Fresno State took a look at a few changes along its offensive line during the week leading up to its Toledo trip, after the run game got off to a very slow start against FCS Sacramento State.
That was 31 rushing plays through three quarters for 103 yards, just 3.3 per play.
They went with the same group for their initial series at Toledo with Christian Cronk at left tackle, Aaron Mitchell at left guard, Jacob Vazquez at center, Micah St. Andrew at right guard and David Patterson at right tackle. But they were forced to make changes quickly after struggling to get much of anything done in the run game or in pass protection against the Rockets’ front seven.
We have to find some guys that will go out there and compete.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter on the search for answers along the offensive line
Never miss a local story.
The Bulldogs ended up rushing for 51 yards on 27 plays, 1.9 per play. They gave up 11 tackles for loss, a season high. They also gave up five sacks and six quarterback hurries.
“We’re trying to find the guys that will go out there and execute our offense,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “Right now, that’s still a work in progress.”
The Bulldogs gave Mitchell some reps at center ahead of Vazquez, with Ryan Popolizio moving in at left guard. They had Logan Hughes get reps at left tackle, replacing Cronk.
Bottom line – From DeRuyter: “Physically, they got after us and give them the credit.”
Passed up – Fresno State went into this game ranked ninth in the nation in passing defense, allowing just 101.5 yards per game, and with a passing efficiency rating that was the best in the Mountain West Conference at 82.50. Those stats were about as flimsy as any that can be found.
Nebraska attempted only 13 passes in beating the Bulldogs 43-10 and Sacramento State was overmatched outside and in pass protection.
Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside completed 15 of 26 passes for 239 yards and four touchdowns and Michael Julien was one of two for 62 yards and one score. The Rockets efficiency rating was 206.37.
About those third downs – The Bulldogs were 0 of 13 on their third-down plays, and the average yards needed to move the chains was a whopping 10.5.
The shortest to go was 2 yards, on their first drive. Dontel James was able to gain only 1 and the Bulldogs punted for the first of 10 times in a row to start the game.
“Very frustrating,” quarterback Chason Virgil said. “But it just comes back to us doing what we have to do on first and second down to put ourselves in a more manageable third down. I think early we really weren’t doing that at all. We were getting stuck in a first and long and a second and long and that just came up to be third and long.
“We were fighting behind the sticks from the very (start). We were putting ourselves in bad situations. To be good in third downs you have to put yourself in manageable third downs to be able to have an easier third down than what we were getting. It wasn’t good at all.”
The last time Fresno State failed to convert a third-down play? It wasn’t that long ago. The Bulldogs were 0 of 12 in a loss at San Diego State last season, a game in which they had only 89 yards of offense.
Pressurized – Virgil had a rough go dealing with the Rockets’ pressure, which they were able to get done without heavy blitzing. Rushing four did the trick. Two views:
From Virgil: “Their D-line was really good. We knew that coming into this game, that their D-line was the heart and soul of their defense. They didn’t really bring any pressures really at all. Their D-line just got after us really good. It’s not saying anything bad about our O-line. Our O-line, I still love those guys. But their D-line came to play and our O-line, they’ll see it on film and they’ll fix it. We’ll get better.”
From Toledo defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, who had two of the Rockets’ sacks: “Guys getting into lanes. Getting the QB contained and finishing off on him. That’s what we pride ourselves on.”
Hits keep coming – Saturday produced a double-helping of bad omens in that Fresno State’s leading tackler was free safety Stratton Brown (10). Who was No. 2? Strong safety DeShawn Potts, with eight.
At one point during the second quarter, Toledo’s offense had produced 7.6 yards per play while Fresno State’s had produced 7 total yards.
The total yardage ended up Toledo 619, Fresno State 214.
That’s a disparity of despair for the Bulldogs.
Et cetera – The 619 yards were the most allowed by Fresno State since yielding 694 in a 45-17 loss to Wyoming at Bulldog Stadium on Nov. 1, 2014.
▪ Toledo held a 36:16 to 23:44 advantage in time of possession and ran 83 plays to 53 for the Bulldogs.
▪ Rockets running back Kareem Hunt finished with 123 yards on 19 rushing plays and was pretty impressive finishing off his runs. “He did well,” Toledo coach Jason Candle said.
“He ran great behind our linemen and put good hits on safeties. Our line did a really good job getting him going and it was great seeing him finish runs.”
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.
Bulldogs-Rockets: By the numbers
- 10: Consecutive punts by Fresno State to start the game
- 7: Tackles for loss by Toledo in the first half, one fewer than the Bulldogs’ season-high for a full game
- 54: Yards lost by Fresno State on 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage
- 3: Games in a row that Fresno State has forced an opponent three-and-out on opening drive
- 8: First-half penalties by the Bulldogs, a season high by two; they finished with 12
- 0: Sacks allowed by Toledo in three games
- 6: Explosive pass plays for the Rockets – 36, 28, 31, 47, 33 and 62 yards
- 10: Rushing plays of at least 10 yards for Toledo
- 254: Total yards for Fresno State
- 138: Penalty yards against the Bulldogs
- 0: Third-down conversions in 13 tries by Fresno State