Fresno State senior running back Marteze Waller turns upfield while avoiding a tackle during the Bulldogs’ Oct. 16, 31-28 win over UNLV at Bulldog Stadium. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)
When the Fresno State football team took the field 12 days ago, the result was a 42-14 loss against Air Force.
Following the loss, the ‘Dogs used a bye week to prepare for this week’s home game against Nevada (4-4, 2-2).
“We had an off week, which really helped our team,” Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said. “We were banged up pretty good going into the Air Force game and coming out of it. It gave our guys a chance to heal up.”
Like the ‘Dogs (2-6, 1-4), Nevada is also coming off a bye week. In its last game, the Wolf Pack erased a 17-0 deficit to beat Hawaii.
Led by head coach Brian Polian, Nevada’s offense ranks No. 5 in the league with an average of 387.2 yards per game.
Running backs James Butler and Don Jackson have carried a heavy load for the Wolf Pack. Butler is averaging 94.5 rushing yards per game, while Jackson averages 84.1.
“They’ve got one of the best running back combinations in the league,” DeRuyter said. “They’re very downhill runners.”
Led by senior defensive end Ian Seau, who is tied for the league lead with seven sacks, Nevada is giving up 26.8 points per game.
“Defensively, that’s the biggest improvement I’ve seen from them,” DeRuyter said. “Coach [Scott Boone], the defensive coordinator, has instilled a very physical presence with their front. They get after you to try to take away your throw game and get you in predictable third-down situations.”
Nevada’s special teams have also made an impact this season.
“On special teams, coach Polian takes a special interest in that, being a former special teams coordinator,” DeRuyter said. “They do a lot of surprise-type kicks. Our guys have to be ready for that. That’s been a big emphasis for us in the last week and a half.”
For the ‘Dogs, linebackers Jeff Camilli and Ejiro Ederaine have already set career highs for single-season tackles.
Camilli has totaled 66 tackles, while Ederaine has 64 tackles in the first eight games of the season.
In the loss against Air Force, Fresno State quarterback Kilton Anderson completed 14 passes for 177 yards and one interception.
“Offensively, [Anderson] is still in the learning phase,” DeRuyter said. “We knew if we spread [Air Force] out, we had a chance for some explosive plays. The issue was we had seven drops. When we had guys open, we didn’t hit them. Sometimes we had guys open and we didn’t protect our quarterback. That combination of things leads to eight or nine series in a row where we’re going three-and-out.”
The ‘Dogs must win their final four games to become bowl eligible, but DeRuyter said the focus is only on the next game.
“We will play this game like it’s the last game anybody is gonna play,” DeRuyter said. “If we do that, we’ll have a chance to be successful.”
Thursday’s game will kickoff at Bulldog Stadium at 7:30 p.m. with the game televised on ESPN2.
“You can take it one of two ways,” DeRuyter said. “You can feel sorry for yourself and hang your head, or it can strengthen your resolve. We’ve got to get this thing solved. We’ve got to improve. You may think you’re a backup one week, and you may be forced into the starting position. You better be ready to play every single week. You better push yourself every single week at practice.”