With four games to play, Nevada sits at a mediocre 4-4, 2-2 in Mountain West play. But it’s still technically alive.
The Wolf Pack trails San Diego State by 2.5 games for first place in the Mountain West—West Division and starts the home stretch of the season on Thursday night at Fresno State—which is down significantly from the 2012 and 2013 teams that went a combined 20-6.
Both teams are coming in off a bye. Fresno State fell on the road at Air Force its last time out while Nevada came back from a 17-0 hole at home to Hawaii to win 30-20.
Kickoff on Thursday night is at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.
About the Bulldogs
Coach: Tim DeRuyter (fourth season, 28-20)
2014 Finish: 6-8, 5-3 (first in Mountain West—West)
2015 Record: 2-6, 1-4 MWC
Quarterback: The Bulldogs have been by committee this season. Four different signal callers have seen significant time this year and together they have pieced together the No. 11 pass efficiency offense in the Mountain West. Redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson appears to be the man though. He’s started Fresno’s last three games. In the Bulldogs’ last game, a 26-12 loss at Air Force on Oct. 24, he was 14-of-39 for 177 yards and an interception.
Dangerous Weapons: Offensively, Fresno is limited. The Bulldogs have the conference’s second-worst total offense and have scored just 21 touchdowns this season. Only Hawaii (15) has fewer in the conference. Running back Marteze Waller is the team’s biggest, and pretty much lone, threat on the ground. His 660 rushing yards are 515 more than the team’s No. 2 back. He’s averaging 82.5 yards a game and has four touchdowns. Jamire Jordan is the team’s leading receiver. He’s caught 27 passes for a team-high 305 yards and four touchdowns.
What to look for
-Nevada’s secondary picked off Hawaii quarterback Max Wittek three times in the Pack’s last time out. On Thursday, it should again have a chance to make a couple big plays against a redshirt freshman quarterback playing in front of a national television audience. Anderson has thrown four picks this year in three starts while seeing time in a fourth contest.
-The Wolf Pack’s offense has taken its share of shots this year but it’s hard to knock its red zone efficiency. Nevada leads the Mountain West in the conference, scoring on 27-29 chances—a 93.1 percent clip. San Diego State (91.7 percent) is second. And actually, Nevada’s 29 red zone opportunities is bested only by Boise State (40). The Bulldogs own the conference’s second-worst red zone defense.
-Fresno State is tied with New Mexico for the conference lead in sacks (23). Because Nevada’s offense lacks explosiveness, it goes without saying that protecting junior quarterback Tyler Stewart will be imperative.
-Interest in the 2015 Nevada football team may be waning but that shouldn’t necessarily be the case. The Wolf Pack is still alive in Mountain West title chase with four games to play. Nevada laid an egg at home against Fresno in a game with similar implications last year and Polian is yet to beat the Bulldogs. He’ll have to change that on Thursday or the team will have to start building for 2016.
When asked to name the biggest wins in the Polian era, what can you come up with? The two that stick out are last year’s wins over Washington State (at home) and BYU (on the road). What do they both have in common? They’re non-conference games. Nevada has struggled to win pivotal conference games late in the season—last year’s home win over San Diego State on Nov. 1 being the exception. The Pack is 5-11 on the road under Polian. Add it all together and it’s hard to pick Nevada despite Fresno’s struggles this year.
Fresno State 24, Nevada 17