CFN Take: Fresno State Falls In MW Champ
2013 Fresno State Bulldogs ...
Head Coach: Tim DeRuyter
Fresno State Bulldogs
Dec. 6 Mountain West Championship
Aug. 30 at USC L 52-13
Sep. 6 at Utah L 59-27
Sep. 13 Nebraska L 55-19
Sep. 20 Southern Utah W 56-16
Sep. 26 at New Mexico W 35-24
Oct. 3 San Diego State L 24-13
Oct. 11 at UNLV L 40-27 OT
Oct. 17 at Boise State L 37-27
Oct. 25 OPEN DATE
Nov. 1 Wyoming L 45-17
Nov. 8 San Jose State W 38-24
Nov. 22 at Nevada W 40-20
Nov. 29 Hawaii
Dec. 6 Boise State L 28-14
Boise State 28, Fresno State 14
And You Care Because … Boise State won the Mountain West title taking a 28-0 lead on Grant Hedrick touchdown runs from 20 and 21 yards out, a nine-yard Jay Ajayi touchdown dash, and a 63-yard pick six from Tanner Vallejo. Fresno State stayed alive with a two-yard Josh Quezada run and a 25-yard touchdown catch from Greg Watson late, but that was as close as it would get.
What Else? Boise State QB Grant Hedrick completed 9-of-16 passes for 155 yards, and ran nine times for a team-high 81 yards and two touchdowns
- Fresno State QB Brian Burrell completed 30-of-45 passes for 332 yards and a score with three picks. Josh Harper caught ten passes for 131 yards
- Time of possession: Fresno State 35:53 – Boise State 24:07
- Rushing yards: Boise State 149 – Fresno State 41
Game Rating: C-
Nov. 29 at Fresno State 28, Hawaii 21
And You Care Because … Fresno State hung on late and took the West division as Brian Burrell ran for a score and Martez Waller ran for two touchdowns on the way to a 28-0 lead in the first half. The offense started to stall, and Hawaii heated up with 21 unanswered points in the fourth on three Ikaika Woolsey touchdown passes, with the final one to Quinton Pedroza from two yards out with 45 seconds to play. The Aztecs held on.
What Else? Penalties: Hawaii 10 for 76 yards – Fresno State 9 for 69 yards
- Fresno State RB Marteze Waller ran 25 times for 137 yards and two scores
- Hawaii QB Ikaika Woolsey completed 22-of-39 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, and ran 17 times for 15 yards
- Fresno State QB Brian Burrell completed 19-of-32 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions
Game Rating: C+
Nov. 22 Fresno State 40, at Nevada 20
And You Care Because … Brian Burrell ran for a touchdown and threw four touchdown passes, and the offense took advantage of four takeaways as Fresno State scored the final 19 points on the way to a key win and a win from bowl eligibility. Cody Fajardo ran for scores from 55 and 60 yards, and found Don Jackson for a 14-yard touchdown, but the game-tying extra point missed and it was all Fresno State the rest of the way. Aaron Peck caught touchdown passes from 13 and 26 yards out for the Bulldogs.
What Else? Fresno State QB Brian Burrell completed 25-of-46 passes for 313 yards and four scores with a pick, and ran 14 times for 56 yards and a touchdown
- Nevada QB Cody Fajardo completes 11-of-24 passes for 126 yards and a score with a pick, and ran 22 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns
- Fresno State RB Josh Quezada ran 24 times for 119 yards
- Total yards: Fresno State 551 – Nevada 353
Game Rating: C
Nov. 8 at Fresno State 38, San Jose State 24
And You Care Because … Fresno State overcame two huge San Jose State touchdowns on a 51-yard Tyler Ervin run and a 86-yard catch from Jabari Carr with 28 straight points on three Brian Burrell touchdown passes and a blocked punt return for a score. The Spartans fought back in the second half with Carr catching a four-yard touchdown pass and Austin Lopez hitting a 31-yard field goal to pull within 11, but that was as close as it would get, with three turnovers proving to be fatal.
What Else? Fresno State QB Brian Burrell completed 20-of-26 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns with a pick
- San Jose State QB Joe Gray completed 26-of-44 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions
- Fresno State RB Marteze Waller ran 22 times for 145 yards and a touchdown, and Josh Quezada ran 24 times for 112 yards
- San Jose State WR Jabari Carr caught six passes for 143 yards and two scores
Game Rating: C+
Nov. 1 Wyoming 45, at Fresno State 17
And You Care Because … The Wyoming offense that sputtered all year long exploded and was unstoppable, rolling up Fresno State in every way with Brian Hill running for scores from 32 and 66 yards out, and pulling away in the fourth with Joshua Tapscott running for scores from two and 48 yards out, and Jacob Hollister catching a 66-yard touchdown pass. Fresno State scored first on an eight-yard Marteze Waller run, and got into the end zone in the final moments on a seven-yard Aaron Peck run.
What Else? Wyoming RB Brian Hill ran 23 times for 281 yards and two scores, and caught three passes for 106 yards
- Fresno State QBs combined to completed 14-of-29 passes for 149 yards and a score with two interceptions
- Wyoming ran for 374 yards, and threw for 320 yards
- Time of possession: Wyoming 36:49 – Fresno State 23:11
Game Rating: D+
Oct. 17 at Boise State 37, Fresno State 27
And You Care Because … Jay Ajayi ran for two first half scores and Grant Hedrick hit Shane Williams-Rhodes for a 21-yard score and caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Thomas Sperbeck as Boise State put away a game Fresno State. With the game tied at 27 in the fourth, Boise State went 75 yards in 17 plays finishing off with the Hendrick scoring grab, and put away in the final minutes on a 24-yard Dan Goodale field goal. The Bulldogs got Marteze Waller touchdown runs from 76 and three yards out, and Brian Burrell hit Josh Harper on a 32-yard touchdown pass, but the offense couldn’t get the ball back long enough in the fourth to get any rhythm back.
What Else? Boise State RB Jay Ajayi ran 30 times for 158 yards and two scores
- Time of possession: Boise State 35:33 – Fresno State 24:27
- Fresno State RB Marteze Waller ran 18 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and caught three passes for 12 yards
- Total yards: Boise State 492 – Fresno State 313
Game Rating: B
Oct. 10 at UNLV 30, Fresno State 27
And You Care Because … With Fresno State kicker Kody Kroening missing an earlier extra point, the coaching staff chose not to try a field goal in overtime – Marteze Waller dropped the 4th and 17 pass from the 18 – and UNLV capitalized as Nicolai Bornand nailed a 33-yard field goal for the win. The Rebels had a chance to take it in regulation, but Jonathan Leiva missed a 26-yard try. The Rebels had a 17-0 first half lead, but Brian Burrell threw three touchdown passes for the Bulldogs, including a 13-yarder to Waller in the fourth. UNLV was able to tie it up thanks to the missed extra point with Bornand making it 27 all with a 46-yard kick.
What Else? Third down conversions: UNLV 8-of-21 – Fresno State 2-of-14
- Fresno State QB Brian Burrell completed 25-of-44 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns with two picks
- UNLV QB Blake Decker completed 29-of-40 passes for 332 yards and a touchdown with a pick
- Fresno State WR Josh Harper caught 12 passes for 187 yards and a score
Game Rating: B+
Oct. 3 at Fresno State 24, San Diego State 13
And You Care Because … Fresno State capitalized off of two key takeaways and pulled away late with Marteze Waller running for a five-yard score to keep down the struggling Aztecs. The Bulldogs got up 10-0 helped by a one-yard Brandon Connette touchdown run, and SDSU was only able to answer with two Donny Hageman field goals before the O finally got into the end zone early in the fourth on a five-yard Adam Robert touchdown run to pull within four. Fresno State held on over the final ten minutes.
What Else? Fresno State defense? Problems? Total yards: Fresno State 315 – San Diego State 270
- San Diego State QB Nick Bawden completed 9-of-24 passes for 84 yards and a score with two picks
- Fresno State QB Brian Burrell completed 14-of-28 passes for 143 yards and a pick
- San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 24 times for 94 yards
Game Rating: B-
Sept. 26 Fresno State 35, at New Mexico 24
And You Care Because … Down three late in the third quarter, Fresno State took control of the game with 14 unanswered points starting with an 11 play, 81-yard drive finishing up with a Joel Quezada touchdown run, and finishing it off with another long drive – going 80 yards – with QB Brian Burrell running for a three-yard score. Burrell threw three touchdown passes including a ten-yarer to Quezada and a 23-yarder to Josh Harper, but New Mexico controlled the game in the first half helped by touchdown runs from 18 yards out from Jhurell Pressley and 26-yards out from Lamar Jordan, but the defense couldn’t stop the Fresno State attack.
What Else? Fresno State QB Brian Burrell completed 27-of-39 passes for 318 yards and three scores with a pick, and ran 13 times for 63 yards and a touchdown
- New Mexico RB Crusoe Gongbay ran 28 times for 164 yards
- Fresno State RB Marteze Waller ran 19 times for 163 yards.
- Yards: Fresno State 593 – New Mexico 378
Game Rating: C+
Sept. 20 at Fresno State 56, Southern Utah 16
And You Care Because … Down 9-7, Fresno State’s defense came up with its first interception of the year on a 23-yard pick six from Kyrie Wilson to spark a 35 point scoring run. Brian Burrell threw three touchdown passes and Da’Mari Scott caught an 81-yard touchdown pass from Zack Greenlee in the fourth for the Bulldogs.
What Else? Fresno State used three different quarterbacks, combining for 305 yards and four touchdowns with a pick
- Fresno State RB Marteze Waller ran 16 times for 117 yards and a score
- Total yards: Fresno State 694 – Southern Utah 375
- Rushing yards: Fresno State 389 – Southern Utah 57
Game Rating: D
Sept. 13 Nebraska 55, at Fresno State 19
And You Care Because … Nebraska hit two home runs right away on a 70-yard pass play to Jordan Westerkamp and a 57-yard Ameer Abdullah touchdown run within the first three minutes, and got up 34-5 before Fresno State finally got into the end zone on a 66-yard Brian Burrell touchdown dash. De’Mornay Pierson-El added an 86-yard punt return for a score and Imani Cross rolled up a 62-yard scoring dash in the blowout.
What Else? Nebraska cranked up 282 passing yards and 280 on the ground.
- Fresno State QB Brian Burrell completed 30-of-59 passes for 241 yards and a score, and ran nine times for 59 yards with a 66-yard score.
- The Huskers came up with four sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
- Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 19 times for 110 yards and a score.
Game Rating: D
Sept. 6 at Utah 59, Fresno State 27
And You Care Because … Utah blew out to a 24-0 first half lead on three of Travis Wilson’s five touchdown passes on the day. He only completed 11-of-20 passes for 181 yards, but he made them count. Kenneth Scott scores from seven and 36 yards out, while Dres Anderson came up with a 38-yard touchdown and a five-yard score – the Utes were never threatened. Greg Watson scored twice for Fresno State in the fourth from 42 and four yards out. Utah committed 12 penalties for 118 yards.
Game Rating: D
Aug. 30 at USC 52, Fresno State 13
And You Care Because … Cody Kessler threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as USC rolled up 701 yards of total offense in the blowout. The Trojans took a 31-7 lead into halftime helped by two Nelson Agholor touchdown passes and with the half capped off by an Adoree Jackson 18-yard grab. Fresno State got two short scoring runs from Marteze Waller.
What Else? So much for all the drama of the week. USC couldn’t have executed better with Cody Kessler on fire from the start, completing 25-of-37 passes for 394 yards and four scores on the day with a rushing touchdown. He spread the ball around well and kept the up-tempo offense working.
- Fresno State is a far cry from last year and its high-octane passing attack. Brian Burrell completed just 11-of-19 passes for 92 yards with a pick, and Duke transfer Brandon Connette was a disaster completing just 7-of-17 passes for 68 yards and three picks.
- Finally, it seems like the depth is there for the Trojans. The offense got big performances from across the board, with Javorius Allen running for 133 yards and a score and JuJu Smith catching four passes for 123 yards. USC was a machine.
- Fresno State’s offense couldn’t keep the chains moving converting just 2-of-12 third down chances – the O didn’t give the D a chance. Four turnovers and USC holding on to the ball for almost 39 minutes helped turn this into a laugher. It was a perfect end to an awful week for the Trojans.
Game Rating: D+
Winning the inaugural Mountain West title game and going 11-2 for the school’s best season since 2001 is a success. Of course it’s a success. However, when a football program gets to a certain level, its seasons are defined by what could’ve been instead of what happened.
It’s the old adage that you can say 99 nice things, but the one criticism will be what’s remembered.
Fresno State isn’t Alabama or Ohio State in a win-championship-or-bust mode, but after losing two of the final three games – including a walloping from USC in the Las Vegas Bowl – the season became a bit more about the two defeats than the 11 wins. That might not seem fair, and it might not be right, but you only get so many chances at the big-time, and after years and years and years of fighting to get there under Pat Hill, it didn’t happen.
Yeah, Tim DeRuyter’s attack cranking up 564 points with a record-setting passing game was a whole bunch of fun, and yes, winning the Mountain West title really did make the season a success no matter what, but with a BCS game right there for the taking – and a debate about whether or not a shot at Florida State was worthy – the Bulldog defense failed to come through in a 62-52 loss at San Jose State. The USC debacle made it easy for any naysayers to breathe a sigh of relief that Oklahoma got into the Sugar Bowl and Clemson got the nod in the Orange instead of the Mountain West champion.
But the thought now, even with the disappointment at the end, is about how to possibly ramp things back up and keep the momentum going.
How do you replace a quarterback who threw for close to 5,100 yards with 50 touchdowns? How do you replace a Davante Adams, who caught 131 passes for 1,718 yards and 24 scores, and an Isaiah Burse, who made 99 grabs for 1,026 yards and six touchdowns?
How do you fight past several defensive issues to win shootouts like the wild ones against Rutgers, Hawaii and San Diego State, and how do you learn from the problems late in the season when the high-powered attack scored few points in the final two games against Utah State and USC (44) than it did in five games during the year?
DeRuyter is one of the brighter, rising head coaches in college football and he has a great staff around him. Everyone knows that Derek Carr isn’t easily replaceable, and it’s not hard to figure out that the offense – even if everything works – probably isn’t going to pump out another 7,100-yard campaign. But there’s a chance to create a more balanced attack, it’s time to rely on an experienced defense to start doing more, and it’s okay to suggest that even in a bit of a rebuilding year, this still might be the best team in the league. Even if it’s not as wild and it’s not as much fun, the overall results could still be the same.
This time around, though, 11-2, no matter how it happens, really would be fantastic.
2013 was pretty good, too.
What to watch for on offense:
The running game will make an appearance. Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm isn’t going to fold up the passing game shop after losing Derek Carr and Davante Adams, but with the quarterback situation still a question mark going into the summer, and with the offense needing to revamp a bit, the offense should be a bit more balanced after averaging 394 passing yards and 153 on the ground per game. However, as great as the passing game was, the six toughest games of the year all came on the six worst rushing games of the year. Rutgers (81 yards), Boise State (62), San Diego State (43) and Utah State (56) were all dogfights, and San Jose State (127) and USC (37) were losses, partly because the offense completely and totally relied on Carr and the air show. Expect Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller to do even more after combining for 1,453 yards and 13 touchdowns averaging 5.21 yards per try.
What to watch for on defense:
The pass rush has to translate into more production. The 3-4 worked when it came to getting into the backfield, but the stats didn’t match the actual production against the better offenses. The sacks came in bulk, ripping apart sad Hawaii and Idaho teams, and feasting off Utah State in the Mountain West championship with eight sacks. There was only one sack in the two losses – the line couldn’t get to San Jose State’s David Fales – and one in the close call against Rutgers. The coaching staff is playing around with the combination up front, using Tyeler Davison as an end and needing Maurice Poyadue to hold up in the middle. The veteran linebacking corps – potentially one of the team’s biggest strengths – should be able to do more to get behind the line.
The team will be far better if …
the defensive backs start to give up fewer big plays. The pass rush wasn’t bad from the front seven – generating 40 sacks – but the secondary didn’t do its part even though Derron Smith came up with a whale of a season making 87 stops and seven picks. Lit up way too easily, the secondary was destroyed by any quarterback able to push the ball down the field a little bit. To be fair, some teams tried to keep throwing to keep up, and for the most part, the defense bent but didn’t give up big scores. However, Fresno State allowed 26 touchdown passes on the year with 15 coming in the losses to San Jose State and USC along with the close-call shootout against Rutgers. Even though the Bulldogs allowed just 11 touchdowns over the other nine games, they were carved up yardage-wise time and again.
The chance at redemption comes up right away as the Bulldogs try to make amends for the stinker of a bowl performance against USC with a trip to Los Angeles to kick things off. Going to Utah the week after isn’t a breeze, and hosting Nebraska makes for a nasty way to start the season. However, if Fresno State can somehow sweep all three games, the argument for a College Football Playoff appearance will be real. Getting an interdivisional game against Boise State on the road is a horrible break, and playing at UNLV and Nevada isn’t a plus, but San Diego State has to come to Fresno and Wyoming, San Jose State and Hawaii as part of the home slate isn’t all that bad.
Best offensive player:
Senior WR Josh Harper. Flying under the radar with Davante Adams blowing up for 131 catches and Isaiah Burse coming up with 100, Harper still had a year good enough to earn all-star honors. For most teams and most passing games, coming up with 79 grabs and 13 scores would make him a superstar, but that only made him the team’s No. 3 target. Not this year. The inside Z receiver might not put up 100 catches with the offense likely to be more balanced, but he’ll still be the go-to guy.
Best defensive player:
Senior S Derron Smith. Defensive lineman Tyeler Davison might turn out to be the most important part of the defense, and top tacklers Karl Mickelsen and Ejiro Ederaine are back in the linebacking corps, but Smith is the ball-hawker and big stopper in a secondary that gets back just enough talent and experience to be better. He returned from an injured first year to come up with a terrific sophomore campaign, and last year he put up huge numbers as one of the nation’s top pickoff artists. His 14 career picks are the most by anyone in college football returning this year.
Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Brian Burrell. Or Duke transfer Brandon Connette. The passing game will turn out to be just fine no matter who’s at quarterback, but the real key to the season could be Maurice Poyadue on the nose. If he can handle the work, then Tyeler Davison can stay on the end and not move back to the zero. Offensively, Burrell or Connette won’t be Derek Carr, and the starting quarterback won’t have to be with the running game likely to be more of a factor. Myles Carr – no relation – and Zack Greenlee are each getting a shot at the gig, and the competition will be open up until USC, but it’ll take something push out Burrell or Connette.
The season will be a success if … the Bulldogs win a second
straight Mountain West title. Getting USC, Utah and Nebraska in non-conference
play, and with road games against Boise State and Nevada, might be too much to
come up with another double-digit win season, but the defense should be
stronger, the offense will still work, and the creativity will be there from the
coaching staff to make up for some huge personnel losses. Another title would
solidify DeRuyter as a superstar head man, and Fresno State as the true class of
Nov. 22 at Nevada. The October 17th day at Boise State should be the Mountain West regular season game of the year, but that might be a preview of the title game if all goes according to plan. The Bulldogs have to get past Nevada in Reno to get – possibly – a second shot, and with Cody Fajardo and the Wolf Pack improved, that won’t be easy. Fresno State will likely be in the Mountain West championship game with one conference loss, but it probably can’t get there with two.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Penalties: Opponents 89 for 812 yards – Fresno State 68 for 673 yards
- Sacks: Fresno State 40 for 267 yards – Opponents 11 for 71 yards
- Punt Return Average: Fresno State 11.6 yards – Opponents 3.0 yards
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