Fresno State got its much-needed victory before heading into Mountain West Conference play.
And the Bulldogs accomplished it in blowout fashion, just as the proverbial doctor in charge of Fresno State's psyche and confidence ordered.
Nonetheless, last week's 56-16 trouncing came against a Football Championship Subdivision in Southern Utah.
So questions remain about the Bulldogs' ability to repeat as conference champs for a third straight season, considering Fresno State also endured three straight blowout defeat against Power 5 Conferences foes and couldn't score for the first 1½ quarters against Southern Utah.
Ready or not, the Bulldogs' conference defense begins at 5 p.m. Friday with Fresno State (1-3) visiting New Mexico (1-2) to kick off a stretch of four straight Friday night games.
"From here on out, we've got to treat every game like it's a championship," Bulldogs senior defensive lineman Tyeler Davison said. "Each week matters more than it did before. That's what we're playing for -- to make that last week of the season matter the most and defend our title.
"We've got things we've got to clean up, but it's nothing we can't fix."
Fresno State made some progress in its search for quarterback stability after coach Tim DeRuyter said the staff had identified a starter going into this week and planned to devote the majority of the first-team reps to one player. Still, DeRuyter declined to name the starter and will wait again until near game time before revealing his pick.
"Hopefully our starter will play like he deserves to be the starter," DeRuyter said. "And we'll go from there."
Signs point toward Brian Burrell maintaining his starting spot for the fifth straight game. The junior appeared to make some progress last week with his downfield throws and midrange completions, finishing 13 of 20 for 131 yards and two touchdowns to one interception.
But Burrell will need to get Fresno State going sooner, with the Bulldogs offense still scoreless during first-quarter play for the season. Like Burrell, the offense showed some improvement last week, amassing season-highs of 29 first downs and 680 total yards (389 rushing, 291 passing).
The last time Fresno State visited Albuquerque the Bulldogs fell in a 21-0 hole before rallying for a 49-32 win. This year, the biggest deficit Fresno State has overcome is three points.
"We've just got to go out there and execute faster," said Burrell, who has completed 62 of 114 passes for 584 yards and five touchdowns this season. "Regardless how we've played or what our record is at this point in the season, our goals are still in front of us to win the Mountain West championship.
"We want to win. We want to go 1-0 this week. If we do what we're supposed to do, we'll be fine. We've got the talent."
Fresno State's defense will be facing a triple-option offense for the first time this season. That means the Bulldogs must contend with players lunging toward the lower half of their bodies to make cut blocks the entire game.
The Lobos rank second in the nation with an average of 349.7 rushing yards per game. In fact, the ground game has generated 79.9% of the Lobos' total yards.
Quarterback Cole Gautsche has been the top runner with 237 rushing yards, though a hamstring injury has limited him to 1½ games and the Lobos have used three quarterbacks this season. Gautsche, a 6-foot-4, 234-pound junior, is considered questionable for Friday's game. He didn't play much last year when Fresno State set a Mountain West record with 820 total yards en route to a 69-28 victory at Bulldog Stadium.
In addition to defending the run, the Bulldogs have prepared for New Mexico's tendency to run trick plays. Last week in a 38-35 win against New Mexico State, the Lobos ran two trick plays for touchdowns.
"They're going to have a bunch -- that's what option teams do," Bulldogs defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. "They play off misdirection. If you're attacking the ball from one side, they want to counter that and throw it over your head.
"We've got to be disciplined. Keep our eyes in the right spots and make sure you're leveraging the football the right way. And make sure there's supreme effort, because that usually overcomes those type of plays."
Defensive captain Derron Smith said he was confident in the Bulldogs' ability to contend against other Mountain West teams.
"We have a lot of guys on this team that were here for the previous two championships, so we know what it takes," said the senior free safety. "We know the ups and downs that you can go through in a season.
"It's conference play now. It's on to New Mexico and on to the Mountain West."