The Minnesota Daily sports staff chatted with Robert Kuwada, a sports reporter from The Fresno Bee, about the Gophers' upcoming Saturday game against the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Q: What are some things Fresno State does well and what are some things they need to improve on?
A: Well I think right now you would say, offensively, they need to get a bit tighter than they were on Saturday night. Even though they put up 79 points on the scoreboard, they had two kick returns and a defensive touchdown. There were some third down plays they missed and a few missed deep balls as well. They need to clean it up there. Defensively, I thought the pass rush should have been better, which was a question for them coming into the season. Minnesota will be a physical test, so it will be interesting to see how the guys deal with that.
Q: Who should the Gophers be aware of?
A: If Minnesota runs the ball as much as I think they will, I think Jeff Allison, [Fresno State's] middle linebacker, is a guy they will want to keep an eye on. He is really good in the box and can get out to the numbers and make tackles. He is one of the more physical players, very active and a very good tackler. Offensively, you have to look at their skill guys. They have a lot of good receivers. KeeSean Johnson went for 6 catches and 118 yards [in Fresno State's first game]. Michiah Quick, an Oklahoma transfer, is another guy they will have to look out for. Any one of those guys can make a play for them.
Q: Fresno State plays two Power 5 teams in the next two weeks starting with Minnesota and then [the University of California, Los Angeles]. How important are these two games?
A: I don’t think you can overstate how important they are. [Fresno State has] their eyes on a big prize this year, they want to be legitimate contenders to get into a New Year’s Six bowl [game]. Obviously, winning the conference title is the objective every year, but they are both really huge games. I don’t see either of those two games being out of reach for them either. They have a different mindset ... than they have had in these games in the past.
Q: What are the expectations for Fresno State?
A: Winning the conference title is the goal. Any Group of Give team that wants to be in contention for a New Year’s Six bowl will have to win the conference. I think it will come down to Fresno State versus Boise State in the Mountain West Championship.
Q: What has head coach Jeff Tedford, former [California Golden Bears] coach, done [for] this program?
A: He brings a legitimacy to everything they do, and I think that has helped the program a lot. He had a tough time getting the program up to speed within the conference in terms of recruiting budgets and strength and conditioning programs early on. He now has put those things on much stronger footing, and they can take off from there. It’s a year-to-year thing they want to build, and before he got there, Fresno State hadn’t been able to do that. But being an alum and knowing the success he has, the community has something to rally around. ... The team is just better and better every year.
Speed Round Predictions from Kuwada:
1. Fresno State's final record – 10-2
2. Best offensive player – Netane Muti, tackle
3. Best defensive player – Jeff Allison, linebacker
4. Mountain West champion – Boise State
5. National Championship – Alabama
6. Game prediction – 28-23 Fresno State