Fresno State (1-4, 0-2 Mountain West) vs. Utah State (2-2, 1-0)
▪ Saturday: 7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium
▪ TV: CBS Sports Network Comcast 418, DIRECTV 221; Dish 158; AT&T U-verse 643
▪ Radio: KFIG (AM 940); KGST (AM 1600)
▪ Kickoff forecast: 86 degrees, clear
Fresno State’s three keys to victory
1 Complete a pass. The Bulldogs have started three quarterbacks this season and could be in line to start a fourth in redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson. But no matter who lines up there, they have to start making some plays in the passing game. Opposing defenses are stacking the box and daring the Bulldogs to try to beat them through the air. So far, they haven’t done it and poor quarterback play is the reason. Fresno State is averaging 5.2 yards per pass play, 126th of 128 in the nation.
2 Limit Kent Myers. The Aggies’ backup quarterback is 6-1 as a starter, the loss coming last season at Boise State, and presents a difficult challenge for the Bulldogs’ defense with his ability to make plays with his feet. Fresno State probably would prefer to face a healthy Chuckie Keeton. In a 33-18 victory over Colorado State last week, Myers (in his first start this season) rushed for 191 yards on just 16 carries and scored a touchdown. The Aggies’ leading rusher, LaJuan Hunt, has 194 yards on 63 plays in four games.
3 Get Utah State off the field. The Fresno State defense hasn’t had much success getting off the field on third downs, allowing its FBS opponents to move the sticks on 60.7 percent (37 of 61) of those plays, and it hasn’t mattered much how far they have had to go for a first down. They get it. If the Aggies get into a lot of third-and-mediums and third-and-shorts, Myers and his ability to make plays will make a difference. But through four games, Utah State has converted at only a 28.6 percent clip.
Fresno State player spotlight: Cornerback Tyquwan Glass
Height/weight: 5-foot-11, 185 pounds
Hometown/high school/junior college: Pasadena/Muir/Mt. San Antonio
Last week: Glass had a season-high number of tackles in his first career start. He also was credited with a half-tackle for a loss.
Why this game is important for Glass: To show he can be counted as a starting cornerback. The Mt. San Antonio transfer has done well for himself this season as he has 24 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, one interception and one pass breakup. His 24 tackles are the second most on the team among defensive backs, trailing safety Shannon Edwards’ 31.
He said it: “It was a great feeling, just learning to stay in control and stay positive. I just have to keep my head up and be continuing to fight and give it my all and show the coaches why I deserve to start. Against Utah State, got to be physical and be ready for the run and, of course, a lot of teams see we’re not good against the run, so they’re going to come at us, and we have to be physical and go hard.”
Tailgating: Bulldogs pregame news and notes
Fresno State, to win, likely will have to get the football out of the hands of Utah State quarterback Kent Myers, making him give it up on read-option and pressuring him into some errant throws if possible.
The Aggies sophomore rushed for 191 yards in a victory last week over Colorado State, a school record for a quarterback and the high rushing game for any quarterback in the nation this season, and the majority of it came when beating the Rams’ defensive ends on zone reads.
“He’s very dynamic,” Bulldogs free safety Shannon Edwards said. “Our success comes from really being tuned in to knowing that they’re dual-threat quarterbacks and they want to run the ball to get their team started. That’s where it really comes from. When dual-threat quarterbacks start running, their team starts getting energized, and that’s when they start hitting big plays in the passing game.”
Myers did not have a great game throwing the football – he was 12 of 21 for 137 yards and one touchdown, including 1 of 6 on third-down plays.
But he has, in the past, had some high-efficiency games, which has the Bulldogs’ attention. Myers hit 66.4 percent of his passes last season, including 14 of 15 in a victory at Hawaii, 13 of 16 in a win at Wyoming and 15 of 22 in a victory over San Jose State.
“He’s a dynamic runner and a guy that can beat you throwing it,” Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. “He has a similar skill set to what (Chuckie) Keeton has. Those kinds of guys make it tough on a defense because you can’t just say he’s going to be in the pocket and we can pressure on a third down. He’ll move within the pocket. You have to worry about maybe having a spy for him, because he can make throws. You have to do some things coverage-wise to try to confuse him, but at the same time they have all the option and different adjustments with their unbalanced sets that if he gets a seam he can take it.”
Not to rub it in, but … Fresno State managed only 89 yards of total offense last week at San Diego State, getting 12 on the ground and 77 through the air, 67 in the first half and 22 in the second.
Not very good, obviously.
And, not yet at the midway point of the season, there are 11 teams that have gained 90 yards or more on just one play – including three from the Mountain West Conference.
Hawaii has a 95-yard touchdown run by Paul Harris in a victory over UC Davis. Nevada has a 91-yard run by James Butler in a win at Buffalo. And Wyoming has a 92-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Coffman to Tanner Gentry in a loss against North Dakota.
The other teams with a play of 90 or more yards from scrimmage this season: Arizona State, Bowling Green, Florida State, North Texas, Notre Dame, South Alabama, Stanford and Texas-El Paso.
Change in QB changes fortunes – The Aggies had six explosive plays of 20 or more yards in their first three games, well back in the Mountain West, but had eight in that victory over Colorado State, including four runs and two passes by their sophomore quarterback.
Myers had two runs of 34 yards as well as a 26-yard touchdown run and a 27-yard run, and also threw a 42-yard touchdown pass and a pass that went for a 22-yard gain.
Scoring drought – The Bulldogs do not have a rushing touchdown by a running back since the Mountain West Conference Championship loss last season at Boise State, a span of six games. Their one rushing TD this season was by inside receiver Jamire Jordan.
Marteze Waller last scored a rushing touchdown against Hawaii on Nov. 29, 2014. He has gone seven games and 126 rushing plays since then.
Toughness tester – After getting beaten up physically in a loss at San Jose State, the Bulldogs held up a bit better last week in a loss at San Diego State. But physicality could again be an issue against the Aggies, who this season have eight returning starters on offense and seven on defense.
“It’s something that you have to continually work on,” DeRuyter said. “I think when you look at our depth charts, they’ve got a bunch of juniors and seniors, a lot of fourth- and fifth-year guys in their program. Naturally, the maturity of the body is going to be different at that age than it is when we have some juniors and seniors, but we have some freshmen in the mix.
“As you’re rolling those guys in, and we have good talented guys, they have to withstand the physicality of it. We improved last week, I thought, particularly on defense. Our guys played a similar offense and we gave up some plays, but we battled until we got wore down a little bit in the second half. We’re going to need a similar-type effort against these guys, because they’re a physical group.”
The Bulldogs have had 27 players see their first playing time this season, including four true freshmen and 13 redshirt freshmen. Utah State has had 19 players get on the field for the first time in a Division I game, but only 10 have been freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
Relax. Feel free to tailgate a little longer – Utah State has scored only eight points in the first quarter of its four games and Fresno State has all of 17 points in the first 15 minutes of its five games.
Four-and-out – Utah State is one of just five teams in the nation to hold its opponents to less than than 5.0 yards per play over the past three seasons, allowing 4.8 last season, 4.6 in 2013 and 4.3 in 2012.
The other four teams: Alabama, Stanford, TCU and Wisconsin.
That does not make for a favorable matchup for the Bulldogs, who are averaging 4.4 yards per play this season and rank 125th of 128 in the nation.
The Aggies have a chance to make it four years in a row – through four games, they have allowed only 4.7 yards per play. Alabama has allowed 4.0 yards✔ per play, Wisconsin has allowed 4.6, Stanford is at 4.8 and TCU 5.2.
Maybe it’s them? The Bulldogs are expecting a crowd in the low-30,000 range for its homecoming matchup against Utah State, and they could be well off the 36,909 that took in a homecoming victory last season over San Jose State.
Fresno State has failed to draw at least 30,000 on homecoming just once over the past nine seasons, when 28,854 showed up for a 2011 game against … the Aggies.
The Bulldogs were 2-4 going into that game, in the last season under coach Pat Hill. They will go into Saturday, of course, just 1-4 and on a four-game losing streak.