Chason Virgil, set career highs for completions, passing attempts and passing yards in a victory over Sacramento State. But the Fresno State quarterback also spent a good part of Saturday night and Sunday afternoon beating himself up over things he didn’t do. The Bulldogs’ staff – charged with rearing the redshirt freshman and raising the offense to what is a high ceiling – let him, for just a while.
Virgil was particularly blunt in his assessments during a postgame news conference after the Bulldogs got off to a very slow start against an FCS opponent.
“It was just not doing our jobs, particularly me,” he said.
“Obviously, we want the win, but personally I don’t feel good,” Virgil said.
“When I wasn’t doing my job and it kind of rubbed off on the rest of the 10 guys,” he said.
That, coach Tim DeRuyter said, was what the staff wanted to see.
Nobody was satisfied with how we played. Now, you’re satisfied with the win, but it’s how you play and he knows he has to improve and as a team we know we have to improve. That’s what you want.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, on quarterback Chason Virgil
“Some guys look at, ‘Hey, I threw for 274 yards and I had a couple of touchdown passes,’ and be satisfied with that, and he’s not going to be and we’re not going to allow him to be,” he said.
“Dontel James rushed for 121 yards and he’s not satisfied. We’ve got to get better than what we showed on Saturday, and as a coach you want players to have the attitude that, ‘I’m going to take critique, I’m going to take coaching and I’m going to get better.’ ”
Virgil and the Bulldogs went about that starting Sunday with a film review of the 31-3 victory over Sacramento State and on Tuesday when they got back onto the practice field to prepare for a game at Toledo. There were no hints they were scarred in any way, which also is what the staff wanted to see.
The message imparted to the redshirt freshman quarterback through Sunday and Monday was fairly simple.
“We left a lot of big plays on the field, and that’s going to come with Chason just understanding he doesn’t have to be Superman,” offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said. “He doesn’t have to wear a cape and do everything, just settle in and do your one-eleventh. After talking to him on Sunday, I think he felt like he had to do everything. He doesn’t. Just operate the system. But he’ll get better and he’ll calm down, understand that we have a lot of playmakers around him.
Fresno State on Saturday plays at Toledo, which has allowed only 94.5 passing yards in victories at Arkansas State and against Maine. The Rockets have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete only 40 percent of their passes with an efficiency rating of only 71.75.
“A lot of young quarterbacks, they take that ownership and that burden on their shoulders – and I wanted to lift it off him. It’s hard to understand that. You can say it, but to actually understand that. … Once you understand it, you settle in and you let your playmakers make plays for you. That’s where it will really start to have a bigger jump in the offensive production.”
That potential is there, but after two games Fresno State’s passing game is a fairly wild mix.
The Bulldogs rank second in the Mountain West in passing offense at 258.5 yards per game but 11th of 12 with a passing efficiency rating of 109.80. They have not stretched the field vertically and have only five explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards. But Fresno State also is second in the conference with 25 plays that have gone for at least 10 yards. The Bulldogs have competed only 54.1 percent of their passing attempts, but there is room for significant improvement given that they have thrown an average of 42.5 times, the most in the conference and 16th in the nation.
We have to translate what he does in practice onto the game field and that just comes with more time and more reps and getting better.
Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau, on quarterback Chason Virgil
That growth, though, comes through Virgil. Kiesau reminded that Virgil is a redshirt freshman who played in parts of three games last season along with the two games this season.
But Virgil is as impatient as anyone. He doesn’t like to use that as an excuse.
“We’ve got playmakers out there and our system, our system is to get those guys the ball,” Virgil said. “I just have to trust myself and trust my reads and get those guys the ball and let those guys make plays. It takes a lot of pressure off me, and at the end of the day, that’s why they’re here.
“I need to get those guys the ball and let them make plays. That’s the biggest thing. You give our guys, KeeSean (Johnson), (Delvon) Hardaway, (Aaron) Peck, Jamire (Jordan), all of the tight ends, you give those guys a chance to make plays and they’ll make them.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada