No two plays encapsulate the 2016 Fresno State Bulldogs better than these:
Midway through the third quarter, trailing 21-10, the defense appeared to catch a break. Linebacker James Bailey laid a big hit on UNLV receiver Tim Holt and forced a fumble which was recovered by Nathan Madsen, though a review overturned the initial call. It would go down as an incomplete pass and then, on third-and-11 at their own 9-yard line, this happened:
The Bulldogs would never truly threaten again and lose in the usual fashion, 45-20.
If you’ve paid attention at all to the last year and a half, there was nothing remarkable about this latest defeat: The team has lost 15 of its last 19 games, the worst stretch in the history of the program, and many of the glaring narratives have popped up before.
The defense allowed UNLV to run for 364 yards, the third week in a row it’s allowed at least 300 yards. And this was in spite of the fact Lexington Thomas had an off night — 15 carries, 19 yards — because freshman Charles Williams, a Fresno-area prospect, essentially doubled his season output by running for 153 yards on 18 attempts. That he was ignored by this staff as a recruit is more a matter of optics than anything, but running over the hometown team is never a good look.
Quarterback Chason Virgil (16-45-296-2-1) again struggled with consistency despite a few big plays. Aaron Peck managed an 80-yard catch-and-run score and finished the night with 194 yards on five catches, but KeeSean Johnson (5 catches, 57 yards) and Jamire Jordan (2 catches, 10 yards) were non-factors.
The running game continues to be one of the worst in the country, as Dontel James only mustered 53 yards on 18 carries. His 3.3 yards per carry on the year is the worst of any running back in the nation with at least 60 carries, and it’s not particularly close. The offensive line is one of the worst in the country, as well, since only seven teams have allowed more tackles for loss.
The pass rush was, again, non-existent. Fresno State recorded no sacks, the third time in five games this year and the ninth time since the beginning of 2014 that’s happened. Missed tackles, like the ones in Sneed’s long run, continue to plague the unit.
I’ll stop here, except to say that last night’s loss was the 12th time the Bulldogs have lost by at least 25 points since the beginning of the 2014 season. It was also the 14th time that Fresno State has allowed 40 points to its opponent in that same timeframe. The Bulldogs (1-4) will continue their road swing in Reno against Nevada next Saturday, while the Rebels (2-3) will play at San Diego State.