Sacramento State vs. Fresno State: Game Preview, Kick Time, Livestream, Prediction
The Bulldogs are fresh off a bye week and host FCS Sacramento State. Here’s how to watch the Facebook livestream and what to watch for.
The ‘Dogs look to score their first win of the season.
WEEK 4: Sacramento State Hornets (2-1) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (0-2)
WHEN: Saturday, September 21 — 7:00 PM PT/8:00 PM MT
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium; Fresno, California (40,727)
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found around the Central Valley on ESPN 940 AM and streamed via TuneIn, while the Sacramento State broadcast can be found in and around Sacramento on ESPN 1320 AM and streamed at HornetSports.com.
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the all-time series 3-0. In the last meeting on September 10, 2016, the Bulldogs defeated the Hornets 31-3 in Fresno.
LAST WEEK: Fresno State sat out Week 3 with a bye after a 38-35 loss to Minnesota two weeks ago. Sacramento State defeated Northern Colorado 50-0 last Saturday.
ODDS (via OddsShark): Fresno State -21
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 41.5 (99% win probability)
The Fresno State Bulldogs weren’t quite able to close the deal against both USC and Minnesota, but the non-conference slate eases up considerably on Saturday night with a home date against the FCS Sacramento State Hornets.
In the early parts of this 2019 season, the Hornets have looked revitalized under first-year head coach Troy Taylor, suffering a 19-7 road loss at Arkansas that was closer than the final score would indicate before scoring seemingly at will against conference foe Northern Colorado last week. They look to be on the upswing, but the Bulldogs still have plenty of potential. And if they weren’t motivated to put together a big win before, you can guarantee they are now.
Here’s how the Bulldogs can score a victory over the Hornets.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Get the ground game going.
One early positive is that offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb has found ways to get Ronnie Rivers a healthy amount of touches, but the running game has had its ups and downs in the early going. Jorge Reyna was the team’s leading rusher against USC, while Rivers himself has averaged 4.46 yards per carry. It’s fine, but he also has just two runs of 10 or more yards in 29 carries, so there’s room for improvement.
Additionally, head coach Jeff Tedford acknowledged this week that Josh Hokit would factor into the running game going forward, but the hype around the senior dual-sport athlete has always exceeded the production: In 229 career carries, he’s averaged a modest 4.2 YPC. If they want to take advantage of his bruising running style, it’ll probably be to raise the offense’s overall efficiency and create more favorable third-down situations and it’ll probably start to get sorted out in this game.
2. Show some improvements on third down.
One of the hallmarks of Jeff Tedford’s first two years at the helm was that they got better at moving the chains and keeping opponents from doing the same: From 2017 to 2018, the Bulldogs offense improved from 35.6% to 44.6% on third downs while the defense held strong at 34.8% and 34.1%.
So far this year, though, those same situations have been a significant problem: The defense has allowed 53.6% conversion rate while the offense has plummeted to 30.8%. In particular, defending third-and-short hasn’t gone well at all — opponents have converted 8-of-10 rushing attempts with three or fewer yards to go — and setting up third-and-manageable has been a problem on offense, since Reyna has had twice as many pass attempts with seven or more yards to go as he has with six or fewer.
3. Tighten up when defending the pass.
It’s tricky to say just how much of a step backwards the first two weeks have been for a secondary that had ranked among the Group of 5’s best last year, but there’s no question Sac State represents an opportunity to get back on the right foot. Against USC and Minnesota, for instance, the Bulldogs allowed 20 plays of 10-plus yards on 65 combined attempts, a 30.7% rate that’s up from 22.8% in 2018, but they also gave up just four passes of 20-plus yards (6.1%), which is more in line with what the Red Wave got accustomed to last fall (6.5%).
Obviously, the Hornets don’t have a Tyler Johnson or Michael Pittman in their ranks, but they’ve beaten up on inferior competition pretty convincingly thus far and quarterback Kevin Thomson has completed 65.3% of his throws and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt. Sophomore wide receiver Pierre Williams might be a player to watch if the secondary gets off to another slow start, as he’s averaged 19.2 yards and scored three touchdowns on 17 receptions.
2019 hasn’t gone quite as planned for the Bulldogs so far but, even though the Hornets look much improved, they shouldn’t have any problem working out the kinks which have plagued them in the young season. Long story short, Sacramento State is going to feel the brunt of a lot of pent-up frustrations.
Fresno State 52, Sacramento State 14