Sacramento State ran 94 plays in 31 minutes and 21 seconds of possession time in its opener, a loss to Division II Western Oregon, which works out to one play every 20.01 seconds. That is fast. If in the FBS, the Hornets after one game would rank up there with Missouri, Texas State and Texas Tech, which ran 100 plays in 25:47 in a loss at West Virginia, 98 plays in 26:32 in a triple-overtime victory at Ohio and 99 plays in 30:07 in a victory over Stephen F. Austin.
But it is not speed so much that could catch Fresno State off guard Saturday when it matches up against Sacramento State as the Bulldogs look to build on an opening loss at Nebraska.
That the Bulldogs can worry about next week when going to play at Toledo or the week after that when Tulsa makes a visit to Bulldog Stadium.
When they make a play or two, they’re right back up on the ball and you have to get lined up to play. I’d say our guys are used to that tempo, having practiced against ourselves. It’s something our guys prepare for every day.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter on Sacramento State
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The Hornets, despite that high play total, actually look on film a lot like the Bulldogs. They can push tempo to an extreme but pick their spots. It’s not a 60-minute, four-quarter sprint. They got to 94 plays in part because they were behind from the start, threw the football 58 times, kept the sticks moving by converting 8 of 20 third downs and 3 of 4 fourth downs into first downs.
“They’re really not a hurry-up team,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “They’re not even as fast as our offense. They’ll go hurry-up at times when they get a big play, they’ll hurry up and run another play. But if we play that many plays, there’s something wrong.”
There obviously are some built-in advantages there for the Bulldogs, the key identifying formations and going from there. They did nothing different in practice to prepare for the up-tempo offense they will see – they have practiced against one very similar since the start of fall camp. They are used to taking signals off the sideline, and don’t huddle on defense to begin with.
They just need to stay sound when encountering tempo.
“The way we have our base defense, unless they change personnel and then you have an opportunity to match up, we’ll be able to play most of their sets with our base defense,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “That’s one of the advantages of playing a 3-4, we can be very multiple with that, especially with a guy like James (Bailey), who can play outside backer and play man on a slot. He gives you flexibility.
Sacramento State ranks fifth in the FCS in passing offense at 370.0 yards per game. The Hornets averaged 6.4 yards per attempt, second lowest of any team ranked in the top 25.
“But you still have to get lined up, you have to get the call and you have to execute. You have to recognize formations – they do a lot, and when you’re going in a hurry, if guys aren’t thinking quickly you can lose the advantage from a leverage standpoint and they can make a play on you.”
The Bulldogs should be better there than they were a week ago, with inside (Mike) linebacker Nela Otukolo expected back after sitting out the Nebraska game.
That inside group is back intact with Otukolo and Trent Soechting at Mike, Jeff Camilli and Jeffrey Allison at Will and Robert Stanley able to bounce between the two. Stanley last week at Nebraska started as the Mike linebacker.
If we play that many plays, there’s something wrong.
Fresno State defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, on the 94 plays Sacramento State ran in its opening game
The Hornets counter with a sophomore quarterback in Nate Ketteringham, who in the loss to Western Oregon completed 34 of 58 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns but also had two interceptions.
Sacramento State had 10 players catch at least one pass and rolled up 465 yards of total offense, albeit in a home loss against a lower-division team, a fate the Bulldogs obviously are hoping to avoid..
And the Bulldogs have been able to handle the FCS offenses that they have encountered, even last season when going 3-9. A year ago, it was Abilene Christian, which generated only 247 yards of offense in a 34-13 Bulldogs victory. In 2014, it was Southern Utah, with the Thunderbirds gaining 375 yards, but not close at the end of a 56-16 Fresno State victory.
“Our defense is going to be ready for that,” Otukolo said. “We just have to calm down, get settled, gets the calls in and play football, play our game.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. SACRAMENTO STATE
- Saturday: 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium
- Records: Bulldogs 0-1, Hornets 0-1
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)