Sunday, August 04, 2013

Former 3-Star Cleared for Practice

Arizona transfer Bryan Harper is cleared to practice. Harper redshirted at last season, and he will have four years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot 170-pounder is out Colony High School. The CalHiSports fourth-team all-state defensive back was a three-star recruit by and

Harper must sit out the 2013 season to fulfill NCAA transfer requirments.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Fall Camp Underway

The 2013 Fresno State football season is three days old as the players reported Thursday and practiced yesterday and today. Lofty expectations await as the Bulldogs are ranked in many preseason publications and received 62 votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll released Thursday.

Anything less than a 10-2 season will be a disappointment. The 'Dogs host future Big Ten member Rutgers to open the season August 29. Furthermore, No. 19 Boise State must travel to Bulldog Stadium in the Mountain West opener September 20. Outside of road trips to fellow Cal State institutions San Diego State and San Jose State, FS should be double-digit favorites in its remaining games.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Time to Update This Blog

It's been nearly five years since the last post, and coincidentally, it concerned the same opponent Fresno State will open with in 2013 -- Rutgers.

This was the Fresno State Football Blog, now it is the temporary home of (all the domain name stuff, we hope to sort out in the next few days).  The message board is absent for the time being but feel free to leave a comment good or bad. 

We hope to get back to our roots and provide insightful independent coverage of Fresno State football (and other sports).  Check back soon as fall camp gets underway Friday morning.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fresno State at Rutgers- Position, Individual and Unit Comparisons

It's a brand new season, so all stats are for last year. This is the first meeting between the two teams, and it is the furthest the Bulldogs have ever travelled. Rutgers is coming off a 8-5 season, with losses at home to Maryland, #20 Cincinnati, #6 West Virginia, and at Louisville and #16 Connecticut, and beat South Florida when they were ranked #2 in the country. They are coming off a 52-30 win over Ball State in the International Bowl. The bulldogs return much of a team that went 9-4 with wins over Kansas State and Georgia Tech.

Quarterbacks- Rutgers returns senior quarterback Mike Teel, who is coming off an impressive year having completed 203 of 349 attempts for a 58.2 percentage. He threw for 3,147 yards and 20 touchdowns. He is not much of a duel threat, however, having netted -49 yards rushing last season. He passed for 9 yards per attempt for a 145.4 passing efficiency, 2nd for returning QBs in the Big East. Fresno State's senior QB Tom Brandstater went 211 of 337 for a 62.6 percentage, throwing for 2654 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is more of a threat outside of the pocket, netting 118 yards rushing with 3TDs and averaging 2.5 yards per carry. He is 2nd in passing efficiency for returning WAC quarterbacks with 7.9 yards per attempt and an efficiency of 150.8.
Advantage- Even, though slightly in Fresno State's favor because of Brandstater's scramble and slightly better percentages. Teel was injured late last season to his thumb, which negatively impacted his numbers, but both are of similar size and ability at around 6-4 220. Unfortunately for Brandstater, last year's Rutgers team was the 2nd most tenacious passing D in the nation, giving up only 1927 yards in the air. Fresno State was a more middling 60th in this category. The Bulldogs' improved D-line should prove important to pressuring Teel, whose mobility is a question mark for the Knights. Both QB's are also likely to bring a senior-year, multiple-year starter maturity to the position which should make the game interesting.

Running Backs- This unit is going to be interesting for Rutgers, as it was lead by school- and Big East- record holder Ray Rice, whose 2012 yards and 24 TD's last year will be sorely missed by the Scarlet Knights, whose leading returning rusher is backup QB Jabu Lovelace with 332 yards and 4TDs. Mason Robinson, as sophomore, is the starter who produced only 202 yards and no TDs last year behind Rice. Along with Robinson, Kordell Young went for 58 yards last year and will return. Fresno State returns multiple options in Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller, and Anthony Harding, all of whom rushed for over 400 yards last year with Mathews leading the pack with 866 yards and 14 TD's despite limited playing time. The unit was 19th in the country last year with 2493 total rushing yards, and loses only Clifton Smith form last year's team.
Advantage- Even without Clifton Smith's 625 yards and 5 TDs, the Fresno State running attack should be much stronger than the Scarlet Knight's with the loss of so important an element a Ray Rice, though one hastens to discount his backups of previous years on mere stats alone. That said, Fresno State has multiple options and an scheme with multiple sets, giving the running game more depth and complexity. Both rush defenses were in the bottom half of running yards allowed in the NCAA last season, meaning a strong ruining game from Fresno State provides a solid advantage for the Bulldogs.

Receivers/ Tight Ends – Both teams have important returnees in this unit, with Rutgers returning Kenny Britt, Tiquan Underwood, Tim Brown, and Kevin Brock, their four leading receivers, all returning. Britt lead the team last year with 1232 yards on 62 catches averaging 19.9 yards per catch and 8 TD's, followed by Underwood with 1100 yards off of 65 receptions for a 16.9 average and 7 TD's. Brown and Brock round out the receiving corp with 340 and 241 yards, respectively, and 2 touchdowns apiece. Fresno, too returns its top receivers in Marlon Moore, Bear Pascoe, and Seyi Ajirotutu. Moore went for 694 yards of 48 receptions with 5 trip to the end zone, while TE Bear Pascoe caught 45 catches for 553 yards and 4 TD's. Ajirotuto rounded out the top three with 29 catches for 491 yards. Also contributing were Jason Crawley, Isaac Kitner, Tim Lang and Jamel Hamler with 199, 111, 82, and 8 yards between them, respectively. Chastin West, lost at the end of last August, also returns for the Bulldogs. Last year Rutgers' receiving unit was 39th in the nation in total receiving yards with 3267 and 273 yards per game, compared with Fresno State at number 69 with 2760 and 230 yards per game.
Advantage – Even, veering slightly toward Rutgers. Both are likely to be the best receiving corps either team will have seen for some time, and will be among the top of their conferences and in the upper echelons of I-A football. While Rutgers' unit outproduced the Bulldogs by 500 total yards last season, Fresno State does return West who is likely to make up for the difference and this should make an impact. The major note of concern is noted above in the QB section- Rutgers' pass D is the 2nd best in the nation in terms of fewest yards allowed, meaning the Bulldogs' receivers will face a difficult challenge.

Defenses- This can be something of an area of concern for the Bulldogs. I have talked briefly already about the defenses for both sides, but a more detailed examination of each is revealing. Rutgers was 31st in the nation last year in fewest points allowed per game, giving up only 21.8; Fresno State was 62nd overall, giving up 26.9 points per game. Rutgers' pass D is the most troubling area of concern, giving up only 1927 passing yards, 2nd best in the nation after Ohio State. Fresno State is 60th nationwide in this category, having given up 2725 yards in the air. Neither team is in the upper half of rushing D, though Rutgers does also lead in that category in ruining yards allowed, 1871 to Fresno State's 2193. Free Safety Courtney Greene lead the Knights in tackles last year with 101 and returns, along with defensive tackle Jamaal Westerman who recorded 8 sacks and 6 tackles for a loss. CB Jason McCourty also blocked 12 punts for Rutgers last season. Fresno State loses a 132 tackler in Marcus Riley, and returns Ben Jacobs who recorded 81 tackles last season. Jon Monga was credited with 6.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss last year for the 'Dogs.
Advantage- Rutgers. Both teams are very similar in most categories, but Rutgers is exceptional in its ability to stop the pass, and the Bulldogs lose some important components in Marcus Riley, Tyler Clutts, and Damon Jenkins for our defense. Rutgers looks to continue it's solid pass D as they return 7 from their backfield which will be a major issue for the Bulldogs if the running game is unable to make up for the difference.

Special Teams- Fresno State returns AJ Jefferson who lead the nation in kick returns with 930 yards and a 35.8 yard per return average, which compares favorably with Rutgers' Tim Brown and Mason Robinson, a tandem who averaged 20.7 and 19.6, respectively, last season. Both teams face major losses to their kickers, as the Bulldogs lose Clint Stitser and the Knights lose Jeremy Ito, both of whom had a huge impact for this unit and it will be difficult for either team to replace their production. Rutgers also loses their special teams coach Darren Rizzi, who has become the head coach at Rhode Island. The Bulldogs also lose punter Kyle Zimmerman and punt returner Clifton Smith to graduation, and both are important losses.
Advantage- Toss-up. Both teams are pretty much gutted. the Bulldogs look to start Kevin Goessling as kicker and Robert Malone as punter, both underclassmen. Rutgers looks to do no better starting San San Te at kicker and Teddy Dellaganna, also two underclassmen. The one obvious advantage for the Bulldogs is the return of AJ Jefferson, who lead the nation in kick return average and should be in good form to do so again this season. I will note that, in watching game tape from both teams, both head coaches seem to enjoy trickery from special teams. I give two examples: in 2004, at home against Hawai'i in what would be a 70-14 rout, Pat Hill had just scored the 2nd TD of the 1st quarter when he lined up to return the ball, only to fake an onside kick which was recovered by the Bulldogs. For Rutgers, in last year's win over USF, the Knights missed a third down conversion and were forced to give the ball over, and lined up to kick it to the Bulls at the far end. Jeremy Ito took the snap and, instead of kicking it away, passed it to a receiver to secure the first down and continue the drive. My point is both teams will utilize such methods and I would look out for them to come very early in the game.

Coaches- Fresno State’s Pat Hill is 85-55 (.607) coming into Monday’s game. He’s 60-27 against the WAC, and 30-39 away from Bulldog Stadium. Rutgers' Greg Schiano is 38-46 (.428) with a home record of 23-22, and is 2-15 against teams in the top 25, which Fresno State is for the Coaches' Poll, but not the AP.
Advantage- Fresno State’s Pat Hill is willing to take on anyone, anytime, anywhere, and will have his team more than ready for the cross-country game in Rutgers Stadium in front of 43,000 (just 1,969 more than Bulldog Stadium, so a similar environment in that respect- even the same colors!). Greg Schiano has turned around a program that was close to sharing Temple's fate of being kicked out of the Big East and looking for friendlier digs in the MAC. Schiano ensured that would not happen and through a combination of smart recruiting in Florida, a connection with the populated NY/NJ corridor, and and AD willing to stick with a guy after a 1-11 season, and has proven to be one of the best coaches of the decade. And, he's got the balls to take on the Bulldogs, which about 60-odd other BCS schools can't say, even ones with coaches that used to play and coach here... I'm going with another toss-up in this category as well, both men are solid coaches on and off the field.

“Taste of the Town”- It’s California vs. New York, East Coast vs. West Coast, BCS vs. Mid Major... Now, I've got to admit a West Coast Bias. Always had one. But I finally moved to the East Coast (Boston) and found the place to be pretty all-right. New York is an amazing place, with amazing food, lights, and all the rest. But, New Brunswick/ Piscataway isn't quite the same as Manhattan. But it is close enough.
Advantage- Fresno. West Coast Bias. But, if you've never been to Manhattan, you are missing out.

Conclusion- This is going to be an amazing game. The two teams are surprisingly evenly matched in each position, with similar quarterbacks, wide receivers, defenses, and losses on (and tricks by) the special teams. Two places they radically differentiate- Rutgers lost their super-star running back, while Fresno returns multiple options; and Rutgers returns virtually all what is statistically next to the best pass defense in the nation. The Bulldogs will likely exploit the advantage on the ground and keep the maturing Kight running game in check. However, Rutgers' passing attack should be an interesting test for going into the much more pass-happy offenses to be faced later in the season. Fresno State and Rutgers are an interesting statistical match-up, though I think the running game of the Bulldogs will be the decisive factor in a Bulldog victory, so long as the team can focus after the long travel and change in atmosphere. I also forecast special teams to play a major role and hope that it is a role in our favor, as we have seen costly special teams mistakes take a toll in the past. Still, my call is: Bulldogs 32 - Scarlet Knights 27

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The 2008 Fresno State Bulldogs Offense

Fresno State fans to this point have addressed their worries as to how the Bulldogs are going to be able to stop opposing team’s offenses. While our front line on defense should be strong the best answer as to how the Bulldogs will stop the other team’s offense is through the use of our own. I realize this may sound confusing but sometime’s a team’s best defense is their offense when it comes to college football. The longer Brandstater and company are on the football field the better. If the Bulldogs can find a way to put together long drives that eat up time off the clock look for the defense to be energized each time they step onto the football field. Here is a review of those offensive players who will do their best to make the defense’s job that much easier.

At QB Tom Brandstater will take the reigns for his senior season. The offense will only go as far as Brandstater directs them to. While the running game is a huge part of the Fresno State offense the Bulldogs will need Brandstater to come through when the running game is not churning out yard after yard. Chances are that the Bulldogs will have to rely on Brandstater at least once this season. In 2007 when the Dogs had to turn to Brandstater he came through nearly every time. If the Bulldogs can get similar stats from Brandstater look for them to make noise on the BCS front this season.

The RB situation is one that is usually positive for the Bulldogs. 2008 will be no different due to the fact that Fresno State returns Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller, and Anthony Harding. All look to be in outstanding physical shape and have a healthy level of competition between one another. With the offensive line opening holes for the Bulldog running backs look for one of these backs to break the 1,000 yard barrier this season. At the same time one cannot forget that A.J. Ellis and Rashad Evans will be used in the Fresno State offense as well. Each of these players brings a different aspect of explosiveness to the field which will allow the Dogs many more options on offense. While the situation at QB and RB seems positive they in no way compare to what the Bulldogs have returning at wide receiver and Tight End.

The Wide Receivers may be the position with the most talent for this 2008 Bulldog football team. With returning receivers such as Marlon Moore, Seyi Ajirotutu (who looks to have enhanced his game since last season), Jason Crawley, Devon Wylie, Matt Lindsay, Darren Newborne, and Chastin West the Bulldogs look to have the height (Ajirotutu, Lindsay), speed (Moore, Wylie) and physical nature (Crawley, Moore) to dominate the outside of the field. Add in the fact that Bear Pascoe is next to impossible to cover and you have a Fresno State offense that is going to score early and often. In 2006 the Bulldogs averaged 23 points per game on offense. In 2007 the Bulldogs improved their offense to the tune of 33 points a game. If Fresno State can improve slightly in 2008 they will average anywhere between 35-40 points per game. If Fresno State can find a way to put that many points on the board every week opposing teams will have a hard time keeping up with this high octane offense. This very well may be one of the best offenses the Bulldogs have ever fielded. Unfortunately we will have to wait 26 more days until we know if this offense is truly as good as they look to be.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Will Fresno State be Defensively Challenged in 08?

Throughout the summer fans of Fresno State continued to realize that 2008 may be a special year not only for the players but for the fans of the Fresno State Bulldogs. With 16 returning starters Fresno State has the experience to make a serious run at the BCS. The offense will be explosive in 2008 as every starter returns aside Ryan Wendell. Replacing Wendell will be tough but Fresno State has always been known for its outstanding offensive line and 2008 should be no different. While the offensive side of the ball looks great the defensive side is left with nothing but questions. Can Fresno State replace WAC defensive player of the year Marcus Riley? Will Fresno State be able to create more takeaways en route to one win after another? Will the defensive line have enough depth to cause problems for opposing team’s offenses? The problem is there is no sure answer to any of these questions. I will do my best to answer each of these questions as I sat through practice today and have a bit better idea as to how good our defense truly will be.

To begin let’s address the defensive line. Fresno State finished second in the WAC with 36 sacks this past season. Look for that total to increase this season. Ikenna Ike and Wilson Ramos are going to give offensive lineman fits as defensive ends. Cornell Banks has both the speed and side to put pressure on the offensive backfield. Chris Lewis will do a great job coming in with the second team to provide pressure from the defensive end position. Bryce Harris looks to be a mountain of a man and should do well with the second team as well. Chase McEntee and Anthony Williams (who looks gigantic) will come in and provide depth right from day one. With all of this talent there should be no worries as to how much pressure our defensive line will cause. If you noticed I haven’t even mentioned the one player that I feel will cause the most havoc on the defensive line: Jon Monga. Monga will be the leader of this defensive line. Look for Monga to have an outstanding season as both a run stopper and momentum killer as well. I realize that many of you worry that our LB’s are going to have a problem stopping the run due to the loss of Marcus Riley. Let’s see how the LB’s break down this season.

Our top three linebackers will be Ben Jacobs, Nico Herron, and more than likely Chris Carter (who has not played the position in two years). Quaadir Brown will be at fall camp but he may not be able to go due to personal issues. We can only hope that Brown finds his way back to football because he is definitely needed on defense. With that being said our first team LB’s are solid. Carter may be stepping into the LB role again but do remember that was his position in high school. He will adapt to the LB role much faster than any other newcomer may have. Damion Whittington will be in fall camp this week providing much needed depth. Kyle Knox, Austin Raphael, and Sean Plummer will provide depth at this position as well. LB is definitely the weakest of any area for the Bulldogs. On the positive side the secondary will be deep and provide the LB’s with the help they need to get through the season.

The secondary will have little problems improving on their paltry takeaway totals from 2007. With A.J. Jefferson, Damion Owens, and Sharrod Davis at corner the Bulldogs should be able to cover man to man and press often. Marvin Haynes and Moses Harris will provide safety help as they have the ability to run with anyone in the nation. Backing up Harris and Haynes will be Zak Hill and Jake Jorde. Both of these men also have the ability to lock down the secondary with their cover skills. It will be because of the secondary that this defense is able to gamble and blitz much more this season than ever before. Look for the Bulldogs secondary to go to press coverage in order to give the safeties and corners time to blitz the QB. If the defensive front four combined with one or two CB’s or safeties blitz there will be very few teams who can stop Fresno State.

The Bulldogs defense is not nearly as worrisome as many have made them out to be. The first and second teams are strong and have the experience to make plays. Fresno State’s offense will provide the defense a large margin for error as the offense should average anywhere between 35-42 points per game. Fresno State’s defense will be fine and they will find a way to hold the other team just enough to give the offense a chance to win every game on the schedule.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What to Expect in 2008

This past week the Fresno State football players began eight weeks of individual practices in which coaches will not be present. During individual workouts QB’s and Receivers work on their timing and route running in order to prepare for the 2008 football season. These eight weeks have become far more important to the Bulldogs than they have to most other teams as Fresno State generally opens with a murderous schedule. In 2008 the Bulldogs season begins as follows:

Sept. 1st - @ Rutgers
Sept. 13th – Wisconsin
Sept. 20th - @ Toledo
Sept. 27th - @ UCLA

Once again Fresno State will have their work cut out for them in September as the Dogs opening month is one of the more challenging in the nation. If Fresno State can find a way to run off victories in each of the above mentioned games they will more than likely be ranked somewhere in the middle of the top twenty-five. In order to accomplish such a feat Fresno State will have to get the most out of their practices up until their first game of the season at Rutgers. The past few seasons Fresno State fans have had high expectations for the football program run by Pat Hill. But in 2008 should Bulldog fans once again expect the Dogs to make some noise nationally before WAC plays begins? The simple answer is absolutely.

Fresno State returns a majority of their offensive starter’s aside Clifton Smith and Ryan Wendell who both have moved on to the NFL. However, Bear Pascoe returns. Tom Brandstater returns. Ryan Mathews returns as does Marlon Moore, Chastin West, Seyi Ajirotutu, Devin Wylie, Jamal Hamler, Lonyae Miller, Anthony Harding the entire offensive line (if healthy), and newcomers such as Rashad Evans, A.J. Ellis, and Ebahn Feathers. This quite possibly has the making to be one of the most explosive units in Fresno State history. If the Bulldog’s offense can continue to gel together as we have seen during spring ball look for the offense to average well over thirty points a game. Last season J-Mac’s offense averaged 33 points a game. If this returning unit can punch one more TD in per game you will be looking at a team that averages forty points a game. If that is the case this will be a very hard Bulldogs team to beat. While the offense looks to be in great shape what can expect from our defense early on in 2008?

Defensively our first team defensive line will create havoc for most opposing teams. Players such as Jon Monga, Chris Carter, Wilson Ramos, and Cornell Banks will all demand attention on the defensive line. The Bulldogs secondary will be experienced with Moses Harris and Marvin Haynes at safety. One corner spot will be occupied by the speedy A.J. Jefferson who may be ready to depart for the NFL at season’s end. The other corner spot is up for grabs but players such as Sharrod Davis and Damion Owens should fill the voice left by Damon Jenkins who also made the jump to the NFL. The one position defensively Bulldog fans should worry about is Linebacker. Although Ben Jacobs, Nico Herron, and Quaadir Brown look to be a solid unit there is very little depth with respect to the unit. Fresno State will have two additions to help bolster the LB core in Damion Whittington and Ricky Pemasa, but both of these players will be coming in as freshman. If the starters do not do their job on defense then the Dogs will give up large amounts of yards and will be involved in games where scoring is happening far more than we as Bulldog fans would like it to be.

Fresno State’s special teams units look to be solid although the Dogs will be starting two kickers with relatively little experience. Robert Malone will take over punting duties. If he continues to punt the way he has in Spring ball Fresno State will have very little to worry about. At the same time Kevin Goessling will take over for Clint Stitser as the placekicker. Goessling has an accurate leg and should be expected to get the job done from forty yards and in. However, if the Dogs have to venture past forty yards this freshman will have his work cut out for him. Kick returning is in great hands with A.J. Jefferson. Fresno State has very little to worry about when it comes to the special teams units. John Baxter generally has these players prepared for every situation possible.

What does this all mean? It means that Fresno State football in 2008 will have a shot at an amazing season. The men’s baseball team just qualified for the College World Series. The women’s softball team missed a super regional by one questionable call. The women’s basketball team qualified for their first NCAA tournament ever. Fresno State won the WAC commissioner’s cup. Overall it has been an amazing year of sports here at Fresno State. Now it’s the football team’s turn to step up and show the nation how truly good they are in 2008. Here is exactly what you can expect from Fresno State in 2008: A team that will fight until the end week to week with a desire to win at all costs and a drive to show the nation just how good this Bulldogs team is as a whole.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Role of the Underdog

Every sport aside FBS college football has a true champion crowned at the end of the season. Sometimes the champion crowned is exactly who everyone figures it will be. During the 1990’s the Chicago Bulls were as sure a bet as anyone could make during their six championship runs. On the other hand sometimes the favorite is upset in monumental fashion. During the 2007-2008 Super Bowl we as a nation were able to watch one of the bigger upsets in history as the New York Giants knocked off the undefeated New England Patriots. Sure there are fans out there that picked the Giants to win the Super Bowl, but the Patriots were overwhelming favorites prior to the start
of the game. I realize none of this directly has to do with the college world series unless you take a look deeper into what I am trying to say. This weekend Fresno State will compete in their first college world series in seventeen years as heavy underdogs. As an underdog Fresno State has done the job over the past two weekends with huge upsets in Long Beach and Tempe. Is it possible that they just may pull the biggest upset of them all?

In order to understand the role of an underdog in the college world series let’s take a look back at the past five years to see how the favorites have faired:

Winner – Oregon State (unranked)
Highest Ranked Participant – Rice (2 seed)

Winner – Oregon State (unranked)
Highest Ranked Participant – Clemson (1 seed)

Winner – Florida (7 seed)
Highest Ranked Participant – Tulane (1 seed)

Winner – Cal State Fullerton (7 seed)
Highest Ranked Participant – Texas (1 seed)

Winner – Rice (5 seed)
Highest Ranked Participant – LSU (2 seed)

If you look at the past five seasons you will notice that not one time has the favorite won the college world series. In fact since rankings have been given only Miami has won the College World Series as the one seed. In other words being unranked heading into the College World Series is not necessarily a terrible spot to be in. What most people do not realize about the World Series is that it rewards those teams who have caught the hot hand at the right time in the season. While it is true that teams such as Miami and North Carolina are ranked as the top two teams in the nation, it also remains true that they quite possibly could be knocked out of the tournament by a lower ranked team who has caught fire at the right time.

Many of you may be asking what exactly does this mean for Fresno State. It means that the Bulldogs will be decided underdogs in this tournament. But remember the Bulldogs were underdogs in their previous two regionals and found a way to come out on top in both of those. I am not saying the Bulldogs are going to win the college world series. I realize to come out on top in a tournament such as this you have to be clicking on all cylinders and the ball must bounce your way from time to time. The difference for Fresno State now is they have reached their ultimate goal and know they have the talent to win it all. The Dogs just upset the #3 team in the nation on a field where the Sun Devils had lost a total of three games the entire season. At the same time Fresno State is a team that is most comfortable playing the role of the underdog. They realize they are not supposed to win the college world series. But here they are as one of the remaining eight teams in the nation playing for the biggest prize that college baseball has to offer them. Their determination, effort, fight, and desire has put them into an eight team tournament to become the best team in all of college baseball. Sports are cyclical as some teams remain on top for long periods of time until another rises up to knock them off of the perch they sit upon. In the end I am left with one phrase that is exactly how I feel about the Bulldogs chances in the college world series:

“Why Not Us?”

It’s simple, to the point, and exactly how I feel about the Bulldogs chances in 2008. Why not us? Go Dogs and thank you for this amazing season you have given us as fans.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Team for the Ages

The year began just as it had the past few seasons in Fresno. The Bulldogs would be ranked in the top twenty five only to falter out of the gates. Diamond Dog fans in Fresno were once again left to question whether this team had the talent to win their third consecutive WAC title. As the season moved along Fresno State sat near the .500 mark for much longer than many of us were comfortable with.
The Dogs were not playing good baseball and everyone including the players themselves knew it. Towards the tail end of the WAC season Fresno State held on to first place by the skin of their teeth and entered the WAC tournament as the one seed. What happened next is something that every Bulldog fan will remember for the rest of their lives.

Fresno State went on to win their third straight WAC tournament in 2008. To this date the Bulldogs have not lost once during the course of the WAC tournament in their history. But Fresno State had been in this position before. Much like the Lady Dogs softball team the Bulldogs commonly qualify for a regional yearly. The only difference between the 2008 Bulldog baseball squad when compared to year’s past was the fact that had the Dogs lost the WAC tournament this year they would not have qualified for a regional. However, Fresno State won the WAC and was placed in one of the toughest regionals in the nation where the seeding would look as follows:

1) Long Beach State
2) San Diego
3) California
4) Fresno State

Each team was ranked nationally in the regional aside Fresno State. In other words the Bulldogs had their work cut out for them. It was the Bulldogs against the rest of the world and unlike many times in the past this 2008 Bulldog team was up for the challenge.

After an opening win against Long Beach State the Dogs took on and shut out San Diego in the second round of the regional 6-0. Fresno State sat in the winners’ bracket awaiting the winner of the Long Beach State-San Diego matchup. Once San Diego had defeated the Dirtbags the Bulldogs knew they had to win one game to advance to their first super regional in over a decade. Fresno State went out and were promptly torn apart by the Toreros in game one 15-1. Many Bulldog fans worried that the Dogs would follow suit to many teams in the past and lose again to San Diego in the deciding game of the regional. Instead the 2008 Bulldogs would make history with a 5-1 defeat of the Toreros. With their regional win Fresno State would then be sent off to Tempe, AZ to face the third ranked Sun Devils of Arizona State. Arizona State sported a 48-11 record with only three losses during the entire season at home. Fresno State had their work cut out for them as it would require a monumental upset to knock off the Sun Devils in their own house.

In game one the Bulldogs played tough but untimely errors did them in as they trailed 8-4 heading into the eighth inning. ASU’s hitters were too much for the Dogs in game one and the Dogs would face an early hole in the series with a 12-4 defeat. Fresno State would now have to win the final two games of the series in order to return to the College World Series for the first time since 1991. Game two of the series would come down to one key at bat in the fourth inning and timely pitching at the tail end of the game. Gavin Hedstrom stepped up to the plate in the fourth inning with two outs and the bases loaded. The Dogs had put together four hits with two outs but had only one run to show for it. With two strikes Hedstrom swung at a curveball that jumped off of his bat to left center field. The ball carried over the fence giving Fresno State a 7-5 lead that they would not relinquish. Fresno State would finish off the victory with strong pitching from Brandon Burke. But the Dogs still had to win one more game and were depleted in the pitching department. Could the Dogs pull off one of the biggest upsets in college baseball during the 2008 season by knocking off the Sun Devils?

Game three would be tough for both teams as the pitching staffs were equally depleted. For the first six innings both teams battled back and forth as the score sat at 5-5. Then the top of the seventh arrived. With two outs and the bases loaded Hedstrom was hit by a pitch to give the Dogs a 6-5 lead. Eric Wetzel followed with a double that cleared the bases given the Dogs a 9-5 lead. While a four run lead in most games is suitable the Dogs were playing the Sun Devils and no lead is ever safe against them. Following Wetzel the WAC player of the year Steve Susdorf stepped to the plate and crushed the ball deep to right center field to increase the lead to 11-5. The Dogs would need every last one of those runs as an eventful ninth inning was in sight. The Dogs would head to the bottom of the ninth with a 12-5 lead only to watch Sean Bonesteele and Brandon Burke allow four runs to score. With two outs and the bases loaded the Bulldogs would finally capture their dream they had played so hard to reach. With a fly ball to left field the Bulldogs had won the Tempe regional and reached the college world series.

Fresno State will open up against Rice, the #6 national seed. Rice used to be a part of the WAC until they jumped ship to conference USA a few ago. Fresno State will have to hope their pitching and hitting can come through as it will take an amazing effort to win the college world series. But do remember that this is a team that was not supposed to win their regional as the four seed. The Dogs were not supposed to knock off the Sun Devils in the Tempe regional but they did. Now Fresno State is not supposed to win the college world series. To this writer it sounds like the Dogs are right where they want to be.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pat Hill's Recruiting Style

Over the past eleven years we as Bulldog fans have witnessed a change in Bulldog football. It all began with the head coach. Pat Hill took over Fresno State in 1997 and immediately made an impact as the head coach of this team. At the time recruiting was not nearly viewed in the same light as it is in today's world. Recruits were not under a microscope in the same respect that they are today as everyone desires to know what a recruits strengths and weaknesses are before they commit to a school. As fans we feel like we can evaluate a player based on what we have seen from him in his high school years. I for one thought Beau Sweeney would be hands down the best QB for the Bulldogs after watching him play during his Junior season. However, I realize I was wrong only because I let my heart and desire for valley football get in the way of what is truly best for Bulldog football. While we may question Pat Hill and his recruiting style, the fact remains that Hill continually finds players that fit the Bulldog football program perfectly. Regardless of what we think of his efforts as the head coach when it comes to recruiting Pat Hill does it exactly how all head coaches should. He recruits with respect to what the team needs and will only take players that he feels fit into the program perfectly.

In 2006 The Bulldogs underachieved at a level we had not seen since the mid 1990's. The question of who should play QB came up early and often. Sean Norton was the backup to Tom
Brandstater who most felt was not ready to be the starting QB. However, Pat Hill showed tremendous faith in Brandstater by making him the starter for the majority of the season. Although a large amount of fans disagreed with Pat on the QB issue only one season later we were able to see that Pat was right in keeping Brandstater in as our QB. Headed into his senior year Brandstater is viewed as the man to lead this team to their first WAC title in nearly ten seasons. Without Pat Hill's support who knows what would have happened to Brandstater during the course of his sophomore season. He was continually put down by the public and criticized for his play on the field. Week after week Hill supported Brandstater and we as fans could not figure out why. Today we know that Pat was able to see what Brandstater could truly do on the field while we as fans were not able to see past his performances early in his career.

The difference between Pat Hill and your average fan is that Pat understands what it takes to be a college football player at Fresno State. He realizes what players will help the team and what players won't. When Hill goes on recruiting trips he understands the needs of the team and does not have the desire to tell a recruit that the Dogs are going to offer him if he does not believe it is in the best interest of Fresno State to do so. While schools such as Florida, Cal, and UCLA can offer scholarships to hundreds of players only to pull them back when they reach their allotted amount, Fresno State on the other hand only offers scholarships to players they want in their program. The Bulldogs do not offer every single five star recruit because it is not realistic to do so. While it makes sense to show a top flight recruit attention, if that attention falls on deaf ears then what exactly is the point of the attention in the first place? Pat Hill did not actively recruit Derek Carr but Derek decided to attend Fresno State. Travis Brown may be the first five star high school recruit in Bulldog history. However, to find other recruits Pat is forced to earn his money as head coach.

I realize that many times we as fans think we know what is best for our hometown team. I think at times my knowledge of offense is exactly what allows me to understand what type of players the Bulldogs need. The truth is only the coaching staff and Pat Hill know exactly what is best for this program. Regardless if I have been a fan of Bulldog football for the past five, ten, or fifteen years I am not a coach in the Bulldog football program. In other words when all is said and done trust Pat Hill and his recruiting style. He may not be flashy with the way that he recruits, nor will he promise anyone more than they will actually be able to accomplish at State. Pat will be honest and that is something to be remembered in today's world where lying seems to get you ahead and a players word means absolutely nothing. Pat has done a great job recruiting here in Fresno and if we are lucky as Bulldog fans we will be able to enjoy his recruiting classes for many years into the future.

Monday, June 02, 2008

What the 2008 Bulldog Football Season Hinges on

This past weekend I attended the Under Armour camp with Mdg and Zagfan559 (I have a horrendous sunburn on my forehead to prove it). While watching all of the junior and seniors compete one on one in drills I began to think about the many different avenues the 2008 Bulldog football season might take. I have had a hard time coming up with what I think will happen during the football season if only because of how the 2007 season went. As one of my good friends said "the 2007 season was one of the best coaching jobs Pat Hill has done in his time at Fresno State." I tend to agree with this sentiment due to the amount of injuries the Bulldogs endured this past season and it is injuries that I believe will impact the 2008 season more so than any other factor.

Anyone who follows the Bulldogs knows the Dogs may be more talented on the field in 2008 than ever before. Tom Brandstater returns as the Senior QB with both experience and talent. The RB situation has only become that much better with the addition of players such as A.J. Ellis and Rashad Evans. Not to mention Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller, and Anthony Harding are not exactly guys you would want on the bench in the first place. The receiving core on offense is one of the deepest the Bulldogs have seen in years and is backed by a tight end that is NFL material (Bear Pascoe). With the offensive line in tact come fall practice there is no reason to think this team will not average close to forty points per game. The problem is when thinking about all of the weapons the Bulldogs have on the field we as fans are not considering who we may lose during the course of the season to injury. Here is a better question to consider if you are a Bulldog fan. Who can we afford to lose and still enjoy a successful 2008 season? At the same time what do you as fans consider a solid 2008 football season to be? I refrain from making predictions on any game until the week before due to the fact that injuries will impact the way a football team plays. But you as readers of the blog are welcome to leave comments as to what you feel is possible for this team in 2008.

While I have mentioned the offensive weapons we have fans should also remember that we are returning a bulk of our defense as well. Our entire secondary returns aside Damon Jenkins who will be replaced by either Sharrod Davis or Damion Owens. Our Linebacking core lost Marcus Riley and it will be a tall task to replace such an outstanding linebacker. However, Fresno State brought in both Ricky Pemasa and Damion Whittington to fill the Riley void. The defensive line will be in great shape with Ramos, Banks, Monga, Carter, Lewis, and Ike. However, this will be one area where injuries could wreak havoc on the Bulldogs. Fresno State's first team defensive line will cause problems for most teams they line up against as they have both the size and speed to play with anyone. Unfortunately after the first team there is a huge drop in the talent that will be on the field. To hope for relative health out of the defensive line would be an understatement in the least. How Fresno State is able to deal with it's injuries in 2008 will be the tell tale of how the season will transpire.

In the end most players that step on the field are replaceable if only because there is talent there to step in and take over. The one position Fresno State can ill afford an injury to in 2008 will be the QB position. Make no mistakes about it, this 2008 team has the talent and ability to run the table. As long as the defense keeps the Dogs in the game the offense is going to get the job done with Brandstater at QB. If for some reason Brandstater is not able to go the reigns are then turned over to little used Ryan Colburn. Many have confidence in Colburn and feel he can lead this team just as well as Brandstater can. However, Colburn has very little game experience and that is exactly how you become a more seasoned QB. After all what happened the last time we started a season with a QB that had very little game experience?

One word that can completely change the face of an entire football team. Here is hoping that for the first time since 2001 the Bulldogs will not have to deal with a major injury that single handedly changes the course of the 2008 football season.

Note: I will be doing my best to blog more often in the off season. I apologize to those who read the blog daily and will do my best to make sure there is content for everyone to read throughout the entire 2008 football season.

Friday, May 23, 2008

How is this year different?

SF Gater again taking the gauntlet as guest on the Fresno State Bulldog Blog. As previously mentioned, those who pay attention to college football are placing the Bulldogs in their top-25s, and the team may be the presumptive favorites to win the conference for the first time since 1999. Nevertheless there are naysayers who point out that the Boise State Broncos have dominated the WAC since joining the conference in 2001, that they have not lost a WAC game at home since joining the conference, that Fresno State has a record for being, in Stewart Mandel’s words, the “Clemson of mid-majors: A big tease.” This raises the question- is this year different? How?

A corollary to the above question might be, how were all those other years different? I propose that this year’s team is a unique entity, one radically unlike those preceding it in several important respects. The first is experience. As much of the team was injured last year, many bench players had an opportunity to get valuable game experience, while many of the starters had played in previous seasons. One of the major separating factors between BCS and mid-major teams has long proven to be depth- often the starters may be comparable, but there is a radical divide in the second string down, where backups at BCS schools would likely start at their mid-major counterparts. Fresno State this year will be in a position unique for a mid-major in that there are skilled bench players such as Adam McDowell, Reynard Camp, and Cornell Banks, who can come in and make a difference after starting games last year.

The biggest difference made is in fortitude and discipline, the ability to shake off a loss. Each of the previous few seasons has an example of a though loss that affected the next game, and the one after, in a negative way. Last year, however, was different. The Texas A&M loss is a key case in point. After going into the half with a big deficit, the Bulldogs rallied and tied the game, taking it into three overtimes before a crushing loss. The next week was never a contest, with the Bulldogs losing by several touchdowns to Oregon. But the team did not let those twin losses get the best of them, and rallied for a four game winning streak against La Tech and Nevada teams that had bested us in similar situations before. The Hawai’i game is another example, when the team dropped a close game to a ranked opponent. The team just went ahead the next week and handed Kansas State a miserable loss. They didn’t lay an egg; instead they took big losses and turned them around into wins.

I think the composition of this bulldog team is different from previous years. The offense will be composed nearly entirely of returning starters, and the bench players behind them largely come into the game with experience. The key might be how to play in adverse circumstances, and the Bulldogs have proven they are able to do so.

Opening the season at Rutgers on September 1st is going to be an intense challenge; it will be important for the team to draw strength from the adversity in an East Coast venue. As the game draws closer, we will discuss the matchup in more detail, but today it can address the question of how this team is different from ones in the past, and most particularly in those qualities that might lead them to excel in the coming season.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bulldog Rankings

Hi folks, SF Gator here, and I'd like to thank NSC and MDG for giving me the opportunity to represent as a guest contributer to the FSFB. The Barkboard has come alive of late with the various preseason rankings that have been released by magazines, websites, and other media, placing the Bulldogs securely in the top-25. The preseason mags begin to heat up during the summer, and the two that 'really matter,' the AP and the Coaches polls, both are released latter than that; nevertheless, the post-spring workouts have yielded college football fans and pundits a variety of musings, which have manifested in rankings like the following:

ATHLON has released teams in its top 25 once-a-day, starting auspiciously with the Bulldogs at #25;

CBS Sportsline pundit' n' hack Dennis Dodd actually didn't suck for the first time ever, placing the Bulldogs at #24;

ESPN has their man Mark Schlabach pegging Fresno State at a solid #21, with opponent Rutgers nowhere in sight (like Dodd, but unlike Athlon who has them at #22);

So, given this mayhem, what conclusions can we draw? Well, obviously the Bulldogs are getting some preseason love, both from the nice lil' pasting of the Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech in the Boise Bowl and the accompanying 9-4 record, and return of guys who played well and returning health of guys who should play well next year. Some of our opponents this year are in interesting positions; Boise isn't ranked by anyone, and neither is Cal Los Angeles; Rutgers is only ranked by Athlon; and everyone has Wisconsin in the top 18 at least. It's likely those positions will shift during the season so that some other teams do find themselves ranked when they play the 'Dogs.

At this point, the Bulldogs have found themselves ranked at one point or another at least once since 2001, but haven't managed to go preseason to postseason ranked all the way though by any major poll. Still, it seems likey that the Bulldogs should start the season against Rutgers in the top-25, which is important since any media will represent the scores of all top-25 teams with more detail (like a write-up or Sports Center highlight) than even a really good or well-known outside of the top-25. It's also good because it's harder to move up from unranked to ranked really high if you weren't thought of well to begin with. Also, playing the likes of Idaho, Utah State, and NM State each and every year (and often one after the other) means there will be some attentionless days in October or November when a ranking at least draws attention to the fact that you mopped the floor with somebody. And lastly, the fact that pundits are paying attention in mid-May means that it's likely that they'll pay attention in Mid-August.

Keep playing well, and someday the Bulldogs could find themselves ranked perennially, and viewed as a regular favorite for a WAC and Mid Major title. The powers-that-be recently scoffed heartily while drinking champagne at the idea of a playoff, so we'll be living with our present system for a while to come- meaning, a non BCS team that finishes in the top-12 is guaranteed a BCS bid, and the impression that the Bulldogs make this year will be an important one. Starting high and losing (once and only once) against a badass may not be a kiss of death for the Bulldogs making a BCS bowl, and if the initial impression for the Bulldogs is good enough and the team does well enough, a BCS bowl is a realistic probability. But keep in mind that BYU is ranked and ranked higher than the Bulldogs in every single one of those polls. and the Cougars don't have to play Wisconsin or Rutgers.

one more rankings note: I'm absolutely amazed at the way these rankings folks have ignored UC Berkeley this year. Normally, the pundits overrate them tremendously (I'm looking at you, Mel Brooks look alike Lee Corso); but this year, after losing their last six regular season games and going 7-6, everyone has stayed clear. Okay, everyone who has ever read anything i've ever written or heard me speak in my life knows my feelings toward UC Berkeley are like Cap'n Ahab's toward that damn whale; but I honestly can't see this year's UC Berkeley football team winning fewer than 8 games. I don't buy the QB controversy thing, Tedford'll take care of it, most coaches can handle having two solid options at QB, a solid but sometimes shaky senior and a rising star underclassman, the only guy who couldn't was Dirk Koetter and he was the exception that proves the rule.

Look, not to harp on this, but they open at home against Michigan State, a few people's sleeper but i just cant see them beating the Bears at home to open the season, there is too much speed, to many experienced upperclassmen and the coaching is too good. This is practically the same team that beat the SEC West champion Volunteers to open last season. Then they go to a depleted Wash State, then go to Maryland to face Fridge's Terps, which'll be a tough one but, look, they are not losing that game, i don't think. Maryland isn't as fast on offense as UC Berkeley, they just aren't, even at home. They'll open 3-0 and everyone'll jump on their bandwagon like they did in the last 5 years, and former Fresno State QB Jeff "the Douche" Tedford will be everyone's September coach of the year. Guys like Dodd, Mendel and Schlabach will jump on that bandwagon in seconds. I'm just saying, y'all saw it here first.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bear With Us

It's the off-season and with me publishing and NSC working his real job, the site has suffered. We at FSFB apologize for the lack of content. We've asked for help, but all who have come forward failed as regular contributors.

NSC says once the season is back in full swing, he will contribute on a regular basis. Spring ball is in full swing and complete coverage is available at BB.C. As most of you know, the 08 Bulldogs will be very good. One reason why is because of the gentleman pictured to the right!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Confident Realization

by nsc

We are all familiar with the offensive problems that the Bulldogs suffered throughout the 2006 football season. We are all also very familiar with the offensive improvement that was shown on the football field in 2007. Tom Brandstater looked like the QB we all hoped he would turn into. Our running game once again dominated nearly every game as the Bulldogs averaged over 200 yards on the ground per game. Receivers such as Marlon Moore, Seyi Ajirotutu, and Jason Crawley showed they can be the go to guy when the game is on the line. Fresno State raised their points per game average nearly ten points from 23 to 33 and showed the ability to not only hit on big plays but to control the clock for the entirety of a game. While it would be nice to credit the players for this improvement the fact is their offensive coordinator is the reason the Bulldogs changed their fortune during the course of the season. Many may have forgotten that this Bulldog team began the season just as the 2006 team did: 1-2 with a close loss to a top twenty five team. In 2006 the Bulldogs came unglued faltering in their next six games following their hard fought loss to Oregon. When 2007 began in the same manner with a hard fought loss at Texas A&M many worried that the Dogs would fall apart once again. However, J-Mac would not let the 2007 Bulldogs suffer the same fate as the team of year's past had experienced.

It would be unfair to credit only the offense for the 9-4 record the Bulldogs achieved in 2007. But to ignore what J-Mac did for this offense would be naive in every sense of the imagination. J-Mac took an offense with little direction and turned them into a powerful unit that would be capable of scoring each time they had the ball. In 2006 Fresno State often led with the run because the creative side of the Dogs offense had disappeared. No longer did the Dogs rely on passing the ball to gain yardage. Many Bulldog fans were left wondering if the coaches had any faith in the Fresno State offense. Steve Hagen (one of the single worst offensive coordinators to ever set foot at Fresno State) let this team fall apart right in front of our very eyes. The offensive woes culminated with one of the single most embarrassing defeats in Fresno State history: A 13-12 defeat at the hands of winless Utah State. The Aggies would go on to finish with one win in 2006 and Fresno State would be the lone victim. During their loss to Utah State it became apparent that the Bulldogs lacked any type of downfield threat. The reason for the lack of passing however did not lay in the hands of the players themselves. Fresno State had receivers capable of making plays but the offensive coordinator did not allow the Bulldogs to exploit Utah State and their horrendous pass defense. Instead Hagen chose to allow Utah State to remain in the game by constantly running the ball between the tackles. That was an experience that no Bulldog coach, player, or fan ever wanted to experience again. J-Mac made sure this became a realization in 2007.

In 2007 the Bulldogs opened the season just as they had in 2006: Leading with the run. However, something was different about the 2007 Bulldogs offense. Instead of calling 60% run plays the passing game began to make an appearance on the football field. J-Mac showed that he was the type of coach that not only would pass the ball, but if the defense allowed him to J-Mac would direct the offense to throw the ball often. The first sign of the passing game occurred against the Aggies of Texas A&M. In a game Fresno State trailed 19-0 at halftime the Bulldogs opened the second half allowing Brandstater to open the offense up. That was exactly what Brandstater did as the Dogs scored 45 points over the span of the second half and three overtimes. While the Dogs offense did not explode after this game it was only a short period of time before Fresno State fans were able to see what J-Mac could truly direct this offense to do. Three weeks later Fresno State traveled to Nevada and scored 49 followed by 37 at Idaho and 30 against San Jose State. In eight of their last nine games the Bulldogs scored at least 30 points in each game. The offense had arrived and the fans in Fresno finally were able to see what this team was capable of on the field of play.

As I stated earlier it would be foolish to think that J-Mac had little to do with the improvement the offense showed in 2007. So it should have come as no surprise that J-Mac immediately became a hot commodity to the rest of the college football world. His alma mater Eastern Washington offered him the head coaching position. While the decision was tough for J-Mac he realized that Fresno is where he wants to be for now. Once the Bulldogs offense heard the news that J-Mac was staying they exhaled and were able to breathe fresh air once again. Players such as Tom Brandstater, Ryan Matthews, and Marlon Moore know this offense is because of J-Mac's creativity. Without J-Mac these players would not show the level of confidence that they do on the football field today. it is because of J-Mac's creativity that the Bulldogs feel they can score on anyone anytime they take the field. While the Bulldogs may not be able to hold on to J-Mac for many more years into the future they seem intent on doing their best to take full advantage of his creative mind sooner than later. It is J-Mac that allows the Bulldogs to confidently realize that in 2008 they may just become the type offense that no team can shut down regardless of what conference they play in.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

NSC asks...Can Fresno State Replace These Seniors?

by nsc

In 2007 the Bulldogs will endure the losses of a handful of seniors. Fresno State's offense will bid adeu to both Clifton Smith and Ryan Wendell. On the defensive side of the ball the Bulldogs will say goodbye to Marcus Riley (ouch), Damon Jenkins, Tyler Clutts, and Charles Tolbert. On special teams the Bulldogs say goodbye to Clint Stitser and Kyle Zimmerman. Obviously there are more seniors moving on such as Shannon Dorsey and Jesus Tapia but the players listed above are the ones that will be the most important to replace. How Fresno State goes about replacing these key players may determine what happens on the field of play in 2008. Since the offense has the least amount of work to do we will start with them.

2008 Bulldogs Offense: Key Losses: Clifton Smith and Ryan Wendell. Key returning players: Everyone else. Yes I could list the players returning but you all know who is coming back if you are a true Bulldog fan. With our entire receiving core returning Fresno State's offense should be as explosive as any team in the nation. It should also be noted that Fresno State returns three RB's who made a name for themselves on the field in 2007. While returning so many core players is important it should also be noted that our QB returns, our #1 TE threat returns, and our entire offensive line minus Wendell returns. I realize Wendell was wonderful on the offensive line but Fresno State rarely has problems with the offensive line. There is a reason this team rushes for so many yards season after season. The offensive line is the main reason that Brandstater has been sacked 23 times in 24 games over the past two seasons. Anytime an offensive line gives up less than one sack a game they are doing their job to protect the quarterback.

What to expect from the 2008 Offense: Expect the Bulldogs to plug in players such as A.J. Ellis , Tim Lang, and Devon Wylie to help shoulder the loss of Clifton Smith. While these players may not have the moves that Smith did they are young and will have time to develop on the field of play. Each of these three players bring different aspects to the field and will be able to show how talented they are in 2008. The replacement of Wendell will be much easier as Fresno State has so a plethora of offensive lineman to step in and play right away. Players such as Joe Bernandi and Devan Cunningham will be on the field often opening up holes for our three headed running attack in 2008. Expect this Bulldog team to score nearly 40 points a game during the 2008 season.

2008 Bulldogs Defense: Key Losses: Marcus Riley, Charles Tolbert and Tyler Cutts. Key Returning Players: A. J. Jefferson, Damian Owens, Ben Jacobs, Quaadir Brown, and Jon Monga. Defense is going to be the question mark of this football team in 2008. The offense will produce early and often for the Dogs so the defense is going to have to make sure that the opposing team does not hang with the high powered offense of the Dogs. Fresno State will not be able to replace Marcus Riley. He is not the kind of player you can replace in one season. Ricky Pemesa was tabbed to replace Riley and may be able to do so, but it will take much longer than one season. Ben Jacobs, Q Brown, Todd Chisom, Nico Herron, Ryan Machado, and Ryan Mckinley will all have to step up and find a way to bring the defensive intensity that Riley brought to the field. If the defense can find a way to compensate for the loss of Riley they will do fine in the long run.

What to expect from the 2008 Defense: Early on the Dogs will suffer on defense if for no other reason than team leadership. I realize we have a good amount of players returning on defense but the intensity that players such as Tolbert, Clutts, and Riley brought to the field will be hard to match. Fresno State will do it's best as they will add the Jackson brothers and Matt Akers to their defensive line. While he has not committed a player such as Valentine could single handedly sure up this defensive line. The secondary will be a step up from 2007 as both Harris and Haynes return as safeties with Jefferson and Owens at corner. Although Jenkins started for Fresno State for the greater part of his college career he never truly developed into the type of corner the Dogs had hoped he would. With Jenkins gone other players such as Davis will have a chance to make a name for himself in 2008. Fresno State will give up a lot early on but expect this defensive unit to come together and eventually learn to make plays by the middle of 2008.

2008 Special Teams Key Losses: Kyle Zimmerman and Clint Stitser. The special teams unit will now turn the reigns over to redshirt Freshman Kevin Goessling. This kid has an amazing leg and will do just fine as our field goal kicker. He is left footed which may remind many of you of Asen Asperuhov. Goessling will do his best to make us forget about Clint Stitser. As for punting Robert Malone will take over duties here. Malone was tabbed the punter a season ago only to lose his job to Zimmerman. Hopefully in 2008 Malone will mature to the point that he becomes the type of punter this program always thought he would be. Special teams may take a while to come around in the kicking game. We shall see how this plays out.

Overall the Dogs look to have a solid team on paper. At the end of 2007 the Dogs finished 30th in coaches poll. Look for Fresno State to open near the top 25. If the Dogs play strong at UCLA and K-State look for a top ten Wisconsin team to head to Fresno to face a top 20 Bulldogs team. Hopefully everyone remembers the last time a top ten team came to Fresno. If you don't it was Oregon State in 2001. This Bulldog team has the talent to do exactly what the Dogs did to Oregon State in 2001. Here is hoping that it is in the cards for the Dogs to make a run like they did in 2001. If the newcomers play to their potential 2008 will be a great season for Fresno State. All the Dogs need to remember is the only game that matters right now is their next game against UCLA.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The State of the Bulldogs

by nsc

Recently, I spent three days in Boise, Idaho to watch our Fresno State Bulldogs take on the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. I had high hopes for Fresno State coming into the Humanitarian bowl if for no other reason than the fact that the Bulldogs were able to turn around their fortunes on the football field when compared to what happened during 2006. Since the Bulldogs defeated Georgia Tech I have read that Fresno State will be the team to watch out for in 2008. I have read that if there is a mid-major primed to make a run at the BCS in 2008 it's the Bulldogs. While I tend to agree with this sentiment I want to cover a few thoughts that fans of Fresno State should stear clear of during what should be a very eventful offseason for Fresno State. I realize that Pat Hill is currently en route to signing one of his best recruiting classes in Bulldog history, but staying grounded is what we as Bulldog fans need to do from now until August 31st and the following reasons are why I think we need to be cautious as to what we dream of.

1) Refrain from all BCS talk: Yes it's great to believe that Fresno State is a team on the cusp of the BCS. Yes it's great to believe that our beloved Dogs will one day rise above the rest and find a way to run the table regardless of how tough their schedule is. However, I warn all Bulldog fans to stay away from BCS talk. Fresno State is going to be a good team in 2008, I have no doubts about that. However, we do play a very grueling schedule and after the Hawaii debacle it is going to be even tougher to qualify for a BCS game as a mid-major. No, they won't change the formula or the way a mid-major has to qualify but the voters will be much more apprehensive when voting for a mid-major. With that being said Fresno State does have a schedule that can reap rewards if they play smart. To me smart is attempting to go 1-0 for twelve straight weeks. It does not matter what happens in week 5 if you don't win in week 1. I advise all of you as fans to begin the season believing that a 1-0 start at the Rose Bowl is exactly what this team needs. We do not need to look ahead to Boise or Wisconsin. We need to play UCLA first and that is where the journey begins.

2) Understand Fresno State must improve on defense: Yes the Bulldogs went 9-4 this past season. But the Dogs defense gave up more yards than the offense gained. We continually had problems as we once again had a season with five or less int's. Fresno State is going to have to find a way to improve their defensive numbers in order to become a top flight team. Yes our offense will be loaded and we will score plenty of points, but will that matter if we lose 48-45? Without an improved defense the Dogs will lose the same games they did this past year, and believe me when I say this is going to be hard to do seeing that our best Linebacker in Bulldog history no longer with us (Marcus Riley). If we do not have anyone step up the defense could be in for another long season.

3) Do not put too much stock into true Freshman: I know Ebahn Feathers will be debuting for the Bulldogs next fall but remember he is a Freshman. Yes it is possible for a Freshman to make an impact such as Ryan Matthews did in 2007 but it does not happen often. If you realize that these young players have plenty to learn then you will be pleasantly surprised at how good they do when given the chance to play. You won't see these players on the field nearly as much as the upperclassmen and rightfully so, but we will need contributions from every player on the team if we hope to have an oustanding 2008 season.

4) Last but not least please let Tom be Tom: My last request and to me most important is to let Brandstater be himself in 2008. I think fans came along ways in 2007 with respect to accepting Tommy B. as our QB. But I still read plenty of messages and threads that say Tom is not as accurate as Carr or as talented as Carr. In the end all I want is for Tom to be himself. I think he is going to be great in 2008 and I think he has done just fine with the team he has. I believe his Junior year was very impressive and when I watch him play I see the skills that tell me one day he will play past Fresno State. I just hope everyone else in Bulldog land will accept him for who he is. Tom does not need to be Carr, Tom needs to be Tom. If Brandstater is the best he can possibly be week in and week out the Bulldogs will win a majority of their games in 2008.

2008 can be a special season for Fresno State. We have the talent, we have the coaching, and we have the determination as a team to make 2008 unforgettable. But we as fans need to hold back and keep all of this talk about winning every game under raps until the twelth game of the season. If the Dogs are 11-0 then I have no problems talking about where they may end up. Remember we were upset with Pat Hill for dreaming of the BCS a few years ago when we could not win the WAC. That is exactly what we need to stay away from as fans. Enjoy the offseason. We will have plenty of news about practices, players, and the direction of this team. Just enjoy it because right now isn't it great to be a Bulldog fan?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Comparing Tom Brandstater and David Carr (yes it can be done)

by nsc

In 2001 we all remember the magic ride the Fresno State Bulldogs embarked on to begin the season. The Dogs opened up with three straight wins over BCS schools and were awarded the #8 ranking in the nation for doing so. David Carr had an amazing season as he threw for over 4000 yards and 45 td's leading the Bulldogs to an overall record of 11-3. Today it seems that regardless of how good or bad our teams are we continually compare them to that 2001 team. The other day I wrote a blog on Tom Brandstater and how he has matured over the season. I wrote that I feel his development is ahead of where David Carr was at the same point in his Junior season. I am quite sure many of you do not feel the same way as I do so I decided to use opposing team's record, common stats, and team schedules to try and further prove that Tom Brandstater is right where we need him to be at this point in his career. Brandstater had a very tough 2006 season but I cannot use that in comparison because David Carr was not our starter his sophomore season. While many awful things were said about Tom during our 4-8 season last year he was only a sophomore and there is no way to reference that for any type of comparison. Instead I will use Tom's Junior season and the records from the teams we play his senior year to compare the two QB's side by side. Now don't get me wrong, David Carr was an absolute godsend for this program as he helped put the Dogs into the national spotlight. All I am trying to say here is that Brandstater may be on the same maturation level as Carr was when he blossomed into one of the best QB's in college football. Let's begin the comparison by referencing Carr's Junior season and how he did during that season.

In 2000 Carr led the Bulldogs to a 7-5 record as they lost in the Silicon Valley Bowl to Air Force 37-34. In that game David Carr showed us glimpses of what he would become in 2001. Carr threw for 388 yards and five td's while bringing the Dogs back from a 34-7 halftime deficit. For the season Carr finished with the following stat line:

216 for 349 for 2,729 yards 62% completion rate 27 td's

What is far more interesting about the Bulldogs 2000 season is the record of the teams that Carr won and loss against. The teams Carr led the Bulldogs to victories over had a combined 26-56 record. The teams Carr and the Dogs lost to had a combined record of 41-19. In other words the teams the Dogs beat that season were teams they were supposed to beat. The Dogs did not lose to anyone they shouldn't have lost to with respect to team record and the Dogs did not beat anyone they shouldn't have beaten. Now let's take a look at Brandstater in 2007 and how he has fared against believe it or not very similar competition overall. Brandstater's line to date is as follows:

178 for 288 for 2,164 yards 62% completion rate 14 td's

Remember that Brandstater still has two games remaining. No Brandstater will not throw for 13 td's in the next two games but it is possible that he may throw for 500 yards and say five td's. If that does happen he will end up with 2650-2700 yards passing (right where Carr was) and around 18-20 td's. Now let's take a look at the win-loss records of the teams the Dogs have played in 2007. Against teams the Dogs have beaten the opponents record is: 23-47. The teams the Dogs have lost to have a combined 36-10 record. You can try and make a case that the teams we lost to in 2000 are superior to the teams we have lost to this season but a further look shows this to be untrue. In 2000 we lost to Ohio State which is comparable to this year's Oregon team (record wise). In 2000 we lost to UCLA which is comparable to this year's TAMU team (record wise also). However, in 2000 the only other team that was anywhere near as good as this year's Boise and Hawaii team's would have been TCU. Air Force was not a dominating force in 2000 nor was UTEP. If this is not enough in the comparison arena for those who read the blog let me take a look at Carr's 2001 season to further prove that Brandstater will have a chance to show he can be our next star QB.

In 2001 Carr had what many consider to be the best QB season in Bulldog history. We know his stat line was astonishing and there is no way Brandstater will ever match what Carr did in 2001. However lets take a look at the win-loss records of the opponents Carr faced in 2001. The teams Carr led the Bulldogs to victories over had a combined 57-71 record. The teams Carr and the Dogs suffered a loss to had a comnined 24-12 record. As of right now the team's Brandstater will take the field against in 2008 have a combined 68-75 record. In 2001 Carr led Fresno State to three straight victories over BCS teams. In 2008 the Bulldogs also open the season with three consecutive games against BCS teams. I realize that comparing stats of two players is quite hard to do. I know that Carr and Brandstater are playing in different eras of Fresno State football. While we ran the ball in 2001 we realized that our QB could win games for us and our offense allowed Carr to do just that. In 2008 I expect much of the same from our offense. I expect early on that J-Mac and Hill will realize that if we have to we can win games by throwing the ball we will. I expect the offense to put trust in Brandstater and ride his back to victories from time to time. As I said earlier Tom will not achieve the stats Carr did in 2001, that's just not possible in today's Bulldog offense. However, if Fresno State finishes 10-2 or 11-1 and Brandstater throws for say 30 td's with 7 int's or so and 3000 yards won't that be enough to say Brandstater was just as successful as Carr was as our starting QB? Remember you cannot compare their sophomore seasons, that is not fair to either QB due to starting time and the team surrounding each QB. If the Dogs can come through in 2008 and finish 10-2 TB will have a record of 18-6 (assuming we beat NMSU this Friday and not counting our bowl game this season). Carr had a 18-8 record as our starter in 2000-2001. To me that sounds eerily similar. If you do not see the connection that is fine. I realize many of you loved David Carr and cannot fathom Brandstater as the type of QB Carr was for this program. However, if you take the time to look at the numbers and compare the two you might find out they are much more similar than at first glance.

Monday, November 26, 2007

NSC...on Brandstater's Revival

by nsc

2007 has been an interesting season to say the least. Fresno State has endured more injuries across the board than most teams in Div. 1A college football, yet they sit at 7-4 on the season. The Dogs travel to NMSU for their final game of the season this Friday with a chance to double their win total from 2006. Fresno State will play in a bowl game again this season. Fresno State's offense has pulled a complete 180 this season as they have averaged well over thirty points per game, up from 23 per game in 2006. However the biggest improvement this season has been in our signal caller. Brandstater struggled through 2006 as we all know. But what we did as fans that was not fair to Brandstater was blame him more so than everyone else on the team. We as fans felt that Brandstater was the sole reason that the Bulldogs offense failed miserably in 2006. We as fans were completely wrong. Today every single Bulldog fan should be praising Brandstater. For some reason that is not happening, at least not from what I am reading on the BarkBoard. Brandstater turned in a performance that was reminiscent of Carr in 2001 as he completed 23 out of 29 passes for 313 yards and 2 TD's with no int's against K-State this past Saturday. Somehow it still comes across as not good enough for many fans.

On Saturday Brandstater looked comfortable as he hit his receivers in stride and continually put the ball where only our receivers could catch it. At the same time the progression chart seems to have become a part of Tom's game as he would look down field for a receiver and check down to his second or third option if receiver one was not open. On one play Tom avoided a sack, spun around in a complete circle and looked up to complete a fifteen yard pass downfield. On that one play I realized that Brandstater had arrived. But the problem is Brandstater had arrived much earlier during the 2007 season, not just on Saturday. While Saturday certainly was an outstanding performance for our Junior QB this was not the first game Brandstater had done well. If we take Tom's past three games into account he has completed 51 out of 73 passes which equates to a 70% completion rate. In that same span Brandstater has accounted for nine TD's and only one int. To say one game does not make Tom a good QB is correct, but it has not been one game that Tom has been outstanding this season. It may just be me but I feel like so many of you have forgotten why we had a chance late against Hawaii. We did not come back against the Warriors because of our superior running game or our great defense. Instead our offensive passing game gave us a chance late in the second half. True our defense gave us the ball often in the second half against Hawaii but we would not have scored any points had it not been for Brandstater and his receivers. To ignore what Tom has done over the past month for this football team would be a disservice not only to Tom but to the Bulldog football team as a whole. So many have complained about the way Tom has played, but in all honesty his Junior year is on pace to match many of the numbers that David Carr put up. The most important stat (Wins) may very well pass up what Carr was able to do his junior year as well as the Dogs that season finished 7-5 with a loss to the Air Force in their bowl game.

As I stated earlier Fresno State is going to play in a bowl game to end the season. Whether that game is in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Boise, or New Mexico is yet to be determined, but Brandstater and the Bulldogs will play in a bowl game. For many Bulldogs it will be their first experience in a bowl game as most of the players on the team are Freshman and Sophomores. But the bowl experience will be one that the players can build on heading into 2008. Brandstater has done his part to make the Bulldogs a successful team this season. Tom has averaged nearly 200 yards a game for a team that leads with the run. Tom also has a completion percentage of 62% while throwing for 14 td's to only five int's. As I showed in a blog a week ago David Carr also completed 62% of his passes for 2700 yards his junior year and look what happened to Carr his senior season. If Tom can go out Friday night and perform as he has the past month I have no doubt that he will once again throw for 200-250 yards with 2-3 td's and no more than one int. If Brandstater throws for 250 yards in each of the final two games this season he will close with 2650 yards averaging over 200 yards a game. In other words Tom will be very proficient in the Bulldog offense.

All I am trying to get across to many of the Bulldog faithful is that Brandstater has become a very competent QB in our system. Saturday Tom showed that he can throw the seem pass, and he can throw it quite well at that. For those of you who focus on the pass he threw behind Harding shame on you. Why not pay attention to the twenty great throws Tom made this past Saturday and forget about the one throw he did not complete. In fact why not concentrate on how many throws Tom has made the past two games that have been close to being intercepted. Well if you try to do that then you will realize he has not made one throw that was anywhere close to being taken away. Brandstater has come full circle and we as fans should support the changes Tom has made both on and off the football field. While Brandstater has had a tough go to this point remember that David Carr's breakout game came in 2000 against the Air Force in the Silicon Valley Bowl where he threw for 388 yards and five td's with one int. If you take that game into consideration I would say Brandstater is actually ahead of where Carr was at this time seeing that Brandstater still has two games remaining before the end of the 2007 season. I am pleased with the improvement of this team and especially the improvement our QB has made this season. The Bulldogs have a chance to finish the season 9-4. If you told me during the 2006 season that next year we could go 9-4 with 28 injuries to key players I would have told you to get your head examined. Instead it looks like I have to be the one to get examined because the Bulldogs are doing exactly what we all wanted: Playing hard and getting results on the football field. In the end isn't that all we really can ask for from this team? Don't forget we are one play away from being 8-3 right now. This has been a very successful season for Fresno State and I just hope that each and every one of you realize it before the 2007 season comes to an end.