Fresno State doesn't have much that jumps off a stat sheet, but the Bulldogs also don't lack for confidence when it comes to a passing game that still is in development.
The quarterbacks have completed only 56% of their throws through six games, ranking 92nd of 128 teams in the football subdivision, with starting quarterback Brian Burrell at 56.9% (103 of 181). Despite racking up 19 explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards, the Bulldogs are averaging only 5.9 yards per passing attempt, putting them in a tie for 110th in the nation.
But if opposing teams start to play run-first, drop a safety into the box or adjust in other ways to try to stymie a running game that is generating 191.7 yards per game and take their chances that the Bulldogs lack the consistency to do too much damage outside, well then, go ahead.
"I hope they do and all the receivers hope they do, too," Burrell said. "I think one of these upcoming games, a team is going to do that. They're going to try to take away the run and then we're just going to pass the ball on them and I think we'll be successful doing it."
Are the Bulldogs at a point they can take advantage of that?
"I feel like we're there," wide out Josh Harper said.
"No doubt about it. Absolutely," Burrell said.
But with the Bulldogs getting deeper into their Mountain West Conference schedule with UNLV on Friday and Boise State on deck, can they find a level of consistency that has been missing?
Aside from the completion percentage and yards per passing attempt, which are low for a spread offense, Fresno State is ranked 101st in passing efficiency rating at 114.89 and in a tie for 94th with seven interceptions. And all of those numbers include a 56-16 victory over Southern Utah, a championship subdivision program that is ranked eighth of 13 in the Big Sky Conference in passing defense.
Burrell is entrenched as the starter after competing with Brandon Connette in fall camp and into the first part of the season, and the Bulldogs have made progress offensively. Their third-down conversion rate has improved for three consecutive games, hitting 50% last week in a victory over San Diego State. They were able to put together five touchdowns drives of 75 or more yards against New Mexico.
But the passing game remains erratic for a number of reasons -- a young group of outside receivers has been inconsistent, with 18 sacks allowed there have been protection issues and Burrell with six career starts still is developing a presence in the passing game.
"Obviously, we want to be better at it," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "It's something you work very hard to get into those rhythms so that you are throwing on time, you're anticipating throws. We have to be playing our best ball between now and November and hopefully each week we get better so that we are, but if we can't get it done we have to look at how we are doing things to make it better or if we have the right guys doing it."
For Burrell and the receivers, it is a matter of reps on the practice field and in games. Certainly, the pieces are there. Harper is tied for second in the conference with 35 receptions, Aaron Peck has been more consistent having moved inside from out, Da'Mari Scott and Delvon Hardaway are legitimate threats to stretch the field. But the consistency has not and with the matchups ahead the clock is ticking -- it has been since the start of the season, DeRuyter said.
"As you practice, you hope to execute better," he said. "You hope to understand open and closed middle coverages even when they're trying to disguise and know where the holes are and how we have to adjust our routes. It's going to take hard work in practice and film study and obviously in games."
Therein is the key. That completion percentage has to go up -- half of the 128 teams in the bowl subdivision have completed at least 60% of their passes. But offensive coordinator Dave Schramm is more concerned with the number that goes in the left-hand column in the conference standings than anything else. That would be the one listed under the W.
"I don't have any urgency about our numbers being this or our numbers being that," Schramm said. "I think when the year is done we'll be at the top end in the conference in total offense and scoring offense. I believe that and I believe it because of how we operate and what we're doing.
"When you look at what we did, I don't really look at those negatives, I look at we were 50% on third down (against San Diego State), that's a great improvement. We're 75% touchdowns in the red zone, that's a great goal. I look at the things we have to fix, but I don't get caught up in those types of numbers. The things we have to make sure we don't do is turn the ball over and we have to continue to get better on third down. Those are the things I think cost you games."