It had an answer to what happened at Toledo, then against Tulsa. Didn’t work, not fully. And, now, Fresno State still is in the same position that it was in trying to defend basically the same thing that the Bulldogs saw from the Rockets and the Golden Hurricane, and in Saturday’s 45-20 loss at UNLV. It’s nothing extraordinary, a fairly simple run concept. It’s also something that not too long ago they did fairly well. But after allowing more than 300 rushing yards for a third consecutive game, the Bulldogs are approaching dangerous territory with a run defense that is at a stunning low.
Looking just at the bottom 10 rushing defenses in the nation, only Fresno State has allowed three-bills plus in three consecutive games this season.
And in the 10 seasons before this one, covering 100 teams, only 11 teams have managed that.
Three have allowed 300 or more rushing yards in more than three games in a row.
300 The advantage UNLV had in rushing yards, gaining 364 to 64 for the Bulldogs
From the bottom up or top down, New Mexico State in 2014 gave up 300 or more yards in six consecutive games – 344 to Texas-El Paso, 432 to New Mexico, 363 to LSU, 405 to Georgia Southern, 360 to Troy and 310 to Idaho.
That same season, Georgia State gave up 300 or more in five consecutive games – 384 to Arkansas State, 321 to South Alabama, 613 to Georgia Southern, 469 to Appalachian State and 324 to Troy.
And, in 2008, Washington State gave up 300 or more in four games in a row – 323 yards to Oregon State, 362 to USC, 344 to Stanford and 317 to Arizona.
That’s not the company to keep, and Fresno State is not there yet, but this week it faces another similar offense at Nevada, which is averaging 4.4 rushing yards per play and 177.4 per game.
After that, it’s San Diego State, which has no difficulty running the football with a big and physical offensive line and running back Donnel Pumphrey.
The Bulldogs will just keep working, which has almost an Einstein feel to it at this point, in that they’re doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
But that is what coach Tim DeRuyter said immediately after Saturday’s loss in Las Vegas. They can’t sub out personnel, what they have is what they have …
I think we still have some guys that maybe doubt their ability or are not playing with the confidence they need to play with.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter
“What you have to do is keep going good against each other,” DeRuyter said. “We made some strides a week ago. We stepped backward (Saturday). You have to keep playing. Guys who are backups have to step up. If you have a couple of guys go down, it’s ‘next man up.’ ”
Whether there is an answer in there remains to be seen.
But the issues against the Rebels and former Bullard High School running back Charles Williams weren’t so much the run fits, but an inability to tackle, which is the maddening part of it.
“It’s fundamental football,” DeRuyter said. “It’s not running through the tackle. It’s not wrapping up. It’s assuming someone else will make the tackle so when the first person misses, it’s a change of speed for the next guy. You can’t play like that. Everyone has to be full speed every rep to the ball. You see it on certain plays, but not on others. We have to get our guys more consistent.”
Not finishing tackles is a confounding deal.
I tell you what, (Sneed) put us on his back and made an unbelievable play. It wasn’t a call. It wasn’t something we work on. That was just his heart and spirit stepping up and doing something special.
UNLV coach Tony Sanchez on quarterback Dalton Sneed
“I think we still have some guys that maybe doubt their ability or are not playing with the confidence they need to play with,” DeRuyter said.
“When we do make plays, their confidence goes up, and as soon as we don’t, it just snowballs. We’ve got to get our guys to where they can embrace adversity and understand the offense is going to make some plays at times, but we have to not dwell on the previous play but move on.”
On Virgil – Redshirt freshman quarterback Chason Virgil completed only 16 of 45 passes (35.6 percent) in the loss to the Rebels, the lowest Fresno State has had in a game since it completed only 6 of 24 passes (25 percent) in a 51-0 loss at No. 9 Boise State on Nov. 19, 2010.
In five games, he has completed 47.1 percent of his throws. Of the top 100 passers in the nation, Darell Garretson (Oregon State) and Chad Voytik (Arkansas State) are tied for 99th at 54.9.
He also is not getting much help from the Bulldogs’ run game or the line in pass protection. There have been times they have had seven blocking four and their opponents still have been able to apply pressure and flush Virgil from the pocket.
That isn’t going to change with a change in quarterbacks.
A more pressing question is what impact that is having on Virgil and his overall development.
Fresno State is tied for 14th in the nation, throwing the football an average of 40.2 times per game. The Bulldogs’ completion percentage of 47.8, however, is 124th of 128 teams in the nation.
“I think certainly it affects it a little bit,” DeRuyter said. “You’ve got to feel comfortable in the pocket. When you trust guys around you that they’re going to protect you, it’s easier to have that trust. Doubt starts to creep into your mind when you trust and the pocket collapses.
“It’s going to happen at times, but he has gotten better. A week ago, he flushed seven or eight times when he shouldn’t have. Last night, it was two or three times.”
Dalton Sneed, the Rebels’ redshirt freshman quarterback, was an interesting contrast.
Sneed, who was making his first career start, had a lot more going for him and ended up making the play of the game, escaping a tackle and racing 91 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
“I tell you what,” coach Tony Sanchez said. “(Sneed) put us on his back and made an unbelievable play. It wasn’t a call. It wasn’t something we work on. That was just his heart and spirit stepping up and doing something special.
“If you’re going to win football games, you have to have a couple of those each Saturday. The game is about players making plays. That’s what is great about college football.”
Just rank – The Bulldogs against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents are …
91st in the nation in scoring offense, 22.0 ppg.
124th in scoring defense, 47.0 ppg.
123rd in rushing offense, 80.8 ypg.
127th in rushing defense, 327.6 ypg.
46th in passing offense, 254.5 ypg.
39th in passing defense, 206.3 ypg.
104th in total offense, 335.3 ypg.
121st in total defense, 533.8 ypg.
Et cetera – Robert Stanley, who has played the Mike and Will inside linebacker positions this season, came out of the game with a knee injury. His status will be re-evaluated on Monday, after seeing team physicians.
Inside (Will) linebacker Jeff Camilli was in on 10 tackles in the loss to the Rebels, his second game in a row and third this season with 10 or more. He is averaging 10.5 tackles per game. Safety Stratton Brown is second at 6.6.
▪ Virgil had eight of his 16 completions on third-down plays, the Bulldogs converting a third-and-9 twice, a 3rd-and-10 twice and a 3rd-and-17.
▪ The Bulldogs’ quarterback also is leading the Mountain West in passing yards with 1,169, and is tied for the lead in passing touchdowns with eight despite having the second-lowest completion percentage in the conference at 47.1. The only qualifying quarterback in the league with a lower completion percentage is the Rebels’ Johnny Stanton at 46.7.
▪ Fresno State still is leading the nation in punts, averaging 8.4 per game.
▪ The 47-yard field goal by Kody Kroening in the third quarter was a career long. Kroening has made seven field goals in a row since missing his first attempt this season, a 32-yarder at Nebraska.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada