Fresno State defensive tackle Malik Forrester has been suspended by the Mountain West for the first half of the Bulldogs’ game Saturday at San Diego State.
The senior and team captain was ejected late in the third quarter of a 38-0 rout of New Mexico for throwing what officials interpreted as a punch when involved in a post-play skirmish with Lobos guard Aaron Jenkins.
“Definitely a learning experience,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “Like always, you have to take your ego and put it in your pocket. They typically catch the second guy doing stuff.
“That game was really chippy and there was a lot of stuff going on in the trenches, but we just have to hold our composure. It’s a learning experience for everybody.”
Forrester has started all six games for the Bulldogs alongside senior Nate Madsen and is a key piece in a defensive line that has played very well against the run. Forrester was not available – players have Monday off every week.
Fresno State is ranked second in the conference and 14th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 107.5 yards per game at 3.4 yards per play. It also has allowed just six rushing touchdowns, the fewest in the conference – and half of those came in a loss at No. 1 Alabama.
The Bulldogs do run a deep rotation across the defensive line and will continue to do that at San Diego State while without Forrester, who has been in on 14 tackles, tied with end Tobenna Okeke for most along the line, and has 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. Sophomore Jasad Haynes has backed up Forrester and redshirt freshman Kevin Atkins has backed up Madsen.
“We’ll do the same things,” Tedford said. “We’ll rotate guys in and, ‘Next guy up.’ ”
Fresno State goes to San Diego State with first place on the line in the West Division – the Bulldogs are 3-0 and the Aztecs are 2-1 following a loss Saturday to Boise State. With a victory the Bulldogs, a 1-11 team a season ago, would have a two-game lead in the division with four games to play.
The strength of the Aztecs offense is the run game and running back Rashaad Penny, which sets up a play-action pass game.
Penny is second in the conference, averaging 149.4 yards per game at 6.4 yards per play. He already has cleared the 1,000-yard mark, rushing for 1,046 yards in seven games.
In the loss to Boise State, the Broncos allowed Penny only 53 yards on 21 plays and the Aztecs gained only 83 on 39, the first time they have not gained 100 or more yards on the ground since they had 88 in a 45-19 loss at UNLV in 2013.
“He’s physical, has great speed,” Tedford said. “He can run inside, he can run outside, so you have to get a lot of hats on him to get him down and it all starts up front. They do a really nice job up front. They have a good offensive line. You give him a crease he’s going to make something out of it, has the speed when he gets in the open field to take it the distance so he’s a very well rounded back.”
Rivers MRI – Freshman Ronnie Rivers was to have an MRI on Monday on the elbow injured in the second quarter against the Lobos, but Tedford said Rivers was feeling better.
“I’m sure it’s just a sprained elbow,” Tedford said. “I think he’ll be fine. We didn’t really need him to come back at that point. He’ll have a MRI to see if there’s anything there, but he’s feeling a lot better.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT SAN DIEGO STATE
- Saturday: 7:30 p.m. at SDCCU Stadium (54,000)
- Records: Bulldogs 4-2, 3-0 Mountain West; Aztecs 6-1, 2-1
- Webcast/radio: CBSSN/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: The Aztecs lost at home to Boise State on Saturday 31-14 and are in second place in the West Division. The Broncos shut down running back Rashaad Penny, who has been the Mountain West offensive player of the week four times this season. Penny gained just 53 yards on 21 plays and San Diego State, the two-time defending conference champion, had just 323 total yards in the loss, 83 of it coming on the ground. The Aztecs are leading the conference in total defense, allowing only 311.4 yards per game.