The Fresno State Bulldogs control their own destiny for the Mountain West title game, as they take on the last-place Nevada Wolf Pack on Saturday at Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nev.
If they win, Fresno State — who’s 5-1 in Mountain West — clinches a conference tournament bid, despite starting the regular season 1-4. They have won five straight by an average score of 18.4 points, including a 42-point win over Hawai’i two weeks ago and a 32-point win over New Mexico on Oct. 22.
Nevada, meanwhile, has lost eight straight by an average of 18.5 points — the latest being a 41-3 loss to the Boise State Broncos last Saturday. It’s the first time they have lost eight straight since 1964.
Can Nevada shock the Bulldogs on senior night? Let’s dive into the position preview and find out!
Week 12: Nevada (2-8, 0-6 MWC) vs. Fresno State (6-4, 5-1 MWC)
When: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. PT
Where: Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nev.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Fresno State -22.5
Series History: Fresno State leads 30-23-1
Last Meeting: Fresno State won 34-32 (Oct. 23, 2021)
When Fresno State is on offense:
To give you an idea about how good Fresno State’s offense has been of late: The Bulldogs have scored on 17 of their last 19 drives. No, that’s not a typo. That’s in part due to the remarkable play of quarterback Jake Haener, who’s played out of his mind since returning from injury in late October.
In three games since his return, he’s completed 86-of-108 (79.6 percent) attempts for 1,034 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. On the season, he leads the country in completion percentage at 75.6 percent for 1,888 yards, 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
Last weekend, he also passed David Carr for the program’s lead for passing yards, throwing for 313 yards — his 5th 300-yard outing in six games — at an 82.4 percent clip (28-34) with three touchdowns the narrow win over UNLV.
It’s also gotten stable production out of the backfield from Jordan Mims, who’s filled in seamlessly for its former swiss-army knife Ronnie Rivers. Mims has logged 872 rushing yards on 4.8 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns — adding 15 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Malik Sherrod has produced behind Mims, totaling 325 yards on nearly six yards per attempt with two additional scores.
Haener’s top two targets have been All-Conference wideout Jalen Moreno-Cropper and former Cal transfer Nikko Remigio. Moreno-Cropper’s hauled in 64 catches for 828 yards and five touchdowns, while Remigio has 53 catches for 597 yards and four touchdowns.
Haener and Co. will be up against a Pack secondary that’s arguably their most formidable unit, though corners Jaden Dedman and Isaiah Essissima have struggled throughout the season.
Bentlee Sanders and Tyson Williams have been two of the Pack’s most important players this year, leading the team in tackles with 67 and 58, respectively.
Linebacker Drue Watts has emerged as one of the Pack’s top young pieces; the redshirt freshman is third in tackles (51), second in tackles for loss (8.0) and second in sacks (3.0).
Though the Pack’s most disruptive player along its front six/seven has been Peterson, who’s recorded 29 tackles a team-leading 11.0 tackles-for-loss and a team-most five sacks through 10 games.
When Nevada is on offense:
The Wolf Pack’s offense has been one of the worst in the country this season, ranking No. 129 (third-worst) in yards per play, No. 128 in total offense, No. 120 in scoring offense and first downs per game.
Shane Illingworth is expected to start behind center, having completed roughly 58 percent of his attempts for 761 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Nevada has also struggled to get the ground game going, averaging less than four yards per carry from its two running backs: Toa Taua and Devonte Lee.
Taua’s recorded 674 yards and ten touchdowns, while Devonte Lee’s added 233 yards and five rushing touchdowns. Nevada has gotten some decent production from a few of its receivers, namely BJ Casteel and Dalevon Campbell.
Casteel has a team-most 38 catches for 428 yards and two touchdowns, while Campbell — its top vertical threat — has hauled-in 27 catches for 276 yards.
Fresno State’s defense has plenty of playmakers — namely leading-tackler Levelle Bailey and defensive end David Perales. Bailey’s tallied 71 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, one forced fumble and four pass defelctions. Perales has been a backfield-wrecker all season logging 9.5 sacks, 13.0 tackles-for-loss and 38 combined tackles with one fumble forced as well.
No other player on the Bulldog roster has more than two sacks.
Veteran linebacker Malachi Langley is second in tackles with 47, adding two tackles behind the line of scrimmage, one sack, one interception and two pass deflections. Veteran defensive backs Evan Williams and Bralyn Lux have combined for 80 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and 11 pass deflections.
Over their last five games, Fresno State has averaged 41.3 points per game — against New Mexico, San Diego State, Hawai’i and UNLV. The Wolf Pack defense have worse scoring defenses than all of those aforementioned teams, Hawai’i aside. Though Nevada’s surrendered 32.5 points in Mountain West play, and that’s including the 17-point game from a dismal Colorado State offense. Nevada’s offense has only scored 20 points just twice since Sept. 10, and they’re going to need to again versus the red-hot Bulldog offense. It’s another bad matchup for the Wolf Pack. Fresno State 45, Nevada 13 (Record: 7-3, ATS: 4-6)