Mistakes were made, which was obvious when the other guys were running free in large voids in the defense. The odd thing for Fresno State a week ago at Toledo was on the majority of those plays the offending player knew the call, knew his assignment, knew the proper technique to play and leverage to maintain.
It just didn’t happen, and the inexperience of some young players showed.
“When our guys came in, they told us what they did,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “It wasn’t a lack of knowledge. It was performance at the time, for whatever reason. Showing them the film, they saw what they did wrong and sometimes guys have to go through that.
There are no sideline checks looking at what we’re doing to what they’re doing. We just have to be ready for that tempo. Tulsa, it just goes and goes and goes.
Fresno State free safety Stratton Brown
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“It’s a difficult situation. Every one of them, give them a test and they’ll know what to do. But when the game is going fast, sometimes your mind doesn’t catch up.”
That alone has the Bulldogs in a tough spot. But on Saturday, they will show just how much difference a week can make, playing a Tulsa team that will be every bit the test that the Rockets were when rolling up six explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards, 301 passing yards and 619 total yards along with 52 points.
The Golden Hurricane, 2-1 with blowout victories over San Jose State and North Carolina A&T sandwiched around a loss at No. 2 Ohio State, will push the tempo like no one the Bulldogs have seen this season or last, putting even more pressure on a defense in rebound mode.
Tulsa will get to the line, make a quick read and go.
Fresno State (1-2) will have to keep up, get its calls off the sideline and execute what it struggled with last week at what is expected to be a breakneck pace.
In blowout victories over San Jose State and North Carolina A&T, the Golden Hurricane ran 83 and 78 plays. Fresno State was on the field for 83 plays last week in a loss at Toledo in which it gave up 619 yards of offense.
The Bulldogs will make an effort to keep their ones on the field more this time than last. With the offense last week going three-and-out on its first five series and six of its first seven, that was difficult. The longest the defense was off the field there was just 1:41 off the game clock.
“We gave up a lot of junk yardage,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “I think we gave up 200 yards in passing just blown assignments with young guys just trying to finish the game up. That’s why I told the coaches, ‘We’re going to play the ones. If they play the whole game, they play the whole game.’
“We have to be ready. We feel like we have 14 or 15 guys we can count on. We played almost 50 plays a half, but we have to be ready to respond. It can’t be about what the offense is doing; we want to be out on the field. We have to stop them when we’re out there. It works hand in hand.”
But they cannot afford to make the same mistakes that were made at Toledo. There were far too many blown coverages, exposing large holes in their pass defense that an experienced quarterback like the Rockets’ Logan Woodside was easily able to exploit.
Every one of them, give them a test and they’ll know what to do. But when the game is going fast, sometimes your mind doesn’t catch up.
Fresno State Coach Tim DeRuyter
“It was mainly defensive busts,” said free safety Stratton Brown, who led the Bulldogs with 10 tackles including 1.5 tackles for loss. “If we’re there, we can make the tackle. But we weren’t in the right place to make the tackle in the first place.”
And Tulsa represents a serious test for all on the field.
Quarterback Dane Evans has 33 career starts and is fourth on the Tulsa career passing yards and total offense lists, fourth in touchdown passes.
He has long, physical targets outside in 6-foot-4 Justin Hobbs, 6-3 Nigel Carter and 6-2 Josh Atkinson and a senior inside in Keevan Lucas who has 16 receptions for 284 yards (17.8 yards per catch) and three touchdowns.
Even without tempo, the Golden Hurricane is a difficult matchup. But the speed gives the Bulldogs little room for error in an area where there was too much of a week ago and will test the cleanup they did during the week on the practice field.
“Their tempo is a little different,” Brown said. “Toledo’s coordinator would look at us in their tempo and then they’d make their checks off our defense.
“There are no sideline checks looking at what we’re doing to what they’re doing. We just have to be ready for that tempo. I thought Toledo’s tempo was going to be a little bit more, but they slowed it down and played it off of us. Tulsa, it just goes and goes and goes.”
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: In the first six games of the series, Fresno State in four wins has outscored Tulsa by an average of 18.5 points while the Golden Hurricane in two wins has a 4.0 margin of victory.