Not everything has gone as smoothly as anticipated, but through five games Fresno State is ranked sixth in the bowl subdivision in scoring offense and eighth in total offense.
Quarterback Derek Carr has completed 70.7%(183 of 259) of his passes for 1,864 yards with 19 touchdowns and is second in the nation in total offense.
The Bulldogs also are tied for first in winning percentage -- 5-0, 1.000.
And, at the midway point in the regular season, offensive coordinator Dave Schramm likes what he has seen while also seeing room for improvement during the second season running the up-tempo spread that has chewed up yards and opponents the past year and a half.
"Obviously, the five wins is the most important category," Schramm said. "We have to continue to get better at running the football. We have to continue to get better at running the football when we need to run it. I think we're doing a nice job tempo-ing people right now and we've been pretty efficient throwing the football, so things are going pretty good right now.
"We've got a pretty good stretch coming up here after the bye week. I think the bye comes at a pretty good time for us - would have liked to have played Colorado, but nothing you can do about that one. We've just got to get ready for UNLV and then whoever is after those guys."
Question: When you considering you're in the second year now in this system and obviously ahead in some areas, is the tempo the one thing that sticks out right now?
Answer: Yeah, I think so. Obviously, Derek understands a little bit better what we're trying to do, and that comes from just being in the offense. Every game you get a little better, you get a little better at what we're looking for and we're able to get in and out of different tempos now where a year ago we didn't do that. We wanted to crawl before we walked, so to speak, and he's done a great job with just handling the wristband at times and handling our different tempos, so the experience of doing it for a year has been great for us. It's a nice addition to what we did a year ago because now we can play even faster.
How much more has he had at the line of scrimmage these past few games?
Quite a bit. because of his film study and the way he operates in preparing for people, we're able to do a lot of things in a quick manner whether it's off the wristband or situationally, different tempos, based on what we see coverage-wise, based on what we see front-wise and certain formations. So, he has command of all the tempos now. That's what I mean. We're able to get in and out of different tempos during drives. He understands what we're doing, and all that comes with experience. He's done a great job, so he has quite a bit, especially on first and second down.
You got a chance to see Brian Burrell and Myles Carr a bit up at Idaho ...
Those guys did a decent job. I mean, that's always a hard deal. They get 20 percent of the reps in practice and then they have to go into a game and end it, but they did a decent job. There are some things that we have to get better at. Brian had played a little bit against Cal Poly in that mop-up role, but it's good. That's how you get better. You get better by getting in the game and realizing it's not as big a deal as you think it is, and just do what you're being coached to do.
Other than the interception that Myles threw, he's got to overcome his competitiveness and just throw the ball away. That's the same thing we were saying about Derek a year ago. Guys get that way, but the only they learn is by doing it. I thought both those guys did a nice job.
Brian is the backup, but the plan going in was to try to get both of them a series or two, right?
We'd like to get them a series every game, but it all depends on how the game is going. After the debacle we had over in Hawaii, being up and bunch and then turning the ball over a lot, you're kind of leery about calling the dogs off, so to speak, too early. We wanted to keep our guys in there and make sure we're hanging onto the football and still we turned it over. So we've got to finish games with our ones and give those guys more of an opportunity to get in there.
Did Myles' play in practice create that opportunity for himself?
Absolutely. He does a good job in practice and we've been giving him more reps, not because of anything that Brian hasn't done, it's just that he needs to have an opportunity as well. We cut back on the number of plays we give him for each game, make sure that when they do get in there they're running plays that they've practiced, and then let them get in there and compete and have some fun.
From a game-planning standpoint, you have more with Marcel (Jensen) developing into a much bigger piece ...
Yeah, we're pretty talented at outside receiver and inside. Those three guys (Josh Harper, Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse) are as good as anybody in our conference. Marcel is as good a tight end as anybody in our conference has. I think our running backs are getting better and better. Those two guys (Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller), they're very good, solid, hard-nosed, productive guys. Marteze has shown his ability to break tackles and run very physically and Juice has done a nice job in pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield.
They both bring something different and having Marcel and the ability to flex him out, he's athletic enough to run routes like a big receiver and he's good enough on the line of scrimmage to put him next to the tackle and block. It's a pretty good luxury to have all those guys.
Does that make it more difficult or more fun?
I would think it makes it more difficult for the teams we're playing against ...
For you, though, putting together packages each week ...
Oh, it's great for me. There are more toys to play with. You watch certain teams and are they a sub-package team or are they not and how are they going to defend Marcel if he's flexed? Are they going to be in nickel? So now you attach him and they have a mismatch problem there as well. It's a good problem to have.
With the run game, obviously it's been a work in progress. How much has the experience played a part in that? A year ago, you had Robbie Rouse, who had played a lot of football here ...
Absolutely. Robbie was a very experienced player and he was a different guy. He's different than any of the guys we have now. He was very elusive and has a physicality about him that a lot of guys don't have. We knew going in and we talked about this early in camp - we knew we didn't have Robbie Rouse. And I don't want our running backs to be Robbie Rouse. I want Marteze to be the best Marteze he can be, and Josh Quezada to be the best Josh Quezada he can be, and Malique Micenheimer. Those guys just need to develop their own skill set.
Those guys have done a decent job. We're getting better and better and that, too, is like anything else, you get better by doing it. Marteze has done a good job and so has Juice -- he's done a nice job catching the ball out of the backfield and pass blocking and making some good runs.
It all revolves around how teams are going to try to defend us. The way we're throwing the football right now, if teams still want to defend the run we're going to throw the ball and that leads back into all the different tempos and what we're able to do on the field with Derek. He can see it all happening and he can get us into what we have to be in.
I was thinking of that from an experience standpoint, knowing that you're going to block a certain run a certain way, so, OK, I'll have this developing, I'll have that developing ...
There's no substitute for experience and I think that's why you see Marteze and Juice, both, they're getting better as the year goes on. What they're doing now, they didn't see early in the season and now they're starting to see it.
One last thing, it's been a few weeks since we've seen the ball flying all over the yard and your left tackle scoring a touchdown and receivers throwing passes ...
We have plenty of them. They're situational. You don't just reach into a hat and pull it out and say, 'This is a good time to do it.' They're all situational and there's a spot on the field for each one, or a situation for each one. We've got some, we just haven't been in a situation to run one.
You worked so many of them in practice last week before Idaho I was thinking that is going to be a crazy game ...
It's nice not to need them.