FACTS & STATS: Site: Bulldog Stadium (41,031) -- Fresno, California.
Television: NBCSN. Home Record: Air Force 5-1, FSU 5-0. Away Record: Air Force
1-4, FSU 3-3. Neutral Record: Air Force 0-0, FSU 0-0. Conference Record: Air
Force 5-2, FSU 6-1. Series Record: Air Force leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: Building a masterful turn-around from last season, first-year head
coach Tim DeRuyter has his Fresno State Bulldogs tied with both San Diego
State and Boise State atop the Mountain West Conference standings as the team
proceeds to close out the 2012 regular season with a meeting against Air Force
at home on Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs, who finished just 4-9 overall and 3-4 in Western Athletic
Conference play in their final season under Pat Hill in 2011, have a 6-1 mark
in league play this time around and with a win over Air Force would own their
first conference title since 1999. The good news for Fresno State is that the
team is undefeated at home through five games this season, and the hometown
crowd will be ready to carry the squad to at least one more win this season.
Enjoying a bye on the schedule last week, the Bulldogs last took the field on
Nov. 10 against Nevada on the road and crushed the Wolf Pack in Reno by a
final of 52-36. The win was the fourth straight and the sixth in the last
seven outings for the program.
Meanwhile, the Falcons could have caused a major log-jam at the top of the
league standings had they not lost to San Diego State a couple weeks back in a
28-9 final on the road. That loss was the second straight for the team and the
second in seven conference opportunities after bowing to UNLV unexpectedly
earlier in the campaign.
More recently, the Falcons welcomed Hawaii to Colorado last week and captured
a 21-7 win during Friday night action. With the win Air Force moved to 5-2 in
the MWC which is currently good for fourth place. If nothing else, the Falcons
now know what they'll be doing in the postseason as they accepted a bid to
participate in the Armed Forces Bowl following the win.
The Falcons own a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series with Fresno State, but
the teams haven't faced each other since 2000 when the Academy posted a 37-34
victory. The schools actually played against each other when they were both
members of the WAC, the last of those encounters coming in 1997.
Against Hawaii, the offense took a little time to warm up for the Falcons, but
once it got rolling it prevented the visitors from making any real runs at an
upset. Wes Cobb produced a pair of rushing touchdowns and Cody Getz hit the
end zone once as well, the team running for 338 yards on 68 attempts.
Connor Dietz managed the game rather well as the quarterback refrained from
attempting a single pass in the meeting, the first time that has happened
since 1992 when the team defeated Wyoming (42-28). The feat really isn't that
unusual however, as the Falcons have now had five such games in their history
where they've kept the ball on the ground exclusively.
Defensively, the Falcons were all over Hawaii, holding the visitors to just
162 yards of total offense. Most impressive was the run defense which allowed
only 37 net yards, a major accomplishment considering the team is 101st in the
nation with 204.7 ypg allowed.
Obviously, as they showed against the Warriors, the Falcons are a running team
first and foremost and now they are ranked second in the country in that
department with 335.6 ypg.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, their ability to slow down the run isn't
necessarily one of their strengths this season. In fact, Fresno State ranks
third in the conference and 73rd nationally with 164.5 ypg allowed on the
ground. Granted, that's barely half of what the Falcons are accustomed to, but
assume that the Bulldogs defense will be on the field for quite some time this
Bad news for the Bulldogs is that, with Air Force running the ball all the
time, it takes Phillip Thomas and Derron Smith almost completely out of their
comfort zones. Between them they've made 14 interceptions, giving them more
picks this season than 96 other FBS teams. The duo has scored four return
touchdowns which is an incredible feat when you consider that FSU was tied for
last in the nation last year with a mere nine take-aways.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons had better get ready for a heavy
dose of Derek Carr who has thrown for almost 3,300 yards and has tossed 32
touchdowns, 11 of which have gone to Davante Adams who has 80 catches for
1,027 yards. And if that were not enough, there's also Robbie Rouse coming out
of the backfield as the school's all-time leading rusher. This year Rouse is
among the nation's leaders with 1,362 yards and 12 TDs.
To say that the Falcons have their hands full in this one would be an
understatement. However, should Air Force be able to slow the pace and use up
the clock, don't be surprised if this game is a bit closer than it should be,
given what's at stake for the Bulldogs.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fresno State 42, Air Force 27