Fresno State found itself in a spot of trouble at San Diego State. The Aztecs, coming off a bye and with an extra week to prepare, were throwing things at quarterback Derek Carr and the Bulldogs' offense that they hadn't seen on tape, disguising and giving them different looks.
The Aztecs crowded the box in that Oct. 26 game and at times none of the players around the line of scrimmage had a hand on the ground, making it difficult to identify defenders and adjust protections.
For a time it worked — Fresno State, ranked in the top 10 in the bowl subdivision in total and scoring offense, had only 111 yards and seven points in the first half.
To adjust, the Bulldogs turned to tempo, and it could play a large role again Saturday when Fresno State tries to extend its perfect season in a Mountain West Conference game at Wyoming.
The Cowboys, with a bye last week, fired defensive coordinator Chris Tormey and installed defensive line coach Jamar Cain on an interim basis to resuscitate a struggling unit ranked 107th in total defense, then later hired longtime defensive coordinator Bill Young as a consultant.
Wyoming was running a 3-4 under Tormey and presumably will under Cain. But Young has had a long career and a lot of success running a four-man front, so Fresno State isn't quite sure what it will get when it lines up against the Cowboys, only that it will have to be ready to adjust.
"I would think it would be difficult to totally change, but you can add some wrinkles and we'll have to see," Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said. "I believe the interim defensive coordinator is going to call it and he was with them this year running the 3-4. But when you bring in an experienced coach like Bill Young, he may have more weight in the room and they may go to some of his principles.
"We'll just have to be prepared for everything. I think our offensive staff has done a nice job of adjusting. The second half at San Diego State, we did some things to change up when San Diego had two weeks to prepare and really changed a lot of the things that they did, and we'll have to be ready to do the same thing on Saturday when we go up there."
At San Diego State, the Bulldogs stepped on the gas pedal and midway through the third quarter were able to get their offense going, putting together 85- and 91-yard touchdown drives on back-to-back possessions, capped by scoring passes to Davante Adams.
"We cut back a little bit on what we were doing drop-back pass-wise, wanted to push the tempo understanding that there was going to be times knowing where the unblocked guy was going to be and getting the ball out of our hands fast," offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said.
"We wanted to stress them more with our tempo. They did a good job in their time to get ready for us, they had disguised some things and shown some things that they hadn't shown before, and you can't go fast.
"But what happened was we got them going in the second half, now they had to vanilla it up a bit and we were able to do what we planned on doing."
If Wyoming is making schematic changes, that speed could exacerbate any indecision in the Cowboys, who have allowed 52 and 51 points in their past two games, losses to Colorado State and San Jose State.
That obviously would be to the advantage of Fresno State, which has run an average of 87.6 plays per game, up from 77.4 a year ago and the fourth most in the nation.
"No doubt, and that's why I like going up-tempo," DeRuyter said. "I think it's a great neutralizer of things that may be a little foreign to you because guys that may not be as experienced in their defensive package have to make quick decisions, quick communication, so hopefully you can take advantage of some slight hesitations if they are changing things."
FRESNO STATE AT WYOMING
Saturday: 7:15 p.m. in Laramie, Wyo. (ESPN2)
Records: Bulldogs 8-0, 5-0 MWC; Cowboys 4-4, 2-2
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