In, or out? Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford is expecting Nevada quarterback Ty Gangi to play on Saturday when the Bulldogs open Mountain West Conference football play at Mackay Stadium, even though Gangi has missed some practice time this week.
But it is worth a pre-game reminder to stay on task, one way or the other.
The Bulldogs’ only loss in conference play last season was to UNLV. They knew the Rebels would be without their starting quarterback. They also knew that the backup didn’t have scintillating statistics the previous week.
Those numbers: six tackles, four solo.
The Rebels’ Johnny Stanton had been playing linebacker for two games before he was pressed back into service at quarterback in a game at Fresno State. He led UNLV to a 26-16 victory, completing 17 of 29 passes for 155 yards.
Coach Jeff Tedford on Gangi: “It is what it is. We’ll see what happens on game day. I know that is a tough kid. I know he didn’t practice one day, but besides that, I’m anticipating that he plays.”
If Gangi is unable to play, junior Cristian Solano is next on the depth chart followed by third-year sophomore Griffin Dahn.
Solano is 1 of 1 this season for 5 yards. Dahn has not attempted a pass.
Nevada could rush the football more – it is averaging 5.3 yards per rush with freshman Toa Taua leading the group with 407 yards at 7.5 yards per play.
But it also has played Portland State, ranked 102nd in the FCS in rushing defense; as well as Toledo and Oregon State, which are 103rd and 127th at the FBS level. Fresno State is No. 33.
Fresno State cornerback Jaron Bryant made the first two interceptions of his career last season in a 41-21 victory over Nevada, returning the first 18 yards for a touchdown.
That pick definitely propelled him forward – he finished the season with four and returned a second for a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ Hawaii Bowl victory over Houston. This season, teams have not often challenged his side of the field.
“With the experience I have a lot underneath my belt along with my teammates who I’ve been with for a full year,” Bryant said. “I know how each and every one of my teammates play. I know how the coaches are going to coach. I know our game plans.”
Ripe to be picked
Gangi has thrown six interceptions this season and has had at least one in seven games in a row.
Nevada and New Mexico have the longest streaks in the Mountain West, each with at least one interception in seven games in a row.
Backs as receivers
The defensive staff at Nevada might have had a few flashbacks after flipping on the video of the Bulldogs’ 49-27 victory over Toledo and watching Jordan Mims, Josh Hokit and Dejonte O’Neal make plays in the passing game.
A year ago against Nevada, in his first start at Fresno State, quarterback Marcus McMaryion deftly picked out favorable matchups for his running backs, checked through his progressions to backs on other plays. He completed 25 passes with nine going to running backs – Hokit and O’Neal both caught three passes, Rivers two and Mims one.
Those opportunities could again be available for the Bulldogs – Fresno State backs have 19 receptions, third in the conference behind Colorado State with 26 and Nevada with 22.
A danger … or not
Nevada senior outside linebacker Malik Reed is coming off a game at Air Force in which he had 3.0 tackles for loss, giving him 7.0 this season, which certainly is worthy of some respect.
Reed is tied for second in the Mountain West in tackles for loss with Hawaii defensive end Kaimana Padello, just 0.5 behind UNLV linebacker Gabe McCoy. Last year, Reed was third in the MW with 8.0 sacks and tied for 11th with 10.0 TFLs.
But his impact against high-end opponents has been sketchy.
Nevada played five teams that won 10 or more games last season – Northwestern (10-3), Toledo (11-3), Fresno State (10-4), Boise State (11-3) and San Diego State (10-3).
In those five games, Reed produced no sacks and no TFLs.
- Nevada is coming off back-to-back road games, losing at Toledo and winning at Air Force in its conference opener. The Wolf Pack has won its past three games off back-to-back road games and four of its past five.
- McMaryion averaged 11.9 yards per pass attempt in the Bulldogs’ victory over Toledo and Fresno State was at 11.5 for the game (Jorge Reyna attempted one pass). Fresno State has topped 11.5 yards per pass play only seven times against FBS opponents over the past 10 seasons: 13.0 against New Mexico with McMaryion in 2017, 13.1 against the Lobos in 2013 with Derek Carr, 14.1 against Air Force and 13.0 against Colorado with Carr in 2012 and 11.7 against Illinois with Ryan Colburn in 2010.
- There has been 145 points scored in the second quarter of Nevada’s five games – 76 by the Wolf Pack and 69 by its opponents, an average of 29.0 per game.
- Nevada’s Taua is the younger brother of former Wolf Pack running back Vai Taua. Not that one has anything to do with the other, but Vai Taua in his career played against Fresno State three times, rushing for 531 yards at 8.0 yards per play with six touchdowns.
- Fresno State is 1-2 when opening Mountain West play on the road.
- The Bulldogs continue to struggle returning kickoffs – on six returns they have averaged just 14.3 yards, taking possession at the 7, 22, 7, 15, 24 and 23 yard lines. Nevada could provide some openings, though. The Wolf Pack is ranked last in the Mountain West, allowing opponents an average of 26.2 yards on 12 returns, and it’s the only team in the conference to allow a kickoff return touchdown.
- McMaryion has made some plays with his feet in the Bulldogs’ past two games, and not just in the red zone where he has accounted for five rushing touchdowns.
- The most rushing yards allowed in a game by Nevada this season is 131, by Toledo quarterback Mitch Guadagni.
- The Bulldogs’ KeeSean Johnson has at least one reception in 40 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the nation. The record is 53 set by Central Michigan wideout Bryan Anderson from 2006-09.