Fresno State (7-3, 5-1) at Nevada (6-3, 3-2)
Kickoff: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Television: NBC Sports
Radio: KMJ (AM 580), ESPN Deportes (1600 AM)
Keys to the Game
Start Fast – Fresno State has not started fast on the road since jumping out to a 20-7 first quarter lead at Tulsa on September 22. However, the Bulldogs failed to score an offensive touchdown in the final three quarters. Last time out on the road, FS outscored New Mexico 49-11 after falling behind 21-0 in the first half. Nevada has the most potent offense the Bulldogs will see this season, save Oregon. The ‘Dogs need a fast start to keep the pressure on the Wolf Pack.
Weather the Elements – It was just above freezing when Fresno State played Colorado State on October 3. It will be much colder in Reno tonight. The high will be 37 but once the sun goes down, the temperature will be in the 20s and doesn’t include the wind chill factor. The Bulldogs cannot let the cold effect their consistency and flow of the offense.
Protect the Football – The cliché will be no truer tonight. Fresno State will not beat Nevada if the Bulldogs cough up the football.
Stop the Dive – Nevada has won the last four meetings against Fresno State, and each loss has seen the Wolf Pack use the dive as a key element in the victory. The pistol offense can and will use the option effectively. But if the dive is taken away, the Nevada run game is far less potent.
Stay with Assignments – New Mexico exposed the Bulldogs aggressive defensive by using the triple option to take an early 21-0 lead. Nevada will try to bait the pitch man on the option, the Bulldogs must have faith in their teammates to play their assignment and make the play.
Limit Mistakes – Fresno State defenders must wrap up and limit runs after contact. More importantly, the Bulldogs cannot commit dumb penalties.
Fresno State is a -3 point favorite. The first time the Bulldogs have been a favorite versus Nevada since 2006. FS has not been favored in Reno since that infamous 2005 game. Unlike 2005, the ‘Dogs cannot lock up a piece of the conference championship with a win over the Wolf Pack. But this is by far the most important conference game for Fresno State since losing back-to-back games at Nevada and versus Louisiana Tech that season in November.
The Wolf Pack is well rested after having 15 days to prepare for this game. Furthermore, Nevada has new life in the MWC race after watching San Diego State knock off Boise State last week.
The Bulldogs are a shade of themselves on the road. Wins at Colorado State and New Mexico don’t hold weight considering FS has lost at Oregon, Tulsa and Boise State. Granted, the ‘Dogs three toughest opponents have been played away from Bulldog Stadium but the ineffectiveness of the FS offense in those games cannot be ignored.
Nevada’s defense on paper doesn’t have a shot to stop the Bulldogs offense. But throw in the cold weather and the ‘Dogs road struggles, the Wolf Pack defense should be fine. This game will come down to Fresno State’s defense. Can the Bulldogs shut down running back Stefphon Jefferson and quarterback Cody Fajardo? Can the Bulldogs limit Nevada’s scoring and add a few scores of their own?
Fresno State has yet to play a complete four-quarter game on both sides of the field. Can we expect the Bulldogs to do it on the road against a good Nevada team? No doubt, if this game is at Bulldog Stadium, Fresno State wins going away. But this is a different team on the road. And until they prove they can beat a solid team away from home, it’s a another game of “ifs and buts.”
Fresno State 27, Nevada 28
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