Fresno State (3-3) at New Mexico State (3-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 24th, 10:15 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Aggie Memorial Stadium (30,343) -- Las Cruces, New Mexico. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: FSU 2-1, NMSU 2-2. Away Record: FSU 1-2, NMSU 1-2. Neutral Record: FSU 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Conference Record: FSU 2-1, NMSU 1-2. Series Record: Fresno State leads, 15-0.
GAME NOTES: The Fresno State Bulldogs try to keep their record perfect against the New Mexico State Aggies as the two programs collide in Western Athletic Conference action in Las Cruces this weekend.
Fresno State has never lost to the Aggies, capturing all 15 previous meetings. The last three contests have been decided by a touchdown or less, with last year's encounter going down in the books as a 24-17 win for the Bulldogs at home. This year, FSU has had some difficult outings, losing three straight after opening the campaign with a 51-0 thrashing of UC Davis. More recently the squad has put together a rather modest two-game win streak with victories over Hawaii and San Jose State.
As for the Aggies, their trend shows a team that cannot find any consistency, whether it be good or bad. The squad has alternated wins and losses from the beginning and last week it was time for a setback to Louisiana Tech on the road, a 45-7 defeat at the hands of those Bulldogs in Ruston. At this point, NMSU has just a single league win, and that was by only three points versus Utah State two weeks ago at home.
It was the Ryan Mathews show yet again last week as the running back charged up 233 yards and scored one touchdown on 20 carries for the Bulldogs as they crushed San Jose State. Mathews, who was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts, now has two games with more than 200 yards rushing this season and is even further ahead of the rest of the pack when it comes to his 162.3 ypg. Second-best in that category in the FBS is Darius Marshall of Marshall who is averaging a distant 136.5 ypg. For a team that has a .500 record after six games, it might come as a surprise to find out that the Bulldogs are currently second in the WAC and third in the nation in rushing with their 279.7 ypg. Unfortunately, much of that is due to the fact that the squad is trying to take some of the pressure off quarterback Ryan Colburn who is getting his first real college action this season. To his credit, Colburn has thrown at least one TD pass in all six games and has more TDs (11) than interceptions (seven), and yet FSU is still 103rd in the country in turnover margin with a minus-0.83 per game.
While the rushing attack of the Bulldogs or, more specifically Ryan Mathews, ripped apart the SJSU defense last weekend, the Spartans themselves were quite weak in that area with just 124 yards on 31 attempts. The pass defense for the Bulldogs allowed the visitors to 221 yards and two scores through the air, but it never got to the point where Fresno State had to worry about the game's outcome. Moses Harris led the way with his eight tackles and Logan Harrell tallied the lone sack for the Bulldogs. The sack for Harrell is just one of the five recorded by the Bulldogs this season, the other four coming from Chris Carter who is also the leader with his four tackles for loss. With sacks so hard to come by, it's not surprising that the Bulldogs are last in the WAC and 114th in the country with just 0.83 sacks per contest and are tied for 110th with a mere 4.0 TFLs every time out. Last season, interceptions were hard to come by for the Bulldogs and the same is true in 2009 as the squad has just four picks in six games, one fewer than all of 2008.
The New Mexico State offense was almost nowhere to be found last weekend as it registered just six first downs and a total of 142 yards. Quarterbacks Trevor Walls and Jeff Fleming combined to hit 13-of-20 passes for a mere 68 yards and each was intercepted once, while the latter was sacked twice by the Louisiana Tech defense. Seth Smith gained a paltry 32 yards as the leading rusher for the unit. Last year at this time the Aggies had the fifth-best passing attack in the nation and an overall offense that averaged a stellar 443.8 ypg to rank second in the WAC and 18th nationally. However, that was '08 and the '09 version of the New Mexico State offense is dead last in the country with just 250.1 ypg in offense and is last in the WAC and 117th in the nation with 112.3 ypg passing. Walls and Fleming both have completed about 52 percent of their attempts and each have a pair of TDs, but combined they also have issued 10 interceptions. Smith has provided the group with a respectable running game with his 85.4 ypg, but that's about it for the NMSU offense right now.
While the NMSU offense was limping all over the field, when it was able to stay on the field against LaTech, the defense was being subjected to a pounding by the Bulldog rushing attack. In all, the Aggies gave up 315 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, but as if that were not enough, the secondary also surrendered another 225 yards and three touchdowns through the air. The lone bright spot for NMSU was Davon House who returned a fumble 38 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, putting an end to a 45-point scoring run by the Bulldogs to begin the contest. Even with that gained turnover, the Aggies are still second-to-last in the WAC and 115th in the country with minus-1.43 turnovers per outing at the moment. Right now the run defense tells the story of a unit that has allowed 186.3 ypg (105th in the country), but just two weeks ago, before giving up huge numbers to both LaTech and Utah State, the Aggies were permitting just 146.2 ypg on the ground and that was fourth-best in the league.
The Aggies are a team still trying to find their identity this season and it doesn't appear as though they are going to gain anything positive out of this meeting with Fresno State because the Bulldogs are set to strike.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fresno State 41, New Mexico State 20
10/21 10:31:42 ET