Fresno State is on a short week, playing on Friday night against UNLV at Bulldog Stadium. But Fresno State needs to take a long look at what is happening to its offense at halftime.
The Bulldogs a year ago were one of the most productive teams in the nation in the third quarter. But they were blanked in a 43-24 loss at Air Force, held to just two field goals at New Mexico State before that, shut out by FCS Sacramento State before that.
They have just one third-quarter touchdown in their five games this season, scoring on a 14-yard pass from quarterback Jorge Reyna to tight end Jared Rice in an overtime loss to Minnesota in the second game.
In the loss at Air Force, Reyna went from completing 17 of 18 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the first half to just 2 of 5 for 13 yards in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs run game generated 53 yards on 11 plays (4.8 yards per carry) in the first half, but just 9 yards on three plays in the third quarter.
“The big thing was finish, and then we didn’t finish,” Reyna said.
Against the Falcons, the fourth quarter was no better. Fresno State (2-3, 0-1 in the MW) ran only 13 plays for 25 yards in the second half.
The game at Minnesota was the last time the Bulldogs had their starting offensive line intact – due to injuries they have started a different group in four consecutive games.
After playing Power Five teams in USC and Minnesota to start the season, those numbers figured to improve. Sacramento State is a lower-division program and New Mexico State is an FBS independent that is 0-7 and fields one of the worst defenses in the nation.
The Aggies were 129th in scoring defense when playing Fresno State and still are, allowing 42.6 points per game.
But there has been no carryover through halftime, and no changes to the way the Bulldogs work that time in the locker room – a strength in seasons past.
Fresno State has run the ball 77 times in the first half for 370 yards and 4.8 yards per play, and 42 times in the third quarter for 169 yards and 4.0 yards per play.
It also has hit 61 of 82 passes (74.4%) for 716 yards and 8.7 yards per attempt in the first half, and 27 of 50 passes (54%) for 290 yards and 5.8 yards per attempt in the third quarter.
The details: how to watch, and more
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Bulldog Stadium, (40,727)
TV: CBS Sports Network (Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor and Jenny Dell) Comcast (418, 732), AT&T Uverse (643, 1643), DirecTV (221), Dish (158)
Radio: 940AM/ESPN (Paul Loeffler, Pat Hill and Cameron Worrell)
Records: Bulldogs 2-3, 0-1 in the MW, Rebels 2-4, 0-2
Series: Fresno State leads 14-7
Most recent meetings:
2018 – Bulldogs 48-3
2017 – UNLV 26-16
2016 – UNLV 45-20
2015 – Bulldogs 31-28
2014 – UNLV 30-27 OT
Vegas line: Bulldogs -15
Weather: high 70s and sunny in the afternoon, with a low of 48.
Tickets to future Bulldogs home games: gobulldogs.com/559-278-DOGS (3647) or any ticket-resale site. Single-game tickets start at $27. Go to the Fresno State website for details about promotions and pregame and in-game activities.
A work in progress …
Fresno State had two more players see their first action with true freshman Bula Schmidt starting at left guard in the loss at Air Force and JC transfer Nikko Thomas playing some snaps at defensive end.
The Bulldogs are now up to 25 first-time players this season including nine true freshmen, and with Schmidt starting at left guard in place of an injured Netane Muti they have had 19 players make first career starts.
That is a major rebuild.
In 2014, the last time Fresno State was coming off a Mountain West championship and had lost quarterback Derek Carr, wideout Davante Adams and a solid cast of seniors, the Bulldogs had 22 players see their first game action including eight true freshmen.
The Bulldogs were 6-8 that season, winning the Mountain West West Division with a 5-3 record.
Another run game challenge
UNLV has a tough back-to-back playing on the road at Vanderbilt followed by a trip to Bulldog Stadium on a short week. But the Rebels come in with momentum and re-committed to their run game after churning out 206 yards on a season-high 53 rushing plays in a 34-10 victory over the Commodores.
“Offensively, we got back to our roots,” coach Tony Sanchez said, after the game. “That’s getting downhill and running the football on people.”
Will the Bulldogs see a similar number of rushing plays from UNLV?
That remains to be seen, but there definitely are trends pointing that direction. Fresno State obviously struggled at Air Force against the Falcons’ triple-option attack, and UNLV is now 7-3 the last 10 times it has rushed the ball 50 or more times.
That’s a big winning percentage, bigger considering the Rebels are 2-4 this season, were just 4-8 in 2018 and 5-7 in 2017.
Wild, Wild West
With Fresno State losing its Mountain West opener, every team in the West Division of the conference has at least one loss.
One thing to keep in mind – since the conference went to divisional play in 2013 there has been only one winner in the West or Mountain division to go through MW play undefeated.
That was San Diego State in 2015, 8-0.
Fresno State won the West in 2014 with three losses and Air Force in 2015 and Wyoming and San Diego State in 2016 won division titles with two losses.
Mountain West standings
|San Diego State||2||1||5||1|
|San Jose State||1||2||3||3|
UNLV at Fresno State
San Diego State at San Jose State
Nevada at Utah State
Air Force at Hawaii
New Mexico at Wyoming
Boise State at BYU
The Bulldogs’ Oct. 26 game against Colorado State, slated to be broadcast by an ESPN network, has been scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff at Bulldog Stadium.
The game will be carried on ESPNU.