Four games into the season, Fresno State realizes its strengths.
As much as the Bulldogs had hoped to build off last year's vertical game, the passing attack remains a work in progress.
The running game, however, has started to develop some consistency, spearheaded as much by their running backs as an offensive line that's "run blocking as well as we have in (the current staff's) three years," Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said.
Fresno State (1-3) is coming off a 389-yard rushing performance in a 56-16 victory last weekend, albeit against FCS program Southern Utah.
Still, the outing marked the most rushing yards Fresno State has gained since 2004. And it was only the second time in DeRuyter's two-plus seasons that the Bulldogs ran for more yards than they passed, with the other time in 2012 when they ran for 280 and passed for 220 in a 52-36 win at Nevada.
"I think that's part of what we have to do to be able to win games this year, hang our hats on the run game a little bit," offensive line coach Cameron Norcross said. "Hang our hat on the offensive line. Make sure we're physical and ready and so we're able to compete for another conference championship.
"But to really run the football, it's an 11-man game, not just the five guys in the box."
The running game has the potential to help again again this week, when the Bulldogs kick off Mountain West play against New Mexico (1-2) and a Lobos defense that ranks second-to-last in the nation while giving up an average of 302.7 yards per game on the ground.
With a starting defensive line that averages 6 feet, 2 inches and 290 pounds, the Lobos aren't as small as the Southern Utah front that averaged 6-4, 273. But New Mexico also isn't nearly as big as the defensive fronts Fresno State faced when it ran for 105 yards against Nebraska and 157 yards against USC. The Bulldogs were limited to 55 rushing yards against Utah.
A strong effort on the ground can offset some of the inconsistency seen in a passing game that's been led by a quarterback committee and has completed passes at a relatively low 54.3% rate.
"Anytime you've got a quarterback situation that's not settled in, if you can establish the run, it makes it easier on quarterbacks," DeRuyter said.
"We've got good running backs. We want to get them touches, take advantage of our talents and make it easier on our quarterbacks. ... We've been inconsistent (with run blocking). But again, we're probably run blocking as well as we have in our three years. It's not perfect yet. But we're doing a good job of it."
Starting running back Marteze Waller leads the Bulldogs with 294 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries.
The 5-foot-11, 209-pound junior is averaging 73.5 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry and has a long of 49 yards.
"Give a lot of credit to the linemen," Waller said. "They're working their butts off during the game.
"I feel more relaxed. Everything is slowing down for me, probably felt that way since the end of last year and going into spring ball."
In addition, Josh Quezada, last year's starter but banged up in this year's fall camp, began to rediscover some of his rhythm last week and is up to 108 yards and one touchdown.
Quarterbacks Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette have chipped in, combining to rush 50 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
"I thought our eyes were better and our physicality was better against Southern Utah," Norcross said of the line's run blocking. "Our guys made a conscious effort to say 'Hey, we're going to knock the front off the football; we're going to put our guys on people and try not to rush things.'
"Our run game, you can't rush it. Quarterback has got to make the right decision. Running back has got to see the same thing and be on the same page. Receivers got to block. And most importantly, the O-line has got to be able to knock people off the football. ... It's all predicated on being able to knock that front-level of the defense before you can knock the second level."
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