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Preview: Fresno State Seeks 14th Straight Win in MW Opener vs. Nevada
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By Associated Press
Published 7 months ago on
September 29, 2023

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The matchup: Nevada (0-4) at No. 25 Fresno State (4-0), Saturday, 7:40 p.m., PT

Television: Fox Sports 1. Radio: Fox Sports AM 1340

Line: Fresno State by 24 ½, according to FanDuel Sportsbook

Series record: Fresno State leads 31-22-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

The game is the Mountain West opener for both teams. Fresno State moved into the AP Top 25 poll this week after winning its 13th straight game. The Bulldogs have the second-longest active winning streak in the nation behind two-time defending champion Georgia. Nevada has lost 14 straight games for the longest active losing streak in the country.

WHAT DO THE BULLDOGS SAY?

“When you’re 4-0 that can be even more challenging than 1-4 because of expectations and everybody patting you on the back and that type of thing,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said. “It’s human nature to get in your comfort zone so we have to do our best to stay out of that.”

The Bulldogs have two wins against Power Five teams, having won at Purdue and Arizona State. They then scored 53 points last week against Kent State as the offense is finding its stride behind transfer quarterback Mikey Keene.

“I feel like just time, honestly,” Keene said about the difference for the offense last week. “We’ve got a group that hasn’t been playing together for a really, really long time but at the same time, just everyone building that trust around each other and the timing and chemistry with one another.”

KEY MATCHUP

Nevada pass defense vs. Fresno State QB Mikey Keene. The Wolf Pack have allowed 340.5 yards passing per game and 10 TD passes, ranking in the bottom five in both categories. They need to slow down Keene and a Bulldogs passing offense that is averaging 313.8 yards per game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nevada: LB Drue Watts is one of the few bright spots for the Wolf Pack. He has recovered a fumble in each of the first four games and leads the nation with four fumble recoveries. Watts also had an interception in the season finale last year to give him takeaways in five straight games.

Fresno State: WR Erik Brooks has 32 catches for 448 yards and four TDs, ranking in the top 10 in the nation in catches and yards. Brooks is the first Bulldog receiver since at least 2000 to have more than 400 yards receiving in the first four games of the season.

QB QUANDRY

Nevada could be making a change at quarterback after starting Brendon Lewis in the first four games. Lewis, a transfer from Colorado, has struggled this season. He has yet to throw a TD pass in four starts and hasn’t topped 200 yards passing in any game.

Freshman A.J. Bianco has fared better in a mop-up role, throwing a late TD pass in the opener at Southern California and running for a late TD last week. He has completed 65% of his passes, averaging 10.8 yards per attempt compared to 5.1 for Lewis.

NEVADA’S SECOND-HALF COLLAPSE

The Wolf Pack were in position for their first win since Sept. 3, 2002, against Texas State last week. They jumped to a 17-0 halftime lead in the rematch at Texas State before allowing touchdowns on five of the first six drives of the second half to lose 35-24. Four of the scores came on plays of at least 25 yards as Nevada was unable to limit big plays.

FACTS & FIGURES

Fresno State has won the last two meetings in the series. … The Wolf Pack have been outscored by 24.3 ppg, worst in the nation. … Nevada has thrown only one TD pass all season. … Wolf Pack K Brandon Talton made his 72nd career FG last week to tie Marty Zendejas’s school record. … The Bulldogs are on their longest winning streak since winning a school-record 17 in a row in 1988-89. … This is Fresno State’s best start to a season since 2013 when the Bulldogs won their first 10 games. The Bulldogs finished that season 11-2, losing to USC in the Las Vegas Bowl under Tim DeRuyter. … Fresno State has scored in every quarter this season.

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