Fresno State Football

Mountain West Review: Slow only begins to define Fresno State's sputtering starts

During the opening weekend of the college football season, there were 39 games between bowl subdivision schools and 25 teams in there that didn't score a first-quarter point.

Not a one — no touchdown, no field goal, no safety. Nothing.

In Week 2, 11 of those teams had the good fortune of playing a championship subdivision opponent, one had a bye and eight actually put points on the scoreboard in the opening 15 minutes.

The other five were shut out again. But none of those FBS teams have been in the holes that Fresno State has dug the first two weeks, falling behind 21-0 after one quarter in losing at USC and 17-0 in losing at Utah. Slow obviously is relative, but the Bulldogs have started painfully s-l-o-w.

Fresno State has averaged just 1.785 yards per play in the first quarter, which includes 15 yards from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on USC that goes into the Bulldogs' total. That average is the lowest of any of those teams that have been shut out at the start by FBS opponents.

Add in plays in drives that started in the first and went into the second quarter and the Bulldogs still are gaining fewer yards per play than any of those teams — that would be 40 plays and 115 yards, just 2.875 yards per play.

Here's a breakdown of the five teams, with drives, plays, total yards and yards per play:

• Fresno State 9-40-115-2.875



• SMU 9-39-116-2.974



• Northwestern 6-41-125-3.048



• Vanderbilt 6-23-74-3.217



• Tulsa 7-39-164-4.205



Brian Burrell was at quarterback for Fresno State on the first eight of those Bulldogs' drives, which resulted in eight punts. But the problems getting started go well beyond who is taking the snap.

"It's the overall execution," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "That first game, I thought our offensive line did a really nice job against a really talented USC front. Clearly, on Saturday against Utah they weren't up to par of what they set for themselves. It started there. We didn't run-block or pass-protect very well and when you have a quarterback that's trying to get comfortable in the offense and as soon as he gets the ball he's got someone bearing down his throat, it makes it very difficult to execute on offense.

"We've got a lot of holes to fix right now and we need to get it done."

It's not supposed to be that way, obviously. Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm scripts the start of every game, and the Bulldogs work those plays in practice. Last season in the first quarter, Fresno State put points on the scoreboard in 10 of its 13 games and outscored opponents 154-69.

Duly noted: The Bulldogs are 16-2 under DeRuyter when scoring first in a game.

REBEL YELP

UNLV also has issues offensively — tied for 122nd in the bowl subdivision in scoring offense, with 13 points in a loss at Arizona and 13 in beating Northern Colorado.

The latter opponent is a championship subdivision program from the Big Sky that came in on an 11-game losing streak and had allowed an average of 409 yards and 31.2 points a year ago. The Bears gave up 41 last year to Division II Colorado State-Pueblo.

UNLV was lucky to escape with a victory, its final six points coming on two of the puniest scoring drives we are likely to see in the Mountain West this season.

Rebels linebacker Nicolai Bornand, who comes in to attempt longer field goals, tied a school record with a 54-yarder in the second quarter.

And Jonathan Leiva provided the winning points with a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter.

Those drives were three plays for minus-2 yards and four for 2 yards.

The Rebels' longest drive was their last one, going 73 yards in 13 plays to the Bears 7, where on a fourth-and-4 and with 15 seconds remaining and a lead, quarterback Blake Decker had a pass picked off around the goal line. It was returned 15 yards — a broken tackle away from going for a game-losing Pick Six.

THIRD-AND-SHORTS

• It was another rough weekend for the Mountain West in nonconference games against bowl subdivision teams — a 1-5 record with the only win by Nevada over Washington State followed a 1-6 Week 1, and the average margin of defeat in the 11 losses is 24.5 points.



• San Diego State blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and lost at North Carolina. The Aztecs had been 19-3 under coach Rocky Long when leading after three quarters. Quinn Kaehler did throw for a career-best 341 yards, the 14th consecutive game he has had 200 or more. That is the second-longest active streak in the nation behind Sean Mannion of Oregon State.



• Fresno State has allowed 10 or more points in seven of eight quarters this season and 14 of 20 dating to the loss at San Jose State in the 2013 regular-season finale.



• New Mexico allowed 423 rushing yards in its loss to Arizona State, the most it has given up since 1996 when Rice rolled up 481. Running back D.J. Foster had 216 yards, the second back in a row to go over 200 against the Lobos. Sun Devils backs ran on 37 plays, only one of which went for negative yards.



• Colorado State's Garrett Grayson had 428 yards of total offense (434 passing, minus-6 rushing) at Boise State, second-best in school history. The best? Grayson had 445 (397 passing, 48 rushing) last season against Boise State. The Rams, however, are 0-2 in those games.



• The Rams rushed for 266 yards in an opening victory over Colorado, but 28 on 23 plays against Boise State. Big swing, but last season they went from 347 in a victory at New Mexico to just 38 in a loss at Utah State.



• There are seven Mountain West teams with a negative turnover margin, ranking from a tie for 87th in the FBS to a tie for 121st. Utah State is minus-1 (four gained, five lost); San Diego State (2 and 4) and Air Force (0 and 2) at minus-2; Fresno State (2 and 5) and Colorado State (1 and 4) minus-3; UNLV (1 and 5) minus-4; and New Mexico (1 and 6) minus-5.



RECEIVING ROLL

Boise State wideout Matt Miller and Wyoming receiver Dominic Rufran rank first and second in the bowl subdivision in consecutive games with a reception at 41 and 39.

The Mountain West is the only conference with four players with streaks of at least 28 games.

Here is the full list:

• Miller 41



• Rufran 39



• Justin Hardy (East Carolina) 38



• Rashad Greene (Florida State) 31



• Tyler Lockett (Kansas State) 28



• Jordan Leslie (BYU) 30



• Jamison Crowder (Duke) 30



• Josh Harper (Fresno State) 29



• D. J. Foster (Arizona State) 29



• Quinton Dunbar (Florida) 29



• Tommy Shuler (Marshall) 29



• Devante Davis (UNLV) 28



Casey Flair (UNLV) and Jovon Bouknight (Wyoming) hold the conference record with a reception in 47 straight games and Dennis Pitta (BYU) is third at 43.

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