Nevada football seeks payback at Fresno State on Thursday night
The Nevada Wolf Pack will be looking for some payback Thursday, Nov. 5, against the Fresno State Bulldogs at Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
“Last year if we beat them, we probably would have been playing for the Mountain West championship,” Wolf Pack coach Brian Polian said. “And they beat us thoroughly. I haven’t forgotten that. That game still bothers me a lot.”
Fresno State came to Mackay Stadium last Nov. 22 and beat the Wolf Pack 40-20. The Pack turned the ball over four times as Fresno State scored the last 19 points of the game.
“All our games are important,” Pack defensive tackle Rykeem Yates said. “But there is something special about this one. Last year if we would have beaten those guys we would have gone to the championship game and we didn’t get it done.”
A West Division title will not be on the line Thursday night. Fresno State is just 2-6 overall and 1-4 in conference play while the Pack is 4-4, 2-2 and needs a lot of help to catch first-place San Diego State (6-3, 5-0). The lack of a division title as the prize, though, doesn’t diminish the importance of beating Fresno State for the Wolf Pack.
“I don’t like those guys at all,” said Yates, who graduated from Fresno’s Edison High. “I never did.”
The Wolf Pack has lost three consecutive games to the Bulldogs, turning the ball over nine times in the three losses combined. The Pack’s last win over the Bulldogs was 45-38 in 2011 in Reno in quarterback Cody Fajardo’s freshman year.
“We have a great rivalry,” said Fresno head coach Tim DeRuyter, who was the Wolf Pack’s defensive coordinator in 2005 and 2006. “Our guys look at Nevada as one of those red letter dates on the schedule.”
DeRuyter, who is 3-0 against the Wolf Pack, has lost 16 of his last 25 games to fall to 28-20 as the Bulldogs head coach since taking over the program in 2012. The Bulldogs have had 29 players play in their first college game this year and their 19 first-time starters are the fourth most in Division I this season.
A big reason for the Bulldogs’ problems this year has been injuries, especially at quarterback. Freshman Kilton Anderson, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound freshman, has started the last three games and will start against the Pack.
The lack of stability at quarterback is a big reason why the Fresno State offense centers around 5-11, 215-pound senior running back Marteze Waller. The Pack has two runners with more yards than Waller this year. James Butler has 756 yards while Don Jackson has 674.
Both the Pack and Bulldogs are coming off a bye week. The Pack, which needs two more victories to become bowl eligible, beat Hawaii 30-20 and will be looking for its first two-game winning streak since it won three in a row last year.
“If you want to be a real good team you have to play at a high level on a consistent basis and we haven’t done that,” Polian said.