Not to take anything away from the Fresno State Bulldogs and a loaded and thriving defense that goes into a Saturday matchup against Wyoming ranked first in the Mountain West Conference and 10th in the nation in scoring defense, but they definitely have had a nice run of good fortune when it comes to opposing quarterbacks.
The Cowboys are expected to start redshirt freshman Tyler Vander Waal, who is ranked 10th among 11 qualifying quarterbacks in the conference in passing efficiency.
He will be the sixth first-year starter that the Bulldogs have played against in as many games. Those are rookies going against a defense that returned a ton of playmaking ability with linebacker Jeff Allison and six other starters back from a year ago.
The quarterbacks Fresno State has faced with class, career games and pass attempts at the time they took their first snap against the Bulldogs …
|Mason Petrino*, Idaho||Jr.||16||40|
|Colton Richardson, Idaho||Soph.||2||63|
|Zack Annexstad, Minnesota||Fr.||1||33|
|Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA||Fr.||2||51|
|Mitch Guadagni, Toledo||Jr.||3||61|
|Cristian Solano, Nevada||Jr.||6||7|
|Tyler Vander Waal, Wyoming||RFr.||6||152|
*Petrino played in 10 of those 16 games as a wideout.
The Bulldogs already have 11 interceptions, which is tied for second in the nation and more in five games than they have had in any season since 2013.
They also have crushed opponents on third downs, allowing 18 conversions on 71 plays, their 25.4 percent first in the conference and fifth in the nation.
Fresno State will likely get its seventh first-year quarterback next week at New Mexico in Sheriron Jones and could get all of the way to a Nov. 9 date at Boise State and senior Brett Rypien before it faces a veteran quarterback.
The Cowboys haven’t thrown the football a lot with Vander Waal – they are averaging just 22.8 pass attempts per game against FBS opponents, 10th in the conference.
Still, they have allowed 3.0 sacks per game.
The Bulldogs are 6-1 when racking up 3.0 or more sacks in a game under coach Jeff Tedford, the only loss coming last season in the conference title game at Boise State.
What a difference a year makes
Marcus McMaryion in his second year running the Bulldogs offense has been remarkably efficient, much better than a year ago when he was learning it on the fly. That improvement can be quantified in several ways – his completion percentage is up from a year ago (72.0 from 62.1), his efficiency rating is up (161.43 from 137.65), his yards per pass play are up (8.6 from 7.8).
With 150 pass attempts so far this season, there also is this comparison …
McMaryion’s first 150 throws in 2018 …
|108 of 150, 72.0||1,291||9||2||161.43|
Derek Carr’s first 150 throws in 2013 …
|102 of 150, 68.0||1,033||12||1||150.91|
Carr reached 150 pass attempts in just his third game of the season, in the third quarter of a wild 41-40 victory over Boise State at Bulldog Stadium, but McMaryion no doubt is having a pretty good start to the season …
Travel, not an issue
The Cowboys are on the back end of what would appear to be a tough back-to-back, playing last week at Hawaii and on the road again at Fresno State this week.
That’s a lot of air miles.
But teams in the West Division of the Mountain West that have faced similar back-to-back travel after games at Hawaii have fared surprisingly well.
The Bulldogs played at Hawaii and then at Wyoming last season, and went 2-0. They played at Hawaii and then at BYU in 2015, and went 1-1. They played at Hawaii and then at Idaho in 2013, and went 2-0.
Nevada played at Hawaii and then at Texas State in 2012, and went 2-0.
San Diego State played at Hawaii and then at San Jose State in 2017 and ‘15, and went 2-0 each year.
San Jose State played at Hawaii and then at Colorado State in 2013, and went 2-0.
There are teams in the Mountain Division that have handled it, as well.
Colorado State played at Hawaii and then at Utah State last season, and went 2-0.
Utah State played at Hawaii and then at Wyoming in 2014, and went 2-0.
What mom wants, mom gets
Fresno State defensive tackle Kevin Atkins’ mother celebrated her birthday recently, and she had one wish blowing out the candles on that cake.
“I talked to my mom before the (Nevada) game and she told me she wanted a sack for her birthday,” Atkins said. “As soon as I got the opportunity I couldn’t let it go.”
Atkins got that sack, overwhelming the Wolf Pack lineman blocking him on a third-and-8 play in the fourth quarter and crushing the quarterback.
It was the first career sack for Atkins.
Linebacker U – All three Fresno State linebackers finished in double-digits in tackles in the victory at Nevada – Allison with 17, George Helmuth with 10 and James Bailey with 10.
That is the most 10-tackle efforts in a game for Fresno State since a 14-13 loss to San Jose State at the end of the 2016 season when safety Stratton Brown had 15 tackles and linebackers Robert Stanley and Jeff Camilli each had 12.
Get back to short yardage? – Fresno State was in third-and-long (10-plus yards) five times in its win at Nevada – and only four times in the four games before that.
Valley ties – The Cowboys have six players from the San Joaquin Valley on their roster – running back Jevon Bigelow (Central High), quarterback Nick Szpor (Central), cornerback Sidney Washington Jr. (Bullard), quarterback Sean Chambers (Kerman), wideout Isaac Leppke (Dinuba) and running back Dauson Booker (Central Catholic-Modesto).
Familiar – Wyoming safeties Andrew Wingard and Marcus Epps have made 43 consecutive starts together.
Seeing red – Fresno State has allowed opponents only 11 red zone possessions and it has allowed a score only 54.6 percent of the time. The Bulldogs rank in a tie for fifth in the nation in red zone trips and are leading the FBS in red zone scoring percentage.
The Cowboys have been in the red zone only 10 times in six games, though they have scored on 90.0 percent of those series. Wyoming ranks 129th of 130 in the nation with those 10 red zone possessions.
Stingy – Fresno State has held its past 16 opponents to less than 30 points, tied with LSU for the second longest streak in the nation.
Wisconsin has the longest run at 20 games and on Saturday the Badgers play at Michigan, which is averaging 38.2 points per game.
LSU is playing No. 2 Georgia, which is averaging 42.8 points per game.
Wyoming is are averaging just 17.5 points per game.
No comparison? – Fresno State did not receive a vote in The Associated Press Top 25 this week, but Mountain West rival Hawaii did.
The Rainbow Warriors are 6-1, but the teams they have played are a combined 13-26 (.333) and they have not played a Power Five opponent. The Bulldogs are 4-1, the teams they have played are a combined 11-15 (.423) and they are 1-1 against the Power Five.