Recapping the Bulldogs’ 42-14 loss at Air Force.
Players of the game
Air Force quarterback Karson Roberts: Senior directed the Falcons’ run-heavy offense to 586 yards, running for 92 yards and four TDs on 18 carries and hitting 5 of 10 passes for 108 yards.
Falcons defensive end Alex Hansen: Senior finished with four total tackles, including three for loss, to help spearhead defense that shut out Fresno State over the final three quarters.
Air Force running back Bryan Driskell: Junior ran nearly at will, averaging 12.0 per carry while rushing for 144 yards.
Play of the game
First quarter, Fresno State third-and-10 at its 25: Redshirt freshman quarterback Kilton Anderson had at least avoided any major mistakes while relying on two long scoring runs as the Bulldogs built a 14-0 lead. But with Air Force back in it at 14-7, Fresno State was stopped for no gain on a first-down Marteze Waller carry before an Anderson incompletion set up third down. Anderson then telegraphed his next pass into tight coverage and the Falcons’ Roland Ladipo picked it off and returned it to the 10. Three plays later, Air Force QB Karson Roberts was in for the second of his four rushing touchdowns and the hosts were on their way to an uninterrupted string of six TDs and the eventual blowout win.
Numbers of the game
64: Yardage on TD run by Marteze Waller, the longest rushing play for Fresno State this season
4: Explosive plays of 20-plus yards for the Bulldogs in their first 17 plays from scrimmage Saturday
3.1: Average per game on explosive plays for Fresno State in its first seven games
1: Explosive play for Fresno State during the rest of the game vs. Air Force
35.9: Bulldogs’ completion percentage, lowest since 25% in 51-0 loss to Boise State in 2010
10:19: Total time Fresno State has held a lead on the road, all against the Falcons
4 of 20: Plays in second and third quarters that Fresno State actually gained yards.
275: Advantage in total yards for the Air Force, to 586 to 311
458: Rushing yards for the Falcons, most allowed by Fresno State since Nevada had 461 in 2009
1: Tackle for loss by the Bulldogs, who defended 90 plays
7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 vs. Nevada at Bulldog Stadium: Coming off a bye week, Fresno State will host a Wolf Pack team that spotted Hawaii a 17-0 lead into the second quarter Saturday before storming back for a 30-20 victory. The second of two James Butler 1-yard scoring runs iced it with 2:20 to play. Nevada (4-4, 2-2) outrushed the Warriors 244-34 and ex-Bakersfield High star Asauni Rufus, a redshirt freshman defensive back, helped power the defense with seven tackles. Senior defensive end Ian Seau had three sacks. Nevada also is on a bye next week.
Jamal Ellis made the kind of play Fresno State desperately needed.
Not his fault the offense couldn’t capitalize.
“I was really looking to make a big play,” Ellis said.
With the Bulldogs trailing by 14 points in the third quarter of Saturday’s 42-14 loss to Air Force, Ellis rushed upfield and got between a pitch from quarterback Karson Roberts to one of his backs.
Ellis batted the ball and scooped it up. It looked for a moment like the junior free safety might go all the way for a touchdown, but Roberts tackled him at the Air Force 36-yard line.
What seemed like a perfect chance for the Bulldogs to get back in the game went for naught following another three-and-out by the offense. Marteze Waller gained 1 yard on first down, Anderson missed a throw on second-and-9 and Waller lost 1 on third-and-9.
Air Force scored on its next possession, and the rout was on.
“Sometimes that happens,” Ellis said of the offense failing to take advantage of the turnover. “As a defense we just have to do the best we can to help out the offense. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Ederaine hobbled - The one player on defense Fresno State could least afford to lose – senior linebacker Ejiro Ederaine –suffered an apparent left shoulder injury during the second half.
The Bulldogs’ leader in tackles, sacks and tackles for losses did not return after heading to the sideline.
His status is unknown.
“We’ve got a lot of guys beat up right now,” Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said.
Staying positive - There were not that many downcast and glum expressions on players’ faces as they exited the locker room. Far less than you’d expect following a four-touchdown loss in which they did practically nothing over the final three quarters.
“We’re not going to let this get us down,” quarterback Kilton Anderson said after completing 14 of 39 passes for 177 yards and an interception in his third college start. “We just have to move past it, come back and get a victory.”
No red zone - In what may be the oddity of the day, the Bulldogs never once reached the red zone. Not once in four quarters.
The closest they got was the Air Force 33 on their final drive in the fourth quarter, which ended on downs.
Marteze Waller’s 64-yard touchdown and Dustin Garrison’s 60-yarder got Fresno State on the scoreboard but not into the red zone.
Third no charm – Fresno State converted only 2 of 12 third-down plays (16.7 percent), which was a problem. A bigger problem was first and second down. Of those 12 third-down plays, the yards needed to move the sticks was less than five yards on only one and less than seven yards just twice.
The Bulldogs converted a third-and-13 in the first quarter on a 14-yard pass from Anderson to Da’Mari Scott and a third-and-8 in the fourth quarter on a 9-yard pass from Anderson to running back Malique Micenheimer. In between, they missed badly.
The average distance the Bulldogs faced in third down was 10.5 yards.
No run – The Bulldogs started out rushing the ball very well with Waller and Garrison scoring on their long first-quarter runs.
But they were unable to sustain anything on the ground after the first 15 minutes – the offensive line struggled to move the line of scrimmage and Anderson, who had pulled the ball on zone read options and gained 78 yards in a victory over UNLV, didn’t against the Falcons. Anderson had two rushing attempts and minus-2 yards and was sacked twice for a minus-9 yards.
Fresno State rushed for 134 yards on those 17 plays, but 124 of it came on the touchdown runs.
The Bulldogs had not had fewer run plays in a regular-season game since they rushed 16 times in a 41-28 loss to Nevada on Nov. 7, 2008. The run-pass ratio on Saturday was 17 to 39 compared to 16 to 43 in the loss to the Wolf Pack.
Et cetera – Air Force completed only six passes, but five went for a first down or a touchdown. The Falcons averaged 21.3 yards per completion and 11.6 yards per attempt. The 11.6 yards per attempt allowed by the Bulldogs is a season high. The last time an opponent gained more yards per pass – the Hawaii Bowl loss to Rice last season when the Owls averaged 12.5 yards on 26 passes.
▪ Ederaine had nine tackles including four solo stops. He now has 66 tackles, which is a career high with four games remaining. Ederaine had 64 tackles last season and 63 in 2013.
▪ Inside (Will) linebacker Jeff Camilli had a game-high 14 tackles including seven solo for the Bulldogs.
▪ Fresno State forced two fumbles and recovered one, by Ellis. The fumble recovery was the Bulldogs’ 12th turnover gained this season and they are on pace for 18, which would be the lowest since DeRuyter and defensive coordinator Nick Toth installed a 3-4 defense. Fresno State forced 35 turnovers in its first season, but the number has gone down every year since. The Bulldogs forced 23 turnovers in 2013 and 20 last season.
▪ Air Force scored a touchdown on six of its seven trips into the red zone and has now allowed 27 touchdowns in 32 trips (84.4 percent). Fresno State went into the game ranked 11th of 12 in the Mountain West Conference and 127th of 128 in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage. Wyoming was last in the conference and nation at 84.2 percent. The Cowboys on Saturday played at Boise State.
Numbers, notes compiled by Bee sportswriter Robert Kuwada. Follow him on Twitter @rkuwada.
AIR FORCE 42, FRESNO STATE 14
Fre – Waller 64 run (Kroening kick), 10:14.
Fre – Garrison 60 run (Kroening kick), 6:22.
AFA – Roberts 1 run (Strebel kick), 1:34.
AFA – Roberts 1 run (Strebel kick), 14:55.
AFA – Roberts 6 run (Strebel kick), 5:58.
AFA – Roberts 1 run (Strebel kick), 12:28.
AFA – Roberts 20 pass from Robinette (Strebel kick), 1:27.
AFA – Owens 15 run (Strebel kick), 14:09.
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Fresno State, Waller 10-80, Garrison 2-63, Micenheimer 1-2, Anderson 4-(minus 11). Air Force, Driskell 12-144, Owens 23-137, Roberts 18-92, B.Washington 10-54, Duty-Tyson 8-27, Stafford 2-6, McVey 2-4, Brown 1-(minus 2), Team 3-(minus 4).
PASSING—Fresno State, Anderson 14-39-1-177. Air Force, Roberts 5-10-0-108, Robinette 1-1-0-20.
RECEIVING—Fresno State, K.Johnson 5-36, Scott 3-39, Waller 2-40, J.Johnson 1-27, Hardaway 1-16, Jordan 1-10, Micenheimer 1-9. Air Force, Robinette 3-79, G.Griffin 1-24, Roberts 1-20, Brown 1-5.