The BYU Cougars and the Fresno State Bulldogs will meet for the 10th time this Saturday and the Cougars will look to even up the series. The first four games took place from 1956-59 when Fresno State had yet to make the jump into the Division 1A level. Since then the Cougars have played them five times while in the WAC from 1992-95, 1998. In those game the Cougars are 3-2 with the last three games taking place in Fresno. The game on Saturday will mark the first time since 1993 that the Bulldogs have played in Provo, the last being a 48-45 loss. The last time the teams met it ended badly for the Cougars as the visiting Cougars were beat by a score of 31-21.
The Cougars laid another egg as they left Kansas City with a loss. Nobody expected the Cougars to light up the scoreboard but a win and a decent showing should have been on the menu. At this point the Cougars will need to win the last two game and the bowl game if they want to reach the double digit win mark, and that isn't a given after seeing the team play the last two weeks.
The Cougars were in the game and even had a lead at one point and so we can be thankful that they didn't pull a Michigan repeat on us. At times the Cougars moved the ball and the defense made stops. Bronson Kaufusi was a monster on the field and the Tigers had trouble running to his side all night. The defense may have had their problems on Saturday but Kaufusi wasn't one of them.
The most glaring negatives of the game were the 3rd down conversions and the penalties. Missouri was close to last in the country in third down conversions yet they converted 13 times against the Cougars. There were quite a few of plays where the Cougars had made the stop but a penalty gave the Tigers the first down. Another penalty wiped out a key interception that would have stopped another scoring drive. The Cougars will need to clean up both of these areas if they are going to have success in the last three games of the season.
Once again the key match-up will be the Cougars offensive line against the Bulldogs defensive line as BYU tries to create holes for their running backs. This has been a struggle for the Cougars for most of the year and it really just came to a head the last two weeks. Against a very week rush defense in San Jose State, the Cougars failed to create needed openings and ended up with a very poor rushing performance. This week the Cougars will face off against a Bulldogs team that is ranked 118th in the country in rush defense as they allow almost 240 yards a game on the ground. If the Cougars can't take advantage of this type of defense, they might as well just shut the running game down for good.
The Keys to Watch
When the Bulldogs have the ball:
Watch for sophomore QB Zack Greenlee to build off his performance last week against Hawaii. With six touchdowns, no interceptions, and 285 yards passing he had his best performance of the year on the islands. The Bulldogs hope to make it two career weeks in a row as they try to up his completion percentage which is sitting just over 52% for the year. Greenlee has plenty of options in the passing game as Jamire Jordan leads all receivers with 34 catches and 434 yards. Add in his five touchdowns and he should warrant some attention. When not passing the ball the Bulldogs will make sure their senior running back Martez Waller has his touches. He has 761 yards on the year and four touchdowns, including a 64 yarder.
Watch for the Cougars to shut down Waller after a subpar performance against the Tigers. The defense is wounded a bit and wants to show that they are better than they showed in Kansas City. Watch for them to throw out blitzes as they rattle Greenlee into bad passes and long third downs. Once again watch for Kaufusi to have a monster game as even a double team will not be enough to shut him down.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to get back to establishing the run. The Cougars know that in order to keep Tanner Mangum healthy and effective, the Cougars will need to have some sort of run game. Watch for the offensive line to impose their will against the Bulldogs as they are coming out wounded after being shut down by a good Missouri defense. Watch for the Cougars to continue using quick and short passes but throwing in the long ball a bit more as the defense is weaker on paper.
Watch for the Bulldogs to do everything they can in order to get in the backfield and drop the runners for loses. Seeing the Cougars struggle with the run should be a boost to the Bulldogs confidence and so watch for them to act like they can stop the run. Watch for the Bulldogs secondary to play physical with the Cougars receivers as they have seen how effective it can be in knocking the Cougars offense off the established timing. If they can disrupt the receivers just a little, the offense will struggle to get in sync.
If you have seen the Bulldogs play in recent years you undoubtedly have seen the large green "V" on the back of the helmets. If you are at like me you have wondered what it was for, yet forgot to look it up. Don't worry, the explanation is simple. As noted on the Fresno State Athletics site the "V" is featured on all Bulldogs uniforms. It can also be found on the dog collar of the Bulldogs logo. The "V" symbolizes the pride that the school has in representing the San Joaquin Valley and how important the agriculture industry is to the school and the region.
The Cougars and Bulldogs are scheduled to meet next on November 4th, 2017 in Fresno.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 1:00 pm MST
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium-Provo, Utah
Watch Online: BYUtv.org & ESPN3
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
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