In a season full of humiliating losses, the ineptitude of the Fresno State Bulldogs in Wednesday's Hawaii Bowl is going to linger for a long time. The defense coughed up big plays. The offense put together its worst performance of the Tim DeRuyter era: Six points and 3.2 yards per play, two figures which are on par with the horrendous blowouts against Boise State in 2010 and 2011. Those were showings that got Pat Hill fired, and this one should give DeRuyter pause. Is his job safe right now? Yeah, sure. Should the same be said of his staff? Well...
On the one hand, you don't want to overreact to the departure of last year's stars because most fans knew some level of regression was on the way. On the other, Brian Burrell just finished the worst season of any Fresno State quarterback in roughly a decade or a quarter-century, depending on your level of forgiveness. At least Paul Pinegar had the excuse of playing at less than 100%; Burrell is just bad at football. 10-of-20 passing for 44 yards and two interceptions? Are you kidding me?
I'd predicted on Sunday (at 37:19) that he would throw three interceptions, and I would've been right had he not been mercifully benched for Zack Greenlee, who somehow managed to look even worse in finishing 7-of-18 for 49 yards. He put way too much arm into some throws, overthrew his receivers by five yards on others and looked generally miserable.
Oh, and Brandon Connette made a cameo, too. It's a damning indictment of the offensive coaching staff and coordinator Dave Schramm, in particular, that the team absolutely failed to develop a quarterback in 2014. His playcalling continues to infuriate, as well. With a chance to kick a field goal and close the deficit to one touchdown late in the first half, the 'Dogs elected to keep Kody Kroening (who had already made two field goals from 40+ yards to that point) on the sidelines in favor a slow-developing screen play to the far side of the field. That it lost three yards was little surprise; that Kroening later had another long attempt blocked just seemed like a cherry on a sad sundae.
I'd also said that whoever wins the matchup between Fresno's cornerbacks and Rice's receivers would be crucial, and in that regard it was Malcolm Washington who had an afternoon to forget. He got turned around on Mario Hull's adjustment to a long pass from Driphus Jackson, which enabled the Rice receiver to scamper the rest of the 69 yards for a score. He was also caught out of position on the successful screen to Dennis Parks, who went 40 yards for his own touchdown. The true freshman brought stability to the defensive backfield once he was inserted into the starting lineup and has plenty of promise, but he'll have a lot to learn from looking back at this game.
It makes you feel for guys like Josh Harper, who was playing in his first bowl game despite being a senior, and Derron Smith, who forwent a shot at the NFL to come back to this dumpster fire. This senior class has an argument as the most successful in school history, not only Harper and Smith but others like Karl Mickelsen, who finished with 11 tackles, Tyeler Davison and Cody Wichmann. They all leave Fresno State with an 0-3 record in bowl games, and they deserved better.
If the pressure to replace players like Derek Carr and Davante Adams was on this year, the stakes will be even higher this offseason for DeRuyter to prove he really can win with his recruits in 2015. This loss will cast a long shadow if he can't.