The Utes will head into a late night Saturday affair at Fresno State against a Bulldogs team coming off of a 73-21 loss at Ol' Miss. Yes, 73 points, which means the Utah offense should be licking their chops.
An elderly defense for the Bulldogss with 9 junior and senior starters to go along with 2 sophomores, has struggled early in the season, especially through the air. They're currently giving up over 302 passing yards per game and 68% passing despite opening against FCS opponent Abilene Christian. The run defense has been slightly better though, surrending only 124 per game on the ground, but those numbers are a bit misleading due to the Abilene Christian opener after Mississippi ran for 215 yards and an astounding 6.1 yards per carry this past weekend. If there's a defensive area that Tim DeRuyter's team has excelled in, it's forcing turnovers. So far this year they've picked off 3 passes and recovered 2 fumbles. Safety Shannon Edwards leads the team in tackles with 14 through the first two games, while 6-5, 294 pound defensive end Claudell Louis has two of the teams six sacks to open the season.
Offensively, the Bulldogs are in a bit of a pickle with their quarterback situation. Zach Greenlee has started the first two games, but freshman Chason Virgil has received close to half of the reps so far and has outplayed his more experienced counterpart. Both will likely get reps on Saturday against the Utes, but it won't be hard for the Utes to gameplan for a couple of passers that are fairly comparable in style. Neither has shown to be a running threat this season. Virgil is a skinny kid at only 6-1, 185 pounds, but is completing close to 65% of his passes compared to only 47% for Greenlee. Virgil has shown a propensity for turning the ball over though, with 3 interceptions already on the year in only 31 attempts. Greenlee has 1 in 36 throws. Greenlee and Virgil don't have much to throw to, and that could be a big reason for the quarterback struggles so far this year. Backup wide receiver Keyan Williams leads the team with 7 catches, but for only 34 yards total. JC transfer Josaiah Blandin has 2 touchdown catches, as does tight end Chad Olsen, leading the team. The Bulldogs have struggled to put up big plays through the air with their longest play a 37 yard reception by Di-Mari Scott.
Because of the uncertainty at QB, the Bulldogs are going to rely heavily on their running game and senior running back Marteze Waller. Waller comes into the game averaging 124 yards per game and is coming off of a year which he ran for over 1,300 yards. He's a big, physical back at 5-11, 215 pounds and will test the Utah front 7. Waller ran for 61 yards on 15 attempts against the Utes last season.
There are a few familiar names on the Fresno State coaching staff that Ute fans should remember. Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm was at Utah for 7 season from 2005 through 2011 and coaching volunteer Jordan Wynn was a quarterback at the from 2009 through 2012.