This year, the Bulldogs have 25. And they haven't changed personnel or the scheme.
"We're just a year older and more mature in the front," coach Pat Hill said.
Health has also played a role. Carter, who shuffled between linebacker and defensive end earlier in his career, is comfortable at his end spot. And, unlike last year, he is not playing with an oversized cast on one hand. Harrell, a junior, struggled with an ankle injury last year. Neither has missed time this year.
"We've been able to keep our defense healthy this year. The same guys have been on the field week in and week out for us," Hill said. "If we keep all these guys together, our continuity will get better. It comes with maturity and mastering our trade."
Fresno State will need a solid pass rush against Louisiana Tech on Saturday. The game has bowl implications for both teams and Louisiana Tech's pass-happy, spread offense, under first-year coordinator Tony Franklin, seems to be rounding into form.
NOTES & QUOTES
Fresno State will have to pay the WAC $900,000 -- spread over five payments of $180,000 beginning on 2011 and ending in 2015 -- as part of its decision to leave the league.
SERIES HISTORY: Fresno State leads Louisiana Tech 8-3 (last meeting, 2009, 30-28 Fresno State).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Ryan Colburn is fourth in the WAC in passing yards at 215.3 per game. Colburn has 13 touchdowns and six interceptions through seven games. Freshman wide receiver Jalen Saunders has been a revelation; he is fourth in the WAC in all-purpose yards per game at 140.1. Though RB Robbie Rouse has consecutive 100-yard games, the Fresno State run offense has been a surprising non-factor in the first half of the season. Fresno State is averaging 153.3 yards per game on the ground and just 4.1 yards per attempt. If injured offensive linemen Joe Bernardi and Andrew Jackson can return to the lineup -- both could be back as soon as this week -- and Rouse stays healthy, those numbers should improve.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Bulldogs are getting after opposing quarterbacks. Fresno State is third nationally in sacks with 25. DE Chris Carter (nine) and DT Logan Harrell (eight) are both in the top six nationally, and Carter leads the nation. Fresno State ranks in the middle of the pack in rushing defense (62nd), largely because of a miserable performance against Mississippi. The pass defense has improved, as the Bulldogs are 34th in the country in that category. Fresno State will need that pass defense to be stout against Louisiana Tech.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We feel disappointed, but at the same time we know where we're going and it's good to get it over so coaches can look at long-term scheduling. We've got to wait 12 months, but the tradeoff is a highly desirable financial outcome. We'll mange it without a lot of difficulty." -- Fresno State athletic director Thomas Boeh, in the Fresno Bee, about the deal to leave the WAC in 2012.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Fresno State at Louisiana Tech, Nov. 6 -- The game has all kinds of bowl implications for Louisiana Tech, Fresno State and the WAC. Fresno State needs one more victory to get bowl eligible, but its next three games are against an improving Louisiana Tech team, Nevada and Boise State. Louisiana Tech is eyeing this game as a make-or-break for its bowl chances. The Bulldogs from Ruston, La., need three more victories to gain bowl eligibility. They should be able to handle New Mexico State and San Jose State, even with those games on the road. That leaves Louisiana Tech needing one more win, either against Fresno State or Nevada, to gain bowl eligibility in coach Sonny Dykes' first season. The teams have played some good games in recent years. Every meeting since 2002 has been decided by 11 points or less, including a 38-35 Louisiana Tech win in 2008 and a 30-28 Fresno State win in 2009.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Stop the pass. Louisiana Tech's pass-happy, up-tempo spread offense is beginning to click in the first season under head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. Louisiana Tech has won two of its last three games, and the Bulldogs played well in a 49-20 loss at Boise State in the other game. Meanwhile, Fresno State will take aim at a Louisiana Tech team that ranks 114th nationally in total defense and 108th in pass efficiency defense. It could mean a big day for Fresno State QB Ryan Colburn.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Robbie Rouse -- The sophomore has back-to-back 100-yard games and appears over nagging shoulder and ankle injuries that kept him off the field earlier in the season. Rouse has 43 carries in the last two games, including a career high 27 in the victory against San Jose State. He also has four touchdowns in the last two games and five for the season.
WR Jalen Saunders -- The true freshman is fourth in the WAC in all-purpose yards at 140.8 per game. Saunders has caught at least one pass in every game this season and has 16 receptions for 280 yards. The Bulldogs also look to get him involved in the running game. Saunders has nine rushing attempts for 95 yards, including three for 59 in the victory against San Jose State.
LB Travis Brown -- The sophomore and son of late Fresno State defensive coordinator Dan Brown is becoming the player that many expected when he arrived at Fresno State. A steady contributor at linebacker, Brown leads the Bulldogs in tackles and has seven tackles for loss.