Fresno State vs. Nevada: Three Keys to a Bulldogs Win
The Bulldogs look to stay hot as they face the Nevada Wolf Pack to open Mountain West play. Here’s how Fresno State can win.
Fresno State looks to score another road victory.
WEEK 6: Fresno State Bulldogs (3-1) vs. Nevada Wolf Pack (3-2, 1-0 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, October 6 — 7:30 PM PT/8:30 PM MT
WHERE: Mackay Stadium; Reno, Nevada (27,000)
STREAM: Get a free one-week trial of FuboTV.
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found in and around Fresno on the Central Valley’s local ESPN Radio affiliates: 940 (in English) and 1600 (in Spanish) AM.
SERIES RECORD: The Bulldogs lead the series 28-20-1. In the last meeting on September 30, 2017, Fresno State defeated Nevada 41-21 at Bulldog Stadium.
FOOTBALL STUDY HALL STAT PROFILES: link
The Fresno State Bulldogs continued their September surge last weekend with a convincing win over Toledo, but the real work begins this Saturday with a road date at Nevada. Jay Norvell’s Wolf Pack battled through injury in an unpredictable non-conference slate, but got enough from both the offense and defense to fend off Air Force last Saturday.
They may also catch Nevada at a good time, considering that quarterback Ty Gangi’s status is up in the air as of now. Regardless, the Wolf Pack remain a dangerous and explosive opponent that could easily derail the Bulldogs’ conference title hopes.
Here’s what Fresno State can do to secure their third straight win of 2018 against Nevada.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Win
Keep Malik Reed in check.
You could make a reasonable argument that the Bulldogs haven’t yet had to scheme for a playmaker like Malik Reed, who’s taken to the linebacker spot and played like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate so far. With seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, he’s a big reason why Nevada linebackers currently rank 17th nationally in Havoc Rate (percentage of plays with a TFL, pass defended, or forced fumble).
Fresno State’s offensive line has done a great job of defending Marcus McMaryion, allowing an overall sack rate of just 2.4% on the season. Even on more obvious passing downs (2nd-and-8 or more, 3rd-and-5 or more, 4th-and-5 or more), that rate is still only 4.8%. Reed is the kind of athlete that could blow up that ratio in a hurry, though, so keeping him off of McMaryion will be crucial.
Keep the chains moving on third down.
One surprising statistic is that Fresno State ranks first nationally in setting up third-and-short (one yard or less) and avoiding third-and-long (seven yards or more). Oddly enough, however, their Success Rate in the latter rates out much higher against the national average (17th) than the former (79th).
Doing just a little better in those advantageous situations might be important when you consider that, on defense, Nevada ranks fifth in defending both third-and-short and third-and-medium. McMaryion, again, could be integral to winning this battle: He’s 20-of-30 on third downs with 17 conversions through the air.
Stop Toa Taua.
Nevada has been aggressive about getting talented true freshmen some playing time under Norvell, and that has paid dividends again with Taua, who has emerged as a powerful and dangerous runner in just about any situation. He and his 7.5 yards per carry average, buoyed by 13 runs of more than 10 yards, been a big part of why the Air Raid offense hasn’t had to throw quite as often as you’d think: The Wolf Pack has passed 56.94% of the time, which is slightly down from 2017.
The Bulldogs were tough against the run in non-conference play, trailing only San Diego State among Mountain West teams in yards per carry allowed (3.31). The unproven defensive line, led by Jasad Haynes, has started to emerge as an effective unit, too, ranking 22nd in Havoc Rate, which should make that an intriguing contest to watch.