When Fresno State takes the field Saturday at Bulldog Stadium in a battle with San Jose State for the Valley Trophy, the Bulldogs will have to face a unique challenge that the Spartans present with their backup quarterback.
Spartans starting quarterback Nick Starkel has been one of the best in the Mountain West with 9 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions, but San Jose State has added an extra wrinkle to its explosive offense with dual-threat Nick Nash coming in as a change-of-pace player.
San Jose State’s usage of Nash Saturday could be a cause of worry for the Bulldogs, considering their struggles to contain running quarterbacks this season.
In the Week 1 loss to Hawaii, Warriors quarterback Chevan Cordeiro ran for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries. Week 2 saw more of the same: Colorado State quarterback Todd Centeio gained 60 yards on the ground on 13 carries.
Week 3 should have been a different story since UNLV quarterback Max Gilliam had 4 career rushing yards coming into the game. Gilliam racked up 139 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground.
Finally the Bulldogs found a solution last week against Utah State quarterback Jason Shelley, who had run for 4 touchdowns in limited game time at Pac-12 school Utah in 2018 and 2019. Shelley only managed to gain 8 rushing yards against the ‘Dogs.
Based on last week it looks like Fresno State could be headed in the right direction defensively, but the Spartans are simply a much more talented offense than any of the Bulldogs’ previous opponents were.
Fresno State defensive coordinator William Inge said Wednesday that the Spartans have an explosive offense, one that will exploit the Bulldogs if the defense plays slow.
Nash especially as the ability to make the defense pay. He has played in all four of San Jose State’s games this season, including taking over as the starter early in Week 3 when Starkel was knocked out of the game with an injury.
Nash led the Spartans to a 28-17 win over San Diego State, throwing for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns while adding 53 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground.
In the other three wins San Jose State has found packages to get Nash in the game, and he actually is the team’s leading rusher on the season with 177 yards, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
“He brings the dynamic athletic ability, and those are the things you have to prepare for and that you have to have elements in your system and know when he’s in the football game,” Inge said. “As you guys saw last week, he was actually in the game with the other quarterback, so they had two quarterbacks in the game.”
Inge said a player like Nash simply means the Bulldogs have to spend more time preparing for different possibilities.
“We have a lot of respect for Nash, and he has been able to make a lot of people miss,” Inge said. “He is someone we have to know when he’s in the football game. The biggest thing for our players, we put a lot of the focus on us, just making sure we can manage all of our fundamentals on those given downs.”
Two Mountain West football games that were scheduled for this week have been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Utah State and Wyoming were scheduled to play Thursday, but the conference cancelled the game due to an “upward trend” of COVID-19 cases within the Utah State team.
This news comes just four days after the Bulldogs beat Utah State, but there has been no indication from the conference that the Bulldogs have been affected.
The game between UNLV and Colorado State that was scheduled for Saturday was also cancelled because of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing within the UNLV program.
Both games will not be rescheduled.
Photo: Fresno State Athletics