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Poke Preview Week 7: Fresno State Bulldogs

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After dropping first game of the season, Cowboys look to bounce back vs. Fresno State

NCAA Football: Fresno State at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

What: Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Wyoming Cowboys

When: Saturday, October 16, 1:30 p.m. MT

Where: War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, WY

Network: FS2

Series History: The Fresno State Bulldogs lead the all-time series vs. The Wyoming Cowboys 7-5. In their last head-to-head meeting, the Bulldogs rolled past the Cowboys 27-3, in 2018.

After facing arguably the most run-heavy team in all of college football, the Pokes will turn their attention toward the aerial attack of Jake Haener and the Fresno State Bulldogs. The 4-2 Bulldogs pose a great challenge this week for the Cowboys and will come into Laramie hungry for a win. following an upset loss to Hawaii and their bye week in between. The Cowboys are back home for this contest and will look to bounce back from their loss last week at the hands of the Air Force Academy.

Implications:

The implications for the Cowboys this week are a bit less definitive than that of the Bulldogs. The Cowboys have only played one conference game, and though a loss here would put their chances at the conference in a pretty precarious position, it wouldn’t thrust them completely out of the Mountain West title conversation. As for the Bulldogs, a loss to Wyoming would give them three conference losses, driving them into a much deeper hole, very much jeopardizing their chances at a regular season conference title. Without underselling anything, the bottom line is that both of these teams are in dire need of a conference victory and the outcome of this game will drastically affect both teams’ hopes at a title push. So what do the Cowboys need to do to make sure their season isn’t the one in jeopardy?

Three Keys to a Cowboy Victory:

  1. Put pressure on Jake Haener and force turnovers:

The Cowboys have totaled 14 sacks and 6 interceptions in 5 games thus far, and will need to put a large amount of pressure on Haener in order to halt his efficiency and force him to make mistakes. In Fresno State’s most recent loss, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors were able to intercept Haener four times and recover both of the fumbles they forced for a total of 6 turnovers. If Wyoming wants to sneak out a victory against a formidable opponent with plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball in Fresno State, they will have to do a lot of those things on defense by creating havoc in the pocket for Haener.

2. Stay out of 3rd and long

Last week’s game against Air Force saw Wyoming put themselves in too many non favorable situations, in 3rd and long. Craig Bohl’s offense will need to do their best to limit the amount of negative plays they have and adjust their game plan so that they can create more sustainable drives and move the ball gradually up field. In order to make that happen, Sean Chambers will need to improve upon his accuracy and a lot of his reads. The offensive line will also need to do a better job of creating holes for Valladay, Swen and the ground attack against a big and dangerous Fresno State front. If the Pokes can put themselves in less third and long situations and more second and shorts, they will give their team a shot at victory.

3. Defense needs to get stops on big downs & limit big plays

In last week’s contest with Air Force, the Poke defensive unit allowed Air Force to go 7 for 16 on successful third down conversions and 3 for 4 on fourth down conversions. That isn’t a recipe they are going to want to duplicate against an offense as talented as Fresno State. The offensive talent they have is just about as good as anyone in the country and it includes not only Jake Haener, but players like RB Ronnie Rivers, WR Jaelen Cropper and WR Josh Kelly, who have all contributed heavily to the team’s offensive success so far this season. They are also a group that enjoys stretching the field which means the Wyoming secondary will have a big challenge in front of them come Saturday trying to keep them in check.

Prediction:

The Cowboys and Bulldogs are both coming off a loss and are eager for a conference win. Both teams will want to get ahead early and need to execute on the opportunities given to them in order to provide their respective seasons with a jolt of optimism. I see a huge bounce-back performance for both quarterbacks taking place, which will lead to a close, high scoring contest in Laramie. With the offensive fire power of the Bulldogs, I’ll still take them to scrape this one out on the road, but Wyoming should make them sweat it all day.

Fresno State 35

Wyoming 28