Fresno State quarterback Kilton Anderson drops back and looks for an open receiver during the Bulldogs’ Oct. 16 comeback victory over UNLV at Bulldog Stadium (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)
As the rain made a rare appearance in Fresno last Friday, the Fresno State football team squeezed out a rare win to end a five-game losing streak.
The 31-28 win against UNLV ignited a euphoric celebration in the stands and in the locker room.
But the Bulldogs quickly turned their attention to the next game – Saturday against Air Force.
“We have an even bigger task this week,” Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said. “As excited as we were about last week, it’s on to the next week.”
The Falcons go into Saturday’s game having won nine-straight games at home, dating back to last season.
“They play really well there,” DeRuyter said. “They’re playing terrific defense. They’re one of the top rushing teams in the country.”
For DeRuyter, Saturday’s game in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will mark a return to his alma mater.
DeRuyter graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1985, then coached there from 1989-92 and again from 2007-09.
“I have a lot of personal relationships with that staff, being a grad from there,” he said. “That place holds a special place in my heart. But it’s not about me. It’s about this football team and their football team.”
Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun and DeRuyter worked together as assistant head coaches at Air Force in the early ‘90s.
“[Calhoun] does a terrific job of getting his guys prepared every week,” DeRuyter said. “The mental makeup of those guys is something that’s hard to explain to players on other teams. The structure that those guys go through – their commitment to teamwork is really unique.”
Air Force (3-3, 2-1) stands in a three-way tie for second in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference.
The Falcons are 3-0 at home this year and are coming off a 38-23 loss at Colorado State last week.
Going into Saturday’s game against the ‘Dogs, the Falcons are dealing with a number of injuries.
Outside linebacker Dexter Walker and cornerback Kalon Baker are still dealing with injuries, while the status of fullback Shayne Davern remains unclear after he left last week’s game with a knee injury.
The Falcons’ other fullback, D.J. Johnson, suited up for practice as he recovers from an ankle injury, but he didn’t participate.
“That offense starts with [Davern]. He’s a terrific one,” DeRuyter said. “[Johnson] was a starter, and he’s a terrific player, too. They’ll have somebody. They always do. That offense starts there. [The fullback] is as important a position as there is in what they do.”
The Falcons’ rushing average of 312.2 yards per game leads the Mountain West, and it ranks fifth in the nation.
Air Force is also third in the league in scoring at 31.0 points per game. Defensively, the Falcons rank No. 4 in the conference in both scoring defense (24.3 ppg) and total defense (326.5 ypg).
For the ‘Dogs, redshirt freshman quarterback Kilton Anderson will make his third start.
After struggling against Utah State, Anderson bounced back on Friday with 19 completions for 193 yards and no interceptions. Anderson also ran for 78 yards on 11 carries with two touchdowns.
“I was a lot more comfortable having a game under my belt,” Anderson said. “I felt a lot more comfortable in the pocket, making the reads. Seeing on film the mistakes I made the week before definitely helped me with the decision making.”
Saturday’s game will kick off from Falcon Stadium at 11 a.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.
“[Air Force] will be prepared for the run,” Anderson said. “They’re fighters. They’re gonna be strong up front. We just have to out-prepare them this week and be very critical on what your assignment is. We have to know our assignments better than they do.”