Fresno State has done a lot in fall camp and now is into game prep for its opener Saturday at Nebraska that is different from a year ago – a football season best learned from and left in the rearview mirror.
On Friday, there will be one more change.
Rather than a final walkthrough before boarding the plane for Lincoln, the Bulldogs will go through their offensive and defensive game plans at a more determined clip, hoping for a greater carryover at game time.
They will go for an hour in helmets and shorts, working against scout teams and focusing on execution.
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Fresno State last season scored only 65 points in the first quarters and when on the road got off to very slow starts. The Bulldogs put up 14 at Air Force but only seven at Hawaii, three at BYU and were held scoreless at Ole Miss, San Jose State and San Diego State.
“I think particularly with a team that is fairly young, having those extra reps helps, having reps the day before the game I think helps because you don’t go 48 hours between full-speed reps,” coach Tim DeRuyter said.
“We talked to people around the country who are doing less on Thursday, like we just did, and doing more on Friday. From a physiological standpoint, it makes more sense to do it that way, and I think from a football knowledge standpoint not taking 48 hours off and then coming back – sure your legs would be fresher – but that makes sense. I think the confidence you gain from running the plays the day before will translate better.”
The past four seasons, Fresno State did a more traditional walkthrough, which is a good descriptor. The pace was, as implied, slow. Attention could drift. The level of work could slip. With a young team a year ago, it was among many things that didn’t quite work.
And the Bulldogs again are young and lacking in experience at some positions – of the players on the two-deep for Nebraska, 20 of the 44 are underclassmen. Fresno State has 15 seniors on its roster.
The players in the developmental program and taking redshirt seasons will come in for a weight training workout, give the offense and defense looks on scout teams and then head off to class.
The players making road trips will get a much better look, then head to the airport.
I feel like he’s more confident. He’s older, so he’s more mature … we trust him with the ball in his hand every play.
Senior wideout Aaron Peck on quarterback Chason Virgil
“To train as close to (game speed) makes sense, and we’re only going to be out for an hour, so from a conditioning standpoint, I think we’ll still be very fresh,” DeRuyter said.
“We’ll go through and practice fast. There won’t be hitting, but guys won’t be just walking through. We’ll have looks and we’ll have speed. We gain an extra day of preparation by doing this.”
Honoring Foltz – The Bulldogs will join Nebraska in wearing a sticker on their helmets in memory of Cornhuskers punter Sam Foltz, who was killed in an automobile accident in July.
“We wanted to honor him, his family and the Nebraska football team by letting them know we recognize them and we want to honor him,” DeRuyter said.
“We also realize we have a football game to play, but this is one small token to let him and his family know that he’s in our thoughts and prayers.”
Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler died in the single-vehicle accident in Wisconsin after working at a kicking clinic. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the crash.
Tank battle plan – Cornerback Anthoula (Tank) Kelly, who was thought to be out for the season with a knee injury but started back in practice late in fall camp, is expected to see some time against Nebraska.
When that happened this summer, obviously it affected our program and everyone in college football.
Coach Tim DeRuyter on deceased Nebraska punter Sam Foltz
“He has missed some reps, but luckily he went through most of spring ball and he has played in the system before,” DeRuyter said. “Athletically, he looks great, but he’s probably a half step slow on reacting to things. He needs to continue to go and get reps.
“Right now, our plan for Saturday is to have him working in special teams, where it’s a one-play situation. I don’t know how many scrimmage downs he’ll get where there are multiple plays in a row, because I don’t know that he’s, cardio-wise, ready for that. But we’re going to see how it goes on special teams and if he’s handling that we’ll keep feeding him more.”
Also, freshman running back Saevion Johnson, who is coming back from a hamstring injury suffered in camp, went through practice for a third day in a row and is expected to travel.
Peck’s point – The Bulldogs’ quarterback situation is much different than it was a year ago – of the four in the program last season, only Chason Virgil remains and he has been named the starter.
Senior wideout Aaron Peck on the difference in Virgil and for the team: “I feel like he’s more confident. He’s older, so he’s more mature. Last year, we didn’t really know what was going on with our quarterback situation, as everyone knows. But now that he has solidified himself as a starter, he has pulled away from the other guys. We trust him with the ball in his hand every play. I feel like he has done a great job of being consistent and playing well day in and day out. Me as well as the rest of the players and coaches have his trust.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada