Fresno State 5-3 (3-1) at New Mexico 4-4 (1-2)
Kickoff: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Television: Comcast Sports California
Radio:KMJ (AM 580), ESPN Deportes (1600 AM)
Keys to Game
Protect the Football – In a game where possessions will be a premium if New Mexico can run the football, Fresno State cannot afford to limit its opportunities with costly turnovers.
Ground Attack – Robbie Rouse has been less than stellar in his last four games. He’s failed to gain over 100 yards in three of those games, as well, he continues to put the ball on the ground. Rouse must be factor if the Bulldogs want a balance attack.
Finish – The ‘Dogs failed to finish on offense last week at home versus Wyoming, and FS has failed to finish on the road, save its lone road win at last place Colorado State. The offense cannot afford a lull regardless if pundits have FS as a 15-point favorite.
Contain Carrier – Kasey Carrier rushed for a MWC record 338 yards on 39 carries last week versus Air Force. He ranks second in the nation in rushing yards, averaging 138.3 per game. If Carrier has a similar performance this week, Fresno State will be in a tight game.
Play Assignment Football – New Mexico freshman quarterback Cole Gautsche will get the start. Despite lacking experience, he is averaging nearly eight yards per rush and is effective running the triple option offense. The Bulldogs must stay with their assignments or the Lobos will break its share of long runs.
Strip the Ball – Phillip Thomas will have few if any opportunities to add to his nation leading seven interceptions. But the senior safety also is one of the best in the nation at forcing fumbles with three. The defense must win the turnover battle and that means stripping the football against a Lobo offense that only attempted four passes last week in a 28-23 loss at Air Force.
Coach Tim DeRuyter said on Monday during his weekly press conference that getting bowl eligible isn’t the goal. A win on Saturday will give the Bulldogs its sixth win, but DeRuyter is still focused on winning the MWC. And Fresno State cannot afford a hiccup on the road in Albuquerque.
New Mexico will not back off its offense regardless of the score, couple that with the fact, the Bulldogs have played lackluster football on the road, and the Lobos have shot despite being a two-touchdown underdog.
Fresno State must start fast and look to its defense to create turnovers and stop the option attack. Despite the tough loss in Colorado Springs, New Mexico is playing extremely well and the offense its hitting it stride at the right time. This game has upset written all over it, however, freshman quarterback Cole Gautsche will be facing an aggressive Bulldog defense, and that will be the difference.
Fresno State 31, New Mexico 20
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