The Bulldogs defense was outmuscled up front. The offense had more fits than starts.
The kicking team was a swift kick to its own chrome head.
And yet, Fresno State won anyway, 24-13 on Friday night over measly San Diego State, if only because scoreboard points are forever greater than style points in these parts.
It was ugly, it was frustrating, and it was way closer than it ever should have been, but get used it: This is the new Bulldog way, and for three weeks running, it's working well enough to give them a swinging chance in the malnourished Mountain West Conference.
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It isn't pretty, and it doesn't have to be. Winning ugly beats losing pretty (see: San Jose State 62, Fresno State 52 on Black Friday 2013).
"We're not flashy this year," Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said. "We don't have a bunch of explosive stuff."
At least the Bulldogs are winning again. For now, that will have to do until they learn to add form to their function.
So what if Brian Burrell kept throwing passes to the open defender? At least the Aztecs made for lousy receivers and dropped two of three potential interceptions. He was still the team's best runner -- 1-yard touchdown run and all -- except when he was fumbling the option ball away in Bulldogs territory.
Pretty and ugly, all in the same pea pod.
So what if the Bulldogs offense kept thrusting itself into unmakeable third downs? But hey, they converted first downs every other time, which is another way of saying they have gotten a lot better at being good in bad situations.
Half-decent and half-horrible, often in the same series.
The secondary kept letting Aztecs receivers get on the north side of coverage, but so what? It wasn't like Aztecs newbie Nick Bawden came within two counties of hitting a long ball.
Fresno State's constant blitzing couldn't win a game of touch football, and yet it took the Aztecs almost an entire first quarter to get a first down.
Burned without getting burned, as if there were no consequences to their misdeeds.
One Bulldogs field goal wobbled over the bottom post with no room to spare. The next kick wasn't blocked as much as it was a direct hit into San Diego State's front line. A great kick return was matched by a not great illegal block.
It worked, except when it didn't.
But, again -- scoreboard. This team has been steeled through the tire fire. They're figuring out how to win when their A game is really a C-minus game by most grading curves.
The defense is making stops when it must. The passing offense is completing passes when all else fails. And when all else really fails, the quarterback just tucks the ball and makes a mad dash for the first-down marker.
None of this will win a top-10 spot on tonight's SportsCenter. It might not even be enough to win a third straight Mountain West title.
But, it shows these Bulldogs are getting marginally better, and not terribly worse.
They've beaten three straight teams they are supposed to beat, just as they lost three straight games to teams they had no business beating.
It's hard on the eyes, but this is who the 2014 Bulldogs are. You can wince, you can scream, but appreciate the fact that in this year's Mountain West Conference, this will work more often than it doesn't.