Fresno State, like most college football teams, puts a focus on specific practice days. A theme carries the day. There is Competition Tuesday. There is Turnover Wednesday, which of course works both ways, the offense trying to protect the football and the defense trying to pry it from their grasp. There’s No Repeat Thursday, which after two practices in any particular week with the game plan and seeing the opponent’s looks the goal is to get it and everything else right the first time. That is followed by Focus Friday, more of a mental sharpening.
And when the Bulldogs try to avoid a 0-2 start in the Mountain West against Nevada at Mackay Stadium, it has to be Fundamental Saturday and it has to mean something.
It has been a lack of the basics that has the Bulldogs off to a poor start, 1-4 and 0-1 in the conference with that one win coming against FCS Sacramento State.
It’s a consistency of effort. It’s understanding that every single play has to have fanatical effort.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter
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Blocking, tackling, finishing plays.
On both sides of the ball the Bulldogs have been done in by the detail and a lack of fundamental football and they have gone about their business very tentatively, which obviously does not help.
A run game that ranks last in the conference in yards per play and per game?
“We just have to sharpen what we’re doing,” offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said. “It’s the same thing from last week – the details of what we’re doing. We have to hone in on it and really focus on those details and then just give phenomenal effort. If you have a mistake, do it at 100 percent and just go fast.”
The tackling of a defense that is ninth in the MW in yards per rushing play and last in yards per game?
“Way too many (missed tackles),” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “We’ve really made an emphasis on tackling; we’re doing a lot more live periods in practice. We have to tackle full speed. A lot of it is technique – a lot of times when guys make contact, they let their feet go dead. That’s the strongest part of your body, your legs. They’re not using their lower body, so it’s a lot of technique and we have to get better at those things otherwise they’re going to keep showing up.”
Over the past two seasons plus five games, the Bulldogs have won only seven games against FBS opponents, five of those wins coming in 2014.
Even a marginal gain could put Fresno State in a good spot against Nevada, which comes in 2-3 and off a 38-17 loss at Hawaii in which it gave up 566 total yards (344 on the ground) to a team that went in averaging 380.3 yards per game and had put up just 378 in a victory over FCS Tennessee-Martin.
Nevada is ninth in the conference in total defense. It also is last in the conference in scoring offense and 11th of 12 in total offense, averaging barely more yards per game than the Bulldogs.
The Wolf Pack have weapons – running back James Butler is fifth in the league in rushing at 110.6 yards per game and wide out Hassan Henderson last season burned the Bulldogs with five receptions for 136 yards including a 73-yard touchdown.
But Nevada obviously is struggling, as well, and could be a tad weary after back-to-back road games at Purdue and at Hawaii and three long trips in four weeks including a road game at Notre Dame.
The Bulldogs, as off as they have been through the first five weeks of the season, go in with a chance.
It’s the same thing from last week – the details of what we’re doing. We have to hone in on it and really focus on those details and then just give phenomenal effort.
Fresno State offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau
That holds only if they can stick the basics, which has eluded them for large chunks of games including their past two road games, a 52-17 loss at Toledo and a 45-20 loss last week at UNLV.
“A lot of times that’s exactly it, and it’s the consistency,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “We’ll go through it and there will be some great fits on defense and then they’ll run the exact same play and we’ll take bad angles or we won’t disengage from a block or we’ll play with bad pad level and they’ll get movement somewhere.
“It’s a consistency of effort. It’s understanding that every single play has to have fanatical effort. On offense it’s a little bit different, but detail is even more important I think. Because of the timing and the rhythm of the offense, it has got to go and flow, and when you don’t just a little bit it throws things off.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT NEVADA
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Mackay Stadium (30,000)
- Records: Bulldogs 1-4, 0-1 in MW, Wolf Pack 2-3, 0-1
- Webcast/radio: ESPN3/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)