Two days after he went up to snare a football and came down all at once on a peculiar and painful-looking combination of face, head, neck and shoulders, Fresno State wide out Jamire Jordan was able to joke about a catch that on the play-by-play sheet appears to be fairly innocuous.
VIRGIL, Chason pass complete to JORDAN, Jamire for 25 yards to the 50 yard line, FIRST DOWN FS (MITCHELL, E.).
When Jordan had a chance to watch the play against Nevada on film, his reaction was much different than others.
“It looked worse than what it was,” Jordan said. “It really didn’t feel that bad. It actually felt pretty good, because it cracked my back. I needed that, basically.”
Quarterback Chason Virgil said he was scared for a moment when he saw Jordan flip and land at midfield. “That play showed what kind of focus he has, what type of worker he is and the passion he has for the game to put his body on the line like that for us,” he said.
The Bulldogs last season generated only 89 yards of offense in a 21-7 loss to San Diego State, 77 passing and 12 rushing. They also were 0 of 12 on third-down conversions.
“A great catch,” wideout KeeSean Johnson said. “That’s a play I feel like he can make all the time.”
Coach Tim DeRuyter said that, too, and in that loss last week the Bulldogs’ talent started to show. But so too did the inconsistency that has plagued Fresno State through a disappointing 1-5 start including 0-2 in Mountain West play.
Jordan earlier had dropped a pass when wide open for a sizable gain. Johnson, who made a heady play securing a first down on a fake punt and made two big catches in the fourth quarter, also had a drop when running a slant against man coverage, a play that might have gone for a score with football in hand.
It was not only the Bulldogs’ young receivers. There was a blown coverage on a Nevada touchdown pass, some poor penalties and some more missed tackles.
But on Friday when San Diego State visits Bulldog Stadium, Fresno State needs to see that talent – and to stay in the game or have a chance to win it, the Bulldogs can’t have more of the inconsistency, particularly on offense. The Aztecs, the preseason pick to win the West Division, are an experienced team, don’t make a ton of mistakes and lead the conference in total defense.
You just have to be consistent, and young players have a hard time doing that. I know when these guys grow up they’re going to make a ton of plays for us, but we have to get them to grow up in a hurry.
Fresno State Coach Tim DeRuyter
Over its past 17 Mountain West games, San Diego State has not allowed an opponent 400 total yards, the high 399 by Boise State in 2014 with 11 teams failing to hit 300 total yards and four 200 total yards.
“It’s critical, because it’s hard for you to consistently drive down the field against these guys,” DeRuyter said. “They’re going to force you into situations where you have to get chunk plays against them and if you get a chance to do that – like we did last week (at Nevada) with a chunk play for 75 yards – you can’t have a penalty, you can’t have a drop.”
The Bulldogs, since doing more live work and repping good-against-good, in practice have seen progress with their inexperienced roster, and they could go younger against the Aztecs.
Freshman cornerback Juju Hughes could get more reps as the third cornerback. Redshirt freshman Mike Bell also was getting a longer look in practice during the week at safety. Freshman running back Justin Rice is further along returning from a foot injury suffered in fall camp and could see more time behind Dontel James. Sophomore Logan Hughes, in his first season at Fresno State, got some practice reps at left guard and could play there or at the left or right tackle spots.
22 Explosive plays of 20 or more yards by the Bulldogs, 11th of 12 in the conference
None would have an easy assignment against the Aztecs. Fresno State this week will be measured against a team that has won 12 consecutive conference games, outscoring opponents on that run by an average of 34.2 to 11.8. But there is not a better unit of measure in the Mountain West right now than San Diego State, certainly not in the West Division.
“You just have to be consistent, and young players have a hard time doing that,” DeRuyter said. “I know when these guys grow up, they’re going to make a ton of plays for us, but we have to get them to grow up in a hurry.
“We just have to keep going through the process, practicing hard against each other, playing well in the games and keep improving.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. SAN DIEGO STATE
- Vitals: 7 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium
- Records: Bulldogs (1-5 overall, 0-2 Mountain West), Aztecs (4-1, 1-0)
- TV: CBS Sports Network
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940)