The start, for the second straight week, was not pretty, but Fresno State has a lot more to worry about.
In a 52-17 loss at Toledo on Saturday at the Glass Bowl, the Bulldogs were not close. Their inexperience, lack of execution – particularly on offense –and an overall lack of pop was put into vivid detail by the Rockets, a 10-win team last season with 14 returning starters including eight on offense.
“We got beat physically, we blew assignments, we got outplayed and outcoached,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “There’s no excuse for it. It’s going to change. We have a bunch of guys that have pride, but we have to play much better than we did.”
Fresno State went three-and-out on its first five possessions and rushed for only 51 yards on 27 plays. Against FBS opponents Nebraska and Toledo, they are averaging only 1.5 yards on 53 rushing plays.
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The Rockets, who had beaten Arkansas State and Football Championship Subdivision Maine in their first two games, dispatched Fresno State with ease. They were the more physical team by far, dominated play at the line of scrimmage and executed offensively and defensively with much more precision.
Quarterback Logan Woodside continually put Toledo into the right plays, identifying mismatches and gaping holes in the Bulldogs’ defense. When there were none, the Toledo line often was able to create them.
The Rockets rolled up 619 yards of offense, 318 rushing and 301 passing. Fresno State had 254, 85 on one window-dressing touchdown pass from Chason Virgil to Jamire Jordan with 6:41 remaining. Toledo had 27 first downs to seven for the Bulldogs, converted eight of 15 third-down plays to none in 13 tries for the Bulldogs, and averaged 7.5 yards per play to 4.8.
The Bulldogs (1-2) were in a 24-point hole at the half. An offensive line that struggled against FCS Sacramento State a week earlier had a difficult time against a bigger and more physical Toledo front. The Bulldogs tried different line combos in that first half, none sparking much – they had just 73 yards of offense after two quarters, starting the game with five consecutive three-and-outs and finishing the half with six in eight series.
We got beat physically, we blew assignments, we got outplayed and outcoached. There’s no excuse for it.
Fresno State Coach Tim DeRuyter
They rushed for 16 yards on 15 plays in digging that hole and Virgil, harried amid protection issues while also missing a couple of easy throws, had hit just seven of 15 passes for 57 yards.
Fresno State didn’t see the Toledo side of the field until its eighth drive and made it only as far as the 38 before Dejonte O’Neal was hit for a 5-yard loss on the next play.
“Obviously, you have to be able to sustain drives,” DeRuyter said. “They have a heck of an offense. I think in the first half they started just about every drive after the first one at midfield. They’re going to move the ball, and when we don’t get first downs we play a ton of plays on defense.
“We’ve got to block better up front. We have to run the ball better and we didn’t do that.”
It didn’t get better in any appreciable way, though Fresno State was able to put up 17 points on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Virgil to KeeSean Johnson with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter, a 42-yard field goal by Kody Kroening with 14:51 to go and the touchdown pass from Virgil to Jordan.
The Bulldogs were held to less than 300 yards for the seventh time in their past 11 games against FBS competition. This season, they have had 274 in a loss at Nebraska and 254 in a loss on Saturday at Toledo.
The Bulldogs looked like they knew what they were doing on that score. The field-goal drive, though, appropriately illustrated their day.
They gained possession at the Toledo 18 after Tyquwan Glass returned a punt 33 yards, but couldn’t capitalize fully.
Virgil misfired on a pass to Jordan while under pressure from defensive end Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, one of six quarterback hurries by the Rockets, who also had five sacks. The Bulldogs gained 9 yards on a pair of runs by Dontel James. On fourth-and-1, Virgil hit O’Neal in the right flat for a touchdown, but the play was wiped out by a chop block.
The Bulldogs were on the short side just about everywhere but there … and punts. They were flagged for 12 penalties for 138 yards. They punted 12 times, with Blake Cusick averaging 38.4 yards per kick.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to play, obviously,” Virgil said. “It’s just lot of things that we have to go back and clean up. I have to look on film to see exactly what went wrong, but there were a lot of things that we just weren’t executing all day.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Toledo 52, Fresno State 17
TOL — Thompson 36 pass from Woodside (Vest kick), 6:53
TOL — M.Roberts 9 pass from Woodside (Vest kick), 2:40
TOL — Hunt 7 run (Vest kick), 13:43
TOL — FG Vest 22, 7:29
TOL — J.Johnson 18 pass from Woodside (Vest kick), 7:44
TOL — M.Roberts 6 pass from Woodside (Vest kick), 2:40
FRE — K.Johnson 9 pass from Virgil (Kroening kick), 2:08
FRE — FG Kroening 42, 14:55
TOL — Thompkins 1 run (Vest kick), 12:09
FRE — Jordan 85 pass from Virgil (Kroening kick), 3:51
TOL — Yousey 62 pass from Julian (Vest kick), 1:12
Time of Possession
RUSHING — Fresno State, James 13-40, O’Neal 4-8, Kline 1-4, Virgil 9-(minus 1). Toledo, Hunt 19-123, Thompkins 15-103, Swanson 13-64, B.Smith 4-14, Woodside 2-10, Jones-Moore 1-2, Julian 1-2.
PASSING — Fresno State, Virgil 12-23-0-190, Kline 1-3-0-13. Toledo, Woodside 15-26-0-239, Julian 1-2-0-62.
RECEIVING — Fresno State, K.Johnson 4-51, O’Neal 4-5, Peck 3-46, Jordan 1-85, Olsen 1-16. Toledo, Thompson 4-102, C.Jones 4-30, M.Roberts 3-48, Yousey 1-62, Phillips 1-31, J.Johnson 1-18, Montgomery 1-14, Thompkins 1-(minus 4).
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Toledo, Vest 45.