Robbie Rouse’s 1490 yards on 283 carries and the fashion he did it in last season appears to be an anomaly for what to expect from Fresno State’s spread offense.
As Fresno State right guard Cody Wichmann told us at Bulldog Playbook earlier this season:
“Robbie just made things happen when there was nothing to make out of it.”
Gone are the days where Rouse could run and juke his way to big gains despite the scenario. Now it is up to offensive line to create big running lanes for downhill runners who can run right through the hole for big gains. The spread offense stretches defenses and take defenders out of the box, but the offensive line must take advantage of the numbers when they are there by opening big holes. The Bulldogs now have the personnel designed for the offense with several running backs in the 5-foot-11 to 6-foot and 204-pound to 210-pound range.
Early in the season, opposing defenses focused on the deep passes and the inside running game, containing the Bulldogs on the ground but allowing Derek Carr to move the ball with quick passing. In Fresno State's last two games, the Bulldogs have been able to jump out to big leads and effectively run the ball.
By the Numbers
164 yards per game (69th in FBS)
4.51 yards per carry (56th in FBS)
Rushing by game
vs. Rutgers: 23 att, 81 yards, 3.5 ypc
vs. Cal Poly: 40 att, 162 yards, 4.1 ypc
vs. Boise State: 24 att, 62 yards, 2.6 ypc
at Hawaii: 45 att, 206 yards, 4.6 ypc
at Idaho: 50 att, 309 yards, 6.2 ypc
Marteze Waller: 60 att, 330 yards, 5.5 ypc, 4 touchdowns
Josh Quezada: 65 att, 276 yards, 4.2 ypc, 2 touchdowns
Malique Micenheimer: 15 att, 57 yards, 3.8 ypc, 1 touchdown
Fresno State finished fall camp without a clear number one back. Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller were expected to see the majority of the carries and that has been the case through five games. Quezada punched in the game winning touchdown as the premier back against Boise State. Waller has racked up big games against Hawaii and Idaho, finishing with 95 and 157 yards respectively. Waller has shown the ability to get past the first defender with a burst of speed into the next level, earning more carries. 6-foot-1, 232-pound back Malique Micenheimer has not had the impact that was seen in fall camp, but injuries have hampered his production and he could become a key cog in the rushing attack before the season’s end.
The offensive line has put up a wall for Derek Carr, allowing only three sacks, but the runing game continues to be a work in progress.
Fresno State’s offensive line has had to adjust to life without Robbie Rouse. Veteran offensive linemen Austin Wentworth and Wichmann each expressed that the line and the running backs had to do a better job getting on the same page after their first three games. Although the last two games have been against lesser opponents, the o-line has opened up holes at the line of scrimmage that hadn't been seen against Rutgers and Boise State. The backs also appear to be on the same page now leading to solid execution.
Extension of the Run Game
Fresno State’s screen passes have become an extension of the running game. Running backs attack the inside while passes behind the line of scrimmage serve as an outside running game. The Bulldog receivers continue to excel in blocking down field, allowing the offense to get big chunks of yardage at a time.
Overall Grade: C
Through five games, Fresno State is just starting to see the potential of their running game after solid showings in the last two weeks. Big rushing games against Idaho and Hawaii actually have their current yards per game ahead of where they finished the 2012 season (151.9 ypg). With the remaining schedule ahead, the offensive line projects to continue their effectiveness in the line of scrimmage and keep the momentum rolling through the end of the regular season.
The question still remains if the run game can be more effective against quality defenses compared to their performances against Rutgers and Boise State. Another major concern is the difficulty the Bulldogs have had converting in short yardage scenarios. The running game has been described as a work in progress, and you can expect to see more improvement in the coming weeks.