Know The Foe is back to preview the Fresno State Bulldogs who invade Aggie Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Aggies are 0-17 against the Bulldogs but feel like this is the year they can break that streak. We've enlisted the help of Fresno State blog Bulldog Bounce to give Aggie fans a look at the Bulldogs and what to expect on Saturday.
The Bulldogs are 3-6 on the season, 2-2 in the WAC and it's been a bit of an up and down season for the Bulldogs. What's been the biggest issue for the Bulldogs through the first nine games?
There's no easy answer for this one -- it's almost a "how did we get here" mentality among the educated fans. The defense has obviously been lacking most of the season (last interception came in Game 2 at nebraska). The lack of turnovers created, combined with a knack for giving up far too many big plays (which has been well stated by Pat Hill) is a dangerous formula for this team to follow. While there's no point in looking back at what we don't have, it's hard not to wonder how much different things would have been had safety Phillip Thomas (possibly the best defensive player in the WAC) not been lost for the season two days before the opener. Fresno State has also been without another of its standouts, safety Derron Smith, since Game 3. Replacing Thomas and Smith at safety have been Terrance Dennis, Zak Hill (Pat's youngest son) and Cristin Wilson. Dennis and Wilson had never played a live snap before this season.
There was a lot of excitement in the offseason with Derek Carr getting the starting job at quarterback, how has he played this season, obviously with big expectations just based on his pedigree.
Sitting a 3-6 (a record Fresno State fans certainly aren't accustomed to) it's hard to point to any bright spots. But sophomore QB Derek Carr has shown he's flat out one of the best in the country. He has natural tools that most around the nation just can't stack up with, plus he brings the mental aspect to the game. On Saturday, you'll see Carr changing plays on his own at the line of scrimmage -- a rarity for a first-year starter. Carr has thrown for 2,270 yards and 18 TDs with 7 interceptions -- 63% completions. That said, Carr had arguably his worst game of the season last week in the unexplainable loss to la tech, so the Red Wave will be cheering for him to rebound strong this week.
One of the changes this week for Fresno State has been in practice where Pat Hill was going to start having more physical contact in practice. What kind of impact has that had this week and how much impact do you think it'll have on the game on Saturday?
Historically, playing tough, physical football has been a staple of Pat Hill's Fresno State program. And that's been there at times this season, even in losses at Nebraska and at home to ole miss. While the team has played hard most of the year, that chippy-ness doesn't seem as strong as year's past. Whether that is practice-related is tough to say, but here's a clip from this week
The Bulldogs gave up some big play touchdowns in the game against LA Tech on Saturday, how much of a concern is that for the Fresno State defense this week given New Mexico State's big play ability with players like Taveon Rogers and Kenny Turner?
The Bulldogs have certainly been susceptible to the big play this season, with la tech being the most confusing. Fresno State's safeties often struggle in coverage, especially if the opposing WRs get behind them. They are apt to not play the ball, and haven't looked confident in their own ability at times. The number of big plays new mexico state can connect on will all depend on how accurate QB Matt Christian can be and how well his line protects him.
Defensive tackle Logan Harrell is obviously one of the best defensive linemen in the WAC but who are some other players on defense that the Aggie fans should know about?
DE Tristan Okpalaugo, a former walk-on, is long and aggressive (about 6-foot-6). He broke out earlier this season in his first significant action, but was quieted last week. Expect him to bounce back Saturday and make a few noticeable plays in the Aggies' backfield. New starting MLB Jeremiah Toma has pure football instincts and a nose for the action. He's sure to lay a few hits, as will LB Travis Brown (a former 4-star recruit), son of the late Fresno State defensive coordinator Dan Brown. Most interesting though, might be the play of LB Pat Su'a, making his first start for the Bulldogs due to the suspension of senior Kyle Knox this week. Su'a is a kickoff coverage monster, knocking out four opponents last year on special teams, and with plenty of leveling hits this season. Will he pack the same punch as an every-down contributer?
Offensively the Bulldogs have a nice trio with QB Derek Carr, RB Robbie Rouse and WR Jalen Saunders, who are some other players on offense that Aggie fans should be aware of?
Pretty much every WR is dangerous. Word is sophomore Jalen Saunders has the most game speed, but senior Devon Wylie holds the all-time Fresno State record in the 40-yard dash, having been clocked in the 4.27 range multiple times. Though the Aggies have a talented secondary, it's unlikely they'll be able to keep both these guys under wraps for a full game. The Bulldogs will also use 6-foot-5 R-Fr Victor Dean in the compete zone (two catches, two TDs past two games). Plus star-in-waiting R-Fr Josh Harper returns after missing last week's game with injury and junior sure-handed speedster Rashad Evans is second on the team with 36 catches. Wylie has 37 and Saunders also has 30-plus. Harper and sophomore Isaiah Burse each have 28. Saunders averages 19.7 yards per grab. With Carr's arm and deep ball accuracy, letting one of these guys get behind you will cost you dearly.
On offense, there probably won't be a breakout performance. It'll be the usual suspects with Robbie Rouse leading the way and Derek Carr taking shots downfield. Jalen Saunders, Devon Wylie and Josh Harper are all players that can give New Mexico State a headache. Keep your eye on the offensive line. Starting center Richard Helepiko and left guard Matt Hunt were both suspended for this game. Right guard Leslie Cooper will slide to center, reserve Trevor Richter will fill in at left guard (where he started a few games this season when Hunt was hurt and played well).
On defense, keep an eye on LB Pat Su'a making his first start. MLB Ofa Fifita is also likely to see a lot of reps. If they don't play well, it could be a big day for the Aggies.
The Bulldogs will win this game if they haven't quit on the season. The la tech loss was one of the most shocking games in school history. While it wasn't expected to be a blowout Fresno State win, it certainly was unfathomable going in that it would be a 20-point loss.
The Aggies will win this game if Fresno State plays as poorly as it did last Saturday against la tech. The Bulldogs were brutal on both sides of the ball, and that just won't cut it in Las Cruces against the best looking New Mexico State team in DeWayne Walker's tenure.