It may have been cold and chilly outside on Saturday, but inside Bulldog Stadium, the temperature was just right for the Fresno State Bulldogs.
The excitement was electric and the intensity was sweltering as the Bulldogs wrapped up one of their final practices before they leave for Las Vegas on Wednesday to do battle with USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.
Tim DeRuyter and his staff used Saturday as one last chance to run some of the base plays in the Bulldogs' playbook and to fine tune other areas of the offense and defense before they get ready to play the Trojans this weekend.
"We worked our base and mixed down stuff today," said DeRuyter. "There are a lot of things that we have to harp on; it's the details that make you good or bad."
Saturday's practice was a good barometer for the Bulldogs to judge how they'll fair against the mighty Trojans in preparation for their matchup this weekend.
And according to Derek Carr, there's nothing to worry about. "Going into a bowl game, there's always going to be something new," said Carr. "You make those adjustments, get ready for those things; I'm not worried."
Carr is also not concerned with the two week layoff. In fact, he said the layoff could be beneficial for the Bulldogs. "To us, it's just like a bye week," said Carr. "If we just work as hard as we can, we'll see what happens."
Fortunately, for the Bulldogs, they have been good all year at paying attention to the details on offense as they became one of the most prolific scoring units in the NCAA this year.
However, the Bulldogs' high-octane offense will be dueling with a USC defense that was a stout and physical unit all season. The Trojans' defense ranked 16th nationally in total defense, surrendering 341.5 yards per game and they were tied for 14th in scoring defense at 21.3 points per game.
If the Bulldogs' offense is to keep the Trojans' defense gassed and confused, they'll need to take advantage of any mismatches. And that could be easier said than done.
Wide receivers Davonte Adams, Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper are a handful for anyone, but against USC, they could have their work cut out.
"We're going to have to try to hide our guys a little bit to have a chance against their guys," said DeRuyter. "I'm just hoping there are mismatches they don't take advantage of. They're a talented team."
The Bulldogs' offense should be at full strength for this weekend's big game, as Josh Harper practiced with the team following his absence from the Mountain West Championship.
As for the defense, Fresno State's unit was up and down most of the season, but played big when it had too. The spotlight could be on the Bulldog's defensive backs, led by free safety Derron Smith and cornerback L.J. Jones, as they'll try to lock down 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee and sophomore Nelson Agholor, who was also the national leader in punt returns. In addition, Trojan team MVP running back Javorius Allen, who finished with 11 touchdowns in his last five games to go along with a quartet of 100-yard rushing games, could be a handful for defensive stalwarts like inside linebacker Karl Mickelsen and defensive end Nikko Motta.
Tuesday marks the final days of practice for the Bulldogs in Fresno before they depart for Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Wide receiver Josh Harper and cornerback L.J. Jones practiced on Saturday but are still listed as questionable for this weekend's game.
The offense practiced in red and the defense wore white.
Reps were split evenly between the first and second units.
Following practice, certain members of the team took part in personal matchups, working on creating fumbles and interceptions.
It was announced late last week that the Bulldogs will be wearing throw back uniforms with the 'Bulldogs' script on the helmet from the 1992 Freedom Bowl matchup with USC.
Jason Smithberg is a special contributor to FSBulldogs.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @dodgerjason.