In a game that will feature two of the top defensive teams in the nation, safety Phillip Thomas will be a critical component to the Dogs success against Boise State.
Photos by Roe Borunda / The Collegian
Last Saturday, the Bulldogs were able to conquer their road woes by winning triumphantly against Colorado State.
Coach Tim DeRuyter would like to continue this recent success against the Broncos of Boise State.
“It definitely helps our confidence,” DeRuyter said. “All those things can be factors if you let them. I like our business-like attitude. And you can’t help but be confident when you go out and have success on the road.”
Boise State, which at the beginning of the season was in the AP Top 25 poll, dropped out after losing its first game against Michigan State. However, over the course of the next four games, the Broncos have climbed steadily back into the Top 25.
DeRuyter and the ’Dogs are well aware of this and know that playing in Bronco Stadium, in cold conditions, will be a tough road task.
“When you go on the road things are different. The conditions are different. You’re sleeping in a different bed,” DeRuyter said.
Preparations for playing Boise State this week will commence immediately for the ’Dogs. Studying tape and practicing drills repeatedly is first and foremost on Fresno State’s schedule. After all, the Broncos bring physical tools to match what the ’Dogs do so well both on offense and defense.
“They are very physical on defense; chase the ball extremely hard. And they’re forcing takeaways much like our defense is,” DeRuyter said.
The frightening part is that the Broncos cannot only match what Fresno State does on offense, but their defense is deceptively explosive. Second to the ’Dogs in turnovers in the nation, the Broncos bring a multi-talented defense able to disrupt almost any type of offensive schemes.
“I think that they’ve got an excellent front,” DeRuyter said. “They put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks. They’ve got guys on the backend that can intercept the ball. And they’re violent when they go after the ball carrier and try to knock balls loose.”
A key to victory in this game, as in every game, is to win the turnover margin. Fresno State brings defensive backs Phillip Thomas and Derron Smith who lead the defense in takeaways.
However, lurking in Boise State’s secondary are defensive backs Jeremy Ioane and Jamar Taylor. The duo both have four interceptions return for touchdowns on the season.
“They’re not caught out of position very often,” said assistant coach Ron Antoine. “So when you do that and the opportunity presents itself to turn the offense over, they do it. And I think that’s the biggest thing that makes them and their defense so good.”
The Broncos still have a modest offense as they rank 77th in the nation compared to Fresno State who is ranked 19th. Their star offensive players are quarterback Joe Southwick, running back D.J. Harper and wide receiver Matt Miller. These three standouts could potentially give the ’Dogs trouble defensively.
“Offensively, they’re going to bloody your nose with the power running game,” DeRuyter said. “The bottom line is they’re going to run the ball down your throat and setup the play-action pass game.”
Yet, as history has shown Fresno State this season, it only takes one or two takeaways to gain momentum and win the game. The Bulldogs will be challenged against a tough Broncos defense, but if the defense holds fast, they should prove victorious.
“Our front seven needs to play well. They’re a really good running team, probably the best offensive line since Oregon,” Toth said.
In a matchup that has the ability to be a defensive battle, the team that strikes first in the turnover margin should prove the victor.
“I hope it’s going to be a defensive battle,” said defensive coordinator Nick Toth. “We’re going to try to execute the way we need to execute. But they do a lot of different stuff and they challenge you. It’s going to be who responds as they have a really good defense.”
DeRuyter added, “We know it’s going to be a tall task Saturday.”