Another game. Another loss.
Dropped passes, missed tackles and the inability to stop the run saw Fresno State lose 27-22 to the Nevada Wolfpack in Reno, last Saturday.
Coach Tim DeRuyter even switched up the quarterbacks, giving backup Zach Kline a chance in the second quarter replacing starter Chason Virgil. The switch proved fruitless as the same issues plagued the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs got off to a good start, forcing Nevada to punt on the Wolfpack’s first possession. Fresno State then drove down the field and made a field goal to take an early three-point lead.
The Wolfpack promptly answered with a trick play that proved successful as it fooled the Bulldogs. Nevada quarterback Tyler Stewart lateraled the ball to receiver Andrew Celis, which brought the Bulldogs’ defensive backs in, leaving Nevada receiver Wyatt Demps wide open for a 36-yard touchdown pass.
After the game Fresno State free safety Stratton Brown said that the defense was more focused than the previous week, but the corners fell for the trick play, and the defense as a whole failed on its run assignments.
After Nevada’s first score, Fresno State drove down the field and into the red zone, but could not score on three consecutive plays inside the 10, settling for another field goal. In what looked like divine-intervention, field goal kicker Kody Kroening sent the ball into the upright. The ball bounced off the left pole and in to give the Bulldogs three more points.
Kline replaced Virgil in the second quarter, but the change did not spark any offense. Kline scrambled for a first down on one play but was hit from behind and fumbled the ball, giving it back to Nevada.
“Zach didn’t protect the football,” DeRuyter said. “Our plan was unless Zach did something really extraordinary we were planning on going back with Chason. We just wanted to see if we could change the pace a little bit with Zach.”
Virgil came back in to start the second half and put together a drive into Wolfpack territory largely because of running back Dontel James. The drive stalled on third down as Virgil received a bad snap at his feet. He fell on the ball.
James had his best game of the season, running for 169 yards with one touchdown. The offensive line provided James with many gaps over the course of the game.
“In this game, there were more holes being opened up, and I just was trying to help the team win,” James said.
After a defensive stop by the Wolfpack, the Bulldogs attempted a fake punt on fourth down. Punter Blake Cusick pitched the ball to KeeSean Johnson who danced his way around for the first down, evading tackle after tackle.
The fake punt gave the Bulldogs another chance, and they took advantage of it. They had first-and-goal from the 1-yard-line, and finally scored on a fourth down pass from Virgil to tight end Jaren Rice.
Fresno State had a chance to win the game at the very end with first-and-goal from the 4-yard-line. The Bulldogs only had one timeout remaining, which led DeRuyter and the offense to pass the ball all four downs to no avail.
Virgil finished 16 for 27 with 197 passing yards and one touchdown. Kline in limited playing time did not complete his only attempt. The Bulldogs’ leading receiver was Johnson with 71 yards.
Fresno State falls to 1-5 on the season, as Nevada improves to 3-3. The Bulldogs return home this week to host San Diego State, which defeated UNLV 26-7. It will be Fresno State’s homecoming game.