficult challenge.
San Diego State junior Adam Muema and freshman Donnel Pumphrey can take advantage if Fresno State doesn't fit runs or tackle well. The Aztecs are averaging 5.3 yards per play and 227.0 yards per game over their past three games.
"We just have to be physical. We have to match their physicality and make sure we're sound," defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. "Our playmakers up front have to make plays this week, this isn't a deal where they can eat gaps. They have to make plays.
"It's no different than Rutgers and Boise in terms of our mindset. I feel like we fit the run decent in those games if you take out a handful of quarterback scrambles. We have to eliminate those mistakes. If we do, I think we'll be all right. But we have to be physical."
THIS DATE IN BULLDOGS HISTORY: OCT. 26, 1935, VS. CALTECH
Yes, football in the early 1930s made for some strange bedfellows, including the last of three straight and five in the overall series with the Pasadena school better known for its academics than its athletic programs.
The Bulldogs were looking for a tuneup on a chilly night at state college stadium — after all, the big rival of the day, Pacific, loomed the following week. Fresno State got that and more and the headline in The Bee the next day said it all: "Bulldogs Score At Will."
After an opening exchange of punts, Walt Byrd's 25-yard punt return had Fresno State set up at the Engineers' 13. After halfback Phil Drath went for 9, fullback Ken Gleason went the rest of the way and though the kick was wide the Bulldogs led 6-0 and the rout was on.
A pair of 13-point quarters made it 26-0 by the half and 19 more points came in the third.
Caltech could do little right. The Engineers attempted 22 passes, completing just five. They had 162 yards rushing but allowed 337 to the Bulldogs.
About the only thing that slowed Fresno State was its inability to consistently hold on to the football.
"Fresno State scored quite easily and it was evident the Bulldogs could turn on the heat and go to town when they made up their collective minds, but on occasions they looked disorganized," The Bee's Ed W. Orman wrote in his recap. "Much fumbling marred the game but this was caused by the chilly weather that made for sticky fingers on the dew-soaked pigskin."
The box score that day had some disturbing totals: Fresno State had eight fumbles, though lost just two, and five interceptions.
Caltech, however, didn't score until the middle of the fourth quarter and that only spurred a three-play Bulldogs drive in response that accounted for the final score in a 51-7 Fresno State victory before 3,000 fans.
As for UOP the following week? The Bulldogs won that one, too, 20-7.
Learn more about the game while listening to Paul Loeffler on "Gameday Live" on KFIG (AM 940) starting at 4:30 p.m. today.