Houston vs. Fresno State: Q&A with Mountain West Wire

(Patrick) #1

MK: It’s been a little while since the Bulldogs have faced a true dual-threat quarterback, but they’ve improved their ability at defending against them as the year has progressed: Jalen Hurts had a big game back in September, but the 'Dogs defense dominated New Mexico and held other mobile quarterbacks in check. By the numbers, King has done the most damage on early downs with both his arm and his legs, so I think it’ll be crucial for Fresno State to force the Cougars into third-and-long whenever possible and then hoping their strength in passing situations can hold up: Since taking over in the South Florida game, King has completed 77% of his throws for 8.2 yards per attempt on passing downs (2nd-and-8 or more, 3rd-and-5 or more, 4th-and-5 or more). If you don’t know, both of those figures are very good.

On the other hand, suggesting there’s a plan to slow Oliver seems foolhardy because even double teams aren’t always a lock to work. I do believe, however, that if the Bulldogs find some early success with the short passing game, whether it’s in the screen game (Fresno State’s top four running backs each have at least 11 catches) or crossing routes to Jamire Jordan, the team’s fastest receiver, or other similar plays, it could take some of the aggression out of the Houston pass rush.

The bigger question is whether the running game can do what it usually wants to do. They averaged 4.45 yards per carry in conference play, which ranked just 7th in the Mountain West, but they never got pushed backwards with just 23 tackles for loss allowed, too, which was tied with Miami of Ohio for the best figure among any Group of 5 team (and Fresno State had nine games to Miami’s eight). Oliver’s definitely good enough to blow up the usual game plan, though, and if it’s not working, I’m not certain that Fresno State will be able to win while leaning on the pass.