Fresno State opened the season with losses at USC, at Utah and against Nebraska and in those games they clearly were playing from a physical deficit against the Power Five programs. That was reflected in the scores -- 52-13, 59-27 and 55-19.
But that has held true in several of the Bulldogs' Mountain West Conference games, as well, which makes Monday very significant going forward.
Fresno State will start its training table program for football and all student-athletes who wish to take part in the program. Dinner, finally, is served -- 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
"It's absolutely critical," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "Not just critical for the end of the season, but critical for two or three years from now and the development of our guys so they can have the size and the strength to compete late in the year. When you're playing with juniors and seniors, like we did last year for the most part, you have a chance to have a good team. But when you're playing with a lot of freshmen, whether it's a redshirt freshmen or true freshmen, you're probably going to be at a deficit most weeks.
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"Even though they're talented guys, physically it's going to be tough for them to meet the challenge."
Results will not be immediately evident, but the training table will be mandatory for scholarship football players as the Bulldogs play catch-up to other programs in the conference. Fresno State and Air Force have the only football programs in the Mountain West that do not have a training table in some fashion in place -- at Air Force all cadets take their meals at the Cadet Dining Hall.
While mandatory, the expectation is the enhanced meals available through the training table will be more attractive than what has been available in the past, which were routinely bypassed. Student-athletes on scholarship at Fresno State have had a portion of their checks deducted to pay for a meal plan through the residence dining hall, but a large percentage of those meals were not consumed.
In the 2013-14 academic year, 40% of those meals were not used and during the fall semester, in season for the football team, it passed on 67% of the meals it had purchased, the players opting to prepare their own meals or partake in options on or around campus.
"It's a different meal every day. It's a much better quality of food than they would have gotten in the past, so that's good," said Lou Major, football director of operations. "They can take some food to go if they want to, so they should have plenty of food, plenty of good food.
"We started with some menus -- I had some stuff that we had initially started with and I know the nutritionist took a look at it. It's a balanced meal. We've got a couple of different proteins, we've got a couple of different starches, we've got vegetables, fruit, a sandwich bar a salad bar, a dessert bar. It's got something for everyone and it's not going to be fried chicken fingers and stuff like that. It's going to be a nicer cut, it's going to be a nicer prepared meal than they've had."
Upon further review
After reviewing the Wyoming game tape, DeRuyter said he did not see a lack of effort from the Bulldogs' defense in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys put the game away with three touchdowns and a field goal.
"I think there was some frustration, when it gets away from you like that and you're giving up some big plays," he said. "You go back and watch the tape and it's one or two guys on a given play not fitting where they're supposed to or missing tackles. I don't know that it was a lack of effort, but I do think we have some guys that are lacking confidence and when you lack confidence you don't finish tackles, you don't wrap up with a sense of urgency. You hope that the guy goes down or you hope that somebody else gets there. You can't tackle that way."
The Bulldogs will look at making some personnel changes, getting younger players on the field.
"We're going to find out," DeRuyter said. "If older guys can't get it done, we have to invest the reps in somebody that can. Hopefully, by spurring that competition, guy';s games will rise."
Down to the wire?
San Jose State is coming off a 38-31 loss to Colorado State and is 2-2 in the conference race. Every team in the West Division has at least two losses -- and could have three by the time the end of the month rolls around.
"In the summer I thought this conference race, I thought the champion would probably have one loss," DeRuyter said. "It looks now like it will have two losses and maybe even more. There's a lot of parity and it's tough to win on the road. We're not worried about the conference race right now -- we have to win this week. But it is nice to know that there's still hope out there."
Spartans tough on QBs
Whether Zack Greenlee or Brian Burrell starts against the Spartans, the going is likely to be tougher than it was in that loss to Wyoming.
The Cowboys were ranked 10th of 12 in the conference in passing defense.
San Jose State is leading the Mountain West in passing defense allowing 114.1 yards per game, passing efficiency rating defense at 102.06, yards per pass play at 5.7 and passing touchdowns allowed with two.