Fresno State opened itself up to a lot of questions with a 26-16 loss on its homefield to UNLV.
The Rebels started their season with a loss to a team from the championship subdivision, had improved only marginally since, and came into the game at less than 100 percent with its top quarterback out because of injury.
But the only question that really matters when they get back to work on Sunday afternoon is how they respond, because losing to the Rebels is not like losing at No. 1 Alabama or No. 6 Washington, and though this is a new team and a new year and all that the Bulldogs haven’t exactly been good at the bounce back thing of late.
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“I think it’s going to be a test for us,” quarterback Marcus McMaryion said. “It’s a humbling loss and we can either fold or we can bounce back and come out even stronger.
“It’s going to test our team in a good way and it’s going to be a humbling experience for us to step back and see what we’re made of as a team.”
Fresno State (5-3, 4-1 Mountain West) gets nonconference Brigham Young in its rebound spot, which will not be easy.
The Cougars might be 2-7, but they will be an older, physical team, and four of their losses came against Power Five programs.
After that, the Bulldogs go back on the road for conference games at Hawaii and Wyoming and close the regular season against Boise State.
San Diego State (7-2, 3-2), which won at Hawaii on Saturday, trails the Bulldogs in the West Division of the Mountain West by one game and a head-to-head tiebreaker.
And while the Bulldogs have three teams that are a combined 8-5 in conference play still on the schedule, the Aztecs get San Jose State, Nevada and New Mexico – teams that Fresno State wiped out by a combined 106-31 and are a combined 2-11.
That only adds to the degree of difficulty.
“I’m sure no one feels good about it,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “It’s a matter of getting back now. It’s going to sting for a little while, but you have to let it go. It has to resonate with what it takes to win a football game. I don’t care who you’re playing.
“The details are always critical. We will do just that. We will make sure that we approach every week the same. It will be no different than how we approach any game. We uncover the mistakes, we look at them and we work on them every day in practice.”
By the numbers
126 – Plays run by Fresno State between its tackles for loss allowed.
McMaryion was sacked for a loss of 8 yards by UNLV defensive end Jameer Outsey on a second-and-6 in the second quarter. Before that, the Bulldogs last TFL allowed came on their first play in the second quarter of a 38-0 victory over New Mexico when McMaryion was sacked for a loss of 13.
100 – Points allowed by UNLV this season in the second quarter, a ton to allow in a quarter for an entire season.
0 – Points for Fresno State in the second quarter.
148 – Yards of offense for UNLV in the second half.
4.8 – Yards per play for the Bulldogs (292 yards, 61 plays). Fresno State went into the game averaging 6.7 per play in conference play, and UNLV was allowing 6.4 against Mountain West opponents.
73 – Plays run by the Rebels, the most this season against Fresno State.
106.55 – Passing efficiency rating for McMaryion. In the Bulldogs’ first three home games his rating was 197.96, the sixth best in the nation.
11 – Consecutive halves in which Fresno State has not allowed 200 yards of offense, dating to the second half Sept. 16 at Washington.
1 – Explosive play of 20 or more yards by UNLV, a 21-yard run by Darren Woods Jr.
Fresno State linebacker Jeffrey Allison: “You can’t just overlook any team no matter what their record is you always have to come out ready to play, always have to prepare and you have to stay on top of your grind. That’s what we have to do we have to do, we have to come back out and start over start fresh and rebuild, come out with better focus and determination.”
UNLV quarterback Johnny Stanton, on returning to offense after playing linebacker the past two games: “No, it wasn’t (difficult) because that is my natural position that I’ve been playing for 10 years. The part that was hard was becoming ‘the man,’ but I felt like I fell into the role well.
“After playing half the season as the backup for half the season, it was a lot more pressure and responsibility but that’s why I play football. I love the pressure.”
Fresno State center Aaron Mitchell: “UNLV outplayed us, there’s no doubt about that. We just need to be better. There wasn’t a lack of focus out there. There wasn’t a lack of focus at practice. We need to be more dialed-in and we need to play better, bottom line.
Stanton again: “The defense played so well tonight. I’ve played a little defense so I am able to be really appreciative of that.”
Tedford: “They did a good job, we have to give them credit. They did an excellent job. The quarterback did a good job, he was accurate and he threw the ball on the money. They converted some big third downs in the first half to keep the drives alive.
“We only had the ball three times in the first half, some of that is on us but you have got to give them credit for making those plays. We got outplayed, no excuses about it, we got outplayed.”
About that call
Fresno State was trailing 23-16 with 7:41 remaining when it had a fourth-and-2 from the UNLV 45 and was moving the football.
The Bulldogs started at their 15, breaking off chunks of yardage. Freshman Jordan Mims rushed for 9 yards, McMaryion gained 8 and then hit KeeSean Johnson for a gain of 15. Between first-down pass that gained no yards and an incompletion on third down, Mims had rushed for 8 yards.
But after a timeout, Tedford decided to punt.
There was plenty of time to get a stop and get a score, but the Bulldogs also had been rushing the ball well, had run-pass options it could go to.
It didn’t work out. The snap went over the head of punter Blake Cusick, rolling to the Fresno State 19.
The Bulldogs kept the Rebels out of the end zone, but kicker Daniel Gutierrez was able to hit his fourth field goal and make it a two-score game.
Tedford on the decision: “I felt like we would put them down deep. There is a lot of time left, I felt like we could pin them down in there and have defense hold them down there. They really hadn’t played from down deep all game.
“Their punter wasn’t really kicking rockets out there, they were really average punts. I felt like we could stop them down deep and get the ball in really good field position. I didn’t expect the ball to go over the punter’s head obviously.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
BYU AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 7:45 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
- Records: Bulldogs 5-3, Cougars 2-7
- TV/radio: ESPN2/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: BYU snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 41-20 victory on Saturday over a San Jose State team that is now 1-8 and has lost its road games by an average of 30.8 points. … The Cougars have struggled on offense all season and went into that game against the Spartans averaging just 12.1 points per game, 128th in the nation. The 41 points were a season high and more than in their past three games combined – they scored 7, 10 and 17 points in losses to Boise State, at Mississippi State and at East Carolina. … BYU has struggled in particular trying to rush the football. It averaged more than 200 yards a game on the ground last season, but in the first eight games has averaged only 89.6 with three rushing touchdowns. The Cougars rushed for 266 yards in beating San Jose State. Good for the Cougars, but nothing out of the ordinary for Spartans opponents. San Jose State had allowed 278.3 rushing yards per game, ranking 128th in the nation. It had allowed 26 rushing touchdowns, ranking 129th.