Better Know a Foe is back! After taking a week off for the Louisiana Tech game, we hooked up with Fresno Bee beat writer Daniel Lyght to get his insights into the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Fresno State had a ridiculously tough start to the season, with tough non-con games and then Boise State. Is that paying dividends now that the WAC season is well underway and the Bulldogs are rolling?
It might be paying dividends in the sense that they now know they can play with anyone left on their schedule. They played Boise State, Cinci and Wisconsin tough, arguably the three toughest teams on their schedule, so that might have instilled confidence in the players.
Ryan Mathews — what makes him such a good RB and is there anything short of Kryptonite that can stop him?
He’s got breakaway speed, strength, vision, a lil bit of shake, the ability to quickly change directions, great balance, and a great stiff-arm. All he needs to do is stay durable.
Other than Mathews, who are the key playmakers for Fresno on offense and defense?
Well, QB Ryan Colburn has a strong arm and has proven to be a threat at points this year. Frosh RB Robbie Rouse is a really shifty back with a lot of jukes who can break some nice runs. Lonyae Miller is probably the fastest RB on the team, but his touches have been limited bc of Mathews’ breakout season and Rouse’s emergence.
Seyi Ajirotutu has proven to be the top receiving threat. He also led the team in receiving last season. He had a season-high seven catches for 124 yards last week. He’s about 6-foot-5 so he can cause some matchup issues on the perimeter and uses a nice stiff arm to pick up yards after the catch.
On defense, safety Lorne Bell’s a hitter. The star of the defense, though, has been DE Chris Carter. He has 9.5 TFL this season and draws the attention of the opposing teams in film study. He’s incredibly quick off the line and has a great speed rush.
Idaho had one of the conference’s best run defenses until Nevada came along and exposed their inability to cope with running quarterbacks and misdirection plays. Are the Bulldogs looking to exploit that weakness with more of an option attack?
We never know for certain what they’ll try to do (except of course pound the ball via the run), but if that’s a weakness Idaho has shown, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Fresno State try it. They haven’t used option QB Ebahn Feathers much in that capacity in several games. They’ve been more apt to put Mathews in the Wildcat and run motions with slot receivers. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see that again on Saturday.
Will the Bulldogs’ secondary be able to contain Idaho’s aerial assault?
A great question and a key to this game. Coaches say (Nathan) Enderle has developed into a very good QB, and is one of the main reasons the Vandals have succeeded this year.
As important as the coverage in the secondary is, equally important is whether the front 7 will be able to apply constant pressure and limit the amount of time Enderle has to pick the secondary apart.
Your thoughts on what each team has to do to win.
Fresno State has to establish the run game early and quarterback Ryan Colburn needs to balance it with enough plays in the passing game to keep the defense off the line. The Bulldogs also need to stay turnover free.
Idaho needs to keep Mathews in check. It would be a great plus if they used some option on offense to keep the Bulldogs off balance. Idaho will want to put points on the board because Mathews and the rest of the Bulldogs offense can score quickly.
What do you think the game’s going to be like?
It’s gonna be a close one and I think it’s gonna be a shootout with both teams scoring in the 30s.