The defense is firing on all cylinders, I think that is pretty evident, but that does not remove room for improvement. We can get better in some aspects of the game. One thing I was most impressed with was our ability to get pressure on Derek Carr with only four defenders. Because of the amount of receivers on the field at any given time, it makes it very tough for us to blitz. Our front four responded by forcing Carr to leave the pocket on many occasions, and even sacking him twice. Credit goes to Derek Carr. He hung in there till the last second on many passes. I think other quarterbacks would have given in and and left the pocket, and the inexperienced quarterbacks would have been sacked a lot more.
Our defensive backs mixed up their looks on the Fresno receivers. This was one of the keys to victory and the staff utilized it well. At times both outside receivers were getting press coverage, sometimes only one was getting pressed, other times our secondary was playing obvious zone, and there were times Dextrell Simmons or Sam Ukwuachu came out to jam the slot receiver. Those different looks made it tough for the Fresno State receivers to get into their routes and caused Derek Carr to constantly check down to his running back or a shallow crossing receiver.
Every coach stresses winning the turnover battle, and credit goes to our defense for making that happen. We missed one with Gavins, but Dextrell Simmons made a great play jumping the route for an interception and our defensive line forced the fumble on Derek Carr, too bad the offense couldn't cash that one in.
Offensively, one of the keys to the game was establishing the run. We got off to a sluggish start but eventually settled into a good running attack that rushed for over 200 yards (another key to victory). D.J. Harper ran very inspired and Jay Ajayi made play after play on third down when it mattered... Now we need to get our guys to realize that 3rd down in the red zone matters. We had an opportunity to get 14 points in the red zone, and we only got 6. Factor in the turnover by Carr deep in their own territory, and we had another opportunity for 7 more, and we missed. We may get lucky like this all year, but make no mistake, we will get Nevada's best game. I don't care who is playing quarterback for them, we will see their best. We cannot miss out on opportunities to put nail in team's coffins rather than letting them open that coffin a little bit at a time... We must finish teams when we can.
We had some break downs of focus that led to us missing out on opportunities. We had a 2nd and short, that became a 2nd and 15. We cannot be committing stupid penalties. That disrupts our own momentum, and is a breeding ground for more dumb things to happen. The offensive play calling wasn't bad yesterday. I think the coaching staff found those creases in the Fresno State run defense and we took that to the bank. However, I still feel like we are holding back. I'm glad we got to see Jay Ajayi a little more, and I did like the Grant Hedrick trick play.
Points of emphasis for the team this week should be focus. That is the biggest issue right now. We need to be more disciplined. I think we had two false start penalties. False start penalties at any time are un-excusable, but to get two of them on our own field (which at times was so quiet one could hear a rat piss on cotton. We need the night games back), is outrageous. And it all comes down to focus. Red zone execution will need to get further attention as well. In order to stop underachieving on offense, we gotta put the ball in the end zone, especially when our defense is playing as well as they are.
How do I rate this victory?
Was Fresno State a powerhouse opponent? No. Is Fresno State a good team that is very capable of putting a ton of points on the board? Yes. Did Fresno State make some stupid decisions of their own? Yes. Did Fresno State suffer from a lack of focus when it mattered most? Yes. That is why focus is so crucial to winning games. Fresno State's defense locked down when it needed to, and Fresno had many chances to win that ball game, but for a variety of reasons, they didn't. Those reasons all stem from a lack of focus. We must be better. I hate to say this, but by rule, we are still in the hunt for a BCS game. If we win out, and finish in the top 16, we are in consideration for an at large. We may get Vegas again and that is fine, but regardless of bowl selection in December, we need to be playing a higher level of football. Another home game this week. Look for the keys to the game.