Fresno State senior defenders Todd Hunt (96) and Kyrie Wilson (17) track down Abilene Christian running back De’Andre Brown during the Sept. 3 home opener at Bulldog Stadium. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)
In the season opener against Abilene Christian University, the young ’Dogs showed up early and the wily veterans finished the job to secure a home win for Fresno State.
But the Bulldogs didn’t spend much time celebrating their win against the Wildcats.
Instead they quickly shifted their focus to No. 17 Ole Miss, a team that made a grand appearance last week with a 76-3 demolition against UT-Martin.
The Rebels’ offense totaled 662 yards in last week’s win, while the defense allowed 290 yards.
“It’s gonna be a big step up this week in competition, going to play against a terrific Ole Miss team in their backyard at Oxford,” Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said.
The last time the two teams met was in 2011 when the Rebels took a 38-28 win over the ’Dogs.
But the ’Dogs have seen plenty of other powerhouse teams in recent years. In 2014, Fresno State started the season with a trio of consecutive losses to USC, Utah and Nebraska.
DeRuyter said that experience has prepared the team for Saturday’s game against the Rebels.
“I don’t believe I did a good enough job last year of having our guys believe we can win those first three games,” DeRuyter said. “We have a much different mentality about this group. We have a bunch of guys that like to compete. No matter what happens on Saturday, we’re gonna play our best game of the year.”
The ’Dogs’ defense, which tallied five sacks and two interceptions in the opener, will be up against a team that totaled 338 rushing yards and more than 200 yards passing.
Senior outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine and the pass rush will have to once again play a key role for the ’Dogs after the unit recorded five sacks in the win against Abilene Christian.
Ederaine also had the first interception of his career in last week’s win to go along with his six tackles, which was the second turnover the Bulldog defense created on the night.
The ’Dogs hope for a similar success against Rebels’ quarterback Chad Kelly, who threw for 211 yards with nine completions, two touchdowns and one interception in the assault against UT-Martin.
As for the ‘Dogs’ offense, DeRuyter plans to replicate the two-quarterback system he used in the season opener.
DeRuyter said sophomore Zack Greenlee will make a second-straight start for the ‘Dogs, while true freshman Chason Virgil is expected to enter the game at some point.
Greenlee threw for three touchdowns in the win against the Wildcats, while Virgil threw for a touchdown and a total of 61 yards.
“I like how both of our guys played,” DeRuyter said. “For [Virgil] being his first time and for [Greenlee] rebounding from the last time he was out there.”
The ‘Dogs are also looking to balance their offense with a running attack led by senior Marteze Waller.
Against the Wildcats, Waller recorded 154 rushing yards. It was his ninth career 100-yard rushing game and fourth with 150 or more yards.
The ‘Dogs expect to bring their best in all phases come Saturday. But they also expect a deafening environment when they greet 60,000 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.
“We have speakers set up at practice,” DeRuyter said. “Hopefully, our guys will grind through that. It will give them a little taste of what’s to come Saturday.”