In week 3 the Sioux head out to Fresno, CA to take on a talented Fresno State Bulldog team of the WAC conference. This is the 2nd FBS opponent of the season for the Sioux as they played the Idaho Vandals last week, who are also in the WAC.
The Bulldogs are 0-2 on the season but don’t let the record fool you. They are a very good team who was picked to finish 2nd in the WAC preseason poll. They lost in week 1 to California (36-21) and in week 2 to Nebraska (42-29). They were leading at the half vs. Nebraska but couldn’t hold as Nebraska flexed its muscles at home in the 2nd half. Pat Hill has the “anyone, anywhere, anytime” mentality and that shows in their scheduling as they also have Ole Miss, Boise State and San Diego State coming up for non-conference games.
Fresno State is 8-0 all time vs. FCS teams with an average margin of victory of 28 points.
UND Defense vs. Fresno St. Offense
Last week Fresno State went into Lincoln and put up 444 yards of offense, with 190 of it being on the ground. The most amazing stat was the time of possession, which was 37-23 in favor of Fresno. First downs were 24-16 in favor of Fresno. They dominated most of that game but let it slip away late.
The Fresno State offense begins and ends with their tailback, #8 Robbie Rouse. The junior TB had 169 yards on 36 carries last week vs. Nebraska. He has 255 yards through 2 games and is the workhorse of the offense. The Sioux must find a way to slow him down as the Dogs like to run two back, 1 TE sets to have maximum up-front blocking to get him the ball. He is not a big guy (5-7, 185) but he is stocky and explosive. The Sioux game plan has to be built around stopping #8.
Sophomore QB #4 Derek Carr, brother of former Dog and #1 pick David Carr, is the starting QB for Fresno. He has thrown for 404 yards and 2 TD’s on the year in this ball control offense. He is a first year starter but appears to be pretty poised and leads the offense very effectively. #9 Devon Wiley is Carr’s main target in the passing game, leading the team with 9 catches for 125 yards. #11 Rashad Evans is second on the team in yardage with 78 on 11 receptions. They both are smaller receivers at 5′-9″.
The Bulldogs offensive line is led by senior All-Wac selection Bryce Harris. They are a big line average 300 pounds and try to wear you down throughout the game with a constant power rushing game. The Sioux D-line will have their hands full in this one as they have alot of inexperience players after the initial starters. They will be the key to game for the Sioux defense. We do not see the Bulldogs being too cute in this one. They are going to go right at the Sioux from the start. Look for a lot of the power running game with Fresno pulling their guards early and for the Fresno TE’s to continue to do a lot of “flipping” and “trading” prior to the snap to see if UND line up correctly and make the pre-snap adjustments accordingly. Luckily, the UND defense should be prepared and well-versed with this since that has always been a staple of Chris Mussman offenses.
UND Offense vs. Fresno St. Defense
The UND offense will see another 4 man front with the Bulldogs this week. This looks to be a more physical group than what Idaho showed last week and will be a big challenge for the UND O-line. Fresno likes to mix in multiple looks and coverages and will walk down an OLB to the line of scrimmage when necessary. Coverages will vary from basic cover 2, cover 4, and they seem to like to blitz a lot with cover 1 looks. Another wrinkle the front 7 will show is the “amoeba” look where a bunch of guys are running around before the snap with no guy having a hand on the ground.
Physically and athletically, this may be the best defense personnel-wise that UND has probably ever seen on the field. Fresno will present some real challenges all over the field for the offense with their speed and size. To be frank, we are more worried about what UND can show in this game than what Fresno is going to do. We will be interested to see how UND starts to try attack this defense. The offense will probably have to be a little more imaginative this week to try move the ball. We are just looking to see improvements by Bradley and the offensive line as well as the elimination of mistakes and penalties, and turnovers. The UND defense cannot be on the field all day against the Fresno offense, so they need to be able to move the sticks a couple times each possession to give the defense a breather. The OL played much better against Idaho as far as pass protection goes but the running game was non-existent. Got to have continued improvement.
One area that UND has enjoyed an advantage the past few years is special teams. Well, they meet their match this week. Fresno State is the undisputed king when it comes to blocking kicks/punts. Since 2002, they have blocked 59 kicks, 7 more than second place Texas. Virginia Tech always get a lot of publicity for how their special teams make big plays but they only have 37 in that same time frame. The Sioux are undoubtedly going to have to change up their spread punting scheme to try and slow down Fresno because they will have something for the Sioux after seeing it on tape.
It is so hard to make predictions in these type of game where it’s FBS vs. FCS. Fresno is a solid Top 50 program in FBS football and the Sioux are going to have their hands full. With that being said, they are a ball control type of team and that will help UND as they match up better in this situations, much like Northern Illinois last season. However, they are impressive when watching film and have some great athletes that will present problems for the Sioux. As we saw last week when the Sioux were up at the half, they can compete but need to figure out how to for 4 quarters. Hopefully, they take that next step this week.
Fresno State 38
North Dakota 13