At the end of the game, the Fresno State Bulldogs had 49 points on the scoreboard, 600 yards of total offense on the stat sheet and a road victory at New Mexico.
But counting back from there and often in large chunks – the Bulldogs produced 19 plays of 10 yards or more and seven of 20 or more against the Lobos, including an 89-yard scoring pass from quarterback Derek Carr to Davante Adams – there is trouble brewing.
On its first drive, Fresno State was three-and-out, losing 11 yards. On its second, New Mexico picked off a Carr pass that ricocheted off his intended receiver and returned it for a touchdown. The Bulldogs then punted and turned over the ball on downs and punted again, their first five series against producing no points and 68 yards.
And what turned it around are adjustments Carr said the Bulldogs will have to make more often in the final third of the season as they get new and different looks from opposing defenses, basically revising their flight plan when on the sidelines.
‘’We knew going into the game that whatever blitz they showed, that’s kind of what they’re going to stick with,’’ Carr said. ‘’But I was talking to my brother (David) about it. Teams his senior year, whatever they did on film, they didn’t do it when they played him and that’s kind of what they did.
‘’That’s what teams are starting to do to us, and it says a lot about the weapons that we have. We saw things on film, and this is not the first time we’ve seen this, but we see things on film and they come out and do something totally different. It took us a little bit to get used to, but we knew once we saw what coverage they were going to play that we could rely on that and attack it.
‘’(Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm) did a great job of figuring it out and drawing up some stuff on the sideline and really game-planning it that way.’’
Once dialed in, Fresno State scored touchdowns on seven of its next nine possessions and the Bulldogs efficiently sliced up that defense.
They went 77 yards in six plays and one minute, 22 seconds, to score their first touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Carr to Victor Dean, and only one of their touchdown drives took more than three minutes off the game clock.
It was 72 yards in 2:43, and 35 yards in 2:11, and 84 yards in 52 seconds; scoring pass to Adams, scoring pass to tight end Marcel Jensen, another scoring pass to Adams.
They were gone, wiping out a 21-0 first quarter deficit in a quarter and a half of football.
Schramm credited the Bulldogs’ defense for continually getting stops and giving them opportunities to right things, but communication between the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator, Carr and assistant Phil Earley in the press box is instrumental in identifying coverages and putting together a plan of attack.
‘’Phil is upstairs and he sees everything and Derek is great,’’ Schramm said. ‘’When I’m on the sidelines I’m looking at certain things and Derek sees it. I’ve got to make sure No. 1 he’s seeing the same things I am and in talking to Phil, it’s ‘OK, what is that safety doing? OK, this is what they’re trying to do.’ Is it bracket coverage? Are they just playing two over the top of one? What are they doing?
‘’They were doing some different stuff coverage-wise than they had shown all year and obviously we hadn’t prepared for it. Once we figured out what they were doing – it was unique; it was not something that was very conventional – so it just takes a while to say, OK, this is what they’re trying to do, so this is what we’re going to do. We attacked them with a tempo drive and got them on their heels a bit and from there, we just had to catch up. The thing that was great was our guys, they hung in there, they didn’t panic, they understood that we were going to get it figured out.
‘’After we figured out what they were doing it was, OK, this is the plan and here we go.’’
Carr figures the Bulldogs will be at it again on Saturday against Hawaii, again in two weeks at Nevada and in the final game of the regular season against the Air Force.
‘’That’s one thing I was talking to my brother about, because I wanted to get his input – how do you really get ready for that? And he tells me, you’ve seen all the coverages, you’ve seen all the blitzes, just maybe that team hasn’t run it,’’ said the Bulldogs’ quarterback, who has thrown for 2,766 yards and 26 touchdowns, second and tied for second in the bowl subdivision, in his first nine games working with Schramm and the new up-tempo spread offense.
‘’You get used to seeing something on film and then, bam, they hit you with something else, quote-unquote, a left hook out of nowhere. He told me just play it smart, get a feel for what they’re doing, but at the same time just play your game. You’ve seen the coverages, so don’t let it surprise you.’’