Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter was waiting Sunday for a medical report on running back Marteze Waller, who was held out in the second half of the Bulldogs' victory over San Jose State with a shoulder injury. But it is not thought to be serious, and Waller is expected to come out of a bye week ready to go.
How the Bulldogs will come out of their second bye this season is an open question, however, given what happened in a loss to Wyoming two weeks ago.
They had played one of their better games in a loss at Boise State going into the bye week, knew a victory could keep them in contention for the West Division title in the Mountain West Conference. But coming out of it they were drilled by the Cowboys, who rolled up 694 yards of offense, more than double the 343.2 yards per game they were averaging through their first eight contests. Wyoming rushed for 374 yards. The Cowboys converted 10 of 15 third-down plays (66.7%). They had nine explosive plays that covered 20 or more yards -- in their first eight games they had only 12 runs of 20 or more yards.
The Bulldogs' offense was not much better in that game.
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DeRuyter said they will not change up much during the bye week. They will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, get some of the younger players more reps, send assistant coaches on the recruiting trail at the end of the week. But he is expecting a much different result on Nov. 22 when the Bulldogs return to Mountain West Conference play at Nevada.
"I don't believe the reason we didn't play well was because of bye week preparation, I really don't," he said. "For whatever reason I think our guys were overconfident going in and we hit adversity and didn't respond well. (The 38-24 victory over San Jose State) showed our guys what we can be when they play with that passion and energy. I know going to Reno is a big game for our guys and we realize that we can accomplish some goals here and still have an outside chance (in the West Division race).
"In our minds, the playoffs have started. Win you go on, lose and you're out. We should know after this weekend. San Diego State has Boise State. There's still a lot of football to be played."
And Fresno State played it much differently in ending a three-game losing streak and a two-game losing streak to the Spartans, which adds to the level of confidence.
The Bulldogs led with the run, opening up offense for quarterback Brian Burrell. The junior had completed only 56.3% of his passes through nine games, but hit 20 of 26 against San Jose State (76.9%) for 207 yards and three touchdowns. The defense yielded 436 total yards, but forced three turnovers with interceptions by inside (Will) linebacker Kyrie Wilson and cornerback Charles Washington and a fumble recovery by freshman outside linebacker Justin Green.
"We went out and played with passion and energy. They believed in themselves," DeRuyter said. "We needed to play like that and play with that passion and energy. I think sometimes that we have a young team that can either doubt themselves or doubt the guys next to them and it comes across as not playing with passion and energy because you're playing tentatively. (Saturday), we kind of just put all of our fears aside and just went and played football and it was fun to see. We didn't play perfectly -- we made a bunch of mistakes -- but we played hard and that gives you a chance.
"I think anytime you go out and actually produce on the field and do it against a good football team when it counts, you can't help but get confidence. That's what a lot of our younger guys need. That's what Brian (Burrell) needs -- to go out there and make the plays. You see how much better Marteze Waller is running each week. He's getting more and more confident. That becomes infectious. The opposite also is true. When guys are questioning, they don't make plays and it becomes a spiral downhill. I'm hoping we can take this and continue to go on it because we need to."