WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Robert Kuwada, who covers Fresno State football for the Fresno Bee, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming. Kickoff is at 8:45 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, California.
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Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.
As the defending MW champs and picked by many to win the West Division, are you surprised the Bulldogs are 3-5 overall and what has been the biggest issues or struggles with this team?
The 3-5 record is not much of a surprise. The three losses at the start of the season certainly are not. Fresno State isn’t at a point yet where it can compete physically with well-established Power Five teams like USC, Utah or Nebraska. Even last year, they needed extraordinary performances from an offense with Derek Carr, Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse to get by the more physical teams on the schedule. The surprise in there is the loss at UNLV, but they threw the ball 44 times against a defense that was ranked second to last in the nation in rushing defense and didn’t make any plays at the end.
The issues on offense are to be expected to a point, with a lot of last year’s playmakers gone. They have had very inconsistent play from the quarterback position, and some inexperience at the outside and inside receiver positions. Brian Burrell, who lost the starting job, has completed only 56.4 percent of his passes. Fresno State is ninth in the MW in passing efficiency rating and 11th in yards per pass play. That obviously is not a good combination for a team that leads the league in passing attempts.
Defensively, it’s more of the same. Fresno State had issues with is cornerback play last season and is again, giving up 9.0 yards per pass play and 254.2 yards per game. They’ve given up 34 pass plays of 20 or more yards and 17 of 30 or more yards, both worst in the conference.
I’m sure you listed defense as one of the team’s struggles this season. What has been the biggest issues with this group and has that surprised you this season?
The struggles against the pass aren’t a huge surprise. Fresno State had depth and talent issues last season that it thought was fixed to a degree through recruiting But junior-college transfer Corey Ferguson was dismissed before the season for a violation of athletic department policy, and Arizona transfer Bryan Harper quit the team for personal reasons after playing poorly early in the season.
The Bulldogs have had five players start at least one game at the corner spots, including strong safety Charles Washington, who they moved out there for a couple of games. The lack of a pass rush hasn’t helped. The sacks are down by almost one per game from last season, but it’s also quarterback pressures and hurries. They pulled the redshirt off of freshman outside linebacker Justin Green in the seventh game of the season to try to get more pressure off the edge.