In his first start at his second stop in college football, Fresno State’s Marcus McMaryion made a run at perfection. He completed his first 12 passes and finished 24 of 32 for 296 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-21 victory over Nevada.
The Bulldogs (2-2, 1-0 Mountain West) scored more points in one game than they did in their last three combined a season ago.
But even with that, they still left a lot of yards and points on the field.
Asked for the one thing that needed work coming out of that win, McMaryion, a graduate transfer from Oregon State, had two.
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I don’t even know the exact number, all I know is we’ve been settling for a lot of field goals.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford
Both have the same fix.
The Bulldogs were 1 of 11 on third downs and scored a touchdown on 3 of 6 trips into the red zone, both due in part to execution errors in areas of difficulty for the Bulldogs through their first four games.
“It’s kind of amazing we scored as many points being that bad on third down,” McMaryion said. “That’s definitely going to be a point of emphasis for us all week.”
The Bulldogs have converted 33.3 percent of their third downs this season, ranking 10th in the Mountain West Conference.
But it is the red-zone production that points more directly at those lapses, whether mental or physical. Fresno State in the red zone has averaged 3.5 yards per rush and completed 55.6 percent of its passes, the third-best marks in the conference in both categories.
The Bulldogs, however, have scored a touchdown on just 8 of 18 trips inside an opponent’s 20-yard line, their 44.4 touchdown percentage ranking only eighth in the conference.
Fresno State has scored on 83.3 percent of its trips into the red zone, 15 of 18. But with eight touchdowns and seven field goals, it has one of the lowest touchdown percentages in the red zone (44.4, tied for 10th) and highest field goal percentages (38.9, third) in the Mountain West.
“I don’t even know the exact number, all I know is we’ve been settling for a lot of field goals,” coach Jeff Tedford said.
Fresno State, which plays Saturday at San Jose State (1-5, 0-2) with a chance to open Mountain West play with two victories for the first time since 2014, isn’t really broken.
The Bulldogs are averaging 33.3 points per game, even while playing at No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Washington. But they tweaked their practice plan Wednesday during the red-zone period and will continue to see about a fix Thursday, a heavy third-down and red-zone day on the practice field.
“It all comes back to us as players,” McMaryion said. “The coaches are putting us in the right spots to be successful, but offense is kind of a thing where if one person makes a mistake it messes up the whole play.
“I know I had a couple of mental errors down there in the red zone and it’s the same thing as a whole. We have to be more locked in as an offense so we can get touchdowns instead of field goals.”
Against the Wolf Pack, the Bulldogs settled for field goal attempts after advancing to the Nevada 12-, 8- and 9-yard lines. McMaryion misfired under pressure on one third down and a holding penalty and a sack played large in scuttling the other two drives.
“There was some miscommunication, some things that I can help fix, some things that the guys just need to be more locked in on,” offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said.
It will translate on the field sooner or later, we just have to be locked in it.
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion
“The miscues came in all varieties, so it wasn’t just one thing. We just have to keep getting better at it. The third down thing, it’s going to get better as our guys get more comfortable with each other. It’s all about timing and accuracy and it all coming together with our protection as well.”
McMaryion, the former Dinuba High star, gives them a chance. After joining the Bulldogs 12 days into fall camp, he has improved with every game and has completed 72.6 percent of his passes with a passing efficiency rating of 162.59.
After passing 32 times against Nevada, his average is 15.5 per game, just enough to qualify for NCAA rankings. He is leading the Mountain West in completion percentage (72.6) and efficiency rating (162.59) and second in yards per attempt (8.6). Nationally, he ranks sixth, 16th and 26th in those categories.
“It will translate on the field sooner or later, we just have to be locked in it,” McMaryion said. “It’s getting more familiar with coach Tedford and coach DeBoer, as they’re working through plays and going through the game plan that week.
“As an offense we have to know what the coordinator is thinking when we get into certain spots on the field, whether that’s left hash, right hash, red zone, wherever we are.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT SAN JOSE STATE
- Saturday: 4:30 p.m. at CEFCU Stadium (30,456)
- Records: Bulldogs 2-2, 1-0 Mountain West; Spartans 1-5, 0-2
- Webcast/radio: ESPN3/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: The Spartans are off to a slow start under first-year coach Brent Brennan, opening the season 1-5 including a Mountain West loss on Saturday night at UNLV. That one victory came against Cal Poly, a championship subdivision program. San Jose State is ranked last in the conference in scoring offense (15.8 ppg) and scoring defense (44.5 ppg).