The malfunction at this point is in the details, small things as simple as hand placement on a block or a wrong angle or length on a forward step, making the proper adjustment to an adjustment by the defense. That is how Fresno State has it figured.
And so the question was put to senior wideout Aaron Peck, because the Bulldogs have practiced through fall camp and in game prep for Nebraska, Sacramento State and Toledo just like the other guys. Why is that such a struggle?
Peck, a leader on this team, one of four captains as well as one of its prominent playmakers, didn’t want much to do with it.
“I’m not going to give our team any excuses,” he said. “There’s no excuse for us playing the way we’ve played.”
Fresno State has had to punt 26 times in three games, the most in the nation. In the Mountain West Conference, only Hawaii with 20 punts is within six. Boise State and Air Force have punted only seven times.
There are plenty of adjectives in play there, but Fresno State (1-2) has scuffled through three games in the system installed by new offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau.
The Bulldogs are last in the Mountain West Conference in scoring offense at 19.3 points per game, last in rushing offense at 94 yards per game, last in total offense at 334 yards per game and last in third-down conversions at 27.3 percent after going 0 of 13 last weekend at Toledo.
Confounding stuff, considering on the Bulldogs’ first drive of the season, in the opener at Nebraska, they went 46 yards in 13 plays to set up a field-goal attempt, converted a third- and 3 and a fourth and 2 and hit 5 of 6 passes targeting an inside receiver, an outside receiver and a tight end.
“I don’t know,” Peck said. “What I do know is that the guys have the want-to to bust our butts at practice, accept coaching and continue to get better.”
The Bulldogs went about correcting all that ails them starting Sunday, when Kiesau had the offense meet as a unit instead of each position group individually – the running backs with assistant Dave Ungerer, the receivers with Burl Toler III, the line with Mark Weber.
I’m not going to give our team any excuses. There’s no excuse for us playing the way we’ve played.
Fresno State wideout Aaron Peck
“We watched more than half the game together, pulled out certain clips and had notes on each play,” Kiesau said. “In fact, I had each guy stand up, so if the left tackle busted, I had him stand up and asked, ‘OK, what are you thinking here? What are you being taught here? What was done here? Why didn’t we do it?’
“As coaches, we know this stuff. But it doesn’t matter what we know. It matters what the players know and what they can execute. It was good for the whole offense to hear it.”
Detail was large.
“It’s really just coming down to discipline and focus,” Kiesau said. “They really have to be disciplined and focused on those things. In this game, close is not good enough.
“If you have nine guys out of 11 doing their job and two aren’t, it affects everybody. That’s why I wanted to have the offense come together as a whole unit and watch why 11 pieces have to come together. When all 11 are doing it, you see some good plays, you see flashes of how we can be. We have to be more consistent, understand those details and clean it up.”
6-0 The combined record of the two teams that have beaten Fresno State, Nebraska and Toledo
What emerged is a pared-down play sheet for their final nonconference game Saturday against Tulsa (2-1), with a focus on what they can run confidently and successfully.
“We have to figure out what plays we can run with detail,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “We thought last week going in we were simple, but we obviously weren’t simple enough.
“Our guys know the plays, but they haven’t been running them with the detail that we need them to. We’ll go through practice this week and do a better job of ensuring against different looks, can we play with detail, and hopefully feel comfortable going into the game so we can play fast.”
Said Kiesau: “We have it very tight and very organized. Each play has a different look to it and we have to make sure they know all the looks.”
In the loss at Toledo, there clearly were issues that derailed the Bulldogs. They were 0 of 13 on third-down conversions, but they never much moved.
In this game, close is not good enough. If you have nine guys out of 11 doing their job and two aren’t, it affects everybody.
Fresno State offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau
On 10 first-down plays, they went backward and were faced with a second-and-10-plus. They averaged 6 yards on first-down plays, only because the 85-yard touchdown pass from Chason Virgil to Jamire Jordan came on first down. Take that out of the equation and the average gain was 2.3 yards.
“We’re going to shorten the game plan down a little bit, get tighter numbers in our calls and make sure we understand the details of everything that were doing because a lot of that was detail-oriented,” Kiesau said.
“The kids have to understand what we’re trying to teach and we have to make some changes to get that done.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
TULSA AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 1:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
- Records: Golden Hurricane 2-1, Bulldogs 1-2
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network (themwc.com)/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Series: Fresno State leads 4-2, but lost most recent meeting 27-26 at Tulsa in 2012.