GAME NOTES: Off to their best start since 1991, the 16th-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs set their sights on maintaining their unblemished record as they host the Nevada Wolf Pack in Mountain West Conference action on Saturday night.
One of eight programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision that has yet to suffer defeat, the Bulldogs join Northern Illinois as the only squads that do not hail from one of the power conferences which means they have a rough road ahead of them if they hope to burst the BCS bubble of one of the entitled squads.
For the second time this season Fresno State found itself in overtime last weekend and really the team shouldn't have been so fortunate, but a blocked San Diego State field goal at the end of regulation earned FSU another shot and an eventual 35-28 victory on the road. The scoring output for Fresno State was the team's lowest of the season, yet it is still ranks seventh in the country with an average of 44.3 ppg.
"This is a resilient group," FSU head coach Tim DeRuyter said following the win. "We got guys that are going to find a way and it's fun coaching them. I love them."
As for the Wolf Pack, who are directed by a new fiery head coach in Brian Polian, they've gone from being 3-2 to two games under .500 thanks to a three- game slide that included a 27-22 loss to UNLV at home over the weekend. Nevada, which came over to the MWC from the Western Athletic Conference just like Fresno State, had won eight straight meetings against UNLV in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon, so the defeat at home was difficult to swallow.
While Fresno State is the only team that is undefeated in MWC play (4-0) and sits atop the West Division standings, the Pack finds itself at 2-3 in league action and is fifth in the division, ahead of only Hawaii which has come up empty in five MWC outings.
Last season Nevada was crushed by the Bulldogs, 52-36, pushing the lead in the all-time series to 25-18-1 for FSU. The victory for the Bulldogs snapped what had been a four-game win streak in the series for the Pack.
Cody Fajardo went into the matchup against UNLV with a streak of 187 straight pass attempts without an interception, a Mountain West Conference record and the second-longest active streak in the country, but he ended up tossing one pick as Nevada bowed to the visiting Rebels. Fajardo connected on 24-of-40 passes for 357 yards and two scores, one each to Richy Turner and Aaron Bradley, the former posting eight receptions for a game-high 149 yards.
The Pack managed to produce a solid 487 yards of total offense on the evening, but at the same time the team was flagged for 13 penalties, amounting to 105 yards, compared to the Rebels who were charged with three infractions for just 35 yards. Through eight games, Nevada ranks 73rd in the country with just over six penalties per game.
While the run defense was quite solid for the Pack against UNLV, allowing just 149 net yards, the overall trend for Nevada in that department isn't nearly as encouraging as the team gives up a staggering 269.9 ypg on the ground which is 122nd in the country. Because of that lackluster effort, Nevada's overall defense is permitting 496.4 ypg which is 117th in the nation.
Trying to balance the scales is Fajardo who is completing 67.8 percent of his passes for 291.7 ypg, and has tossed nine touchdowns against just a single interception. In addition, the signal caller is second on the unit in rushing with 313 yards and five TDs, but that also means he is taking all of those additional hits down the field.
It wasn't pretty by any means, but when the final gun went off the Bulldogs found themselves with the win in overtime at Qualcomm Stadium. For a team that is used to posting big points, the Bulldogs had only one touchdown in the first half and needed a minor miracle at the end of regulation when SDSU failed on what would have been a game-winning field goal.
Derek Carr may have come up with 298 yards and two touchdowns on 35-of-57 passing, but for the first 30 minutes of action he was pretty much held in check by the Aztecs. Nevertheless, Carr has now thrown at least one TD pass in 27 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. Davante Adams reeled in a game-high 12 passes for 87 yards and those two scores from Carr in the triumph.
"This team is resilient, this team has a faith that transcends all understanding," Carr said after the close call. "We're a very faithful bunch, we believe in each other and we believe in our God. We know if we love each other and play for each other, it doesn't matter what the clock says, where they are at, chip-shot field goals, we always think we can win."
The catalyst for all of the good fortunes for the Bulldogs this season, Carr has the passing offense ranked seventh in the nation with 371.9 ypg and seventh in total offense with 524.6 ypg as well. The younger brother of former FSU quarterback and top NFL draft pick David Carr, Derek is third in the country with 367.7 ypg through the air, completing 69.0 percent of his attempts for 25 TDs and a mere four interceptions on 364 passes.
The Bulldogs may not have a dominant rusher like in years past, although Marteze Waller is still a solid contributor with 430 yards and five TDs, but what the team does have is Adams on the outside with his 72 catches for 804 yards and 13 TDs.
With Carr on their side, the Bulldogs have to be considered a favorite in every other game on the regular-season schedule, and this weekend is no different. However, don't underestimate the potential of Fajardo and the Nevada offense to give the FSU defense some issues.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fresno State 45, Nevada 24