Fresno State Football

Fresno State football: Bulldogs look to homefield for edge vs. Nebraska

Fresno State's undefeated streak at home under coach Tim DeRuyter figures to be put to its toughest challenge.

Nebraska (2-0), unranked in the Associated Press Top 25 but No. 21 in the USA Today coaches' poll, visits Bulldog Stadium for the first time Saturday night.

The Cornhuskers, a perennial national power armed this season with star running back Ameer Abdullah and one of the country's top rushing attacks, catch the Bulldogs at their lowest point in DeRuyter's two-plus seasons.

When it rains, it still can pour — even in the drought-stricken Valley.

Fresno State (0-2) has allowed 111 points in two games and is a 12-point underdog as it tries to avoid the program's first 0-3 start since 1998.

"We played two tough opponents in two very tough environments," said DeRuyter, whose Bulldogs lost 52-13 at USC then 59-27 at Utah. "For a young team, it was a tall task, and too tall of a task frankly for our team right now. But I think coming back home, our guys will rally to the challenge."

Fresno State has shown few signs that better days are ahead, at least this season, though after this week the level of competition drops significantly.

The Bulldogs rank last among 124 bowl subdivision programs in scoring defense and second-to-last in yards allowed (613.5 per game). The rushing defense ranks 119th at 267.5 yards per game; against the pass it's only slightly better — 115th at 346 yards per game.

Fresno State's quarterback situation remains unresolved, and DeRuyter plans to play both Brandon Connette and Brian Burrell for the third straight game of the post-Derek Carr era.

The offense is averaging 327.5 total yards (107th in the nation) and 20 points per game (109th).

Fresno State hasn't even won a coin toss this season.

"The first two losses, we definitely know we didn't play well," senior safety Derron Smith said. "But we also know what we need to correct. That's paying attention to the little things, the details and staying disciplined.

"It's a bad start but there's a lot of the season to play for. And at the same time, we haven't had the home game we've been waiting for. Hopefully that'll help and we'll have better energy coming out and put on a better show."

Homefield advantage is one of the bright spots that the Bulldogs have going heading into Week 3.

Fresno State has won 13 straight at Bulldog Stadium, the second-longest home winning streak in the nation behind Northern Illinois' 27.

A sellout also is expected, which would be the third in four home games dating to last season.

Starting fast and stirring some early excitement certainly would help.

First quarters have been brutal for the Bulldogs, outscored 38-0 with the offense generating just two first downs and 50 yards.

Burrell has been the designated starter, with Connette entering around the start of the second quarter. By then, Fresno State has been down 24-0 and 17-0.

For the season, Burrell is 19 of 35 for 198 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He's been sacked four times.

Connette is 23 of 41 for 245 yards and one TD with three interceptions. He's been sacked four times, too.

In addition, Connette has rushed for 53 yards and one touchdown but his 16-of-24, 177-yard day against the Utes still wasn't enough to provide separation in the coaching staff's eyes.

"We've got to feel good about the guy going forward who's going to be our guy," DeRuyter said. "And until we feel good about that, we're going to have them both play."

Receiver Aaron Peck said he has faith in both quarterbacks and is just excited to play a home game again.

"We're excited to be back home with the Red Wave," Peck said. "We're going to be well prepared for this game.

"I don't think our confidence is shaken much. We understand that we've played two very tough opponents. But coming into this Nebraska game, I think our guys are still confident that we can go out there and play with the best of the best."

Related stories from Fresno Bee

  Comments