A defender at heart, Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter has coached the opposite side of the ball for some programs with option offenses.
He was the defensive coordinator at triple-option school Air Force from 2007-09 and was a secondary coach from 1999 to 2001 at Navy, where the Midshipmen were running a spread option.
Asked during a media conference call Monday afternoon whether that experience would in some way help the Bulldogs for Saturday’s game against Cal Poly’s triple option, DeRuyter did not seem so sure.
“Perhaps, but I’m not playing, thank God,” DeRuyter quipped. “It’s a matter of teaching our guys the principles of it and how we intend to attack it, and the bottom line is executing.”
DeRuyter said it will still be tough on his team to prepare since the Mustangs (1-0), who topped San Diego 38-16 in the season opener this past Saturday, run the option all year.
Fresno State (1-0), survivor of a 52-51 overtime game against Rutgers in the opener, can’t make up for that in one week.
“A lot of times what it does is it really stresses their discipline and makes you play fundamentally sound football,” DeRuyter said. “Getting used to those cut blocks … and being able to get off those is a different technique for defensive players.”
Even so, the Bulldogs have had more time than usual to prepare. Since their opener took place Thursday in Fresno, it will be a full eight days before Cal Poly steps into Bulldog Stadium.
The Mustangs did rack up 533 yards — 226 passing and 306 rushing — against the Toreros, a non-scholarship FCS program, but this week, Cal Poly will be the one playing a favored opponent.
Fresno State is the defending Mountain West Conference co-champion, and some analysts have projected the Bulldogs as a mid-major favorite to play its way into a BCS bowl. Senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Derek Carr, the younger brother of former No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick David Carr, was 52-of-73 passing for 456 yards and five touchdowns against the Scarlet Knights.
With a maximum of 85 scholarships per team allowed at the FBS level compared to the equivalent of 63 full scholarships allowed per FCS program, the upper level of Division I football will always be favored in head-to-head matchups, though Cal Poly does own two FBS upsets in the past five seasons, including last year’s 24-22 victory at Wyoming.
Led by Eastern Washington’s last-minute 49-46 victory over No. 25 Oregon State and sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams’ 518 yards of total offense, the FCS picked up eight wins over FBS programs in the opening week of the season.
DeRuyter acknowledged that fact and had a clear plan for stopping Cal Poly from doing the same: Get the Mustangs in second-and-long situations and don’t allow play-action passes to go for long gains.
Onward and upward
Cal Poly climbed one spot to No. 10 in the FCS Coaches Poll and two spots to No. 12 in The Sports Network media poll Monday.
Both FCS polls have an identical top four — No. 1 North Dakota State, No. 2 Eastern Washington, No. 3 Montana State and No. 4 Sam Houston State.
Ivory opens eyes in Fresno
After a career game against San Diego, Cal Poly junior slotback Kristaan Ivory had the attention of the Fresno media.
DeRuyter was asked for his assessment of Ivory’s 185-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance — particularly his 81-yard and 61-yard touchdown runs.
“He’s a real good back,” DeRuyter said, “good speed, he breaks tackles, and once he goes, it’s hard to catch. You need to have a home-run threat when you have triple option ... Ivory is more their home-run hitter.”
Homecoming for some
The Mustangs have six players from the Central San Joaquin Valley on their roster, and those from Fresno and the surrounding areas will be celebrating a return.
Senior defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz could have the biggest impact. The former San Joaquin Memorial High standout had five tackles and two sacks against the Toreros.
Former Edison standout Vante Smith-Johnson is also the Mustangs’ top cornerback, and his high school teammate, defensive end Wesley Flowers, is a contributor at defensive end.
“Anytime you play a guy that is from the local area, sometimes they’ve got little extra chip on his shoulder,” DeRuyter said.
While the Bulldogs might not gameplan specifically for the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Grosz, “we just realize that we better play because that’s a guy that’s going to be passionate. That’s a guy you have to account for. He had a big game last week.”
Fresno State has adopted the theme of AG FEST for Saturday’s game, considering it is being played between two universities with highly regarded agricultural education programs.
DeRuyter said the Bulldogs will feature green accents on their uniforms and green wristbands and other equipment to symbolize the agriculture of the Central San Joaquin Valley.