Instant thoughts and analysis from Fresno Bee columnist Marek Warszawski following Fresno State’s season-opening 66-0 thrashing of Incarnate Word on a steamy Saturday night at Bulldog Stadium.
Tedford era starts with a bang
Sure, it was only Incarnate Word, an FCS program picked to finish last in its conference. But after what the Bulldogs endured a year ago, no one was complaining.
The announced crowd of 39,447 – the largest turnout since September 2014 against Nebraska – helped launch the Jeff Tedford era with a dominating performance that was more encouraging than flawless.
Quarterback Chason Virgil made a few nice throws but also missed several open receivers. Punt returns were more adventurous than necessary. More encouraging was the speed and pursuit of a defense that limited the Cardinals to 60 first-half yards.
Bulldogs fans had to leave happy, even though many of them left following Derek Carr’s jersey retirement at halftime.
Virgil’s accuracy a little off
The statistics show Virgil had a pretty solid game as the sophomore quarterback completed 16 of 29 passes for 246 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
However, the film room analysis won’t be so kind. The accuracy issues that have plagued Virgil most of his career continued in the first half. He missed at least five open receivers and held on too long to a deep ball near the end zone that was dropped.
Virgil did complete a few nice throws before transfer Marcus McMaryion made his Bulldogs debut with 10:09 remaining in the third quarter. None prettier than an across-the-field heave to Da’Mari Scott that set up Fresno State’s first touchdown of the second half.
While Virgil played well enough to deserve at least another start, McMaryion (6 of 7 for 103 yards and two touchdowns) showed this competition is far from settled.
A dominating (!) defense
Interceptions, sacks and bone-jarring tackles? What happened to the Charmin-soft Bulldogs defense we’ve seen the last few seasons?
Yes, it was just Incarnate Word. So let’s not get too giddy. Still, it has been a long time since any Fresno State defense looked so active, frisky and fundamentally sound.
No one had more impact than defensive end Emeka Ndoh, a transfer from DeAnza College who registered two sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. He also stuffed the run.
Defensive tackle Nathan Madsen, end Robert Stanley and middle linebacker Jeffrey Allison delivered big hits as well. A great night for first-year defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer.
Bulldogs fans show their spirit
With the scorching temperatures, 110 in the shade at kickoff and even hotter inside the cement bowl, Fresno State fans had an easy excuse to stay home.
Despite the sweltering, inhumane conditions, Bulldog Stadium felt as lively as it had in years.
When Clovis High product Josh Hokit completed a 65-yard touchdown toss to Jared Rice off a halfback pass late in the first quarter, the roar was surpassed only by Carr’s introduction at halftime.
The question now is, will they return in four weeks for the Mountain West opener?
“To have this crowd after 4-20 these last two years says something,” athletic director Jim Bartko said in a pregame interview. “The fans are excited. I’m proud of them for stepping up.”