The assumption, best guess, would be that Fresno State still is in the early stages with its offense – and it is. How could it not? The Bulldogs have a new coach in Jeff Tedford, a new coordinator in Kalen DeBoer, new position coaches, new system.
They have a new quarterback in Marcus McMaryion, who wasn’t yet in the program at the start of fall camp.
But halfway through Mountain West play, Fresno State not only is 4-0 and at the top of the West Division standings, the offense is starting to hit at a level that might be fairly surprising to just about every Bulldogs fan.
Yards per play in MW games in 2017: 6.72.
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Yards per play in MW games in 2013: 6.89.
That’s 2013. That’s Derek Carr. That’s Davante Adams. That’s Isaiah Burse. That’s Josh Harper. That’s Marteze Waller and Josh Quezada. That’s 10 wins in a row to start the season and a Mountain West championship.
And that’s just 0.17 separating the two offenses against similar competition.
But Tedford? Not impressed. “Well, I mean, it’s what we work to do,” he said.
And McMaryion, who made his first start in a 41-21 victory over Nevada in the Bulldogs’ Mountain West opener? Not surprised. “We just really want to label ourselves as an explosive offense,” he said. “I mean, we go out there to score points. We don’t go out there with the idea to punt every time.”
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion has a passing efficiency rating of 197.96 when playing at home, by far the best in the Mountain West Conference.
It is a fairly large number, though, topped just that one time in 2013 over the past 10 seasons.
And the Bulldogs’ next two conference games are on Saturday against UNLV and on Nov. 11 at Hawaii, which are ranked 11th and ninth in the conference in total defense; the last two are on Nov. 18 at Wyoming and Nov. 25 against Boise State, which are ranked fourth and second in total defense.
“It’s weird to think because you see obviously the great NFL players that they had on that team,” said right tackle David Patterson, a fifth-year senior who was a redshirt on that 2013 team. “I guess to the outsider, it seems crazy. ‘How could these guys come from 1-11 and do this?’ But I’d say everyone here, we knew it was going to happen.
I guess to the outsider, it seems crazy. ‘How could these guys come from 1-11 and do this?’ But I’d say everyone here, we knew it was going to happen.
Fresno State right tackle David Patterson
“From when coach first got here in January, it’s been really non-stop. We’ve been going almost every day, putting in a lot of time and effort, and to see it come together it has really been awesome; for my last year, too. It’s good to hold a candle to that great team we had before and just to say I was a part of that.”
The two Fresno State offenses are much different, as are the tempos they played.
Carr ran a spread offense at a high clip, averaging 84.0 plays per game in conference play. It was a rarity and an oddity when only one set of bulbs on the play clock was burning; something had to be wrong. Fresno State was on the accelerator from the start and under pressure to outscore opponents with a defense that allowed 30.3 points a game.
McMaryion and the Bulldogs are not nearly as fast and this season are averaging 65.3 plays per game, ranking eighth in the conference. But they are fourth in total offense, and trending up due to that efficiency.
In 2013, Fresno State also was in its second season running a spread offense.
For these Bulldogs, DeBoer and offensive line coach Ryan Grubb worked together at Eastern Michigan the past three seasons and for a time at Division II Sioux Falls. But for tight ends coach Scott Thomson, running backs coach Jamie Christian and receivers coach Kirby Moore, the working relationships there are new, new and new.
“I think everyone complements each other and the coaches work extremely well together,” said McMaryion, who through seven games has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,142 yards, averaging 9.0 yards per attempt, tied for 11th in the nation.
Tedford, who fashioned a similar turnaround in his first job at Cal in 2002, taking a team that went 1-10 to a 7-5 finish, isn’t focused on a stat sheet where every number and decimal point is obviously in the past, but continuing to move forward.
With a two-game lead and head-to-head tie-breaker over San Diego State in the West Division, the Bulldogs are curious to see how far they can take it.
Without losing sight of what it took to get there.
“It’s about execution and what we work to do,” Tedford said. “That’s the expectation, to make sure that we stay in positive situations. It helps when you don’t have negative plays, like last week we didn’t have one negative play except for taking a knee.
“We’re doing a decent job. We have work to do. Nothing is perfect and we need to keep working to make sure we shore up all he details. There’s always room for improvement.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
UNLV AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
- Records: Bulldogs 5-2, 4-0 Mountain West; Rebels 2-5, 1-3
- TV/radio: AT&T, ROOT (AT&T UVerse 757, 1757; DirecTV 684)//KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: The Rebels lost at home to Utah State on Saturday, 52-28, after starting quarterback Armani Rogers was knocked out of the game with a head injury. UNLV has now allowed an average of 42.3 points over its past three games. … The Aggies rolled up 578 yards of total offense, 323 passing and 255 rushing. They converted 8 of 14 third downs, taking advantage of a soft spot in the UNLV defense. … The Rebels entered having allowed opponents to convert on 44.2 percent of their third downs, ranking 10th in the Mountain West. … UNLV does have one of the top running backs in the conference in Lexington Thomas, who racked up 161 yards and two touchdowns against Utah State and is averaging 125.3 yards per game with 12 rushing touchdowns.