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Fresno State defensive end Todd Hunt (96) engages with an Abilene Christian offensive lineman during the Sept. 3 season opener at Bulldog Stadium. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)

Football: Bulldog defense searching for spark

Fresno State defensive end Todd Hunt (96) engages with an Abilene Christian offensive lineman during the Sept. 3 season opener at Bulldog Stadium. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)

Fresno State defensive end Todd Hunt (96) engages with an Abilene Christian offensive lineman during the Sept. 3 season opener at Bulldog Stadium. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)

Fresno State’s defense is searching for answers after San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin torched the Bulldogs for a school-record 300 yards in Saturday’s 49-23 blowout loss to the Spartans.

Ervin’s record-breaking performance came a week after Heisman-hopeful running back Devontae Booker of Utah ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-24 loss.

Now the run defense is in desperate need of some improvements, especially in a conference filled with great running backs.

With a matchup against one of the best backs in the league in San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey this weekend and games against Brian Hill of Wyoming and the duo of James Butler and Don Jackson from Nevada still on the schedule, improvements have to come now.

Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said the ‘Dogs will face an Aztecs’ team that runs an offense very similar to what they just saw in San Jose State. Pumphrey is very similar in his style of running to Ervin from SJSU, so the ‘Dogs can expect a lot of the same running attack come Saturday.

“We have to be much better against the run,” DeRuyter said. “Pumphrey is one of the best backs in the league other than Marteze Waller. He’s extremely explosive and very similar style to what we just saw in Ervin.

“The benefit is that you’ve got another week to prepare for those types of things and very similar running backs. But the problem is we didn’t do very well against it last week so be careful what you wish for.”

Through four games this season, the ‘Dogs rank 106th in the nation amongst all FBS Division I schools in total yards allowed. They are second-to-last in the Mountain West with an average of 444 yards allowed per game, only ahead of the Nevada Wolf Pack.

After allowing 45 points or more in each of their last three games, the Bulldogs are looking for ways to improve and get better as they get into the heart of their league schedule.

“Stopping the run and getting them into more third-and-longs,” DeRuyter said would be a key come Saturday.

The ‘Dogs were able to get to the quarterback on Saturday because they got him in more five-step drops when it came to third-and-longs throughout the game.

That has been the bright light on defense so far this season for the ‘Dogs. After their six sacks Saturday, the ‘Dogs are currently tied atop the Mountain West with Boise State and New Mexico with 12 sacks through the first four weeks of the season.

“Our playmakers on defense, we have to make plays,” senior outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine said following Saturday’s game. “They had a great effort. We just have to make more plays.”

Ederaine is currently tied atop the ‘Dogs’ sack totals this year and ranks 17th in the FBS for career sacks with 15. He is also sixth among all active players for the most career tackles for a loss with 25. The senior linebacker’s play will be one of the key ingredients that can help the defense turn it around this season.