After keeping up with Fresno State throughout the first half, the Rams’ offense sputtered and failed to get into a rhythm, falling to the Bulldogs 28-7 in CSU’s homecoming game.
Senior quarterback MJ McPeek, who was starting in place of injured Garrett Grayson, threw for 192 yards and one touchdown on 51.7 percent passing while fumbling the ball twice in the first start of his collegiate career.
“We gotta start finishing,” McPeek said. “And I put that on me because I have to exude confidence and I need to put guys in good positions and I didn’t do that until the second half. We gotta start faster.”
In addition to failing to pass the ball effectively, the Rams also couldn’t get the running game going as running back Chris Nwoke rushed for only 68 yards while also failing to record a 100 yards rushing for the fifth straight game.
The struggles on offense led to CSU not scoring in the first quarter of the game for the fourth straight time.
“The game itself (was full of ) inconsistency, and not being able to control the line” CSU coach Jim McElwain said. “Do I sound like a broken record? Because I am. What you do is you keep working and you keep moving forward, there are no quick fixes.”
As the CSU offense battled inconsistent play throughout the game, Fresno State’s took advantage of all the opportunities the Rams gave them.
Leading 7-0 at the end of the first half, the Bulldogs blocked a Pete Kontodiakos punt and recovered the ball at the Rams’ 33 yard line with 1:49 left in the second quarter. Thirty-two seconds later, Fresno State put the ball into the end zone on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Josh Harper.
The score made it 14-0 Fresno State and changed the momentum the Rams had gained from the play of their defense.
The block came from a gutsy call by Fresno State special teams coach Pete Germano who took the risk of sending the punt block unit out possibly at the expense of field position.
“Coach Germano called it. It was a block,” Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. “It was at a time we had felt we had a pretty good key on them.”
The Bulldogs continued to key on the Rams especially on offense as quarterback Derek Carr completed 64 percent of his passes for 217 yards and four touchdowns in the game.
The effectiveness of Fresno State’s passing attack came largely due to the fact that they had success early on in the ground game. Running back Robbie Rouse rushed for 119 yards, setting up a passing attack that took advantage of the over-aggressiveness of the CSU defense.
The game marks the third time this season the Rams have given up 100 yards rushing and according to the team, they have realized that in order to get their offense rolling again, they will need to get the ground game going as well.
“We have to get a running game going, plain and simple to be a successful football team,” McElwain said. “The team we just played, as much as they threw it, they ran the ball effectively. That’s where it starts and we just have to get it going.”
The victory for Fresno State puts the Bulldogs’ record at 4-2 for the year and keeps them at an undefeated 2-0 in Mountain West Conference play going into their game with Boise State next week, which is also 2-0 in conference play.
“Right now we’re 2-0 in the conference,” DeRuyter said. “Next weekend is going to determine who has one loss and they’ve got it at home.
So we better have a good week at practice because we know we’re going against a team that’s won a heck of a lot of ball games, especially on their own turf.”
The loss for the Rams is their fifth in a row as it sends their record to 1-5 on the year and 0-2 in the conference.
CSU will play its next game against San Diego State in San Diego, Calif. Sat., Sept. 13 at 4:45 p.m. MT.
“We’re playing a real physical front coming up this week in San Diego State and a defense that sits in a 3-3 and comes from all over,” McElwain said.
“Every blitz that has ever been invented and known to mankind we get to see next week. That’s really exciting.”
For more in-depth coverage of tonight’s game be sure to check out Monday’s Collegian
Football Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org