Injuries piling up again for Bulldogs
Through three games, Fresno State is dealing with two issues that have challenged the Bulldogs in recent years -- injuries and a tough schedule. Injuries along the offensive line and in the defensive secondary have left the Bulldogs scrambling and the schedule leaves no respite for them.
Fresno State's top three safeties are injured with the two expected starters out for the season. The Bulldogs may start a walk-on and press a true freshman into action at the position due to the injuries. Along the offensive line, the Bulldogs have two starters out.
"We don't have a free-agent board, we can't just call guys in. We adjust from within from our football team. We'll adjust and we'll be ready," coach Pat Hill said.
The Bulldogs, who open their final season in the WAC with a game against Idaho this week, have games against Ole Miss and Boise State on deck. After that, the Bulldogs face Utah State and Nevada in two league games that will go a long way toward determining if Fresno State can get its first outright WAC title.
"This team has got to grow up real fast," Hill said.
The Bulldogs needed a last-second touchdown to edge Idaho last season.
"They've got a veteran football team. There are a lot of guys back from last year. It's a big game for both teams. It's the WAC opener. What this game means is this game controls your destiny. If you lose this game, you don't control your destiny and then you'll have to wait for other teams to lose," Hill said.
NOTES AND QUOTES
This is the third road game in four weeks for Fresno State, who gets to play home games the next three weeks.
SERIES HISTORY: Fresno State leads Idaho 9-4 (last meeting: 2010, 23-20 Fresno State).
Fresno State has been effective in the red zone, scoring seven times in eight trips inside the opponents' 20. The Bulldogs have five touchdowns and two field goals in those eight trips. Fresno State has scored on six consecutive red zone trips.
The Bulldogs have gotten off to hot starts this season, scoring first in all three games. Of Fresno State's 77 points, 35 have come in the first quarter. The Bulldogs have been outscored 34-3 in the third quarter so far this year.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: With all of the shuffling along the Fresno State offensive line, including two starters out, left tackle Bryce Harris remains a steadying influence. Harris will start his 29th consecutive game for Fresno State against Idaho. ... Sophomore QB Derek Carr has thrown for 639 yards and four touchdowns in his first three career starts. Carr is completing 57.1 percent of his passes and has just one interception. ... WR Jalen Saunders has caught a pass in 16 consecutive games. Saunders had an 86-yard and a 52-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: True freshman defensive end Donavon Lewis has three tackles and 1.5 sacks through three games. He is not listed on the depth chart, but is getting playing time along the Bulldogs' defensive front. ... CB L.J. Jones has two interceptions. ... P Andrew Shapiro has 22 punts this year and 10 of them have been downed inside the 20.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "In a basketball game, you want your best shooter out there. Robbie is our best shooter right now as a running back. He's a proven shooter and we're going to stick with him. I feel really good about him being in there." -- Fresno State coach Pat Hill said.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Fresno State at Idaho, Sept. 24 -- Fresno State scored with 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to earn the victory last year in Fresno. Idaho scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to take the lead before the Bulldogs rallied for the win, its eighth straight against Idaho in the series. It is the first conference game for both teams.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Eliminate the big play for Idaho and force the Vandals to move down the field in long drives. Fresno State has been susceptible to the big play through its first three games. The Bulldogs have given up 19 plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage this year. Five of them have resulted in touchdowns.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
PR/WR Devon Wylie -- The senior is second in the WAC and ninth nationally at 16.2 yards per return. Wylie had a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown against Nebraska. He had a 48-yard return against North Dakota. Wylie also has nine catches for 125 yards on the season.
RB Robbie Rouse -- The junior needs just 27 yards to reach the 2,000-yard career mark. He would be the 15th player in Fresno State history to reach that mark. Rouse has had back-to-back 100-yard games and ranks 12th in the nation at 121.7 yards per game.
DT Logan Harrell -- The WAC named the senior defensive player of the week after recording 11 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Harrell leads the team with 22 tackles and has 6.5 tackles for loss.
The Bulldogs have injury issues in the secondary. SS Derron Smith (broken arm) is out for the season. S Phillip Thomas (broken leg) was lost before the season. No. 3 safety Zak Hill (hamstring) is questionable. Cris Wilson and Terrance Dennis will start.
Fresno State is likely to use true freshman Charles Washington at safety. The Bulldogs moved cornerbacks J.B. Dock and Sean Alston to safety.
C Richard Helepiko (ankle) and LG Matt Hunt (ankle) are out.
WR Victor Dean (broken foot) could play against Idaho. Dean missed the first three games of the season.