The struggles of the quarterbacks at Fresno State, Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette, have been well documented. The offense just didn't do much in the first three games, certainly not enough to stay anywhere close to USC, Utah or Nebraska, the Power 5 teams that the Bulldogs had stacked up at the front end of their schedule.
But lost in that was the fact they didn't get a lot of help in those losses -- the Bulldogs' job applicants on offense extended beyond the quarterback position. They were looking for playmakers, as well, particularly at the receiver position groups, outside and in, after losing Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse.
Behind senior Josh Harper, it is a young group, one that has struggled to make an impression. There were too many dropped passes. They were not physical enough at the line of scrimmage, getting into their routes or blocking. They would run the wrong route or bad routes, short or long.
But in a 56-16 victory Saturday over Southern Utah, Fresno State got to peek beyond Harper at some players who can add some sizzle to what has been a stagnant offense.
Redshirt freshman Delvon Hardaway came up with some key receptions, sophomore Da'Mari Scott pulled in an 81-yard touchdown pass and graduate-transfer senior LeKendrick Williams made some big plays -- including a 74-yarder catch and run that was called back because of a holding penalty.
"It was inconsistent still," offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said. "There were some routes we didn't run the right way. We dropped some balls. But it was good to see them step up and make plays."
The biggest of those plays might have come just before halftime, with the Bulldogs holding a 14-9 lead after a slow start. With Brian Burrell at quarterback and running the 2-minute offense, Hardaway pulled in a 32-yard shot up the left sideline on second down to get them going.
"It was a called route, but they ran Cover Two, so I had to convert and Brian put it in a perfect spot in the hole," said Hardaway, who caught three passes for 49 yards and one touchdown. "I had to go up and make the catch knowing I was going to get hit, but I guess the safety missed. But I made the catch to put us in position, and we got into the end zone before halftime.
"It was definitely a big play. Those are the plays we look for. This offense is built on explosive plays. Last year, having Davante and all those plays, and Derek (Carr), it was good to go out there and get us going."
All plays should come with an asterisk -- the Thunderbirds are a championship subdivision program and had come in giving up an average of 31.7 points per game.
But with the Bulldogs opening Mountain West play Friday at New Mexico, it was something they desperately needed to see.
Fresno State had booked only 37 plays of 10 or more yards in its first three games and just 10 explosive plays of 20 or more yards. But against the Thunderbirds, they ended up with 21 plays of 10 or more yards and seven badly needed explosive plays.
In total, the Bulldogs rolled up 694 yards -- 305 passing and 389 on the ground.
Harper caught three passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Williams led the team with four receptions, which went for 37 yards. Scott had two for 102 yards, including the touchdown.
Marteze Waller led the ground game with 117 yards and one touchdown on just 16 plays.
"We've got good skill guys; they're just young," Schramm said. "LeKendrick, he's a transfer (from Texas A&M), so he's new to our system. But it was good to see those guys have some success. Our goal is to go 1-0 every week, so we met that goal this week and now we have to build on this.
"It was good to execute, and it was good to see our kids have some fun. I think that's more important than anything else -- that they enjoyed playing. They've been grinding since winter conditioning, you go through spring ball then you grind all summer long and you grind all camp. We had three really tough games, so it's good for those guys to have some success."