Fresno State Football

Fresno State vs. Utah State preview: How to watch – and what about Aggies’ defense?

Interesting tidbit, given the Fresno State Bulldogs’ newfound push and ability to rush the football: Utah State, which visits Bulldog Stadium on Saturday, has allowed 1,030 rushing yards in its past four games.

There are 24 teams in the nation that have not allowed 1,000 rushing yards this season, and they’ve all played eight or more games.

The Aggies, though, aren’t necessarily an easy mark.

rivers
Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers (20) rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 41-38 victory over the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Honolulu. Rivers, who rushed for 146 yards last week against Colorado State, has back-to-back games with 100 or more yards for the first time in his career. Marco Garcia ASSOCIATED PRESS

Utah State allowed 448 of those yards in a loss at Air Force, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense.

The Aggies allowed another 248 in a loss at LSU, which is No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation depending on which Top 25 is in play (the AP or the coaches poll).

But in a 42-14 loss last week to BYU, Utah State allowed 221 rushing yards, and the Cougars are tied with Northwestern for 102nd in the nation in rushing offense.

And that is after running all over the Aggies, putting up a season-high 5.3 yards per rushing play.

Can Fresno State take advantage?

Even losing starting center Matt Smith to injury at Hawaii just before halftime, even with left tackle Alex Akingbulu making his first career start and even with left guard Jace Fuamatu making only his second career start, the Bulldogs ran the ball on a higher percentage of their plays than they had all season.

The results against the Rainbow Warriors were encouraging, first down to fourth down:

First down: 16 rushes for 71 yards, 4.4 ypp, 1 first down

Second down: 16 for 131, 8.2 ypp, 6 first downs

Third down: 7 for 85, 12.1 ypp, 4 first downs

Fourth down: 1 for 3, 3.0 ypp, 1 first down

Rushing the football, controlling the clock and keeping the Aggies’ offense and quarterback Jordan Love off the field has been a key against Utah State, which has been on the short end of time of possession in all four of its losses.

The details: how to watch, more

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Bulldog Stadium, (40,727)

TV: CBS Sports Network (Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor, 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 4-4, 2-2 MW; Aggies 4-4, 3-1

Series: Bulldogs lead 17-12-1

Most recent meetings:

2016 – Utah State 38-20

2015 Utah State 56-14

2013 – Bulldogs 24-17*

2011 – Bulldogs 31-21

2010 – Bulldogs 41-24

*Mountain West championship

Vegas line: Bulldogs -6

Weather: High in the upper 70s and sunny, dropping to lower 60s by end of game

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 pre-game and in-game activities.

This can’t be good for Bulldogs

Fresno State again was on the short side of time of possession in its win at Hawaii and for a second game in a row its defense was on the field for more than 80 plays.

Could that be a factor in the Bulldogs allowing 17 points in the fourth quarter against Colorado State and 14 at Hawaii?

FRS_EPZDOGFOOT_FINAL05
Fresno State safty Juju Hughes, left, celebrates a fourth-quarter interception with linebacker Mykal Walker, right, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

That’s a lot of snaps – the Bulldogs in Mountain West play are averaging more defensive snaps than any team in the conference:

56.2 plays – Air Force, 281 plays in five games

61.6 – UNLV, 308 plays in five games

61.8 – San Diego State, 309 plays in five games

65.8 – Nevada, 329 plays in five games

68.0 – Hawaii, 340 plays in five games

70.8 – Wyoming, 283 plays in four games

71.2 – Colorado State, 356 plays in five games

72.6 – New Mexico, 363 plays in five games

73.8 – Boise State, 293 plays in four games

75.4 – San Jose State, 377 plays in five games

76.3 – Utah State, 305 plays in four games

77.3 – Fresno State, 309 plays in four games

In the Bulldogs’ victory at Hawaii, the Rainbow Warriors ran 44 plays in the first half and held possession for almost two-thirds of the first 30 minutes of play. They had a 19:55 to 10:05 advantage in time of possession.

What about those Aztecs?

The Bulldogs appear to be headed for a West Division showdown at San Diego State on Nov. 15 at SDCCU Stadium.

The Aztecs are 7-1 overall and 4-1 in MW play. The Bulldogs are 4-4 and 2-2 and the only other team in the division with two or fewer losses. Since the Mountain West went to divisional play with a conference championship game in 2013, the winner of the game between the Bulldogs and Aztecs has represented the West in all six games.

While the Bulldogs are playing Utah State on Saturday, San Diego State will be playing its homecoming game against Nevada.

The Aztecs are a 17-point favorite in that game.

Reyna and 1:08

Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna and the Bulldogs had some rough endings to games the first two weeks of the season, the senior quarterback throwing a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone with 1:45 to go in a 31-23 loss at USC and then another interception in overtime in a 38-35 loss to Minnesota.

jared rice
Fresno State tight end Jared Rice (16) steps over Hawaii linebacker Jeremiah Pritchard (2) in the Bulldogs’ 41-38 victory over the Rainbow Warriors Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Honolulu. Rice caught four passes for 46 yards and one touchdown. Marco Garcia ASSOCIATED PRESS

But with a 14-point lead gone in a matter of minutes at Hawaii and just 1:08 remaining, Reyna led the Bulldogs 55 yards on nine plays to set up a winning field goal by Cesar Silva.

Reyna started that drive with a 17-yard run, then hit tight end Jared Rice with passes that went for 5 yards and then 9. Reyna had another big run, picking up 11 on a second-and-10.

“Jorge did a really nice job of running the 2-minute drill,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “He did a lot with his legs during that time because they were playing a lot of man coverage and were spread all over the field, covered our guys down pretty well. Jorge I thought played a really good game as far as being able to use his legs and make key first downs and make big plays for us running the football.”

How big was that for the quarterback?

“I think that’s big for everybody,” Tedford said. “Not just for him, but for everybody to be rewarded with a close game at the end like that. It’s obviously a much better feeling than the alternative.”

Mountain West standings



Conf.

Overall

WEST

W

L

PF

PA

W

L

PF

PA

San Diego St.

4

1

114

89

7

1

174

113

Fresno State

2

2

152

149

4

4

274

255

Hawaii

2

3

200

190

5

4

331

324

Nevada

2

3

78

169

5

4

174

311

San Jose St.

1

4

153

182

4

5

269

287

UNLV

0

5

91

204

2

7

212

310



Conf.

Overall

MOUNTAIN

W

L

PF

PA

W

L

PF

PA

Boise State

4

0

179

111

7

1

299

187

Air Force

4

1

190

111

7

2

310

188

Wyoming

3

1

129

56

6

2

231

141

Utah State

3

1

100

82

4

4

217

211

Colorado State

3

2

147

127

4

5

285

288

New Mexico

0

5

93

156

2

7

211

322

Saturday

Air Force at New Mexico, postponed until Nov. 23

Utah State at Fresno State, 4 p.m.

Wyoming at Boise State, 7:15 p.m.

Nevada at San Diego State, 7:30 p.m.

San Jose State at Hawaii, 8 p.m.

Fresno State schedule

Aug. 31 lost 31-23 at USC

Sept. 7 lost 38-35 (overtime) vs. Minnesota

Sept. 21 won 34-20 vs. Sacramento State

Sept. 28 won 30-17 at New Mexico State

Oct. 12 lost 43-24 at Air Force

Oct. 18 won 56-27 vs. UNLV

Oct. 26 lost 41-31 vs. Colorado State

Nov. 2 won 41-38 at Hawaii

Nov. 9 vs. Utah State, 4 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Nov. 15 at San Diego State, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Nov. 23 vs. Nevada, TBA (ESPN networks)

Nov. 30 at San Jose State, TBA (ESPN networks)

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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