Fresno State Football

Bulldogs’ offense can make much more out of scramble mode in home opener against Minnesota

Coach Tedford assesses Bulldogs’ performance against USC, looks forward to Minnesota

After loss to USC, Fresno State will be facing the Golden Gophers out of the Big Ten for the second straight year, this time at Bulldog Stadium.
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After loss to USC, Fresno State will be facing the Golden Gophers out of the Big Ten for the second straight year, this time at Bulldog Stadium.

Fresno State wideout Chris Coleman made three catches in the Bulldogs’ opening loss at USC, all in the fourth quarter and all quite large.

One went for an 8-yard touchdown, one went for 27 yards and a first down on third-and-10 and one went for 36 yards and a first down on fourth-and-10, putting the Bulldogs at the Trojans’ 15-yard line with a chance at the end to tie the score.

On the second and third of those plays quarterback Jorge Reyna had popped the escape hatch from the pocket and was on the move, looking to make a play.

Coleman said it’s those kinds of plays where the Bulldogs receivers must get better starting on Saturday night in their home opener against Minnesota at Bulldog Stadium. He said that film study revealed it didn’t happen often enough against USC.

If protection breaks down, work back to the quarterback, find an opening.

“A little more scramble drill, a little more working into his vision,” Coleman said. “He has to be able to trust the fact that we’re going to break away or get open.

“If it’s a tight ball, give it a chance. We’re not going to let them just undercut us and get an interception. We’re going to fight for that.”

That figured to still be in development in Week 1 and it was with an offense that returned only three starters from a 12-2 Mountain West Conference championship team, with Reyna in his first start and with a young receivers corps that had two true freshman starting in Jalen Cropper and Jamal Glaspie.

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Fresno State wide receiver Chris Coleman catches a pass during the final spring practice of 2019 at Bulldog Stadium on Saturday, April 13, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

With Reyna and his ability to evade rush, to step up or work to his left or to his right and buy time, there is always a chance to make a play.

On that fourth-down pass to Coleman, Reyna stepped up to get away from linebacker Hunter Echols, who won at the line of scrimmage with an outside move and was able to get up field and a hand on Reyna deep in the pocket. Reyna then floated to his left before squaring up and firing.

“That’s one of the strengths of Jorge,” offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said.

The Bulldogs, he said, have to be ready for that.

“There were some scramble situations that could have been handled better, but there were also a couple that we made big plays on,” Grubb said. “I think those guys are recognizing that and seeing that they have to make themselves a little more available and that with Jorge, good protection or bad protection, the play is always alive.”

Coleman was locked into that in the fourth quarter at USC – he made a stellar catch on the third-down play to pull in a ball thrown well to the inside, then a better one on the fourth down going up to high-point the football and come down with it in a jump ball situation with USC cornerback Greg Johnson.

“Me and Jorge have been on the same page since the spring, so I kind of knew once I broke out, I’m like, OK, I can feel the defender right here, he’s going to throw it back on the inside,” Coleman said. “It’s weird to say, but we actually make contact in the game and in practice full speed more times than not. We’re never not looking at each other. He can do a little head bob and I’ll see it and just react to it. …

“He puts it in a good position more times than not, if he has time. On that play, surprisingly, he didn’t have time and he put it in probably the best position possible for me to catch the ball. He made a really good play.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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