The Fresno State Bulldogs we’re certain are in no mood for it, but they can give thanks there are such things as North Texas and Kansas – the universities, not the geographical area or state – and that they field football teams because right now those not-so-mighty Mean Green and Jayhawks are by one statistical measure the worst of 128 teams in the bowl subdivision. Which, of course, means the Bulldogs are not.
North Texas suffered an ignominious homecoming loss Saturday to Portland State, losing 66-7 in what was the worst defeat by an FBS team playing an FCS team.
The loss left the Mean Green 0-5 and with a scoring differential of minus-34.4.
Kansas got smoked by the same 66-7 score by Baylor, though it was not its homecoming game. The Jayhawks still have that for a losable-by-a-lot-less matchup against Oklahoma in three weeks.
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The loss left Kansas 0-5 and with a scoring differential of minus-26.4.
They are the only thing between the Bulldogs and the bottom of the rankings.
We’re not there yet. We have to be more physical.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter
The bottom 10:
▪ 34.4 points, North Texas (0-5, 14.8 points scored, 49.2 points allowed)
▪ 26.4 points, Kansas (0-5, 19.0 points scored, 45.4 points allowed)
▪ 22.3 points, Fresno State (1-5, 20.5 points scored, 42.8 points allowed)
▪ 22.2 points, New Mexico State (0-5, 24.8 points scored, 47.0 points allowed)
▪ 21.7 points, Texas-El Paso (2-4, 21.3 points scored, 43.0 points allowed)
▪ 20.4 points, Idaho (1-4, 26.6 points scored, 47.0 points allowed)
▪ 20.3 points, Miami-Ohio (1-5, 15.0 points scored, 35.3 points allowed)
▪ 17.9 points, Hawaii (2-4, 14.8 points scored, 32.7 points allowed)
▪ 17.0 points, Massachusetts (1-4, 25.2 points scored, 42.2 points allowed)
▪ 15.8 points, Tulane (2-3, 22.0 points scored, 37.8 points allowed)
But back to the here and now, the thing that has become painfully obvious for the Bulldogs is that the rest of the Mountain West Conference has passed them when it comes to the overall strength, speed and physicality of the players. The loss at San Jose State was a bit shocking in that regard, and the Bulldogs’ 56-14 loss to Utah State on Saturday night just reinforced that.
Right now, Fresno State just does not match up well and is paying for it.
“We’re not there yet,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “We have to be more physical. But when you have younger guys that haven’t had the opportunity to develop through the program, there are going to be some deficiencies there, and obviously it’s something that we’re going to have to take a look at in the offseason.”
The Bulldogs are a young team, and due to inherited roster issues they have had to play several inexperienced players this season and last. The Bulldogs have had 27 players see their first game action this season, including four true freshmen and 13 redshirt freshmen. Last season, there were 22 first-year players, including eight true freshmen.
7 Number of rushing touchdowns allowed by Fresno State against Utah State
It is a program in transition, one made all the more difficult coming off back-to-back Mountain West Conference championships in 2012 and ’13. Before that, Fresno State had not won a conference title since 1999. That is a long time. But while going through those growing pains, the Bulldogs need to look at how and why they have fallen so far behind, from the players recruited to how they are developed in the strength and conditioning program and a training table that has been in place for only one year, and how they are coached.
And how quickly they can catch up, because, really, it starts right there.
“To me, the most important things you do in a program are recruit and develop,” DeRuyter said. “Coaching schemes are overrated. It’s getting good football players and developing them into great football players through a year-round program. It’s mental training as well as physical training. It’s getting guys to grow up and understand the grind of football.
“You watch the tape and you see right now we are not as stout as the last couple of teams we played. Now, physically, I thought we matched up physically with San Diego State, but I thought San Jose in particular and Utah State were among the most physical teams we’ve played.”
By the end of November, maybe the Bulldogs aren’t thankful at all. There are six more games on the schedule starting Friday against UNLV, and they aren’t going to bulk up overnight.
“You look at everything,” DeRuyter said. “I know we’re doing a better job now of feeding our guys, but the fruit of that labor is not going to be borne out for another year or two as you go on, with guys who have been eating this way as freshmen and sophomores and hopefully redshirting, and by the time they’re redshirt juniors and seniors, those are the guys that the majority of your team is made from.
“What we’re trying to do is project certain guys. You want to get the biggest, longest athlete that you can find. Unfortunately, a lot of people are looking for that same guy, so there are only so many of those guys around. You have to grow your own. I think our guys are working very hard in the weight room. We’re making significant gains. But to put real bulk on, it’s that work plus nutrition, plus time.”
Third-and-shorts – The Bulldogs have had five starting quarterbacks in their past seven games, going back to Brian Burrell in the 2014 Hawaii Bowl loss to Rice. Zack Greenlee started against Abilene Christian, Ole Miss and San Diego State, Chason Virgil started against Utah, Ford Childress against San Jose State and Kilton Anderson against Utah State. The only win in there is against Abilene Christian, an FCS team, and the passing efficiency rating for the starters in those games is 96.87. They have completed 79 of 148 throws (53.4 percent) for 658 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
▪ Fresno State allowed 200 or more rushing yards for a fifth consecutive game and 12th time in the past 18 games against an FBS opponent – the Aggies gained 201 yards on 47 plays, 4.7 ypp. This week it gets UNLV, and the Rebels are averaging 217.8 rushing yards per game. Since the Bulldogs joined the Mountain West in 2012, there are only three teams that have allowed 200 or more rushing yards in more than five consecutive games: New Mexico in 2014 and Air Force and New Mexico in 2013 all had six-game streaks.
▪ The Aggies had seven rushing touchdowns, three by Devante Mays. That is the most allowed in a game by the Bulldogs since Nevada had seven in a 52-14 victory on Nov. 14, 2009. The Wolf Pack in that game churned out 461 rushing yards on just 50 plays, averaging 9.2 yards per play.
▪ In 20 games since Derek Carr played his last game in a Fresno State uniform, the Bulldogs have completed 394 of 712 passes (55.3 percent) for 4,091 yards with 38 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. In the first 20 games after David Carr played his last game for the Bulldogs, they completed 370 of 678 passes (54.6 percent) for 4,410 yards with 27 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Those numbers are fairly similar. These are not: The Bulldogs are 7-13 after Derek, and were 12-8 after David.
▪ Fresno State allowed five touchdowns in five red-zone possessions, free-falling into last place in the Mountain West Conference in red-zone touchdown percentage allowed. It’s now 18 in 22 trips, 81.8 percent. Hawaii also has allowed 18 red-zone touchdowns but in 27 trips. No other team in the conference has allowed more than 14 red-zone touchdowns.
▪ Anderson became the 10th true or redshirt freshman to start a game at quarterback for the Bulldogs, and of the eight since 1979, when game-by-game stats are available, the fifth to end up with a loss on the record. The winners – Paul Pinegar in 2002 as a redshirt freshman in a 16-14 victory over San Diego State, Trent Dilfer in 1991 as a redshirt freshman in a 48-22 victory over UNLV and Mark Barsotti in 1988 as a redshirt freshman in a 68-21 victory at New Mexico.
FRESNO STATE VS. UNLV
- Friday: 7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium
- Records: Bulldogs 1-5, 0-3 MW; Rebels 2-4, 1-1
- TV/radio: ESPN2/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)