Utah State at Fresno State
When and Where: Saturday, Nov. 9, Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, Calif., 7:05 p.m. EST.
Both Utah State and Fresno State look to take a big step closer to becoming bowl eligible Saturday night when the Mountain West Conference rivals face off in a cross-division showdown.
Aggies trying to bounce back after back-to-back blowout lossesUtah State (4-4, 3-1 MWC Mountain) is seeking its sixth bowl appearance in seven seasons since joining the Mountain West in 2013. While the Aggies will not match last season's 11-win total, they face a crossroads of sorts in this contest after losing 42-14 at home to BYU last Saturday.
The season has gone sideways for Gary Andersen's team since getting blasted 42-6 at current No. 1 LSU on Oct. 6. Utah State has lost three of its last four following a 3-1 start, scoring just 63 points in the last four games after totaling 154 in the first four.
"We're in very similar spots. They are last year's Mountain West champions. They have a good football team, and they understand how they're going to be able to win football game," Andersen said about Fresno State during his weekly media availability. "We've got to get on an airplane, fly down there, play them in Fresno on their home field. It's a great opportunity, and we look forward to getting back to work.
"We have four games left that are all guaranteed, and we'll see what we get done to move onto another one as we go through time. We're in the fight, and we're in the race. Our guys will be excited to come back and battle, which they will."
Andersen, though, must make do without a key cog in his defense as leading tackler and linebacker David Woodward is out for the rest of the season with an undisclosed injury. Woodward had 93 tackles, including five for loss, and had a team-high four forced fumbles.
"Not having David is a huge blow for every Aggie, at every level. It's the hardest for him, trust me, it's the hardest for the kid," Andersen said. "He'll go through it, but it's a devastating blow for a young man to be in that spot. As a player, I had two half-seasons taken away from me, and it's tough. The key is to help him, and then to help the young guys that are playing."
Jordan Love threw for 394 yards in the loss to the Cougars but also was intercepted three times as Utah State committed a season-high five turnovers. Utah State has recorded nine takeaways in the last four games but also has committed 10 turnovers in that span.
Love has 12 INTs on the season, with the total tied for eighth-worst among FBS teams.
Bulldogs try to get back over .500Fresno State (4-4, 2-2 West) is looking to maintain at least a share of second place in the West Division and get back over the .500 mark as it tries to become bowl eligible for the third straight season.
The Bulldogs are also trying to win back-to-back games for just the second time this season after edging Hawaii 41-38 last Saturday. Cesar Silva kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired as Fresno State recovered from blowing a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead after rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit.
Ronnie Rivers had 103 yards for his second straight 100-yard game, leading a Fresno State ground assault that churned out a season-best 290. The Bulldogs are averaging 180.5 yards rushing, but could face a challenge against an Aggies run defense which has deceiving stats to a degree.
Utah State is yielding 185.8 rushing yards per contest, but 448 of them came against Air Force, which runs the triple option, and LSU's high-powered offense rolled up 248 yards. Fresno State's task will be tougher after losing center Matt Smith for the season with a broken leg.
"He's not only been a good player for us but he's been a real team leader for us," coach Jeff Tedford told 247Sports on Monday regarding Smith, one of the team's captains and a former walk-on. "He's an emotional leader for our team. He's one of the guys who is probably one of the most respected guys on our football team. He'll be missed not just as a player but as a person. I'm sure he'll be around and continue to provide emotional support for the team, but he's a great young man. It's always hard to see anyone go down like that."
Rivers leads the team with 553 rushing yards and shares the team lead with Josh Hokit with eight touchdowns. Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna, who threw for 188 yards and a touchdown in the win over Hawaii, has thrown for 1,843 yards and 11 TDs overall.
Utah State is:
- 4-13 ATS in its last 17 November games.
- 1-4 ATS in its last five games.
- 1-4 ATS in its last five games vs. Fresno State.
Fresno State is:
- 16-6-1 ATS in its last 23 home games.
- 19-5-2 ATS in its last 26 games following an ATS win.
- 21-7-1 ATS in its last 29 games vs. Mountain West teams.