It seemed to us that we were a very great team.
- Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter
The descent from greatness can be cruel.
Twenty one months ago, the Fresno State Bulldogs finished what might be the greatest season in program history. Tonight, I watched with increasing disbelief, and no small bit of incredulity, as I sat in front of the biggest television I could find and watched a clearly inferior class of Bulldogs get trucked again and again by one of our closest rivals. Sure, the 49-23 defeat looks marginally better than the back-to-back embarrassing defeats suffered against clearly superior Power 5 foes, but San Jose State should have been an eminently beatable team.
Only one team looked like a Mountain West contender by game's end, though. It was the team in the home blues that walked away with the shiny silver "V" and Fresno State's lunch money, for good measure.
I would say that this particular loss was a new way by which the Bulldogs humiliated themselves, but the game bore an uncomfortable resemblance both to last week's Utah loss and 2014's blowout loss to Wyoming. Tyler Ervin ran forever, essentially bludgeoning the Fresno front seven and more than neutralizing the six sacks that the 'Dogs were able to accumulate. He rushed for 16 yards to the San Jose State 45, rushed for 8 yards to the Fresno State 47, rushed for 3 yards to the Fresno State 44, rushed for 2 yards to the Fresno State 42, rushed for 9 yards to the Fresno State 33, rushed for 11 yards to the Fresno State 22, rushed for 2 yards to the Fresno State 20, rushed for 10 yards to the Fresno State 10, rushed for 1 yard to the Fresno State 9 in one nine-play stretch, early in the fourth quarter, essentially etherizing Fresno's brief comeback hopes.
He would finish with a school-record, not to mention an FBS-best in the young season, 300 yards on 42 carries, and three touchdowns.
And this is to say nothing of the ongoing quarterback malaise, wherein the gamesmanship fostered by indecision evolved into gamesmanship steeped in a perceived emphasis on institutional secrecy at all costs, regardless of accountability. Zack Greenlee didn't play after last Sunday's arrest, it probably would not have helped if he had played, but we all should've known a lot sooner that he'd get to skip this demolition. Ford Childress, in his stead, looked about as good as you might expect anyone to look with only seven weeks of experience within the offensive system (19-32-159-2-1).
He threw a pick-six, to what I can only assume was no one's surprise; Kilton Anderson almost threw another in his lone attempt, presumably before someone realized they had let Kilton Anderson into the game for no apparent reason. Childress overthrew a lot of receivers, most glaringly a deep throw to Delvon Hardaway that would've been an easy touchdown in the first quarter, but for those expecting another handful of confusing play calls from offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, it was a fruitful evening.
First quarter, opening drive, from the San Jose State 33: Fly sweep left, fly sweep right, fly sweep left, draw to Malique Micenheimer for a one-yard loss on 4th-and-5.
First/second quarter, from the San Jose State 48: Counter run, counter run, three-yard pass to Jamire Jordan on 3rd-and-7.
Fourth quarter, 4th-and-12 at the San Jose State 31: A short completion to KeeSean Johnson on a crossing pattern, which barely breaks the line of scrimmage.
We need to have a talk about Schramm. I can't explain Anderson's brief stint against the Spartans, but we all saw him for that brief three-play stretch early in the second quarter. I can't explain why sophomore tight end Chad Olsen only had one target all evening. I can't explain why Marteze Waller, whom the Spartans made mortal for at least one night (19 carries, 72 yards), was out there catching screen passes when the game was already out of reach.
Four of the Bulldogs' first five drives started in San Jose State territory. They scored seven points.
Joe Gray's quarterback rating for the game (222.03) was only slightly lower than that of David Fales' scorched earth performance against these Bulldogs in 2013 (228.33).
The Bulldogs defense has allowed 180 points in four games, better than only UTEP, Texas State and Idaho. Whether this represents improvement on the 182 points that Fresno State allowed in last year's four-game, non-conference dumpster fire is entirely up to you to decide.
"We've got to execute better," head coach Tim DeRuyter said in his postgame remarks.
"We've got to play a lot better," DeRuyter said, following the loss to Utah.
Ole Miss: "[We've] just got to play smarter."
Abilene Christian: "They're going to make some mistakes."
The young receivers, at least, continued to show promise despite the overall poor performance: Jamire Jordan had the play of the night and scored twice. KeeSean Johnson became the fourth receiver in four weeks to lead the Bulldogs in receiving, with 90 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Fresno State appears to be regressing before our eyes, though. Wyoming may have the inside track to being the conference's worst team at this point, but I will tell you do not sleep on this team's ability to let you down.