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September 10, 2013

Fresno State defense steps up

A week after Fresno State yielded 543 yards to Rutgers, the first-team defense responded with an outstanding first half against the Cal Poly Mustangs. The first-team defense was able to limit the Mustangs to 44 yards of total offense at the half. Largely defending against the Mustangs' triple-option attack, led by quarterback Vince Moraga, the Bulldogs' front seven was able to corral the Mustangs and shut down their vaunted attack.

Bulldog middle-linebacker Kyrie Wilson tied for the team lead with six tackles and a sack. While Wilson led the charge of the linebacking corps, Karl Mickelsen complimented his play nicely by adding six tackles. Overall, Coach Tim DeRuyter felt that the Bulldogs gave a solid effort.

"I really liked their defensive effort at the beginning of the football game," DeRuyter said. "Our guys did a good job the entire time. I thought they were dialed in on the option. I thought we played with great intensity, tackled well, much improved from a week ago. Our second and third units, we gotta get better. But I was very pleased with how we played defensively, especially in the first half."

While the first team played with a passion and fire that excited coaches, DeRuyter felt that the supporting units could have played a bit harder.

"I though Coach Toth and our defense staff came up with a really good plan and our guys executed it, DeRuyter said. "When you take a triple option team and you put them in second and long, you make it tough on them. They like being at second and 5 or second and 2. Now they're on schedule and they can do the whole gambit of their offense. Our guys, I thought, played very, very hard. They were well coached on the offense. We've gotta get our twos better at doing that."

Mickelsen said the gameplan for Cal Poly was rather simple in theory, but they the execution is what really made the defense click.

"Well, we knew that they're an option team, dive team," Mickelsen said. "So we had a really good game plan set up this week. We kept on practicing it over and over. We knew they were coming with the mid line, the dive, so we sent our linebackers to all attack the dive. We just had a good game plan set up for their type of offense.

"This week we had to focus on a lot of our assignments, so we had people set up for dives, people set up for off-side runs. It was a matter of what Coach Toth called in plays. Whatever it was, we just executed whatever play he called. We had certain keys to check out what he asked for."

Mickelsen believes the difference was a great week of practice and communication among the defenders.

"It was a better feeling," Mickelsen said. "We had a better practice. We knew we had to fix some mistakes. Right after Rutgers, we got in the film room and corrected a lot of things that we messed up on. So, this week, we've improved a lot of our things, technique-wise and communication-wise and everything."

The Bulldogs will definitely have some things to work on before they play Colorado this weekend. Though the first team was able to limit the Mustangs to their lowest first-half total ever under DeRuyter, the play of the second and third units allowed the Mustangs to end their night with a rather impressive 416 yards of total offense.

Despite leading 34-0 at halftime, the Mustangs outscored the Bulldogs 25-7 in the second half, including a two-point conversion on the Mustangs' final scoring drive of the game. DeRuyter gave Cal Poly the praise, but added that the other units would need to improve immediately.

"We should've finished the game much better than we did," DeRuyter said. "You gotta give Cal Poly a lot of credit. They're a good football team. They're well coached. They played hard. They never quit. We gotta do a much better job developing our depth so when we get our twos and threes in there, they perform much better than they did tonight. But, having said that, the goal every week is to go 1 and 0 and we did that. So, we're on to Colorado now."

Things got concerning enough late in the game that DeRuyter actually put the first-team offense and defense back in the game.

"We kinda like put in our second string, third string defense in to see how things would go," Mickelsen said of switch back to the first team. "Then we had to put back in our ones to fix certain mistakes, I guess."

Saturday also marked the first time that the Bulldogs did not intercept a pass since the second game DeRuyter coached after taking the job. The Bulldogs had intercepted a pass in the previous 12 games, the longest active streak in FBS until it ended. The Bulldogs have 23 interceptions in 15 games under DeRuyter.

Stay tuned to FSBulldogs.com for more updates on the Fresno State Bulldogs.

Josh Webb is a special contributor to FSBulldogs.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @BulldogsTwist.


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