Laramie, WY (SportsNetwork.com) - One of only seven undefeated programs remaining in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the 17th-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs go on the attack in Laramie on Saturday night as they challenge the Wyoming Cowboys in Mountain West Conference action.
The Bulldogs improved to 8-0 for just the fifth time in school history, the first time since 1989, as they held on to defeat visiting Nevada, 41-23, last Saturday night. Despite the victory, Fresno State actually dropped in the AP poll one spot, yet remained at No. 16 in the BCS rankings, which means they are the top contender outside of the power conferences right now.
As for the Cowboys, they've had plenty of time to prepare for this clash thanks to a bye on the schedule. However, the team is still trying to figure out how to get back into the win column for the first time in nearly a month after losing two straight and three of the last four.
On Oct. 26, Wyoming got caught up in a wild offensive affair with San Jose State on the road and ended up suffering a 51-44 setback. It was the second straight game in which the Cowboys had surrendered at least 50 points.
Fresno State captured a 42-14 win in the meeting with Wyoming last year, and tied the all-time series at four games apiece in the process.
Quarterback Derek Carr continued to show why he has to be considered for some major postseason honors as he converted 39-of-55 passes for 487 yards and three touchdowns in last week's win. His favorite target by far was Josh Harper, who posted a school-record 17 catches for 253 yards and two TDs, while Davante Adams caught eight balls for 84 yards and a score.
For the first time in a long time, FSU also had a significant presence on the ground as Josh Quezada ran for a game-high 115 yards on 17 carries.
"We started off pretty well on offense," FSU head coach Tim DeRuyter noted. "We gave up a quick score on defense, but then really did a good job of slowing down an explosive offense from Nevada. We didn't start out good the second half and we have to get that fixed and we will, but we finished strong and is something we always want to do."
The touchdown that DeRuyter alluded to came on the first drive of the game and on a 43-yard run that exposed the secondary, but after that the Bulldogs settled down and limited Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo to just 14 completed passes, although those connections did lead to 206 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
No matter what happens on defense, the attention still comes back to Carr who was named a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award it was announced on Monday. The signal caller is passing for a staggering 382.6 ypg and has delivered 28 touchdowns against only four interceptions. He currently has a streak of 183 straight pass attempts without a pick, and earlier this season he had a run of 180 consecutive throws without an INT as well.
Carr, who is completing better than 69 percent of his passes, has been made to look good thanks to the efforts of Adams and Harper, the former posting 80 receptions for 888 yards and 14 TDs, the latter turning his 59 grabs into 664 yards and nine scores. Because of the trio, the Bulldogs currently rank eighth in the nation in scoring at 43.9 ppg.
While the Cowboys have had plenty of time to scheme for Fresno State, the fact remains that the last two games have been a real challenge for the Pokes on the defensive side of the ball. Colorado State and San Jose State combined for eight passing touchdowns and six more on the ground, which means Wyoming was exploited from all sides.
The team is currently 115th in the country in stopping the run with 236.0 ypg, but that shouldn't be much of an issue against a Fresno State group that operates almost exclusively through the air. Then again, Wyoming's pass efficiency defense has a rating of 151.39 (105th nationally), and that can only play into the hands of Carr and his dynamic receivers.
On the offensive side, quarterback Brett Smith is capable of carving up secondaries with his 63.6 percent accuracy, leading to almost 300 ypg. Smith has 19 TDs against seven INTs at the moment, with Dominic Rufran being his biggest supporter with 51 catches for 609 yards and seven scores.
Shaun Wick provides some relief for Smith coming out of the backfield, with the running back producing 776 yards and nine TDs, but if the Cowboys fall behind in the scoring column, Wick could be taken out of the picture while the hosts play catch-up.
Going from sunny California to Laramie probably isn't the best move for the Bulldogs as they try to keep their unblemished record intact, but coach DeRuyter is still trying to put a positive spin on the trip.