Fresno State Football

Fresno State football: Southern Utah yet another challenge for reeling 'Dogs

Fresno State comes into this week beaten and bruised, physically and mentally, after taking a pounding from three straight Power 5 Conference opponent.

The Bulldogs appear to catch a break from top-level competition this week with Southern Utah (0-3) coming to Bulldog Stadium.

But are Fresno State's wounds so severe that the Bulldogs are vulnerable to getting beaten by even a Football Championship Subdivision progra?

Against USC, Utah and Nebraska, Fresno State has shown few encouraging signs.

The Bulldogs have been outscored 166-59 with the defense surrendering a Football Bowl Subdivision-worst 55.3 points and 596.3 total yards per game. Fresno State's offense has been nearly as horrific, ranking 108th and an average of 19.7 points and 105th in total yards at 333.7 per game.

"It's a tough pill to swallow," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "It is what it is. We've got to learn from it and get more consistent. ... I'm not so worried as much about the scoreboard -- I know everybody does -- as to how we're playing.

"I thought we played harder, more efficiently. But you can't give up those big plays. Talented teams are going to take advantage of it. It's tough on the psyche of our guys. They clearly didn't expect those things. But it goes to show you that if you don't play clean, good teams will embarrass you."

He added: "We've got to play a much cleaner game this week, or this team will embarrass you."

Southern Utah, though winless, began the season with a 28-19 loss at Nevada, followed by a 41-14 loss to Southeastern Louisiana (ranked No. 3 in the FCS) and a 26-6 loss to South Dakota State (ranked No. 10 in the FCS).

"We're not really worried so much about who we're playing this week," DeRuyter said. "We've just got to play better. ... We just need to clean some things up and play our best game this year on Saturday."

The Bulldogs' continued struggles caused the staff to simplify the game plan going into the Nebraska game. But after the 55-19 loss to the Cornhuskers, DeRuyter said the staff will explore the idea of simplifying the game plan further.

The Bulldogs have had issues with missed calls, missed tackles, poor angles to the ball and poor technique. And that's just on the defensive side, which has allowed 20 plays of at least 20 yards (17 via the pass, three on the ground). Among those were touchdown passes from 70, 20 and 23 yards and scoring runs from 57 and 62 yards by Nebraska.

The Bulldogs special teams also gave up punt returns that went for a 86 yards (for a touchdown) and 5 yards against the Cornhuskers.

Fresno State's offense, meanwhile, went three-and-out on five occasions and four-and-out three times against Nebraska.

The Bulldogs could get some help this week with quarterback Brandon Connette expected to return from injury and practice this week. Connette was held out of the Nebraska game because of a hand injury.

DeRuyter, however, said he expected both Connette and Brian Burrell to play against Southern Utah and a starter won't be named until close to game time for the fourth straight game. This could be the final week of competition before the Bulldogs decide on a starter for Mountain West play, as DeRuyter had hoped going into the season.

"The fact that we've gone three weeks without winning, it hasn't happened since we've been here," said DeRuyter, in his third season at Fresno State. "Everybody's frustrated. Everyone's on edge. I know our players are. Our guys go into every game expecting to win.

"If we don't win, it's frustrating and you question why. We challenged our guys because I've been part of teams where guys start pointing fingers. I don't think this group is one of those types of groups."