As the Bulldogs geared up to start Mountain West Conference play, there was the same question on everybody’s mind: who would be behind center for the ‘Dogs?
With the team losing Chason Virgil the week prior to a season-ending injury and Zack Greenlee having a run-in with police, it was down to third-stringer Ford Childress. The West Virginia transfer got the start in place of Greenlee, who was suspended for the game.
But instead the focus of the game turned out to be on Fresno State’s defense. Defensive coordinator Nick Toth’s unit surrendered a San Jose State school record 300 yards on 42 carries to Spartans running back Tyler Ervin in Saturday night’s 49-23 loss.
After return man Da’Mari Scott took the opening kickoff 66 yards to the San Jose State 33 yard line, everyone’s question was answered. It was Childress leading the team onto the field for his first start of the season.
The momentum built up on the opening kickoff quickly dwindled away on a punchless opening series for the ‘Dogs. Following four run plays that gained a total of eight yards, the offense turned the ball over on downs and that is where the record-setting night would begin for the Spartans.
After an 11-play, 73-yard drive that lasted just under five minutes, the Spartans quickly had a 7-0 lead after Ervin pounded it in from two yards out.
“Ervin is a heck of a back, we knew it,” head coach Tim DeRuyter said. “They ran the plays we practiced for all week. We’ve got to execute better and got to coach better. He beat us in one-on-one situations. We’ve got guys at the point of attack that did not leverage well. We’ve got to coach our guys to do that better and we’ve got to wrap up and tackle better.”
The ‘Dogs were finally able to move the ball in the second quarter following a forced fumble by the defense. After gaining their initial first down of the game with 10 minutes left in the half, they were able to continue to move the ball downfield.
Fresno State was able to turn that ball movement into six points after Childress hit redshirt freshman wide receiver Jamire Jordan from seven yards out. Jordan would add another score in the third quarter on an acrobatic, five-yard run on a busted reverse play.
“The play just broke down and I was trying to not get tackled in the backfield, so I did whatever I had to do,” Jordan said. “I didn’t see half the guys that tried to hit me. It was a good play. It was a game at that point and I felt that we had a chance to come back.”
Jordan’s touchdown cut the Spartan lead down to 28-23 with five minutes left in the third quarter following back-to-back touchdowns from the ‘Dogs. But that would be the closest the ‘Dogs would get as they were outscored 21-0 the rest of the way en route to the 26-point loss.
The loss marked the first time in four seasons that the ‘Dogs dropped their league opener.
The Bulldogs were outgained offensively 543 to 247 yards in the game and were nearly doubled in time of possession. The offense was only on the field for 22 minutes compared to the 38 minutes spent on defense. The Bulldog defense could not get a big stop all night long, as San Jose State converted 7-of-10 on third-down attempts. The Spartans also averaged 6.7 yards per play and ran 19 more plays than the Bulldogs.
“Disappointment,” senior linebacker Ejiro Ederaine said to describe how the team was feeling. “Our playmakers on defense, we have to make plays. They had a great effort, we just have to make more plays.”
Ederaine had eight tackles, three of them for a loss as well as two sacks in the game. It was his fourth career game with two sacks, but first since 2013.
Defensively, the ‘Dogs recorded six sacks and a turnover, pushing their streak to 18 games against the Spartans that they have forced the Spartans into at least one turnover.
Offensively, Childress became the third quarterback to start this year, making this season the first since 1979 that the Bulldogs have started three different players at the position.
Childress finished the night 19-of-32 for 159 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
Redshirt freshman KeeSean Johnson caught seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. Jordan was on the receiving end of Childress’s other touchdown, finishing his night with five receptions for 45 yards and a score.
Senior running back Marteze Waller rushed for 72 yards on 19 carries.