Fresno State Football

Fresno State football: Ground game gears up for healthy run at Utah

Fresno State's offense could get a boost with running back Josh Quezada expected to play Saturday at Utah — and that's just one step in getting the Bulldogs' attack on track.

Quezada, banged up during most of fall camp with what coaches said was "a tweak," sat out the opener against USC but has practiced throughout this week.

A senior who two years ago transferred from Brigham Young, Quezada led the Bulldogs with 807 rushing yards last season and is considered their most polished quarterback protector and receiver out of the backfield.

So his return should help the ground and passing games while aiding the fast-paced offense by allowing Fresno State to sub in fresh running backs.

"I think he'll be ready to go this weekend," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "If we had to, he might've been able to play last weekend.

"But with the situation, the game (against USC) got out of hand, we didn't want to set him back any further. He's getting closer and closer to 100%. We'll need him."

Junior Marteze Waller was listed as the starter to begin this week, with redshirt freshman Dontell James next on the depth chart.

In Quezada's absence, Waller got the start in a 52-13 loss to the Trojans. While the Bulldogs struggled in nearly every facet, his performance was one of the few positives to build on.

Waller rushed 16 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns, with a long run of 19 yards. He caught three passes for 25 yards, and helped limit the big and powerful USC defense to one sack.

"Just trying to run hard, protect the quarterback and make plays," Waller said. "I feel relaxed this year and that helps me out a lot."

The ground game could be key Saturday.

Utah rolled to a 56-14 win against Football Championship Subdivision program Idaho State in its opener, but the Utes did give up 179 rushing yards.

Those numbers might not be a true indication of Utah's ability. The Utes returned six starters from a defense that allowed an average of 130.3 rushing yards per game to rank 20th nationally in 2013.

The Utes could decide to focus on stopping the run, opting to test Fresno State's ability to throw downfield and get the ball out quickly to their receivers.

"We have to play more physical and we have to do a better job winning our matchups out there," Bulldogs receivers coach Ron Antoine said. "Part of our run game is throwing the ball quickly outside."

Fresno State expects to go with what has worked for DeRuyter's staff the previous two seasons -- playing at an up-tempo pace and spreading out the opposition, then taking what the defense is giving by distributing the ball to its playmakers in the right situations.

"If they're going to load up the box, we should have some singled-up coverage outside and should take advantage of that," DeRuyter said. "If they try to lighten the box up, hopefully our run game will take care of things. A lot of it is dependent on what we see defensively."

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