Head football coach Tim DeRuyter is looking to get his team back on track in the Mountain West as the Bulldogs travel to Reno to face the Nevada Wolfpack on Saturday for the team’s second conference game.
Coming off a conference opening 45-20 loss at UNLV, Fresno State has limped out the gate to a 1-4 start and needs to reverse course in order to pick up a victory in Reno.
“There’s no magic elixir to this thing,” DeRuyter said. “You’ve got to fight your way out. You’ve got to continue to work hard.”
Given the tough loss at UNLV, DeRuyter was encouraged by his team’s attitude the next day.
“Nobody was happy, but there was a look of resolve, there was a chip on their shoulder,” DeRuyter said. “They went out to practice and practice with energy and practice to get better.”
Nevada is coming off of a 38-17 loss to Hawaii in a game that Hawaii largely dominated and at one point led 38-3. The loss drops Nevada’s record to 2-3. The Wolfpack beat Cal Poly and Buffalo, but lost to Notre Dame and Purdue in addition to Hawaii.
Wolfpack head coach Brian Polian is in his fourth season in the position, amassing a 20-23 record. Polian is the son of former NFL executive and hall of famer Bill Polian.
The star of Nevada’s offense is junior running back James Butler. He is third in the Mountain West with 553 rushing yards. He averages 5.5 yards per rush to go along with five touchdowns on the season.
Butler is the focal point of the Wolfpack attack and stopping him will be key for Fresno State.
“Butler is a very explosive back. He runs with a great balance. He’s strong,” DeRuyter said. “He does a great job spinning and making the first guy miss, and then when he does he’s got a burst where he can run away from guys. So he’s obviously their leading threat that we’ve got to be concerned with.”
Fresno State quarterback Chason Virgil leads the Mountain West with 1,169 passing yards, but is ninth in completion percentage at 47.1 percent. Bulldog wide receivers Aaron Peck, Jamire Jordan and KeeSean Johnson are in the top six in the conference in receiving yards and have been a bright spot on the rough season.
If Virgil and the receivers are going to find success, they must overcome Nevada’s sophomore safety duo Asauni Rufus and Dameon Barber. The safeties combined to form one of the best tandems in the Mountain West last year and so far have picked up where they left off. Rufus is from Bakersfield and played for Bakersfield High. Fresno State did not offer him a scholarship.
Kickoff is at 4 p.m. at Clarence Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nevada. The game will be broadcast online on ESPN 3 and on local 940 AM ESPN Radio.