Fresno State running back Marteze Waller runs a drill during the ‘Dogs’ afternoon practice Tuesday. The ‘Dogs will try to enhance its ground pressure against the Nevada Wolf Pack Saturday. Photo by Darlene Wendels/The Collegian
Coming off a bye week with full control of its destiny, the Fresno State football team will travel to Reno to take on the Wolf Pack for a Week 13 Mountain West showdown that will determine its faith.
“The playoffs have begun for us,” Bulldogs head coach Tim DeRuyter said. “Each week, we face an elimination game. We were up for the test last time, and we know that the path to the Mountain West Championship goes through Reno.”
Senior quarterback and four-year starter Cody Fajardo leads the Wolf Pack (6-4, 3-3 MW). The dual-threat quarterback ranks second on the team in rushing, with 689 yards on 129 carries for a average of 5.3 yards including 10 scores.
Fajardo’s running ability makes him unpredictable, which poses a problem for defenders. The added dimension gives the offense an advantage, as it allows him to escape the pocket when needed to evade pressure and gain additional yardage.
“He presents a lot of challenges with being the dual-threat quarterback that he is,” free safety Derron Smith said. “Every time he drops back, he has the option to run or throw the ball. He’s definitely difficult to defend, but like coach DeRuyter said you have to have eye discipline.”
Behind the 6-foot-2, 215-pound dual-threat quarterback, Nevada runs an option-based offense while utilizing a pistol formation that racks up an average of 194.7 yards on the ground, good enough for fifth in the Mountain West.
“They run the option game well,” senior nose guard Tyeler Davison said. “They’re going to try to pound the rock and throw it over the top when they get the chance. I don’t think we’re going to see anything too different from what we’ve been seeing them do to other teams throughout the year, but we’ll see how that changes.”
Losses by both Nevada and San Diego State last week, along with the 38-24 win over San Jose State two weeks ago, are factors that contributed to set the Bulldogs in this unique scenario.
“It’s a little different,” DeRuyter said. “I think back three weeks ago how poor we played and how bad we felt to think that a couple weeks later, we’re in a position where the path to the Mountain West Championship game is in our hands. We can control our destiny by winning out. It’s a heck of a testament to our seniors and their leadership.
“They kept the guys in the boat and kept our guys progressing. It also speaks to what we’ve spoken about since summer. There’s a ton of parity in this league. There are good coaches, really good players and on any given Saturday, anybody can beat anybody. Obviously, it’s played itself out this year.”
A victory in Saturday’s conference matchup would break the three-way tie between Nevada, the Bulldogs and San Diego State. The ‘Dogs would lead the West Division, since they already hold the tie-breaker over the Aztecs. So realistically, if the Bulldogs win their next two games, they will earn a spot in the conference title game.
However, they are not getting caught up in the scenario. Instead they are sticking with the mentality of going 1-0 each week.
“We can’t think too far ahead right now,” Davison said. “We just need to take things one day at a time, one game at a time and do everything we can to win. We need to worry about this game that we have coming up and not think past that.”