Fresno State exuded a new level of confidence Saturday, one that's been missing for two seasons.
In beating Kansas State 49-29 and ending a seven-game losing streak to teams from Bowl Championship Series conferences, several Fresno State players and coaches left Bulldog Stadium thinking just as receiver Seyi Ajirotutu proclaimed:
"We've been improving at things every week to a point where we've become dangerous all around and that's got a lot of guys excited. Things are moving in the right direction."
Fresno State gave offense-starved fans plenty to feast on this Thanksgiving weekend.
The Bulldogs amassed a season-high 549 total yards, cracked the 300-yard passing barrier for the first time since November 2005, scored 40-plus points for the third time this year and dominated the time of possession 41:32 to 18:28.
And the Bulldogs' statistics could have been better if not for two fumbles inside the Kansas State 5.
"There's been a lot of frustration not to be able to produce like that on a weekly basis," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Jim McElwain said. "There's not a whole bunch [of plays] in still.
"But I think the guys have gotten more comfortable with what we're trying to do every week."
Quarterback Tom Brandstater had the best game of his two-year starting career, completing 23 of 29 passes (79.3%) for 313 yards and scoring three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).
Brandstater hit receivers downfield, in stride and regularly around to their chests. He was seldom pressured and came through in clutch moments, as Fresno State's 7-of-13 conversion rate on third downs and 3-of-3 rate on fourth downs would suggest.
Receiver Marlon Moore also had a career day with nine passes for 134 yards. He tied a personal-best with two touchdowns.
"I think we just executed in all facets," Brandstater said. "We protected it up, ran good routes, made good throws and the guys caught the ball. That's what it takes to be a good offense."
Making Fresno State's offensive performance that much more impressive was the fact tight end and top target Bear Pascoe did not play because of an ankle injury.
Fresno State's vaunted running game also refused to be overshadowed, notching 236 yards and four touchdowns. It was the fourth time this season Fresno State has rushed for 200-plus yards, and the Bulldogs accomplished it without two of their top three running backs.
Clifton Smith, who had several packages and plays prepared for him against Kansas State, suffered a hip pointer midway through the second quarter that limited him the rest of the day. Ryan Mathews returned to the field for the first time in three weeks from an ankle injury, but still did not perform at full speed.
In their place, Anthony Harding ran 22 times for 115 yards and touchdown.
Bulldogs coach Pat Hill credited the players for their execution and McElwain for making key adjustments because of Smith's injury.