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Felix Adamo / The Californian

Bakersfield College head coach Jeff Chudy and the rest of the Renegades practice before the season started in this file photo.

Bakersfield College's coaching staff knew the bulk of the Renegades' offense this season was being manned by inexperienced players.

Not that growing pains are acceptable, but they were inevitable.

So now, as the Renegades begin National Northern Conference play tonight against Ventura (2-1) at Memorial Stadium, an offense that has struggled throughout a 1-2 start is being asked to produce at a higher level than it's shown thus far.

"I expect our guys to respond to the challenge and execute better than they have all year," said head coach Jeff Chudy this week.

Chudy said BC's struggles -- the season-opening 24-9 win over Santa Ana was followed by losses to Mount San Antonio (40-9) and Fullerton (45-23) the last two weeks -- is not all on the offense.

"We're where we're at not because of any one person," Chudy said. "We're at where we're at because it's been a group effort. We've been too inconsistent on both sides of the ball."

The defense has been ravaged the last two weeks. It allowed more than 400 net yards to Mount San Antonio and more than 600 to Fullerton.

"You can't give up big-yardage plays like we have on defense," Chudy said, referring to Fullerton scoring five rushing touchdowns covering 49, 71, 32, 57 and 26 yards. "And you've got to be able to protect guys and block people up front on the O-line. And you can't turn it over in the red zone."

BC had a lost fumble and field goal blocked inside the Fullerton 20.

The offense's inability to move the ball consistently last Saturday led to a lot of punts and about a 10-minute edge in time of possession for Fullerton. And that contributed to some of the defensive problems.

"We got it to an eight-point game (31-23) and we ran out of gas," Chudy said of the defense. "We couldn't match their scores and we couldn't stop them."

To try and turn the offense around, BC will give freshman Garces graduate Cruise Adams his first collegiate start at quarterback.

Adams, who had played sparingly the first two weeks, directed a touchdown drive and gave the Renegades a spark when he entered the game in the third quarter last week.

"We're going to start Cruise and see what he does," Chudy said.

The BC defense will be challenged by the best opposing quarterback it has seen thus far this season. Ventura's Brad Odeman is 86-of-132 for 1,018 yards and 15 touchdowns in three games. No once else in the NNC has thrown for more than 634 yards or six TDs.

BC quarterbacks Adams and Derrik Martin have combined for 413 yards and two touchdowns.

"You look at the first three teams we've played, everyone's been pretty much run-oriented," Chudy said.

"We're going to face a team that spreads us out. Their quarterback has athleticism. He stays alive. He extends plays. They create a lot of big plays off his ability to scramble. He's hurt people doing that and we can't let that happen. We've got to contain him, keep him in the pocket."

The Renegades have played much stronger teams than Ventura. The Pirates did open their season against 3-0 Riverside, which is No. 3 in the state and No. 1 in Southern California, and lost 59-41.

Ventura followed with a 44-42 win over Long Beach and a 46-6 win over L.A. Harbor.

Santa Ana was a top-10 SoCal team when BC faced it and Mount San Antonio and Fullerton were both top-10 preseason picks in the state.

"It's not like we're playing the schedule that we played a couple of years ago, when we played some guys that were from those lower-level programs," Chudy said.

"Now we're playing guys every week who are well coached. They will take advantage of your mistakes and we've offered a lot of mistakes up there. We've had to pay the price for them."