Fresno remembers last year’s drubbing by Pack
For the Nevada Appeal
Pat Hill still remembers the beating his Fresno State Bulldogs were handed last year by the Nevada Wolf Pack.
“We got pounded,” the Bulldogs head coach said this week, recalling the 52-14 drubbing at Mackay Stadium. “Last year was really a big eye-opener for us in Nevada. That game really caused us to take a look at things.”
The Wolf Pack, which plays at Fresno State tonight (7:30 p.m., ESPN), rushed for 461 yards and seven touchdowns and forced five turnovers a year ago against the Bulldogs.
“We got beat in all phases of the game,” said Hill, whose Bulldogs are 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Western Athletic Conference. “And two years ago we had a real tough time against them, too.”
The Pack, which beat Fresno 41-28 in Fresno in 2008, has piled up 1,106 total yards (933 on the ground) over its last two games against the Bulldogs.
“We know we have a lot of challenges this week,” Hill said.
The Wolf Pack, 8-1 overall and 3-1 in the WAC, is coming off its best offensive game of the year, producing a school-record 844 yards of offense in destroying Idaho 63-17 on the road.
“That sounds like a video game number to me, to tell you the truth,” smiled Wolf Pack running back Lampford Mark of the 844 total yards.
“That’s unbelievable, really,” Pack coach Chris Ault said.
The Pack’s Pistol offense is piling up amazing numbers once again this year. The Pack is second in the nation in rushing at 318 yards a game, second in total offense at 556 yards a game and fourth in scoring at 44 points a game.
“They have developed an offense that is really something to watch,” Hill said. “They do a great job of recruiting personnel to fit what they do. That quarterback (Colin Kaepernick) is a special player, as good as anybody has in the country.”
The emergence of Kaepernick, who graduated high school just up the road from Fresno at Turlock’s Pitman High, forced Hill to make changes in the Bulldogs’ practice routine.
“We haven’t matched up well with them the last two years,” Hill said. “So this spring we worked on defending the option. We spend 10 minutes working against the spread every day, our ones (starters on offense) against our ones (starters on defense).”
The Wolf Pack, though, Hill admitted, is not your average everyday spread offense team.
“A lot of teams say they run the Pistol but there’s only one team in the country that really runs that offense and that’s Nevada,” Hill said. “We haven’t played against anything like what Nevada runs all year. A lot of teams will line up in a Pistol formation but nobody runs it like Nevada.”
The Pack added yet another dimension to its Pistol last week at Idaho, throwing the ball 34 times for 391 yards and six touchdowns.
“We learned a few things about ourselves,” Ault said. “Our offense is turning a little bit, as far as our passing game is concerned.”
Fresno’s offense also might have turned a little bit last week in its 40-34 victory at Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs’ Robbie Rouse ran the ball a school-record 43 times for 286 yards. The 5-foot-7 sophomore has rushed for 727 yards this year, second in the WAC behind the Wolf Pack’s Vai Taua (1,041 yards). Rouse, who had 19 yards on five carries last season in Reno, has come on strong lately, running for 552 yards over his last three games.
“That was a terrific win they had at Louisiana Tech,” Ault said. “You can just see their offense getting better and better every week.”
Fresno, which averages 35 points a game, also hasn’t had many problems moving the ball against Nevada the last few years. Their problem has been holding onto the ball, with nine turnovers in the last two meetings with the Pack combined. The Bulldogs are also minus-four in takeaways this year (the Pack is plus-four).
“We’re a young team,” Hill said. “We’re still a work in progress. But we’re coming along just about right. But we have to correct our turnover problem. If we do that we’ll be all right.”
Fresno quarterback Ryan Colburn has passed for 1,736 yards and 16 touchdowns this year. Last year at Mackay Stadium he passed for a career-high 24 completions and 362 yards. Colburn threw for 229 yards and three scores (all the touchdowns were to wide receiver Jamel Hamler) last week at Louisiana Tech.
“They are a very dangerous offense,” Ault said.
The Bulldogs and Wolf Pack are very similar.
The Wolf Pack controlled the ball for 38:42 against Idaho last week and Fresno State held it for 41:02 at Louisiana Tech. Fresno State is 3-1 at home this year while the Wolf Pack is 3-1 on the road. Both teams suffered their lone WAC loss to Hawaii. And both teams have yet to play Boise State and need a victory Saturday night to keep their realistic chances of a WAC title alive.
“We know we’re in for a four-quarter game,” Ault said.
The Bulldogs also know what they are in for.
“We still have a lot of players who played in Reno last year,” Hill said. “They remember what Nevada did to us. This game definitely has their attention.”