A look at Fresno State’s matchup against San Jose State, the 2016 season finale.
FRESNO STATE VS. SAN JOSE STATE
Saturday: 12:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
Records: Bulldogs 1-10, 0-7 Mountain West; Spartans 3-8, 2-5
TV/radio: CBS Sports NewWork/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
Forecast: Showers, 57 degrees
Keys to victory
1 Go long – The Bulldogs had some success running the ball against Hawaii, racking up 214 yards. As foolish as it might be to assume more of the same against San Jose State, the possibility definitely exists. The Spartans, like the Rainbow Warriors, have struggled against the run. What Fresno State didn’t do was couple that success with plays in the passing game – zero plays of 20 or more yards. The Bulldogs could stand to take a few shots downfield.
2 Pressure Potter – Fresno State was much more aggressive with its blitzes against Hawaii, recording three sacks to match, believe it or not, its total from the previous six games. San Jose State has not run the ball well, and if it does not again Saturday, the Bulldogs might be able to force quarterback Kenny Potter into some mistakes. San Jose State has allowed 48 sacks, the most in the conference by a ton. Fresno State, in 11th, has allowed 27.
3 Hold up – The most stunning thing about the Bulldogs’ 49-23 loss at San Jose State last season was how easily the Spartans controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. New year, new team. But Fresno State cannot get pushed around the way it was a year ago when the Spartans more than doubled the Bulldogs’ total yards, gaining 543 while allowing 247. San Jose State does appear susceptible, having allowed more tackles for loss than any team in the nation – 8.7 per game.
A game week depth chart often doesn’t mean much. A player might get hurt in practice or simply not perform well, and there’s always the prospect of subterfuge by a coaching staff for whatever reason.
The Bulldogs’ game this week means a lot, though, to senior Wyatt McBee, who worked his way to the top spot at defensive end for the final game of his college career by way of Firebaugh and Fresno City College.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” McBee said. “It means a lot, playing in front of all my home fans, my hometown. I’m pretty excited about getting the start and hopefully get a ‘W’ as a team and put on a show. It’s our last time out there.”
McBee, who has played in six games this season, got some meaningful reps last week against Hawaii and made a key tackle for loss.
Fresno State has not had many of them – with 51, it is ranked 11th in the Mountain West Conference – and McBee with that one is tied for second among the Bulldogs’ defensive linemen.
Nose guard Malik Forrester leads with 4.5 TFLs; Nick Kristofors, Nate Madsen and Patrick Belony have 1.0; and Kyle Hendrickson and Austin Vaimili have 0.5.
“I’m prepared,” McBee said. “My coach is reiterating a lot of the same stuff every week, and I just follow my keys. When I’m in, I’m just 100 percent effort, and what happens, happens.
“It’d be great to get a team win and ride off into the sunset with smiles on our faces and have something to look back on and say, ‘Hey, we still finished.’ Everyone is still showing up to work every day, and if we could just finish strong and finish right, that would mean the world.”
Stick to the script – Fresno State will start Zach Kline at quarterback for a second game in a row, interim coach Eric Kiesau said, and like last week against Hawaii, he will play as long as the Bulldogs move the football.
Kiesau said something about riding the hot hand, though against the Rainbow Warriors, the Bulldogs averaged 3.7 yards per play through three quarters.
Redshirt freshman Chason Virgil, who started the first 10 games, again could watch the game from the sideline. But there is the benefit of perspective, Kiesau said.
“I want him to sit back and watch and to see some of the things that Zach is doing that he could do, as well,” he said. “Hope he gets a little perspective, a little chip on his shoulder, and competes in the spring, in the offseason. I think it will be big for him.
“He’s not done by any chance. He still has a lot of football left in him. It’s his freshman year. It didn’t really go the way he wanted it to go with wins and losses and performance. That’s not all his fault. I just hope he gets perspective.”
Take care of the ball – Fresno State has thrown 13 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions this season. Kline has yet to throw for a touchdown and has had two passes picked off. Virgil has 13 touchdown passes and has had 10 passes intercepted.
A 13th interception came on a fake punt by Blake Cusick.
The Bulldogs have not had a season in which their quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions than touchdowns since 1996.
Jim Arellanes that season threw 13 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions, Richie Donati had two passes picked off and running back Michael Pittman one.
It was 13 to 17, the wrong way.
Curiously, Arellanes that season had a passing efficiency of 141.21, completing 61.6 percent of his attempts for 2,487 yards.
Fresno State this season has a rating of 108.32. That is the lowest in the Mountain West, and the Bulldogs have made it there while attempting the most passes in the league.
Senior salute – Fourteen Fresno State seniors will be honored in a pregame ceremony. To illustrate the Bulldogs’ difficulty with roster maintenance, there are four fifth-year seniors, one true senior, eight community college transfers and one graduate transfer.
The 14 include CB Jamal Ellis, Riverside; SS Dalen Jones, Woodland; WR Aaron Peck, Moreno Valley; Kline, Danville; FS Stratton Brown, Bluffdale, Utah; LB Brandon Hughes, Moorpark; and CB Tyquwan Glass, Pasadena.
Also, SS Alan Wright, San Antonio, Texas; LB Jeff Camilli, Shingle Springs; LS Justin Verrell, Bakersfield; OL Jacob Vazquez, Cottonwood; WR Michael Martens, Bakersfield; McBee; and Kristofors, a DE out of Marin.
Et cetera – Camilli, who plays the inside (Will) position, has 96 tackles this season as he bids to join safety Stratton Brown with 100 or more.
The Bulldogs last had two players with 100 in 2000 – Tim Skipper had 107 and Orlando Huff 105.
▪ Freshman Josh Hokit is listed on the depth chart this week as the backup at running back and outside (Joker) linebacker.
▪ Fresno State at one point won 12 games in a row against San Jose State and 16 of 17. .
▪ San Jose State is 0-5 on the road, losing by an average of 25.8 points. The Spartans lost to Tulsa (45-10), Iowa State (44-10), New Mexico (48-41), San Diego State (42-3) and Boise State (45-31). They have won at least one road game every year since 2011.
▪ The Spartans started the same offensive line combo at Boise State that they had the previous week against UNLV, a rarity. They played five games in October and in each one had a different lineup up front, which might be one reason they ranked 11th of 12 in the conference in scoring offense that month with only 21 points per game. Fresno State was last at 17.2.
▪ San Jose State cornerback Andre Chachere is tied for first in the Mountain West with 15 passes defended and tied for third with four interceptions. Chachere is from Clovis West High. The Spartans have another local product on their roster in defensive back Dehlon Preston from Central.
▪ Fresno State has scored just 20 points in the first quarter of its seven Mountain West Conference games, getting the shutout in the opening 15 minutes at UNLV, against San Diego State and in the past two at Colorado State and against Hawaii. The Bulldogs have gained less than 100 yards in the first quarter in eight of their 11 games with a low of 8 yards in a loss at Toledo.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada