Thursday, October 4, 2007

Game Preview: FS (2-2) at Nevada (2-2)

Just when it looked like Tom Brandstater was on his way to a breakout game, the Fresno State junior flopped against Louisiana Tech with only 92 yards on 8 of 22 passing. He had one touchdown and one interception, dropping to 56.2% passing on the season. He’ll have to have a better showing this week.

Nevada sophomore Nick Graziano (6-1, 220) grew up quick with a clutch performance against UNLV last week, throwing a 43-yard touchdown pass with 27.5 seconds left for the win. Graziano is 61 for 120 with 1,012 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions in four games, and has run for 80 yards.
Edge: Wolf Pack

Running Backs
No one has separated himself amongst the Bulldogs’ committee of backs. True freshman Ryan Mathews, sophomores Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding and senior Clifton Smith each have two rushing touchdowns. Mathews leads the group with 214 yards rushing, followed by Miller’s 157, Smith’s 106 and Harding’s 93. But Miller, the starter, is averaging just 3 yards a carry while Mathews is at 4.8 yards.

Junior Luke Lippincott (6-2, 215) is averaging 5.3 yards per carry for the Wolf Pack, with 323 yards and two touchdowns this season. He’s spelled by sophomore Brandon Fragger (5-9, 195), who has 123 yards and one score.
Edge: Even

With last year’s leading receiver Chastin West gone for the season with a knee injury, things are only getting worse. Sophomore Marlon Moore (15 catches, 193 yards), who assumed the leadership role, went down with an injury against La Tech and is questionable for the Nevada game. Without him, the team has no proven go-to wideout and will rely heavily on junior tight end Bear Pascoe, who leads the team with 257 yards and four touchdowns on 17 catches. Sophomore Jason Crawley led the team with two catches for 32 yards last week, but that’s not going to translate to wins most of the time.

The Wolf Pack isn’t afraid to go for big plays. Junior Mike McCoy (6-0, 190) averages 22.8 yards per catch, Kyle Sammons (5-11, 195) averages 21.6 yards and junior Marko Mitchell (6-4, 200)19.9. Mitchell leads the team with 11 receptions for 219 yards. Sammons has 216 yards and McCoy has 205. Tight end Adam Bishop (6-4, 245) has nine catches for 147 yards and five touchdowns.
Edge: Wolf Pack

Offensive Line
Even with redshirt freshman Joe Bernardi moving into the starting role at center to make up for injuries to guards Cole Popovich (all-WAC) and Adam McDowell (out for the year), the line allowed way too much pressure on Brandstater last week. He was sacked twice, but hurried all night. The group needs to return to its hard-nosed, physical tradition. It has the manpower with Ryan Wendell and Bobby Lepori.

Nevada junior center Dominic Green (6-3, 295), on the Rimington Award watch list, is coming off a broken foot that sidelined him for the first three games. He played against UNLV but didn’t start. The Wolf Pack will need him this week, and will also need their young tackles, redshirt freshmen John Bender (6-8, 325) and Mike Gallett (6-6, 295) and sophomore Alonzo Durham (6-4, 285) to step up and keep up with the edge rush of Fresno State’s Tyler Clutts and Ikenna Ike.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
Sure, losing end Jason Roberts for the year in the Oregon game severely hurt the depth, but it didn’t stop All-WAC end Tyler Clutts from recording his first four sacks of the season against La Tech with junior tackle Jon Monga adding three more. If the ‘Dogs can apply that type of pressure against Nevada, they’ll have a good shot to win.

The Wolf Pack’s 3-4 defense has given up 1,033 yards rushing already this season. Nose Matt Hines (6-1, 285), a Modesto native, is tied for fourth on the team with 20 tackles. End Jay Dixon (6-2, 270) is the only lineman with a sack.
Edge: Bulldogs

Senior Marcus Riley is having the type of year that makes him a WAC defensive MVP candidate. With 14 tackles in the WAC opener, he leads the team with 47 this season (returning from a devastating knee injury against USC in 2005). Redshirt freshman Ben Jacobs isn’t doing too shabby himself with 32 tackles, second-most on the team.

This could be the battle for the WAC’s top linebacker corps. Nevada’s Ezra Butler (6-2, 248) was a preseason favorite for defensive MVP. But junior Joshua Mauga (6-2, 245) leads the team with 47 tackles. Junior Kevin Porter (6-1, 240) is tied for fourth on the team in tackles and Visalia-native Jeremy Engstrom (6-1, 247) is another top returner.
Edge: Even

Defensive Backs
Fresno State’s second-in-the-nation pass defense, yardage-wise, finally gets a real test this week against Nevada’s pistol offense – the first true passing team the ‘Dogs have faced. Senior corner Damon Jenkins, and All-WAC candidate, missed the La Tech game with injury and allowed fans to see just how bright sophomore A.J. Jefferson’s future could be. But the team is in dire need of playmakers, and Jenkins is the only member of the secondary who’s intercepted a pass (three picks last year). For the second straight year, the Bulldogs are the last team in the nation to not have an interception.

Nevada’s secondary has the veteran presence the ‘Dogs lack, with three senior starting and one junior. Corner Paul Pratt (5-10, 185) and strong safety Uche Anyanwu (6-4, 220) each have 15 tackles, tied for eighth on the team.
Edge: Bulldogs

Special Teams
Punter Kyle Zimmerman has gone from being shaky last season to a huge asset this year. He’s averaging 41.7 yards per punt and has landed 8 of 18 inside the 20-yard line. Clint Stitser nailed a 46-yarder last week, but is 3 of 6 on the year. Jefferson’s 56-yard kick return was a career-best and Smith added a 34-yard punt return. The ‘Dogs are due for one of their trademarked blocked kick this week.

Junior kicker Brett Jaekle has hit 5 of 6 field goals this season, including a 50-yarder against UNLV. Punter Zachary Whited averages 36.9 yards per attempt with 8 of 25 inside the 20. Dwayne Sanders had a 45-yard kick return last week.
Edge: Bulldogs

Under Pat Hill, Fresno State has won seven of its past eight against Nevada, including last year’s 28-19 win in the season opener at Bulldog Stadium. But if ever his team was vulnerable, it’s right now.

Hall of fame Nevada coach Chris Ault has a stat of his own to boast. He’s 2-0 all-time against Fresno State in Reno. Ault is 127-26-1 all-time at Mackay Stadium.
Edge: Even

The last time these two teams played in Reno, Nevada shocked the country by pulling out a 37-34 win one week after the Bulldogs battled to a narrow loss at then-No. 1 USC. Fresno State has been in a downward spiral ever since. Is this the game that propels them back up?
Edge: Wolf Pack


  1. It appears that neither team has faced a really deadly passing attack. Northwestern threw the ball around but failed miserably on deep routes. UNLV tried to stretch the field but relied on a sturdt ground game to keep it close. The Fresno running game, much like Nebraska, is a huge concern for Nevada fans. But equally concerning for Bulldog fans should be Nick Graziano and his group of receivers. They will test the Bulldogs vertically. The biggest threat may not even be at WR as our TE has had a nose for the endzone (5 TDs). He'll cause matchup problems not because of his size (6-4 245) but because of his speed. For a TE, he can really run effective routes and get up field in a hurry. Should be a great game.

  2. While Adam Bishop has shown a knack for getting in the end zone, I still think the wideouts are more dangerous for Fresno State.

    Speaking of tight ends, Nevada better be ready for Bear Pascoe. His size should be a concern and he's one of the best in the nation as a junior. At 6-5, 260, he originally was recruited at QB.

  3. tommy b. still has not showed anything to me that he is a big time QB comfortable in his role. still very indecisive, average accuracy at best, and has not really performed much better TO THIS POINT IN THE YEAR than he has last year. is the potential there? YES, most definately. but it is all up to him wether or not he breaks out... and with a bit more help from the line :p but seriously, he needs to deal with the pressure a bit better becuase it will always be there. if tommy can break out, we could have a very special year.


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