The Nevada Wolf Pack (4-4, 2-2) will travel to the west coast as they take on the Fresno State Bulldogs (2-6, 1-4) in a Mountain West Conference West Division matchup Thursday night. Fresno State has won the last three meetings between the schools, including a 40-20 road win as a 7 point underdog on November 22, 2014 in the most recent matchup.
Nevada bounced back to the .500 mark by taking a 30-20 win over Hawaii last week. Fresno State’s one game win streak came to a halt with a 42-14 shellacking by Air Force on the road two weeks ago; they had a bye last week. This one is scheduled for a 10:30 pm ET kickoff from Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, California and will be televised nationally on ESPN2. Nevada is currently a 4.5 point favorite in this contest.
Nevada was in a 17-0 hole in the second quarter before scoring 10 points in the final 1:12 of the half to get back in the game. Trailing 20-13 entering the fourth quarter, Nevada scored 17 unanswered to end the game; 10 were set up by Hawaii turnovers. The Wolf Pack outgained the Rainbow Warriors 372-325, finished with 20 first downs to 19 for Hawaii and dominated time of possession by a 36:26 to 23:34 margin. The biggest edge for Nevada came in the turnover category as they forced four takeaways while giving the ball away only once.
The Wolf Pack has had their issues moving the ball through the air as they are 109th in passing offense (175.3 yards) while they are currently 25th in rushing offense (212 yards per game) this season. Nevada is scoring 25.6 points per game, which is tied for 94th in the nation in scoring offense, while they are tied for 65th in scoring defense by allowing 26.8 points per contest. Tyler Stewart is the starter at quarterback; he’s completed 132 of 229 passes for 1,402 yards with 11 touchdowns and four picks while rushing for 271 yards plus three scores on the ground. The run game is very effective with a pair of good backs: James Butler leads the team with 125 carries for 756 yards plus four touchdowns while Don Jackson is a battering ram with 137 carries for 673 yards and seven touchdowns. Jerico Richardson is the team leader in the passing game for Nevada with 45 catches for 485 yards and four scores; Hassan Henderson (36 grabs, 425 yards, 2 TD) and Wyatt Demps (20 catches, 182 yards) are secondary targets. Jarred Gipson has caught 15 passes for 180 yards and four touchdowns when he’s been targeted this season. Brent Zuzo has been perfect on the year as he has hit all 25 extra points and 10 of 11 field goals this year with a long of 41 yards; his lone miss has come from beyond 50 yards.
Fresno State led Air Force 14-0 two weeks ago in the first quarter but was crushed the rest of the way as they allowed the game’s final 42 points. The Bulldogs were outgained 586-311 and allowed 26 first downs while picking up just 12 in the contest. Fresno State was absolutely hammered in the time of possession battle as the Falcons held the ball for 42:38 while limiting the Bulldogs to 17:22 in the game. If you can’t hang on to the ball, you’re going to wear your defense out and that’s what happened in this contest.
The Bulldogs have been mediocre offensively on the season as they are 113th in the nation in passing offense (166.1 yards) and 111th in the nation in rushing (130.6 yards) per contest. Fresno State is scoring 21 points per game but they are 121st in scoring defense as they allow 40.9 points per game. Four quarterbacks have seen action already this season; they’ve combined to complete 128 of 252 passes for 1,329 yards with 13 touchdowns against 10 interceptions while averaging 5.27 yards per attempt. It could be anyone’s guess as to who will be under center when this one kicks off. Kilton Anderson has seen the most reps as he’s 43 of 91 passing for 482 yards with one touchdown and four picks while running for 75 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs average a paltry 3.9 yards per carry on the season as a team; Marteze Waller leads the team with 153 carries for 660 yards and four scores; Dustin Garrison is second on the team with 33 carries for 145 yards and a score. Jamire Jordan is tied for the team lead in receptions with 27 for 305 yards and four scores while KeeSean Johnson has 27 catches for 254 yards and two scores. Da’Mari Scott (17 catches 253 yards, TD) and Josiah Blandin (14 grabs, 155 yards, 3 TD) are secondary targets while Waller has 13 catches out of the backfield. Kody Kroening has hit 19 of 20 extra points and three of four field goal attempts this season. Jimmy Camacho hasn’t kicked an extra point this season but is 2 of 4 on field goals with a long of 44 yards.
Nevada is 4-1 ATS in their last five after allowing at least 280 yards through the air, 4-1 ATS in their last five against teams coming off a bye and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 on the road. Fresno State is 1-4 ATS in their last five after an ATS loss, 1-4 ATS in their last five conference games, 1-4 ATS in their last five on fieldturf, 1-5 ATS in their last six after a straight up loss by at least 20 points and 1-6 ATS in their last seven overall.
This one would normally tilt toward the home team but the fact that Fresno State has an extremely fluid situation at quarterback doesn’t inspire confidence in their offensive output. The Bulldogs don’t run the ball well either and if Waller is shut down, they’re in trouble. Nevada has a good 1-2 punch on the ground and decent quarterback play; look for the Wolf Pack to get the win in this contest.