September 8, 2012; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks defensive tackle Ricky Heimuli (90) defends against Fresno State Bulldogs running back Robbie Rouse (8) at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE
After leaving Autzen Stadium with a 42-25 loss to the Ducks highlighted by a spectacular second-half defensive performance, Fresno State returns home to face another PAC-12 team in the Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffaloes are 0-2, having lost to Colorado State in week 1 and to FCS Sacramento State at home last week. The teams have not met since 2001, when Fresno State won 24-22 en route to an 11-3 season with David Carr at the helm. Robbie Rouse is 79 yards away from the all-time Fresno State rushing record, set by Ron Rivers.
Fresno State looked quite different in the two halves of their game against Oregon last week. In the first half, the Bulldogs seemed caught off guard by the sheer speed of the Ducks' players on both sides of the ball. After scoring a field goal on the opening drive, they misfired until the closing drive of the half, when they added a FG. On defense, the allowed the Ducks to put up 35 point before going into halftime, allowing big chunks of yardage. The second half was completely different. Fresno State held the Ducks' starting offense to just 7 points and 149 yards while forcing three turnovers. The Bulldogs scored 19 in the second half, Rouse running for a TD and Carr throwing for one. Carr finished 29/47 for 234 yards and Rouse ran for 115 yards. Davante Adams had another big game with 12 catches for 92 yards. OLB Tristan Okpalaugo had a monster game filling in for Donavon Lewis, who left early with a minor hamstring injury. Okpaluago had 9 tackles, four for a loss and one a sack while adding a fumble recovery. FS Derron Smith had 13 tackles, and SS Phillip Thomas had 9 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The Bulldogs have yet to turn the ball over. Side note: So far, four true freshmen have appeared in games: RB Marteze Waller, OT Alex Fifita, WR Aaron Peck and CB Shannon Edwards. Waller has the only quantifiable stats: 5 runs for 28 yards in the Weber State game.
Colorado comes off of a 30-28 loss to the Big Sky's Sacramento State at home on the heels of a loss to Colorado State. The Buffaloes jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, but Sac State crept back into the game and ran neck and neck with them, winning with a late FG. The Buffaloes allowed Sac State QB Garret Saffron to complete 25/37 passes for 312 yards and 2 touchdowns. Due to starting CB Greg Henderson's injury Colorado was starting two true freshmen at corner. One bright note for the Buffaloes was freshman RB Christian Powell, who bulldozed his way for 147 yards and three TDS. A QB controversy may be brewing there, as both Jordan Webb and Connor Wood will be playing.
On paper, this looks like a blowout win for Fresno State. The Bulldogs are head and shoulders above Sacramento State in talent. Colorado is coming off of two straight demoralizing losses, one to a hated rival and one to a D-1AA school. Fresno State ended their loss against Oregon on a high note (relatively). This is, however, the type of game the Bulldogs tended to drop or struggle in under Pat Hill; a game against an inferior foe following a tough performance OOC. This is Tim DeRuyter's opportunity to prove he can prevent the letdowns that plagued Pat Hill. The 'Dogs will be without WR Rashad Evans, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for this and one more game. Regardless, look for Fresno State to exploit the Buffaloes' secondary weaknesses (Buffaloes CB Henderson is out for the game) and come out firing to prevent any hope for Colorado. Donavon Lewis should be back (though Okpalaugo's performance means there would be virtually no drop-off) and the Bulldogs may get starting MLB Jeremiah Toma back from the foot injury that has kept him out so far. TE Marcel Jensen should get more looks in the passing game; DeRuyter has mentioned that he was open and not targeted several times during the Oregon game and that they would work on that. And, of course, Rouse should break that all-time Fresno State rushing record. Prediction: Fresno State 42, Colorado 17.