Fresno State will be back on the practice field Monday in full pads, and the Bulldogs will ramp up the physicality to try to find at least part of what was missing in an overtime loss at UNLV, which was 1-5 and on a four-game losing streak going into that Mountain West Conference game.
"We're going to be doing a fundamental period where we're going to be blocking and tackling, a little more live action type stuff," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "When you don't do well at something, the only thing you can do is go work harder at it, and we're going to do that. We'll do some live work against scouts and we're going to do some bubbles and bullets as well. It's going to be get back to work."
The Bulldogs (3-4, 2-1 in the MW) made some assignment errors that led to early points in that loss but appeared to rebound midway through the second quarter. After scoring on three of their first five possessions (one field goal and two touchdowns), the Rebels punted or lost possession on downs on their next five possessions, going three-and-out three times and gaining only 60 yards.
But UNLV missed opportunities to put down drives in the second half, and tackling was an issue.
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"It's frustrating because I think we had made a lot of progress over the past three weeks and I think we didn't tackle very well the other day," defensive coordinator Nick Toth said.
"I don't know that it was physicality as much as it was finishing. I think we were physical on contact a lot. Guys were throwing it in there. But they weren't finishing. Our technique wasn't very good. We were reckless for any number of reasons, and we have to be better at finishing. We have been stressing it and I have no doubt that we practiced better the past three or four weeks, but we have to go back and stress it again because it didn't happen the other day.
"It was across the ball. The D-line doesn't get a lot of that because of the way they're interacting with the ball, it's a lot more confined space. But it was every position. Every position missed tackles that they should make. Every position was leaving their feet to finish tackles. Every position didn't come into the moment of truth with proper technique. That's really what it was."
And because of that, tackling will be a point of emphasis on the practice field, particularly in space.
"You have to teach guys proper angles to the ball and in order to get better at it, you have to go do it," DeRuyter said. "You try to simulate it in practice as much as you can, but when a guy is really trying to make you miss, you can get exposed if you're not sinking your hips and closing the distance with the right angles, so in order to get better at it, you just have to repeat it."
Greater roll for Waller?
Running back Marteze Waller is averaging 6.2 yards per rushing play, fourth best in the Mountain West among backs with 80 or more carries. He is averaging only 15.1 per plays game, but he could start to get more given his production over the past four weeks. Splitting time with senior Josh Quezada, Waller has averaged 7.1 yards per play and 121.0 yards per game.
"Both those guys go in and our thought process is, 'Let's see who has the hot hand' and lately it has been Marteze," DeRuyter said. "He's really, I think, stepped his game up, not that Juice has done bad, but he has separated himself by performing and we're going to play the guys that get it done on Saturdays and if he'll continue that, he'll earn more reps."
In the loss at UNLV, Waller rushed the ball 17 times and gained 137 yards with one touchdown.
Poyadue earns playing time
The Bulldogs had Maurice Poyadue on the field at defensive end at UNLV, and the 280-pound junior earned a larger slice in the playing rotation there.
"We're going to move him around a little bit. He's earned it," Toth said. "He's one of our best three D-linemen and so somewhere we have to try to play him and he's good enough to play out there. In our league, he's good enough to be a good football player out there and it pushes the depth chart, it pushes guys to compete. The other thing it lets us do is it lets us play Ioane (Sagapolu) at nose. I think that's a good thing because he's earning playing time.
"It's hard to play three nose guards, but now when you slide (Poyadue) out you only play two and Ioane deserves playing time. Mo has earned it and Ioane has earned it. We're not doing it because we have to, we're doing it because those guys have earned their way in."
Miller out for Boise State
Boise State will be without one of its most productive players on Friday when it matches up with the Bulldogs: Senior wide out Matt Miller is scheduled to have surgery on his left ankle today and will likely miss the remainder of the season, according to a report in the Idaho Statesman.
Miller, who was not able to finish games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Air Force and did not play in a victory at Nevada, is the Broncos' all-time leading receiver with 244 catches and, with 3,049, is just 15 yards short of the school record for receiving yards. He led the nation with a streak of at least one reception in 44 consecutive games until he was forced to sit out at Nevada.
The focus is to get the surgery, and get ready for the NFL Combine and the Broncos' Pro Day.