FACTS AND FIGURES
Where: Fresno, Calif. (population 505,882)
Colors: Cardinal red and blue
Record: 2-0 overall, 0-0 MW
Last game: Defeated Cal Poly 41-25 on Sept. 7; game at Colorado on Saturday was postponed due to flooding.
Tim DeRuyter, 50, is 11-4 in his second season at Fresno State, with his nine wins in 2012 the most ever by a Bulldogs coach in his first year. Before landing in Fresno, DeRuyter was a defensive coordinator at Ohio, Nevada, Air Force (alma mater) and Texas A&M. He has shown a propensity for turning around defenses - the Bulldogs were 37th in scoring defense last season after ranking 106th in 2011, and Texas A&M went from 105th to 34th in his first season (2010).
Fresno State has shifted from a power-running scheme under longtime coach Pat Hill to a hurry-up, spread attack under DeRuyter. The Bulldogs were 12th in the nation last season in passing, throwing for 325.6 yards per game, and rank 14th this season (332 ypg).
Senior Derek Carr is the show-runner for the Bulldogs, back after winning Mountain West offensive player of the year honors last season. He has completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 661 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception this season.
Carr, a likely high NFL draft pick, is flanked by a deep group of talented wide receivers, led by sophomore Davante Adams (19 catches, 179 yards, 3 TDs). Adams was the Mountain West freshman of the year last year. Junior Josh Harper and senior Isaiah Burse have combined for 33 catches, 266 yards and three touchdowns.
DeRuyter said the Bulldogs' rushing attack "is a concern," as they have averaged 121.5 yards per game while trying to find a capable No. 1 back.
Three linemen are returning starters, including all-conference tackle Austin Wentworth.
DeRuyter brought in his 3-4 base scheme into Fresno, and it quickly paid dividends, with a drop of nearly 12 points per game allowed from 2011 to 2012, and a massive improvement in takeaways, from nine to 35.
Though they lost one of the top safeties in school history in Phillip Thomas (eight INTs, four sacks, three TDs) to graduation, the Bulldogs boast MW preseason defensive player of the year in safety Derron Smith, who has 12 tackles and an interception thus far.
The Bulldogs have yielded 38 points per game, and 14.4 yards per catch - they are breaking in two new starters in the secondary and at inside linebacker. Three veteran linemen with a combined 37 career starts make a strong front.
Burse is one of the nation's best punt returners - he has six returns this season and has run back two for touchdowns with an average of 29.5 yards per return. True freshman kicker Colin McGuire is 3-for-4 on field goals, his only miss from 50 yards.
The Bulldogs are 120th in the nation in kickoff return defense, allowing 29.9 yards per return, and have yielded a TD, but have given up negative-7 yards on four punt returns.
DID YOU KNOW?
DeRuyter's cousin, Nic, is a Marsing dairy farmer. The Broncos and Bulldogs play for the Milk Can trophy each year.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420