Blowing a 31-point lead just surfaced as the latest in a long line of blemishes for Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter.
And now we’re getting a clearer sense of this Bulldog football team after the first four games of the season. To the Red Wave, think of this team as a submarine: Fresno State has been submerged, got struck by a torpedo and…are sinking downward.
And the captain (DeRuyter) takes the heat for the submergence.
The 48-41 double overtime meltdown against Tulsa continued to answer some of the questions we’ve had about this Bulldog team and their leader in a visor.
And with the Mountain West slate forthcoming, it could only get worse from here. Here’s what I’ve discovered about this team:
This is an immature bunch who are still getting educated in College Football 101. While standing on the field, I saw a group appearing to get ahead of themselves when jumping out to the early 31-point lead. I didn’t catch one player telling his guys “This game isn’t over yet. Stay focused!” It looked as if Fresno State thought it had won the game in the first quarter.
On multiple occasions, I caught the Fresno State defense not set on the line as Tulsa went with a rapid fire, up-tempo approach on offense. There were Bulldog defensive linemen who either barely put their hand on the ground or were in an awkward two-point stance. Not only does this unit need to have more urgency against no-huddle offenses, but this coaching staff also has to be better about preparing their teams for a high-octane offense that goes without a huddle. It just so happens that Fresno State runs its offense without a huddle, and still struggles against a similar one.
DeRuyter hasn’t proven that he can make adjustments against the teams that throw the counterpunch like Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane started to attack the left side of the field to come back, and FS never re-adjusted. His first two seasons are further proof that the players made those in-game fixings, not him.
Back to the Bulldog defense, the fact that some players looked winded raises this question for me: What is the conditioning level of this group? That falls on the coaches and how they prepare these players.
I’ll give Chason Virgil some credit, he showed more resilience in this game, especially on the drive that saw FS re-take the lead at 41-38 late in the fourth. He included his toughness too, as the Golden Hurricane dished out the kind of hits that would’ve placed Virgil on the sidelines with the wind knocked out of him, yet he stayed in. I still saw Virgil’s flaws, though: Developing happy feet, overthrowing his receivers even when he stood in the pocket and the late turnovers. He even had better protection this time around from his offensive line, as his front five didn’t give up a sack until nearly a minute left in the game.
Lastly, with Tulsa going down in the school record books for largest comeback in program history, this game was the morale breaker that Fresno State couldn’t afford to have as MWC play looms. It’s going to be hard for a young group like this to overcome this debacle.
This performance – while looking great on the stat sheet – is still the kind of game that gets the Bulldogs to look more deflated than a Firestone tire as they trek toward conference play. I mentioned how this game against Tulsa was a “make-or-break game” for the Bulldogs in last week’s Red Wave Report. Well, this team is coming apart at the seams, and Tulsa was the latest to leave Fresno State broken after launching its late torpedo charge.