Opponent spotlight: Fresno State

Eric Wolf

Fresno State Bulldogs: 1-8 (0-5 MW)

The Colorado State Rams come off of their bye week against a Fresno State team in the midst of a seven game losing streak that’s pitted them last in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs are also just a little under two weeks removed from the firing of head coach Tim DeRuyter. Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau took over as the interim head coach after DeRuyter’s removal.

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Offense:

In a conference based on running the football, the Bulldogs buck the trend. The offense in Fresno runs through redshirt freshman quarterback Chason Virgil and his trio of talented wide receivers in sophomores Jamire Jordan and KeeSean Johnson, and senior Aaron Peck.

The Bulldogs rank second in the conference in passing with 238.3 yards per game, but sit dead last in the conference in total offense and scoring offense.

But the passing attack still poses a legitimate threat to a CSU defense ranked eighth in the conference against the pass.

“The ability to push the ball down the field,” Bobo said about what aspect of the Fresno offense scares him the most. “Number seven (Peck) and then number three (Johnson) has come alive. They have a lot of those single-digit receivers out there that can make plays. It’s scary every time they drop back to pass.”

Peck, Jordan and Johnson all rank in the top-10 in the conference in receiving yards and receptions per game. Johnson has become the main target in the group, with 60 catches for 659-yards and six touchdowns.

Peck has missed the last two games because of injury, but he should be ready to go on Saturday.

Not surprisingly, Virgil sits second in the conference to Boise State’s Brett Rypien in passing yards with 2,013. For the year, Virgil’s completed 165 of 321 passes to go with 13 touchdowns and ten interceptions.

“The quarterback has been streaky at times but when he has been on they have been able to move the ball against everybody,” Bobo said of Virgil.

Defense:

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The CSU coaching staff has a a lot of familiarity with Fresno State defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, as Ward led the defense at South Carolina from 2012-2016 while Bobo and offensive coordinator Will Friend were at Georgia.

“(I have known) Ward, the defensive coordinator, for a long time,” Friend said. “I know what he’s about. We went against him for all those years when he was at South Carolina. He is going to have those guys ready to play.”

Bobo said that while the coaching staff will look back on what Ward’s defenses have done in the past, the study will be focused on this season, and it’s a season in which Fresno has struggled mightily on defense.

It’s been a long year for Ward and his Bulldog defense which ranks 126th out 128 teams in the FBS in rushing defense and 89th in the country in total defense.

The Bulldogs are giving up an abysmal 272.8 yards per game on the ground, but rank fourth in the nation in passing defense, giving up just 159.3 yards per game.

That number is surely affected by opposing teams’ ability to run the ball on Fresno State. When team’s do throw against the Bulldogs, Fresno ranks dead last in the conference in passing efficiency, as opponents complete just over 56% of their passes against the secondary, while the Bulldogs have also given up a conference worst 18 touchdowns through the air.

The secondary is an experienced group with three senior starters including Safety Stratton Brown who sits second on the team in total tackles with 81, while cornerback TyQuwan Glass ranks near the top of the conference in pass break-ups with seven.

The other bright spot on the defense comes with senior linebacker Jeff Camili who has moved into second in the Mountain West in tackles per game with 10.1.

But for the most part, it’s a defense in which opposing offense’s have had little trouble putting up points and yards.

Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5