FRESNO STATE VS. SAN JOSE STATE
7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
Bulldogs 3-6, 2-3 MW; Spartans 3-5, 2-2
CBSSN (Comcast 418, 732 HD; DirecTV 221; Dish 158; AT&T U-Verse 643, 1643/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
Mostly clear and 65 degrees
Bulldogs lead 39-35-3
KEYS TO THE GAME
•For Fresno State:
Lean on the offensive line and the run game. Extending drives has been a problem for the Bulldogs (they have kept drives alive with only 32.9% of their third downs), but the offense needs to stay on the field and not overexpose a struggling defense. Three-and- outs just will not work. Run it with Marteze Waller, use play-action and quarterback run game and keep the chains moving.
•For San Jose State:
Follow the blueprint. The Spartans built a cocoon around QB David Fales and counted on outside receivers to make plays when pinning 62 on Fresno State last year. They had three with 146 or more receiving yards and six combined TDs. Fresno State will try to give different looks to Joe Gray in his sixth start, but given time the Spartans again can rely on mismatches outside.
•Watch for Waller:
Marteze Waller has carried the ball on 67% of Fresno State's rushing plays by running backs, which is not Robbie Rouse in 2011 territory (93.4%), but a high number this season for the Mountain West.
But coach Tim DeRuyter suggested Waller could get more plays against the Spartans, given his production with three 100-yard games in a row and five in the past six outings. In the loss last week to Wyoming, the Bulldogs ran five plays and held possession for only 1:54 in the first quarter. But despite the limited number of plays, Waller was rotated out at the start of the second quarter.
"Clearly, he has shown that he is one of our most explosive players," DeRuyter said. "The game (against Wyoming) got out of hand a little bit on us. We had intended to get him more involved earlier, didn't get off the field in the first quarter so we only had a couple of series. There are a few things that went into that, but we're going to make a conscious effort to get him the ball more."
Waller, 59 yards short of 1,000 for the season, is averaging 6.6 yards on 142 carries and is second in the league with nine of 20 or more yards. Senior Juice Quezada has gained 25 yards on his past 16 runs in the last four games.
•Harper nears milestone:
Bulldogs wideout Josh Harper will enter with 193 career receptions and can become the fourth in school history with 200 or more.
Davante Adams (2012-13) is the leader with 233. Rodney Wright (1998-2001) had 222 and Isaiah Burse (2010-13) 209.
Bernard Berrian (1999-2003) just missed with 199 career receptions.
Fresno State won 16 of 17 in its series against San Jose State from 1991 to 2010, but has lost the past two to the Spartans. San Jose State has not won three in a row in the series since a four-game streak from 1978-81, though the 1979 victory was later forfeited to the Bulldogs.
•Digging into the D:
The Spartans' defense has shown some cracks the past two games — losses at Navy (41-31) and to Colorado State (38-31), but in league play has held 3 of 4 foes to a season low in total yards and a fourth to the third-fewest this season.
Nevada, averaging 405.7 yards per game, gained 256 vs. San Jose State. UNLV, averaging 382.1, managed 221. Wyoming, averaging 382.2, gained 277.
Colorado State put up 403 yards. The Rams are second in the conference in total offense at 469.3 yards per game.
Fresno State and San Jose State each have had 15 players make their first starts this year.
•No passing this off:
Fresno State has had its issues against the pass — 10th of 12 in the Mountain West allowing 261.4 passing yards per game, 38 explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards and 21 of 30 or more yards, both worst in the conference. They could be in deep against San Jose State.
The Spartans are one of just 11 schools in the FBS with five or more receivers with 20 or more catches.
Tyler Winston leads San Jose State with 54 receptions for 515 yards and five touchdowns. Hansell Wilson has 25 for 330 yards and three touchdowns, Tim Crawley has 25 for 296 yards and one touchdown, Tyler Ervin has 24 for 266 yards and one score and Jabari Carr has 21 for 190 yards and one touchdown.
Fresno State inside linebacker Kyrie Wilson is on pace to finish the season with 95 tackles — he has 71 in the Bulldogs' first nine games.
If he can push that pace, the 238- pound junior has a chance to become the first Fresno State player with 100 in a season since Ben Jacobs' 106 in 2009.
The Bulldogs are 3-6 and the Spartans are 3-5, but both have a shot to win the West Division of the Mountain West and a spot in the conference championship game.
Fresno State has to win out and have San Diego State lose one of its three remaining conference games.
The Bulldogs' honorary captain is Anthony Washington, an all-Pacific Coast Athletic Association selection at cornerback in 1980.
Washington was selected 44th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1981 NFL draft, and at the time was the Bulldogs' highest draft pick in history.
THIS DATE IN BULLDOGS HISTORY
Nov. 8, 1952, vs. Nevada
Now here's a fine and familiar memory for Fresno State fans … points aplenty and just enough punch on the other side of the field to make for a highly entertaining shootout.
Bulldogs football, circa 2013? Not on this date in Fresno State history, but in 1952 as first-year coach Clark Van Galder's club continued its high-scoring ways with a 59-32 pasting of Nevada in front of 7,500 fans at Mackay Stadium in Reno.
"It was a game featuring strictly offense," The Bee's Ed Orman wrote, "as both teams tossed defense out the window while 14 touchdowns were being marked on the scoreboard as the Bulldogs and Wolf Pack rushed and pitched passes in one of the highest college scoring contests ever played in Nevada's home bowl."
The day's star was 190-pound bruiser Larry Willoughby, who ran Nevada ragged en route to a school-record 252 yards — on just nine carries, including three long scoring runs.
Each of the touchdown runs came on the first play from scrimmage, beginning with a 44-yarder in the first quarter. Willoughby launched and ended a second-quarter series with a 90-yard gallop, then added a 70-yarder in the third.
A 62-yard TD run earlier in the third quarter was called back because of a clipping penalty.
Nick Brown, Willard Whitaker, Ledio Fanucchi and Cal Bell were the men upfront.
"He shot out of the holes like a bullet and needed little downfield blocking as he outran his blockers and the Nevada secondary as well," Orman wrote of Willoughby.
For Nevada, it was the end of an abbreviated four-game schedule, with the program coming off a one-year hiatus when scholarship costs had led to the sport's cancellation.
Willoughby, whose record stood until Dwayne Wright ran for 295 against Louisiana Tech in 2006, would go on to be the Bulldogs' first 1,000-yard rusher. Fresno State improved to 6-1 and finished 8-2, scoring 40 or more five times to kick off Van Galder's seven-year run in which he went 46-22-2.
Learn more while listening to Paul Loeffler on "Gameday Live" on KFIG (AM 940) starting at 4 p.m. today.