Bulldog Playbook felt the Dogs would have enough momentum with the home crowd to pull out a relatively close win. Instead the Bulldogs needed a missed 43 yard field goal from Rutgers to survive regulation and win the game on a missed two point pass attempt from Gary Nova to Brandon Coleman. Both teams showed powerful offenses that were able to execute nearly every time they had the ball. Bulldog Playbook decided to take a look into what took place on the field last night, what Fresno State will have to work on to get better, and what the Bulldogs did relatively well that will benefit them during the remainder of the 2013 season.
What can you say about a QB who threw 74 passes completing over 70% of them en route to over 450 yards passing combined with five touchdowns? What you can say is thank god Derek Carr is a Bulldog because without him Fresno State would not be 1-0 right now. Carr had one mistake as he threw an interception negating a chance for the Bulldogs to score early in the game. However, Carr more than made up for his lone mistake with one solid throw after another tearing Rutgers defense apart.
The receiving unit for Fresno State had a solid game production wise as well as the Bulldogs top three receivers all had over ten catches. The Bulldogs "big three" receivers compiled the following stats:
While there is a great deal of praise to be thrown around with respect to the passing game there were some glaring issues that will need to be addressed during the 2013 season. The Dogs receivers dropped too many passes. That may be hard to believe considering there were 53 completions, but Carr could have easily gone 60 for 74 had the receivers held on to passes that hit them in the hands. On the other side of the coin no one doubts that Carr has a strong arm that is accurate more often than not. The problem is sometimes Carr attempts a pass to a receiver with too much emphasis on it. These are by far the smaller of the problems that took place in last night's game. However, they are problems that Bulldog Playbook believes we will see throughout the season.
Fresno State's offensive line deserves some praise here with respect to protecting Carr considering they only allowed one sack for four yards to a defense that came with speed and size nearly every play. Unfortunately the one negative in the offense is the one negative that will play a huge role if it is not fixed. The Bulldogs running game ceased to exist last night. After early positive strides from Josh Quezada the Bulldogs seemed to abandon the run game. In all fairness the running game stalled quite often after the opening drive. In the second have Marteze Waller's fumble came at the most inopportune of times. This week look for the Bulldogs to shore up the running game against Cal Poly. Bulldog Playbook highly doubts you will see Carr throw over 40 passes as the coaching staff understands how important it is to establish a running game against big time opponents such as Boise State who Fresno State will see in three weeks.
Offensive Grade – B+: Because the running game stalled badly Bulldog Playbook does not feel that the offense was as efficient as it will need to be to win games down the line. For that reason we gave the Dogs slightly less than an A although the Dogs executed on offense through the air without a problem.
Fresno State experienced a great deal of problems on defense last night against Rutgers, something Bulldog Playbook is sure surprised most Bulldog fans. Fresno State fans knew the loss of Phillip Thomas and Sean Alston would hurt the secondary. However, we do not believe anyone thought it would be this bad. Last night the Bulldogs corners were beaten constantly by Gary Nova and his wide receiver tandem of Leonte Carroo and Brandon Coleman.
Leonte Carroo: 4 receptions for 124 yards and 3 touchdowns
Brandon Coleman: 10 receptions for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns
Let us say this now: We doubt we will see another set of receivers this year with the physical and athletic ability to do what Coleman and Carroo did last night. Coleman may not have been able to practice up until a week before the game but no one could tell that last night. Coleman put on a dominating show as he was able to haul in nearly every single pass thrown his way en route to a stellar day receiving. Carroo may not have had the lofty reception totals that Coleman did, but he more than made up for that with his ability to gain large chunks of yards each time he touched the ball. Fresno State's secondary looked as if they had no answer for either receiver. Derron Smith made some stellar plays in the secondary including an outstanding interception taking the ball away from a Rutgers receiver on the sideline. The secondary was unable to keep Rutgers receivers from doing as they pleased. The Bulldog secondary was constantly out of position trying to play catch up on balls thrown deep. Corners and safeties did not turn around on deep routes leading to long completions for Rutgers. If the Dogs hope to be successful they are going to have to work on their technique in the secondary. Talent is there, we do not doubt that. However, the talent needs to be developed on the field in order for the Dogs to become successful.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Rutgers was able to gash the Bulldogs on the ground as well. Paul James turned in one of the better performances of his career rushing 22 times for 182 yards. Fresno State's tackle pursuit as James broke off big runs through the hole was less than desirable. In order for the Dogs to keep the running game in check they will have to work on these angles as the safety often times is the last line of defense. It was here where the Bulldogs missed Phillip Thomas more so than anywhere else last night.
Overall the Bulldog defense has to get to work this week. The secondary as well as the Linebackers must work on their coverages in order to provide the defensive line time to get to the QB. Nova had far too much time last night to hit any receiver he desired which resulted in Nova's 348 yard passing performance combined with 5 touchdowns. Nova's passer rating actually bested Carr's at 170.1 to 144.6 for Carr. Nova is a good QB, few will argue that. However, Fresno State made Nova look like a dominant QB who will throw for 400 yards and 40 touchdowns this season. If the Dogs cannot fix their secondary problems they will be in for a long season in 2013.
Defensive Grade – D: The Bulldogs pass coverage and pursuit angles left a lot to be desired. If these things are not fixed look for the Colorado game to far closer than many would like to see.
Special Teams Breakdown
Aside the long return for a touchdown early in the game, Fresno State's kick coverage went well due to the fact that they went with a short approach that did not allow Rutgers to return the ball often. While this may not be the most exciting of ways to play college football, it certainly helped the Bulldogs in the sense that it forced Rutgers to start from their thirty yard line nearly every time.
When receiving the ball Fresno State did a tremendous job putting itself in great field position. Dillon Root averaged 26 yards per kickoff while Isaiah Burse was able to give the Bulldogs nearly sixteen yards per punt return. Both returners were able to come up big in the second half returning the ball past the fifty giving the Bulldogs offense a short field to work with.
The kicking game may have been the most surprising aspect of what took place last night. Colin McGuire in his first Bulldog game hit a 47 yarder to tie the game at 38 with less than four minutes left. McGuire had no problems converting extra points and showed an extremely strong leg on his lone field goal. Overall McGuire gave the Bulldogs a boost and looks to be a promising young kicker who will allow the Dogs the opportunity to score three points from long distances, something they did not have the ability to do at all last season.
Special Teams Grade – B: The kickoff return allowed keeps Fresno State from getting an A in this aspect of the game.
Fresno State did many positive things on the football field last night. More importantly they left with a win in a game that they have been known to lose throughout the years. If Fresno State hopes to compete with Boise in three weeks they will have to get better on the defensive side of the ball. The running game must become stronger as well. The talent is there to be a very strong football team this season. The question is will it develop in time to take on Boise State? That's the question Bulldog Playbook and Bulldog nation await an answer to and will find out over the course of the next few weeks.