A day or two before Fresno State opened its football season against Incarnate Word, defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer just smiled when asked how much defense he planned to use in that first game, because there was quite a bit inventoried.
Through fall camp the Bulldogs had explored and tested different fronts, different pressures and coverages, mixing and matching different personnel to uncover the optimum impact once they got into the season.
“We’ll use what we need to win the game,” Steinauer said.
The Bulldogs didn’t need much in dismantling the Cardinals, recording their first shutout in eight years.
But with Fresno State opening Mountain West Conference play on Saturday against Nevada following losses at No. 1 Alabama, No. 6 Washington and a bye week, the unknown becomes how much defense the Bulldogs have put on tape for opponents.
Despite playing two Top 10 opponents in No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Washington, the Bulldogs rank fifth in the Mountain West in total defense. Fresno State has allowed 347.3 yards per game. San Jose State also has played two ranked opponents and is 11th in the conference allowing 498.8 yards per game.
That, too, generated a smile.
“Obviously, not everything,” Steinauer said.
Steinauer tried to downplay any advantage that might come with that, but it is one of the more intriguing aspects of Fresno State as it heads into conference play with a defensive coordinator pulled from the Canadian Football League where he ran aggressive, turnover-hungry defenses for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“It’s difficult for someone preparing because we have a pretty broad package,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “The best way to go back and look at what he can do is the CFL, and you do that and there’s a 12th man on the field. It’s totally different.
“You have what we’ve shown in the first three games. That’s what they know and that’s about it.”
On the other side of the ball the next two weeks are opponents with questions at quarterback.
Nevada on Saturday is going back to junior Ty Gangi, who started the first two games of the season at quarterback and didn’t play in the third or the fourth.
He has completed only 47.3 percent of his passes (35 of 74) in what is designed to be a pass-heavy offense, throwing for 476 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Gangi did put together four solid starts at the end of his sophomore season a year ago, the Wolf Pack going 2-2 in those games, but that was in a different offense.
Behind Gangi is Kaymen Cureton, a true freshman. Cureton started the past two games for Nevada, completing 52.6 percent of his passes (20 of 38) for 213 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Nevada this season has put up only 19.8 points per game, ranking 113th in the nation.
The Bulldogs next week go to San Jose State, which also has struggled in a new system. The Spartans have played four quarterbacks in their five games and together they have completed just 49.4 percent of their passes for 905 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
You have what we’ve shown in the first three games. That’s what they know and that’s about it.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford
San Jose State is averaging just 16.4 points per game, 117th in the nation.
None of that is of much concern to Steinauer, who instead is focused on the Bulldogs’ defense, where it is and what he can use at the start of conference play.
“I feel like our guys went on the road and battled,” Steinauer said. “Obviously, you play to win. You don’t play to compete. But you learn about your football team. You learn about your defense. You learn about what happens when adversity hits. You learn about the personalities, about the character in the locker room.
“But this is an exciting time. So, let ’er rip.”
That could mean any number of things.
But the Bulldogs, a base 4-3 team, figure to start rolling out more defense for the start of MW play.
And that means the quarterback on the other side of the line of scrimmage doesn’t figure to see too many looks that his scout team was running in practice.
“We can go a myriad of ways,” Steinauer said. “We are pretty multiple. Are we going to be as multiple this week as we will in the bowl game? Probably not. You have to go with whatever they can absorb along the way and still play fast, and some of it is predicated on the opponent.
“You don’t just be some way to be some way. We like to have people reacting off us, so we’re not always a reactionary defense.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
NEVADA AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium
- Records: Bulldogs 1-2, Wolf Pack 0-4
- TV/radio: ROOT/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: Nevada lost at No. 16 Washington State 45-7 on Saturday and is ranked 10th in the Mountain West in scoring offense (19.8 ppg) and scoring defense (35.8 ppg). One of its losses is to Idaho State, a championship subdivision program.