Fresno State (3-4) at Nevada (3-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 22nd, 4:05 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackay Stadium (29,993) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: WAC Sports Network. Home Record: FSU 2-2, Nevada 2-0. Away Record: FSU 1-1, Nevada 1-3. Neutral Record: FSU 0-1, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: FSU 2-0, Nevada 1-0. Series Record: Fresno State leads, 24-17-1.
GAME NOTES: Despite being a game under .500 overall thus far in 2011, the Fresno State Bulldogs actually lead the Western Athletic Conference standings heading into action this week. The team hopes to put some more distance between itself and the rest of the league as it pays a visit to Reno to tangle with the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Posting a 3-4 record after seven games, the Bulldogs have defeated just two other schools from the Football Bowl Subdivision and luckily they've both been WAC foes. In the league opener back in September, the team toppled Idaho on the road by a score of 48-24, and then last Saturday the Bulldogs took care of a feisty Utah State squad with a 31-21 triumph at home to become the only team in the WAC with two wins thus far.
As for the Wolf Pack, a group that is 1-0 in conference thanks to a narrow 17-14 victory in the second game of the season, they secured their second straight win and the third overall this year with a 49-7 thrashing of New Mexico last Saturday afternoon. Nevada, which is in the midst of a three-game homestand, began the 2011 campaign with four straight road dates which spawned three defeats, so now the team needs to catch up.
Last season, Nevada stole a 35-34 win over the Bulldogs on the road which, according to FSU records means the Pack still trails in the all-time series by a count of 24-17-1. Nevada has taken three straight in the relationship, the Bulldogs last claiming victory in 2007 when the squad came up with a 49-41 triumph in Reno.
Derek Carr connected on 23-of-39 passes for the Bulldogs last Saturday night against the Aggies, resulting in 248 yards and two touchdowns, giving him multiple passing scores in a game for the third time this season. Carr spread the wealth by hitting eight different receivers, while Robbie Rouse accounted for 140 of the unit's 155 rushing yards, scoring once during his 24 attempts. For Rouse, who is second in the conference and 14th in the nation this week with his 116.0 ypg on the ground, it was his fifth 100-yard rushing effort of the season. Of the team's 946 yards rushing so far this season, 812 have come from Rouse and still defenses have trouble slowing him down even though they generally know what's coming. Rouse has also accounted for five of the team's nine rushing touchdowns, three others coming from Carr who registered one of those against Utah State. When Carr is not scrambling, he's making big plays with Jalen Saunders who has turned his 22 catches into 524 yards and five touchdowns, his 23.8 ypc one of the top marks in college football at the moment.
Less than nine minutes into the meeting with Utah State last weekend, the Bulldogs found themselves trailing by a pair of touchdowns as the Aggies recorded scoring plays both on the ground and through the air of 59 and 47 yards, respectively. After that Fresno State's defense stepped up the pressure and allowed just once more scoring play, although it too was rather lengthy at 46 yards in the second quarter. However, from there on out FSU forced the Aggies to punt on four straight possessions, watched two field goals fail to convert and caused one fumble. Turnovers have been hard to come by for the Bulldogs so far this season, the team picking off only three passes and recovering as many fumbles, which is why they are tied for 104th in the nation with minus-1.0 turnovers per outing. L.J. Jones has two of those picks for the squad, but the team needs far more action in the secondary to create scoring chances for themselves on the other side of the ball. Up front, Logan Harrell has been doing all he can to give the ball back to the FSU offense, as he's come up with 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Celebrating Homecoming last Saturday, Nevada made the event even sweeter as it crushed visiting New Mexico by six touchdowns. Running back Lampford Mark, who suffered a torn ACL late in 2010 and also dealt with illness and a chest injury earlier this season, needed just nine rushing attempts to record a career-best three touchdowns, the Pack producing 338 yards and six TDs on the ground. Stefphon Jefferson led everyone with 108 yards and a score on 14 carries, while Cody Fajardo contributed 86 yards and a pair of scoring runs as well. Fajardo, who broke a tooth in the first half, completed 20-of-25 passes for 203 yards and was intercepted once. The running game continues to be the focus of the Nevada offense again this season, ranking second in the conference and 10th in the country with 248.8 ypg, but with Fajardo taking over for Tyler Lantrip, the freshman is continuing the brand of football that Colin Kaepernick made so popular during his time in Reno. Recognized as perhaps the top rushing QB in the WAC, Fajardo already has five rushing touchdowns in four games, although having four interceptions and just one passing score leaves him open to quite a bit of improvement in that area.
While the offense was generating close to 600 yards for the Pack, the defense was taking care of business on its side of the ball as well, registering its first defensive score of the season when Khalid Wooten forced a fumble and safety Marlon Johnson picked up the fumble and returned it 25 yards for the touchdown. In addition, Nevada also came up with its first blocked punt in more than two years when Bubba Boudreaux burst through the line and consequently gave the Pack a short field which yielded a touchdown for the hosts just six plays later. Despite the efforts of the team last week, the fact remains that Nevada is 113th in the country in turnover margin, averaging minus-1.17 miscues per outing, but for the most part that's due to some lackluster play by the quarterbacks. Giving the Nevada defense somewhat of a lift is Brett Roy who leads the team and is one of the best in the nation in tackles for loss with 12.5, his six sacks also placing him among the elite in the FBS right now.
Keeping the ball on the ground not only allows the Wolf Pack to work to their strength, but it also keeps the ball away from Fresno State for long stretches of time and that could be enough to get the hosts into the win column again this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 35, Fresno State 24
10/19 10:35:00 ET