Bulldogs prepare for a very physical Rutgers team
FRESNO, Calif. – The Fresno State football team is now five days away from its season opener on Aug. 29 at home against Rutgers. The Bulldogs went through practice No. 24 on Saturday afternoon and are honing in on their game plan for the Scarlet Knights.
The two teams are very similar looking at them on paper. Rutgers went 9-4 last year like the Bulldogs and captured a share of their conference championship. The Scarlet Knights also have a second year coach with Kyle Flood at the helm.
One thing that differs with Rutgers this year is it had 13 players from its 2012 roster that were either drafted or are in camp with an NFL Team. They obviously got a lot of talent. This year, they also have a new offensive coordinator in Ron Prince, who was the head coach at Kansas State from 2006-08.
“You don’t have a great beat on what they are going to do,” head coach Tim DeRuyter said about going up against Prince’s offense. “We think we know. We know coach Prince’s style from other places he’s been, but we don’t have tape to show them from what he did last year. We’re going on a guess a little bit, but our guys will be able to adjust.”
The Scarlet Knights will be rolling out a pro-style offense that last season ranked eighth nationally by only allowing 11 sacks. Rutgers returns seven starters on offense and four offensive linemen that had started games for them last year.
“Offensively, the thing that stands out is they are a very physical running attack team, pro-style offense,” DeRuyter said. “They got a quarterback that has a big time cannon and he’s got some weapons. They got a 6-6 receiver named [Brandon] Coleman that can fly and we’re very concerned about.”
Returning to run the offense is junior quarterback Gary Nova. Last year he threw for 2,695 yards with 22 touchdowns against 16 interceptions and completed 57 percent of his passes. He has one of the nation’s top wide receivers in the 6-6 Coleman, who had 10 TDs a year ago as a sophomore.
One key for the Bulldogs on defense is being more physical than the Scarlet Knights. Up front on the defensive line, that might be where the ‘Dogs are at their best on either side of the ball. Defensive ends Andy Jennings and Nikko Motta along with nose guard Tyeler Davison combined for 24 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks. It is also their job to eat up blocks to allow the Bulldog linebackers to get into the backfield.
Last season, Fresno State as a team ranked ninth nationally in sacks and tied for 17th in tackles for a loss, so there is going to be a good battle there in the trenches.
Then offensively, the Bulldogs will be going up against Rutgers’ 4-3 defense.
“I first looked at their defense and they’re really fast, a really physical team,” DeRuyter said. “They played a lot of man coverage and had some guys that can run now. Fortunately for us they got three of those guys that went on and got drafted into the National Football League, but I know how they’ve recruited so we’re anticipating having guys behind them that are just as solid.”
The Scarlet Knights return five starters from its 2012 defense that was very good. Rutgers ranked fourth among bowl subdivision teams in 2012 by allowing just 14.2 points per game. Fresno State’s offense ranked 17th nationally in scoring last year, averaging shade under 38 points per game.
This opening game is going to be a big test for both teams on both side of the ball.
“Our guys are focused,” DeRuyter said. “Rutgers is our opponent, so we better be.”
Fresno State and Rutgers are set to kick off Thursday from Bulldog Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
-By Jason Clay