Nevada vs. Fresno State: Three Keys to a Bulldogs Win
Fresno State needs a win over the Wolf Pack to keep their bowl hopes alive.
How can the ‘Dogs make good as heavy favorites?
WEEK 13: Nevada Wolf Pack (6-4, 3-3 Mountain West) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (4-6, 2-4 MW)
WHEN: Saturday, November 23 — 7:30 PM PT/8:30 PM MT
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium; Fresno, California (40,727)
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found on 940 AM, while the Nevada broadcast can be found in and around Reno on ESPN 94.5 FM.
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the series 29-20-1. In the last meeting on October 6, 2018, the Bulldogs defeated the Wolf Pack, 21-3, in Reno.
LAST WEEK: Fresno State lost to San Diego State on the road, 17-13, while Nevada was on a bye after beating those same Aztecs on the road the week before.
ODDS (via OddsShark): Fresno State -14
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 13.8 (79% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 19.3
Last week’s game against San Diego State was a letdown, so the Fresno State Bulldogs enter their home finale with a real sense of urgency in hosting the Nevada Wolf Pack.
The conference championship is out of reach now, but Jeff Tedford’s team can still reach .500 and earn a chance at the postseason, though it won’t be easy. Nevada has been wildly inconsistent from week to week but they’ve proven to be capable of surprises and still have their own standing in the bowl picture to play for.
Here’s how the Bulldogs can score a win over the Wolf Pack and take another necessary step toward bowl eligibility.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Shut down the nickel-and-dime passing game.
After getting the QB1 job back a few weeks ago, Carson Strong struggled against Wyoming but has cracked a 70% completion rate in each of the last two weeks while throwing three touchdowns and just one interception. One thing that’s been missing, though, are deep shots: As Pro Football Focus noted earlier this week, Strong’s average depth of target is just 8.2 yards.
It’ll be incumbent on the secondary to not only keep things in front of them but to get back to sure tackling since both Elijah Cooks and Romeo Doubs have shown an ability to shake defenders and run after the catch.
2. Keep Toa Taua in check.
The sophomore running back wasn’t much of a factor in Fresno State’s victory last year, tallying just 28 yards on ten carries, but it’s been even more surprising that he’s mostly been a non-factor throughout 2019. Among the 13 Mountain West running backs with at least 60 carries in conference play, Taua’s 3.46 yards per carry is the lowest such figure.
Whether the defensive front can disrupt is an open question, though. Though Nevada currently sports a 22.1% Stuff Rate (plays stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) on offense, a figure which ranks 101st nationally, Fresno State’s 17.1% Defensive Stuff Rate is just 86th.
3. Get Ronnie Rivers back on track.
Fresno State’s junior running back saw his streak of 100-yards rushing snapped last week against a top-notch San Diego State defensive line and while Nevada may not be on quite that same level, they’ve been at their best when they shut down an opponent’s ground game. In the Wolf Pack’s six wins, opponents have averaged 2.98 YPC; in their four losses, that number jumps to 5.60.
Going up against a battered Fresno State offensive line might be a point in their favor since the Bulldogs, with eight different OL combinations in ten games, could make it nine in eleven if the top of the current depth chart — Bull-Fuamatu-Sampson-Woodley-Tuitele — is to be believed.
Perhaps more so than any other teams in the conference, the Wolf Pack and the Bulldogs have surely caused their fans to throw hands in the air most often with some mix of frustration and confusion. It seems that Fresno State’s injury woes are slowly catching up with them, though, so Nevada should steal another win not only as the healthier team, but with wide receivers capable enough to best a shaky Bulldogs secondary.
Nevada 24, Fresno State 21