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October 2, 2013

Looking back at Hawaii




Fresno State entered Saturday night's game looking for a chance to make a statement since entering the rankings. The Bulldogs did just that as they jumped out to a 42-3 lead over halfway through the third quarter. The Bulldogs even added 206 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.

Unfortunately, that's not the whole story. Hawaii was able to close the gap against the Bulldogs in the second half by forcing four straight turnovers in the third quarter and scoring touchdowns off of three of them. Of course, a highly questionable targeting call saw Bulldog all-purpose guru Isaiah Burse ejected only 11 plays into the game.

Coach Tim DeRuyter believes that Burse's absence had a big impact on the team, but he appreciated the ways guys stepped up and filled in for Burse in his absence.

"Obviously," DeRuyter said. "You lose a guy with that much talent -- we took a hit. I think Aaron Peck stepped up and did some good things. Greg [Watson] had to play a lot more reps. He put the ball on the ground, which is a cardinal sin in our offense. He's gotta get that corrected, but I though he did some good things. To lose someone of Isaiah's caliber is tough, but without him we were still able to put up 42 points. I think it would have been nice to have him in the last quarter there, the quarter and a half, where we got a little stagnant 'cause he does a great job with ball security and he makes plays."

While this isn't the first time the Bulldogs have allowed teams back into the game late, DeRuyter believes he has the problem figured out.

"It's something we're gonna address with our guys today," DeRuyter said. "We gotta stop looking at the scoreboard. The scoreboard's a liar. Our mentality's gotta be, 'we're playing this snap,' and have no appreciation for if we're up 30, down 30, doesn't matter. Let's just go play."

While the four turnovers nearly did the Bulldogs in, defensive resolve and finding a way to win kept this team together for another week. As for the turnovers, Bulldog receiver Josh Harper insists that this is now how Fresno State practices.

"We preach every day at practice you gotta hold on to the ball," Harper said. "So we took it pretty tough. We have to hold on to the ball to win games."

For his part, Harper said the team rallied around the Burse ejection and that he and fellow receiver Davante Adams knew they would have to step up. Still, Harper doesn't feel that the defense changed much after the ejection.

"I didn't feel like I had to do anything extra," Harper said. "Me and Davante did talk about it that we had to step up a little bit but not do anything extra. If I'm not mistaken, I feel like they were manning me up more. But that's the only thing different that I saw."

One thing the Bulldogs did well was establish their rushing attack. Running backs Marteze Waller and Josh Quezada combined for 173 yards on 35 carries with and two scores. When asked if he was ready to name a starter, the answer DeRuyter gave sounded more like the Bulldogs plan to go by committee all season.

"I think both of them bring us different things," DeRuyter said. "I thought Marteze ran really hard last week. I was really pleased 'cause we knew going into that game they were the number one rush defense in the Mountain West. They were very stout up front. They do some things schematically that make it tough to run against. Yet our offensive line got some movement and Marteze ran really hard.

"I thought Josh had some good runs, too. I think right now, Josh, protection wise and hands, catching the ball out of the backfield, maybe is a little bit ahead of Marteze. Marteze, I thought, ran better last week. It's gonna be a little bit of give and take and both those guys are gonna play."

The big story of the night was a Bulldog defensive line that absolutely mauled the Warrior quarterbacks. Sean Schroeder had to enter the game for Ikaika Woolsey after Woolsey was unable to get anything going against the Bulldogs. Woolsey finished his night a putrid 7-of-19 for 56 yards and an interception against this Bulldog defense. The Bulldog defense also finished the game with a season-high seven sacks.

DeRuyter liked what he saw from his line, but conceded that it looked a lot better to the viewers than it did to him.

"I thought, obviously, the most pressure we got so far this season. I think Ejiro Ederaine is really starting to come on as a pass rusher. We'd like him to be a little bit more of a complete player. He's still a young guy. He's doing some good things. Donavon Lewis is doing some good things, pass rush-wise. I like how we played up front. We have to do a better job of consistently keeping a quarterback in the pocket. I think we let him escape a couple times that we didn't need to. He ended up making a play and threw the ball well on the run.

"Again, you gotta give them credit for doing it. They made some pretty good catches, you know, when he put the ball in some spots. I was pleased there, but we gotta get better there as well as on the backend. When we have our starters letting guys run behind us in coverage that you're supposed to be deeper than the deepest, we don't need to break underneath stuff, I get concerned. We've gotta get that fixed."

DeRuyter also added that the coaching staff need to do a better job of working with Davante Adams and getting him mentally prepared to face challenges week in and week out.

"Davante's gotta play harder," DeRuyter said. "He's gonna be shown that today when we show him the tape. I think he's getting a little frustrated because teams are double-teaming him, you know, trying to cover him with two guys. He's gotta fight through that. It's one of those things where you have a good year, you gotta expect it. Embrace, 'hey, there's not one guy that can cover me. Let's go find a way.' He's gotta work through that and we've gotta coach him up better through that."

While the Bulldogs have been playing close games, DeRuyter feels that this will strengthen the resolve of the team as the competition gets tougher and tougher. For DeRuyter, all of this is building toward something. Each of the moments are preparing his Bulldogs for their toughest test of next week. The goal for DeRuyter and his staff is to go 1-0 each week. He knows the Bulldogs will get each team's best shot and that's exactly the way he wants it.

"We want people to give us their best punch," DeRuyter said. "Let's go. Bring your best players. Let's get tested by the best of 'em. And that's how I want our guys to play. We're not hoping their best player gets hurt. We're not hoping they play down. Let's go. I think we play better against the tougher tests of competition. I've gotta do a better job when we get up of having our guys not look at the damn score board. I think our guys play different when they look at that. So, we gotta fix that."

That message will be sent loud as ever this week.

Stay tuned to FSBulldogs.com for more updates on the Fresno State 2013 season.

Josh Webb is a special contributor to FSBulldogs.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @BulldogsTwist.


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