Thursday, December 28, 2006

Fixing What is Broken

If you were to use one word to describe Fresno State as a team in 2006 Broken may be the most appropriate. Our offense seemed flustered more times than not, our defense seemed lost for the most part, our kicking game was a problem for the first time in countless years, and our special teams unit played as poorly as any unit in the nation. To concentrate on one area with respect to poor performance for Fresno State would be a mistake. Fresno State will have to find a way to fix much more than one aspect of their football team. The problems with Fresno State really can be broken down into three different areas, of which I will rank from least to most imporant.

1) Defensive secondary - I know most will say I am crazy for thinking this is the least of our problems but I don't feel the secondary underperformed nearly as much as we have viewed them as doing. In most of our games the defense kept the games close enough for us to win. We lost games by 7, 1, 12, 1, and 10. Yes the three games in the middle were not close but I am not going to blame it on the defense. No one stopped Hawaii from scoring this season and LSU was just too much for us to handle. For most of the season the Bulldogs defense played good enough for us to win nine of our games. Unfortunately it did not work out for the Dogs. If we plan on making a jump next season to eight or nine wins the secondary will have to force more turnovers. At the same time the corners and safeties will have to learn how to play not only the receiver but the ball at the same time. Countless times the Dogs defenders could have had interceptions if they had just turned around during the flight of the ball. With Davis and Jenkins at corner we should play much better on defense as we will also have plenty of speed in the secondary. Our LB's if healthy will be fast and able to contain any offense when running to the outside. Overall the defense will have to step up their gameplay a notch to give us a chance in every game we play.

2) Offensive Production - I am sure most of you feel like this is the number one problem the Dogs have overall. However, I feel like there is one more aspect of Bulldog football that caused more problems than our offense did. But first let's concentrate on the offensive woes of the team. Our QB had problems throwing the ball and I don't foresee that changing unless he develops a progression chart in his mind. Brandstater has to realize that there are three receivers on most plays and he does not have to force the ball to the number one option. More often than not Chastin West will be our go to guy through the air next season along with Bear Pascoe. Brandstater is going to have to see that he can dump the ball off to either Harding or Miller if everyone else is covered. At the same time Brandstater will have to try and get the ball to Moore, Crawley, and Ajirotutu in order to spread the offense out. Of course this is all going to depend on our new offensive coordinator and the type of gameplan we decide to use. Our offensive line should be quite good again and the addition of Cunningham will only make the line that much stronger. Running lanes will be there keeping the pressure on Brandstater down. If Tom can somehow find some timing with the young receivers on the field the Dogs offense should see an increase in offensive production keeping the defense off of the field for longer periods of time. Unfortunately this will not matter if the last piece of Bulldog football does not come around.

3) Special Teams - In my opinion our special teams unit is what did us in far more than any other part of the team this season. Our punting was bad, our kick return coverage stunk, and our field goal units on both offense and defense took a step back with respect to production. Stitser did not kick at the level we are used to seeing him be at, Christensen dropped far too many snaps as a holder, and Smith was not the punt returner we all remembered him to be. Because of our special teams we continually gave the opposing team's offenses a short field to play on. It is not hard to score points when you begin on the 45-50 yard line every time you touch the ball. Colorado State practically sat on our side of the field the entire game. Boise State, Hawaii, LSU, and San Jose State did the same thing. Because Malone could not do the job punting Zimmerman was forced to step in and do something he generally does not do. He is not a punter and that becaome evident this season. Our kick return coverage allowed two touchdowns this season on punts and one touchdown on a kickoff. In order for the Bulldogs to win games they will have to continually win the field position game. Go back and watch the highlights of the USC game. (They are located on the right side of this blog) You will notice how often Adam Jennings gave us great field position throughout the course of the game. It would be great field position that made it that much easier for Fresno State to put points on the board. I know Chastin West is a great player but he does not seem like a kick returner. We can only hope that Wylie and Smith can step back and return kickoffs the way we are used to seeing here at Fresno State. If we cannot fix our special teams the 2007 season will once again be a long tumultuous season filled with numerous plays we would just as soon forget.

Each of us has a differing opinion as to what is the most important aspect of the football team that needs to be repaired. As I stated I feel our special teams unit puts us in a tough position every time they take the field. If you feel differently share what you think. Regardless we have plenty of problems to fix and there may have been a few that I missed over the course of this blog.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What the Future Holds

As soon as the college football season ends another season begins that possibly may be just as important as the actual football season itself. Recruiting season tends to heat up just as we finish cheering for our respective football teams in whatever nonsense bowl game they are a part of. Let's be honest here, unless your team is playing in a BCS game there really isn't much to be happy about with respect to the bowl season. Yes we can be happy about playing in the Liberty Bowl but at the end of the day it is just another ho hum bowl that few people care about. Our goal at Fresno State is to one day crash the BCS just as Boise State has done this season. The problem is Fresno State continually struggles to win the WAC. Although most people in this city put a BCS game down as our number one goal, we have to realize there is no way that will ever happen unless we go undefeated in the WAC first. To me this is where
recruiting becomes one of the more important factors into how our future goes at Fresno State.

The two pictures on the left as most of you know are of Devan Cunningham and Matt Faulkner. These are just two of our fifteen recruits headed to Fresno State for the 2007 season and beyond. Cunningham is a great three star prospect that will have a chance to compete for an O-line position as a true Freshman. Faulkner is a Texas QB who ran the spread offense in high school and averaged over 250 yards passing per game. While these recruits sound great the challenge will be to work them into the Bulldogs offensive gameplan. Here in lays the problem with whomever the Bulldogs recruit. If a player such as Chris Carter of Fontana decides to attend Fresno State (which he says he wants to) Pat Hill will have to find a way to incorporate this player into the team's overall scheme. As we all know trying to fit Brandstater into our offense in 2006 did not work out the way Pat Hill had hoped it would. Whether it was because Brandstater did not adapt to the system or not remains to be seen. If the Bulldogs are to be a successful football team in the future Pat Hill will have to do a better job of getting these players ready for games. I have seen the Bulldogs practice countless times in the past and our offense always looks ready to explode. Unfortunately practice is not the same as a game and the Bulldogs had a problem rolling over all of that explosive offensive fire-power into the actual season.

Will the Bulldogs take a step forward in 2007 and figure out how to win again? Will Fresno State find that defensive prowess that we all remember from the early part of the decade? It seems as if the Bulldogs have made speed their number one priority in this off-season and after watching the LSU game we as fans should be able to see that their is a necessary need for speed on this team. Without Dwayne Wright the offensive gameplan will rest on the shoulders of an unproven QB and two explosive albeit young Running Backs. Pat Hill has his work cut out for him in 2007 but improvement will be relatively easy to achieve with the way the 2006 season ended. But can you truly see this team turning 2007 into a season that many of us would like to remember forever?

In 2007 we have road games against Hawaii (if Brennan returns they will be a nightmare to play), Oregon, and Cincinnati. All three of these teams will be ready for the Dogs and we will have to bring our "A" game just to compete. However, recruiting has allowed all of us as fans to believe that the Dogs will be a much different team in 2007. With a secondary that now has Sharrod Davis and Damon Jenkins at corner I feel a little better about our coverage. Bell, Owens, Haynes, Harris, and Jefferson will all be roaming the secondary and one thing is for sure: This team will be much faster than the team in 2006. Remember we have also received commitments from players such as Terrance Dennis who is one of the hardest hitting secondary players in the state, and Isaiah Green. We have plenty of secondary help on the way and if Chris Carter decides on Fresno State we will be looking like a team with just as much athleticism as any team in the state in the coming years (of course aside USC who has fifty million five star recruits per year).

As long as Fresno State continues to address the needs they have this off-season the future of this team will look bright. We need one of our two QB's to come in this season and play without fear. We need either Brandstater or Colburn to step in and make a statement early in the season. Regardless of what happened in 2006 the outlook for the coming seasons is actually quite good. It almost seems as if these recruits want to come to Fresno State to help the Dogs reclaim that national name that it once held. Whatever the reasons the future will be fine. Fresno State will win ten games again sometime soon and the reason we will get better with time will come down to recruiting and the young men that want to step onto the field and wear the Green V with pride.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What I am Truly Thankful For

With the end of 2006 right around the corner I started to think about the Fresno State Football program and where we sit today. I began to think about how much this football program has changed over the past fifteen years. I began to think about what we should be thankful for as Fresno State Football fans instead of thinking about what we should be disappointed with. True the 2006 season was not what we had hoped for or expected, but there is so much more to be thankful for in this football program although many of you may not see it that way at the time being. Without further adeu here is my top five reasons why I am thankful to be a Fresno State Football fan:

1) The feel of the central valley. The green V on the back of the helmet says it all as this team is the pride of the valley. We live in an area that is often overlooked by the rest of California but for the most part our football team can play with just about anyone in this state.

2) I am thankful for the progression of this football team. Just 15 years ago there would have never been talk of a Bulldog team making any type of run to crack the top ten. Today that idea is not far fetched as the Dogs continually push the limits with respect to the "Big" teams of the nation.

3) I am thankful for the creation of the BarkBoard where we as fans can share our thoughts on the Bulldogs. People like Mario and Chris do an outstanding job of allowing all of us to say how we feel over on the BarkBoard. Sometimes we do not all agree on what the Dogs do or where the team is headed, but the BarkBoard will always allow us to say exactly how we feel.

4) I am actually thankful to Pat Hill for pushing this Bulldog team to become a national player. Every year if a team comes into Bulldog stadium and wins the major sports sites such as ESPN, CNNSI and so on will mention how great a win it was for the BCS team to come into Fresno and walk away with a win. The Bulldogs of the present are nothing like the Bulldogs of the early 1990's. While some of the early 1990 teams were successful they did not carry the national name the Dogs do today.

5) Lastly I am thankful for all of you Bulldog fans that make Bulldog nation what it is today. Yes we have some fair-weather fans out there but for the most part you die hard fans are what make Bulldog nation what it is today. It is people like Arx, Dilfer Jr, Steve Burnes, Mario, Chris, and so on that make our fan base so great (If I left a great fan out I am sorry, I do not mean to there are just so many of you). I love waking up on a Bulldog Saturday and heading out to the stadium for a fun time watching our Dogs and cheering for them. I know you die hards are the very same and there is nothing better than Bulldog football.

In the end I ask all of you who read the blog to think about what you love about Bulldog football. Maybe you love the spring practices that give us all an insight into what the season may hold or maybe you love the recruiting season that shows us the players of the future for the Dogs. Maybe you love the opening day of football season because once again we get to watch the pride of the valley play their butts off on the field. Whatever you are thankful for share it with all of us. The Bulldogs Football team has given us plenty of great memories and this is the time of the year to remember what we love about Fresno State and not what we hate.

Note - I hope to see everyone at World Sports this Friday. It will be nice to meet many of you Bulldog fans and maybe we can sit and talk about the future of this team. Go Dogs, it is going to be a fun offseason.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Recruiting Difference

The Bulldogs may have experienced their worst season under Pat Hill in 2006 as they finished a disappointing 4-8. As we all know by now the Bulldogs did not operate their offense in the way we have become accustomed to seeing as they had problems scoring points for the first time in over a decade. However, in a sense this turned out to be positive for Pat Hill and the Bulldogs. No, it isn't positive in a sense that the Bulldogs lost twice as many games as they won or that they underperformed throughout the entire 2006 season. Instead the positive side is showing itself after the season has ended. The recruiting for Fresno State this offseason has gone relatively well up to this point. The reason I believe recruits now want to take their chances in Fresno as opposed to another school has to do with the Freshman status and how they are being handled at Fresno State.

It wasn't long ago that Pat Hill would insist that nearly 80% of all Freshman should redshirt to give themselves time to adapt to the college football game. Oh how times have changed. A 4-8 season allowed Pat Hill to see that maybe some Freshman really are good enough to play their first season. In 2006 Jefferson, Harding, Miller, and Owens all saw playing time for Fresno State as true Freshman. Not only will this help the team in 2007 but it has shown the recruits that they can play a role in their Freshman seasons. I believe the biggest mistake a coach can make in the college level is to have the type of mindset that Freshman cannot contribute to the program right away. If Bob Stoops had this attitude Adrian Peterson would not have been the explosive running back he turned out to be in his Freshman season. To say a Freshman is not ready to play college level football is all relative and should be studied on a case by case basis. Paul Pinegar's best season may have been his Freshman year in which he was thrown into the fire due to injuries to Jeff Grady. Pinegar stepped in and did an outstanding job leading the Bulldogs to a 9-5 season with a victory over Georgia Tech in the Silicon Bowl.

Today Freshman walk into Fresno State to meet Pat Hill and realize that they have a chance to make a difference in their first season. Devon Wylie may be our kick returner next season and that had to play a role in him deciding to come to the Bulldogs. Freshman do not want to sit and watch an entire season pass them by. At the same time I do not feel like a player receives too much of an advantage on the sidelines only because there is no simulation for game experience. Sure you can practice with the team and get a feel for how your team plays but that will pale in comparison to coming into a game and playing against the likes of Oregon, USC, LSU, or a Boise State. Freshman choose to come to Fresno State because we tend to play the biggest and the best of the BCS conferences. Kids do not want to go play at a school that has no national recognition and that is not the case at Fresno State.

If Pat Hill continues to change the way he handles incoming Freshman he will see a spike in the type of players that begin to find interest in the Bulldogs. We may not get the five star recruits that the USC's of the world get but instead we will get the three stars that will play with their all every time they step onto the field. We will continue to get players like Joe Fernandez (pictured above) who may be little known outside of the central valley but will make a big impact when he is given a chance as a Freshman. 2006 was hard to handle but in the end it may have been a roadmap to success with respect to the future. Freshman can make a difference and Pat Hill is allowing them to do so for the first time in his ten year coaching career for Fresno State.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Recruiting - Who's Coming In

The man to the left in the picture (Dwayne Wright) will be the most important piece of the Bulldog puzzle to replace going into the 2007 season. Fresno State has already received ten recruits this offseason with many of them looking to help the Bulldogs as soon as their Freshman season. I stated we needed help with respect to speed and that is one area the Bulldogs seem to have upgraded immediately with the commitments of the following players:

Terrance Dennis - As a safety he had 115 tackles his junior season. From all accounts he is one of the hardest hitting high school safeties across the nation. He runs a 4.4-.5 40 meaning he has a mass amount of speed that will only help on defense. Dennis will have an opportunity to help the defense from the day he arrives at Fresno State.

Sharrod Davis - A corner who runs a 4.4 40 is never a bad facet to have on defense. Davis brings this amount of speed to the Bulldogs with JUCO experience. We know the secondary needed help and with the addition of Davis the Bulldogs secondary is going to be rather fast next season. If Haynes, Harris, Jefferson, and Jenkins all see playing time along with Davis it will be fun to watch this young group of players gel together throughout the 2007 season. Davis also stands at 6'0" so he will not be the most undersized corner out there.

Phillip Thomas - Thomas runs a 4.5 40 and is versatile on offense. He can either play RB, WR, or defense as a secondary player. He recorded 80 tackles and six sacks his junior year and will only get better with playing time.

Devon Wylie - Wylie comes in as a player that may remind us all of Adam Jennings. While he is not the tallest (Just as Jennings wasn't) he is fast and is a kick returner. Wylie may be able to provide us the advantage in the kick returning game we missed having this past season. He is a WR who has enormous athletic ability and as I stated before will help us immensely in the special teams facet of the game.

Matt Lindsey - Tall and athletic Lindsey will have to compete with the many Sophomore WR's on this team for playing time. However, Lindsey has very good body control and tends to put himself in great position to catch every ball thrown his way. He will be a great addition to the Bulldogs and may remind many of you of Keith Poole who chose Arizona State and ended up on the New Orleans Saints in the NFL.

Devan Cunningham - An enormous offensive lineman who is going to compete for a starting spot as soon as he arrives. He stands at 6'5" weighing in at 310 pounds. He is a strong physical football player and will be one of the better signees for the Bulldogs with respect to the 2007 recruiting class. Ranked as the #7 offensive lineman in the state of California and will only help the QB protection to become even stronger over the next few years.

Matt Faulkner/Nick Anderson - Faulkner is a tall QB out of Texas that will come into Fresno State hoping to make a name for himself. He has the size and ran a spread offense in high school meaning he knows how to throw the ball. In nine games he threw for 2300 yards and 20 td's during his senior season. He may be the next generation QB for the Bulldogs as the QB position should be wide open for competition heading into 2008.

Anderson comes into Fresno State as an unknown from El Dorado Hills. Very little is known about him as he had a shoulder strain his senior season and missed playing time. He committed in lieu of Sean Norton departing the program. He is a smart QB and may be the kind of QB that surprises everyone with his play during his time at Fresno State.

Bryson Hodges - Will have a tough time getting snaps this season as I would guess him to redshirt with such great depth at the running back position. Unless Hodges is move to another position he will not become a factor in the Fresno State offense until our two promising sophomores move on.

Austin Raphael - at 6'2" 215 pounds Raphael still somehow runs a 4.7 4o meaning he may be an asset to this team with some development. It is hard to find speed at the LB position and with a little more bulk Raphael may be able to break into the LB corp for Fresno State and contribute to the defense rather quickly.

Overall the Bulldogs offseason has gone well up to this point. We have plenty of time to land more recruits but I have to say I am rather pleased with those that have committed so far. The Bulldogs have many holes to fill and these players will only help to make 2007 a bit easier to transition into. Of course we need good QB play but I feel like the speed issue is being addressed well and we will see what happens with respect to the defensive line in the next two months of recruiting.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Recruiting - What's Needed?

The past two blogs have revealed what I think are the most important needs with respect to recruiting this season. I feel the D-Line and Speed are our two biggest needs on this team. I know our secondary was bad but I feel like that is because the D-Line did not get enough pressure on the opposing teams QB's. Today's blog is not going to be long and drawn out but instead I am going to ask you a few questions with the most important one being:

In your opinion as fans what do you think we need to go after with respect to recruiting?

Obviously both of our kickers will return, but do you feel that it is important to go find another field goal kicker now instead of waiting for Stitser to move on? At the same time we have two new QB's coming into the system but I ask again do you feel like that is enough for the Dogs right now? As I always say it's great to hear from those huge Bulldog fans because you tend to have the clearest outlook on the team from the outside. Let's see what most people feel like the Dogs should concentrate on with respect to our recruits for 2007. Remember let us all know what you think the Dogs need to become a better team. Where should the Dogs concentrate on to be competitive once again?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Offseason Recruiting - Offense

The most disappointing group on the Fresno State Bulldogs during the 2006 season was their offense. Well truthfully that statement is only half true. The offensive line and running game came through for the Dogs as Brandstater only endured six sacks during his ten starts. At the same time the Bulldogs offensive line allowed the Dogs to average over 180 yards rushing per game. This ended up being a positive aspect to the Dogs offense because their passing game was nothing to write home about. Brandstater averaged 135 yards passing per game, a rate that would be terrible even for the bottom feeders in the WAC. In order for 2007 to be any better the offense will start and end with Brandstater. But the Bulldogs will be losing the one man that made their offense work this season: Dwayne Wright. In order for the Dogs to rebound on offense each player will have to take their game and step it up.

Quarterback - Barring any unforeseen circumstances Brandstater will be the starter in 2007 due to the departure of Norton (although that really wouldn't have mattered, Brandstater would have been the starter regardless). As I have stated many times Brandstater has so much work to do to become a better QB that it is pointless for me to go over it. Backup Ryan Colburn has been in the system for two years now but has not received any playing time on the field and has been the scout team QB meaning he runs the opposing team's offense in practice. Recruiting wise Matt Faulkner will be coming in from Texas as a two star recruit. He looks to have good size and armstrength, but the verdict on him becoming the next great Bulldog QB will be left up to him and his game preparation. Fresno State should look to land one more QB in the off-season in order to build for the future. Putting one kid in position to run the team is not the way to go. Instead find two, let them compete and let the best one take over the job. That will better prepare the QB for game time situations as opposed to being handed the job as Brandstater was. We all see how that turned out.

Offensive Line - The Offensive line will lose Denman who played outstanding throughout the course of 2006. Kyle Young will also depart, but may not be as missed as we once thought he would be. The Offensive line seemed to pick up the slack after Young was dismissed from the team with four games remaining in the season. On a positive note the offensive line will be back and ready to go in 2007. Bobby Lepori, Pierce Masse, Adam McDowell, Richard Pacheco, and Cole Popovich all return for an offensive line that opened monster holes for Dwayne Wright to run through. Since most of the returning lineman will be in their junior years it is not a necessity to find lineman this off-season. This may be one of the few positions Fresno State will have to do very little work to improve going into 2007. As long as the coaching can find a strong replacement at center the Bulldogs offense should continue churning out rushing yard after rushing yard.

Running Backs - Fresno State looks to be in very good hands as Anthony Harding and Lonyae Miller will return for their sophomore years. Although Dwayne Wright is departing the Bulldogs will have two capable running backs to help carry the load. Lonyae Miller is both fast and strong as he can outrun the defense and run them over at the same time. Anthony Harding is one of the faster running backs the Bulldogs have ever had. One of these two will have to step up and win this position in 2007. A RB by committee would be great but we all know coach Hill likes to have a go to guy. My guess is as good as yours on who will be the top RB on this team in 2007. Recruiting wise a RB will not be of major concern as the Dogs seem to be set at this position. Don't forget Clifton Smith if he is 100% will be able to stand in as their third down RB for passing situations. Before injury Smith was very effective out of the backfield and we can only hope Smith can return to his electric ways in 2007.

Wide Receivers/Tight End - 2006 gave us a look into the future with so many young receivers on the field. With Crawley, West, Ciconne, Moore, and Pascoe the Dogs should be set in the receiver area for many years to come. However, the Dogs have recruited receivers to come into the program in 2007. Matt Lindsey and Devon Wylie will be coming into Fresno as WR's. Both WR's have also been used as Kick returners and may be the next Adam Jennings for the Fresno State Bulldogs. Chastin West was used as the kickoff returner in 2006 but I did not feel he created a positive with respect to the kick return game. The Bulldogs need to allow West to concentrate on receiving because he is going to be a great receiver with the more time that passes. Do not forget that the Bulldogs have bear Pascoe at Tight End. Pascoe had a breakout season as the go to guy for the Bulldogs passing offense. He has great hands and the Bulldogs finally figured out that throwing to a 6'5" TE will only end up being a great thing. The Dogs look to be set in both of these positions for the next two seasons.

Fullbacks - Roshon Vercher is gone. This is going to hurt Fresno State as Vercher was a great offensive lead blocker for every RB that followed. Isaac Kinter looks to be the next FB for Fresno State and showed he has good hands out of the backfield. Kinter can catch and seems to be able to pick up the blocking slack that Vercher will leave behind. Fresno State should look to find another Fullback this off-season as having one strong FB has been a problem for the Dogs. In 2005 Vercher went down to injury and the lack of a strong replacement at FB hurt the Dogs for the remainder of the 2005 season. In order to make sure this does not happen again the Bulldogs should concentrate on finding a new FB for the system.

Overall the offense in a strong QB away from being extremely potent. The Dogs have the Offensive line, Running Backs, Tight End, and Wide Receivers to put up enough points to win most of their games. However, if the QB play does not improve Fresno State's offense will end up in the tank just as it did in 2006.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Offseason Recruiting - Defense

Yesterday's blog on Pat Hill and his flirting with other jobs across the nation with respect to college football received a complaint due to the fact that all we seem to be talking about is Pat Hill anymore. Today I will use the rest of this blog to cover defensive recruiting and will not mention Hill's name anymore (for the rest of this blog, not forever). As you can see the picture to the left is Damon Jenkins who was beaten on this fourth and two play for a TD in the third quarter after the refs gave San Jose a chance to change their decision on whether to take a running into the kicker penalty or let it go. (Is that even allowed?) The reason I picked this picture for the recruiting blog is we need some definite help in our secondary. Since McCauley is leaving (although he ended up doing far less than I thought he would in his senior season) we will have to replace him at corner. Losing Simmons will not hurt much, he never seemed to grasp the corner lifestyle in college. Shirley came on strong in his senior year and will be missed. However Mays did not pan out the way we all had hoped he would. Something interesting I did not realize about Mays is he was our second Sacramento player of the year on the Fresno State football team. Both Sacramento players did not turn out to be nearly as good as we had hoped them to be. Can you guess who the other Sacramento MVP was? If you said Nate Ray you are correct.

We have plenty of returning secondary players but our first recruit should have a chance to step in and make an impact right away. Sharrod Davis should be able to step in and play corner right away as he is a JUCO transfer. He actually played for Oregon his freshman season but left towards the end of the year. As far as the other corner position goes we will still have Damon Jenkins who did a great job during the second half of the season. Although he gave up the TD in the play pictured above, his coverage was sound as he seemed to improve with every game that passed. With both safeties leaving the Bulldogs will turn to young talent to take care of the deep passing. Whether the defense goes with Harris, Haynes, Bell, Owens, or Jefferson we should be fine with respect to the safety spot. One thing we will have more of in 2007 than we had in 2006 is team speed. The recruiting trail seems to be taking the Dogs down the route of searching for speed, and we will not be outplayed like we were at LSU with respect to defense in 2007.

Linebacker play is going to be key if the Bulldogs want to slow down the running game of opposing offenses. Riley should be 100% next season and we can only hope that Q. Brown gets through camp without injury. If these two can come through for the Dogs they will have a great starting point at LB. Trevor Shamblee's injury will take all of the offseason to heal, but if he can find a way to come back strong in 2007 these three LB's will give us a good group to hold down the run. Nico Herron and Robert Schenck will warrant time at the LB position and will contribute to stopping the run as well. The Dogs will recruit LB's but will be looking for speedy ones as opposed to generally large LB's. It is hard to find a LB who wants to commit to Fresno State that has both size and speed. Because LB's tend to be such an important position on defense these speedy LB's with size tend to be taken by the Pac-10 schools. However, Fresno State is in good hands with their LB corp for next season and should be fine with respect to the running game.

The Defensive Line will be an area of concern if a few of the Bulldogs cannot step up in 2007. players like Chris Lewis are going to have to gain size and speed to help the QB pursuit that the Bulldogs lacked in the first half of 2006. Tyler Clutts will return for his senior season but is an undersized DE. Lewis will have a chance to compete for the opposite DE position. Jason Shirley will return to be the monster run stopper in the middle of the field. Shirley came on strong towards the end of the season and could be found in the backfield on almost every play. If players such as Michael Stuart come around the Bulldogs defensive line may be able to hold down most running attacks while being able to put pressure on the QB. Ikenna Ike came on strong during the 2006 season and should continue to become a better D-Line player as long as he gets more experience. Mark Roberts will also have to step in and show that he is ready to play big time college football for the Fresno State Bulldogs. Overall if there is one area of need recruiting wise it will be in the defensive line area. The Bulldogs defensive line did not lose much but the players they did lose will hurt. Leonard was a huge run stopper in the middle and will be sorely missed. At the same time Marlon Briscoe played well and we will need to find a DE to pick up the slack.

The 2007 defense cannot be worse than the 2006 defense. The secondary will be much more experienced than we may think. With Harris, Haynes, and Jefferson all getting playing experience 2007 will shape up to be a pretty decent defensive season. Our first area of concern on defense should be the D-line, but I have a feeling the Bulldogs will put all of their efforts into finding team speed because of losses to Hawaii and LSU. The Dogs believe that team speed is what killed them. Look for the Fresno State to go for both speed and size on the line. These are definitely the two biggest needs on defense.

Question - With respect to defense what do you fans feel is the most important need in the offseason? I feel like team speed and size on the defensive line should be our focus. What about everyone else?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

All Quiet on the Football Front

After two days of departures from the Fresno State football team (Hagen, Norton) a less eventful day finally presented itself to Fresno State and it's football fans. However a story did arise that is quite interesting when you think about it. I feel that Pat Hill putting himself out there for the NFL hurt the Bulldogs and their team unity this past season. Hill had convinced many players to return to play their senior season only to turn around and show that he was interested in coaching somewhere else aside Fresno State. Two days ago it was reported by an Arizona newspaper that Pat Hill had shown interest in the coaching opening at Arizona State. Whether this is true or not does not matter because of what happened last season. Even if Pat Hill does not have any interest in coaching the Sun Devils (although he should, what a great job that would be) we as fans of the Bulldogs tend to believe the opposite of whatever Hill says. It seems that Hill has fed this team and city so much crap over the past few seasons that someone like me has a very hard time believing whether these rumors or true or not.

Because this newspaper has reported Hill as being interested he either needs to clear up the confusion right away by saying he has no interest in going anywhere or admit that he would not mind talking to other schools about opportunities. It is in a sense funny that Boeh would completely grant Hill the opportunity to speak with other schools if he feels the desire to do so. To me that says that Boeh is not worried about losing Hill as the coach, something I have to say I agree with at this time. Hill has been a great man to Fresno State for a long time now. Unfortunately I do not feel that he is operating in the same manner that he did when he first arrived. Hill was loved by all of Fresno for making us a big time program, one that could play with the BCS schools and beat them often. Today we do not view Hill as the same man but instead view him as a man who seems confused and lacks confidence in himself as the coach of the Bulldogs football team. He puts very little trust in his team assistants and seems to feel that he is the only one who can coach this team successfully. Last night Kelly Carr said Hill needs to hire an O.C. and let him run with the position. I completely agree with Carr. If Pat Hill were to show support for an O.C. and let him venture out with his own system fans may begin to believe that Pat Hill can change. However, the chances of Hill allowing an O.C. to run his own system are about as good as the odds that the Royals will win the World Series in 2007.

My question is do we want Pat Hill to be interested in coaching elsewhere? When fans complain about this Bulldog team are we complaining about the coaching aside Hill or is Hill the reason we complain? Do you fans think we need to replace Hagen, Brown, Simons, and so on? Or do you instead feel that if Hill is replaced and the rest of the coaches remain we will be fine? Let me know what you think, this should make for interesting responses.

Note - I was on the barkboard the other day reading some posts and I have to say ChrisDog's are quite funny. There may be times where they aren't 100% right on, but for the most part he is hilarious and really comes through with what he has to say. Thanks for the posts Chris, definitely fun to read.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Concerning Exit

First Sean Norton decides to leave Fresno State to search for a better opportunity to play. One day later offensive coordinator Steve Hagen decides to leave for North Carolina to coach with his old friend Butch Davis. I realize most Fresno State fans are happy to see Hagen go, but do you know what this could possibly lead to? Yesterday Pat Hill was quoted as saying he is in no hurry to find a offensive coordinator and he may even call the offensive plays himself. Is there anyone out there who still questions whether this offense is the fault of the coordinator or that of Hill? I believe that quote in itself tells you exactly what is wrong with the offense. If Hill is going to run this offense then we have absolutely no chance of scoring next season. He is the reason we run-run-pass so often. He is the only college coach in America who feels the way to win a game is to control the clock and limit the opposing team's opportunities. Wake up Pat. College football does not run by the same set of rules that Pro football does. Controlling the clock has very little to do with who wins in the college ranks anymore. Hawaii averages 3-4 minutes per drive yet scores over 40 points a game. What's their record? Oh that's right they are 10-3. While I am not sure Hagen was the offensive answer I know for a fact Pat Hill is nowhere near the answer to correcting our offense. He is too stuck in a world where his way works and no one else's does. Part of the problem may be the fact Pat seems to worry about what everyone else thinks of him. This morning Matt James (check out his article on Sean Norton today in the bee) was on the Tony D show. Matt James is a good beat writer for the Dogs because unlike most other Dogs reporters he wants to know what the hell is truly going on. He will ask the questions no one else will. James said he has never seen a man who worries about other people's opinions more than Pat Hill does. It is quite possible that we may have the wrong man coaching this team. Coaches should not worry about what people think of them. They should do what's best for the team and I do not feel Pat Hill did this this past season.

While Hagen leaving will not hurt the team the exit of Norton is going to affect this team tremendously. Pat has no one to fall back on now if Brandstater continues to struggle. Brandstater will be our starter (and 10,000 less people will be in the stands for each game unless the team Norton transfers to comes to town) but the pressure on him will not decrease. This is not going to make Brandstater's job any easier. Instead if he does not get the job done we will struggle through another losing season. Fan support will continue to dwindle and any hopes of ESPN having interest in putting the Dogs on television will all but disappear. Fresno State may very well become one of those horrific WAC automatic wins for other schools. All the work Pat Hill will have done to get the Dogs into the national spotlight will have been ruined because of his support of a QB who cannot do what is needed to win games at the college level. I do not have the answer to why Pat is so adamant about starting Brandstater. When Norton announced he was leaving Pat stated "I still think Sean is a good QB". When asked about Brandstater Hill stated "I think with time and work Tom could be a good QB". In other words the QB that is good is leaving and the one that needs all the work in the world to become good is staying. How much sense does that make? Yesterday on ESPN 1430 Brandstater stated that he is going to study the playbook well this off-season so he can be more effective next season. My question is what have you been doing for the past three years? have you noticed maybe you should open the book up and see where it takes you? Colburn took the same route as Brandstater as he grey-shirted then red-shirted his first two years at State. He will be in his third year in the program and there is no possible way he could be as bad as Brandstater has been. But do you think Pat is going to give Colburn a true shot?

The title of this blog "A Concerning Exit" refers to Norton leaving. This one situation will create more problems for the Bulldogs in 2007 than Pat Hill wants to admit. Hill calling plays is not the answer and never will be. We all knew he was doing this anyhow, but now he may be our offensive coordinator. While you are at it Pat why don't you fire Brown, Simons, and Baxter and coach the entire team yourself. That way you don't have to worry about what people think of your football team anymore. You will know everything falls back on you and there is no blame you will be able to put out there to take it away from you. This team faltering is Pat Hill's fault and I am tired of listening to people who are trying to protect a coach who used to be a strength at this university. Times have changed and Pat's mentality is not the right mindset for the Dogs right now. Hill ran Norton out of town and if that doesn't piss you off then nothing will. In that sense I can almost understand those who support Pat. Just understand this football team will not be successful for many years to come as long as Hill continues to worry about everything except his football team.

Question - Why do you think Pat is so adamant about starting Brandstater? Why did Pat do everything in his power to keep Norton off of the field? I have my own thoughts but what does everyone who reads the Blog think?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Saying Goodbye to a Great Kid

Yesterday the Fresno Bee reported what every Fresno State fan knew was coming: Sean Norton was given his outright release from the Fresno State football program. He now can look at other options as far as playing college football. As everyone who reads this blog knows I was thoroughly impressed with the way Norton played when he was given a chance to come into the game against Hawaii. He showed a toughness to me that Brandstater just doesn't have. At the same time I feel like he was a much better deep threat than Brandstater will ever be. I know Brandstater has a strong arm but he has absolutely no accuracy down the field. Case in point: Take a look at the deep ball thrown Fernandez's way on Saturday. Brandstater should know by now that ball needs to be thrown deep to the corner of the end zone. Instead he floats the ball short to a spot only the defender can get to. Norton did not make the same mistake when he would throw the ball deep and aside two throws during his three game tenure Norton threw the ball well.

I feel like Fresno State let an opportunity get away with Sean. At the same time I have no respect for our coach, absolutely none. I am tired of defending a man who has caused more havoc in 2006 than most coaches do in a lifetime. We have had a complete breakdown with respect to this team and if there is anyone that does not feel like Pat Hill is at the forefront of all of this they are wearing blinders. Do all of you really feel like the Young situation was just Young failing and that's all there was to it? Do all of you feel like the reason our seniors played so badly was truly because they were looking towards the NFL? Let me offer an alternate view for you. McCauley, Young, and Williams all could have gone pro after the 2005 season (which in turn might have been a good thing when looking back at the situation). I am quite sure Pat Hill did all he could to keep them at Fresno State for their senior seasons. After all three agreed to stay they had to watch Pat Hill flirt with leaving to the NFL. How would that make you feel as a player? Your coach does all he can to keep you in Fresno because of your so called commitment to the program only to turn around and inquire about leaving himself. Fresno State's situation is spinning further and further out of control with each day that passes. The Norton situation was just one of many that 2006 endured, none of which are pleasant in any way.

However, I am writing this blog to say goodbye to a kid I think will prosper wherever he ends up. Sean Norton has the drive to be a great football player. Sean Norton has the skill and intangibles to become a college QB everyone will remember down the line. Although he will be relegated to playing at a Div. 1AA school if he wants to play right away, Norton should do well wherever he decides to go. As a Fresno State fan I want this team to win but I cannot support many of the decisions Pat Hill made in 2006. I almost feel as if he is in this for himself now and does not care about anyone else including those who give their all for the Bulldogs program. Norton is a class act regardless of how you look at the situation. He never complained and handled the situation as best as a young QB in college could. Yesterday when he was interviewed he did not throw the Bulldog program under the bus but instead stay composed and gave an honest evaluation of what happened. I am sure he had to bite his tongue during that interview but he did the best possible thing he could. Others schools he inquires about going to will see this team first attitude and give this guy a chance without a doubt. Thank you for the effort, time, and attitude you gave to Fresno State Sean. Many of us will miss the opportunity to watch you play college football for Fresno State. I wish you the very best wherever you head and I know you will succeed wherever you may end up.

Where does this leave the Fresno State football program in 2007? Is Tom Brandstater going to be our QB for another season? As of right now it looks as if he is the best option we have. In other words we will not win more than four-six games in 2007. Pat Hill made an interesting comment about the QB position in the Fresno bee today. Hill stated "I don't think you can develop a quarterback as quickly as everyone wants." Most people do not realize that Brandstater has been in the program for three years now. Yes this was his first year as the starter but he redshirted and was the backup for his Freshman season. If he is not ready now will he ever truly be? How long does Pat Hill feel it should take for the QB position to develop, five years? The
Fresno Bee goes on to talk about what needs to be fixed in order for this team to improve in 2007. Personally I do not feel this is a one year project. I feel this team will be down for the next three-four seasons. As long as we continue to count on a QB who cannot make the reads, execute the throws, and lead this team to victories we will end up with far more losses than most of us can stomach. I realize many of you do not agree with me but I solely blame the head coach for this team falling apart. Pat Hill is in charge of this team and it is his job to make sure this team never divides. It is Pat's job to make sure the best man is on the field. It is Pat's job to play those who give us a chance to win every week. Pat has not done this and if there is anyone who disagrees, well as I said earlier take off your damn blinders and open your eyes to what is truly going on at Fresno State.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Do We Expect Too Much?

With the season coming to a disappointing end a question came to mind with respect to our football team. Do we as Fresno State fans expect too much out of our team? I think the easiest way to go about posing this question is to use the much debated quarterback position. Our past three QB's (if we forget the Grady experiment) were Billy Volek, David Carr, and Paul Pinegar. Each of these QB's had very little problem throwing the ball although Pinegar had a bit of a problem closing out close games. However, these three QB's were the kind that you never wanted to let go of. I feel like Paul Pinegar is missed far more now than when he said good bye last season. I never realized that Pinegar was so clutch on third downs during his career. Brandstater has not been able to grasp the third and long concept up to this point in his career. But do we put unrealistic expectations on our QB position or the entire Bulldog team for that matter? Is asking a mid-major school to win 8-10 games a season too much? Do we as fans put our expectations on a level the team cannot possibly reach?

To answer this question let's take a look at how the players on the team have to adapt to the Bulldogs system of football. We have used primarily the same offense since Pat Hill took over as coach. Aside 2001 when David Carr was given the chance to throw all the time we have been a run first team. Tom Brandstater knew coming into the season that Dwayne Wright would take an enormous amount of pressure off of him by running the ball effectively. Brandstater still was not able to adapt to his role as a secondary player who would have to step up from time to time. With respect to the QB position I do not feel like we expected too much, but instead I feel like we expected out of Brandstater exactly what the Bulldog offense did: For him to step up from time to time and make a play to win the game. There is no reason to cover the RB position, Dwayne Wright did the school proud and came through in every possible way in 2006. WR's in the Bulldogs offense are expected to block primarily and make catches when needed. We are not a throwing offense per se so in turn the receivers do less than most receivers in the WAC have to. With that being said, the 2006 receiving corps underachieved horribly. Fernandez dropped numerous passes and Williams could not play for half the season. The Dogs lost Fairman to injury and were forced to play Freshman upon Freshman. We all know the defense was horrendous for the entire first half of the season. The second half of the season provided us with some positives as the Dogs defense began to come around and actually finished third in the WAC in sacks.

At Fresno State we have become accustomed to 8-9 wins a season. We as fans have been told that the Bulldogs goal is to reach the BCS. We only have these hopes and dreams because that is exactly what the coach of the football team has sold to us. Pat Hill's goals are the reason Bulldog fans have high expectations. Are we wrong for it? No because that is the message that our very own hometown coach is giving us each week with respect to the Dogs. Do we expect too much out of Fresno State? Overall at this time in the programs history our expectations may be too much for the Dogs but it should not be this way. Fresno State has as much talent as anyone in the WAC. They have the players to win every week. Pat Hill has led us to believe we are a top tier mid-major in the college football world. Hill has made many of us believe that there is that chance to do what Boise State did this year. Unfortunately if Pat Hill does not change who he is (and I don't foresee this happening) we will have no chance to achieve BCS dreams. Remember we have to climb the mountain to reach the top. The first stop should be the WAC title. That is what we should desire as fans right now. Once we accomplish that then let's move onto something bigger and better. Until the WAC title belongs to Fresno BCS dreams should be put to bed which is exactly where the BCS belongs with respect to Fresno State: in a distant dream.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Fitting End to a Disappointing Season

We should have seen this coming. Each one of us should have known what would happen if the Bulldogs needed to ride the arm of Tom Brandstater to victory. In my game preview I stated if Brandstater had to throw the ball more than 25 times there would be no way the Bulldogs could win the game. Yesterday Brandstater threw the ball 37 times. Final score:

San Jose State - 24
Fresno State -14

The offense put together one scoring drive yesterday of which ended in a Dwayne Wright TD. Fresno State's defense scored the other TD on a fumble recovery by Goodwin. This game provided what is exactly wrong with Fresno State: If they cannot run the ball over and over again they have no chance to come away with a win. In Fresno State's four wins this season Dwayne Wright has averaged 24 carries for 177 yards. Yesterday Dwayne Wright earned his yards the hard way as he carried the ball 23 times for 106 yards, but the offense needed another spark. Tom Brandstater could not provide that spark. Brandstater finished 21 for 37 with four int's and no TD's. However it seems as if the coaches for this team are going to do everything possible to stand behind Brandstater. After the game Hagen stated "I think he is doing a good job back there". I do not understand for the life of me how Hagen could possibly make a statement such as this. Let's recap what this season has given the Fresno State Bulldogs:

1) A 4-8 Record

2) A loss to the San Jose State Spartans for the first time since 1990

3) Utah State's only win in a 1-11 season

4) 0-4 Record out of conference

5) A QB that finishes with 1490 yards passing, 13 td's and 14 int's who does not improve once throughout the entire season.

6) A special teams unit that completely fell apart and allowed punt returns and a kick return for a touchdown while muffing more than one extra point attempt.

Somehow with all of this our coaching still sounds positive about the way the season ended. I have been a Fresno State Bulldog fan for a long time. I have bought season tickets to Bulldogs games for the past five season regardless of how good I thought the team would be. If Pat Hill names Tom Brandstater the starter next season my string of five years in a row will end. I love Fresno State but I have no desire to watch this man play football anymore. He has no pocket presence, no field vision, cannot spot an open receiver regardless of how many seconds he is given to throw the ball, and continually throws the ball into double coverage. You can blame the receivers for the routes they are running, you can blame the offensive line for the lack of the time Brandstater has, you can even blame the playcalling for the lack of creativity it brings about. The one thing you cannot ignore however is Brandstater's lack of development throughout a season in which he was given countless chances to take hold of the starting position. He may have been injured after the Oregon game but how could that possibly effect his game against San Jose State? Is Pat Hill going to say we put him in tough positions again and he did a good job when all is said and done with? Is a tough position when his defense makes a great play to get the offense the ball then Brandstater throws into triple coverage over the middle in San Jose's end zone? Is a tough position sitting behind Dwayne Wright who runs for 295 yards and forces the defense to worry about the run play after play?

Tom Brandstater was never put in a tough position this entire season for many reasons. First and foremost Dwayne Wright did everything to make Brandstater's job easy. The only time Brandstater would have had a tough time Pat Hill protected him by allowing Sean Norton to play against the great teams on our schedule. I have never seen a coach wo is so adamant about starting a man who cannot play the position. Last week Clifton Smith fumbled a punt and was pulled for Joe Fernandez. When the receivers or RB's are not doing the job they are yanked from the game without a second thought. However, when Brandstater makes mistakes he is continually thrown back out onto the field. Pat Hill's football philosophy is not only confusing but also seems to be unfair to the players on the Bulldogs football team. When you pull one player for not doing the job you need to be the same way with the entire team. You cannot tell me there are no players on that team who despise Pat Hill for the way he handled the QB position this season.

In the end this is all old news. Brandstater could not guide this team to a win at San Jose. I now count three games the Bulldogs win with Sean Norton starting: Utah State, Washington, and San Jose State. This team has so much to fix over the off-season and it all starts with the QB position. In the off-season we will have four QB's (If Norton doesn't find somewhere else to play) vying for the QB position. In the spring of 2007 if Pat Hill comes out and says "Tommy is our starting QB" he will lose 10,000 season ticket holders that day. I know many of you may feel like I am turning my back on the program but that is not the case at all. I just cannot stomach the play of this QB anymore. Brandstater is not a Div. 1A QB an never will be. Some QB's have it and some don't. Tom just doesn't have it and if Pat Hill cannot see that then this team will be abysmal in 2007 once again.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Little Game Help

Hey everyone I am stuck at work right now and since KFRE isn't showing the game I cannot watch it. I am wondering if you guys can keep me update by emailing me at or just leaving me a score on here with each one that happens? I would appreciate it greatly.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Who's More Hated? The Donks, Rainbows or San Hoser?

NSC questions from early today are bit more serious and relevant to the Bulldog football team, but with San Jose State's moderate success this season, it has renewed a dying rivalry. And I had to ask, do Bulldog fans still hate San Hoser? Hawaii has risen up on the charts in recent years as the most hated rival. The Donks BCS run is sure to conjure up some more dislike for them. The old-timers will talk about San Diego State and Pacific, but take away the Marshall Faulk years and neither of those rivalries have meant anything to any Bulldog fan under the age of 30.

I first started following Bulldog football religiously in 1985. My first game was the 1982 Cal Bowl and subsequently went to all the home games in 1983 and 1984, but it was the success of 1985 that kept my attention, after all I was just in grammar school. As well, my uncle had a bunch of old Bulldog programs, pics, tickets and etc -- kept in his old room at my grandma's house -- which I found while digging for his stash of Playboys.

Despite paying little attention before 85, I do remember watching the post game interviews of 1984 game vs. SJSU at Spartan Stadium on TV. The 'Dogs had started the season 6-1 and lost 18-17 to the Spartans, which started a five game losing streak to close out 1984. The 1985 season is arguably the greatest in Fresno State history but SJSU was just 2-8-1 on the season and didn't pose a challenge, losing 37-17. However, 1986 Sports Illustrated Game of the Year, forever changed the FS-SJSU series.

Jim Sweeney had been cultivating JUCO talent in and around California to help build his rising program. The 1986 team had great JUCO's like Stephan Baker, Gene Taylor, James Williams, Jethro Franklin and Michael Stewart among others. But three JUCO's Sweeney didn't offer still haunt Bulldog fans to this day, QB Mike Perez, WR Guy Liggins and WR Lafo Malaulu.

The SJSU coach at the time, Claude Gilbert, was just as aggressive as Sweeney about JUCO's. Guy Liggins was one of the best college football receivers in the history of the game. Unfortunately, Liggins had a hear murmur that cut his pro career short and he died at the young age of 31. I still have nightmares of No. 83 streaking past the Bulldog secondary in his record breaking game of 86. He was part of the 1986 recruiting class, along with Perez.

Perez played JC ball right here Valley, at Taft. But was a complete under the radar guy! Fresno State made it through 1986 with an injured Kevin Sweeney at quarterback, but struggled in 1987 until Dave Telford emerged in mid-season. I can't help but think how good the 'Dogs could have been, if Sweeney would have signed Perez in 86. I really can't blame Sweeney, from what I am told, Perez's coach at Taft had to call in a favor to Gilbert at SJSU. Perez was an absolute stud in his two years at SJSU. The Perez-Liggins connection never lost to Fresno State, won consecutive PCAA titles and played in two Cal Bowls as the conference representative.

Need I bring up Lafo Malaulu's name again.

1986 game had more ups and downs than a Pat Hill news-conference. After the Bulldogs erased a 24-0 deficit to take a commanding 41-31 lead, the game seemed over when Jr. Bulldog safety Rod Webster intercepted Perez late in the fourth quarter. However, a freak injury inhibited Webster's return yardage and in turn changed the outcome of the game per se.

Webster, I believe, pulled a rib -- regardless it was some type of rib injury -- on his way to end zone. The pain was intense he had to completely stop and stumble out of bounds untouched. The 'Dogs failed to put the game away on its possession and we all know the rest! SJSU scores two touchdowns with just over two minutes left in the game. Perez shakes off Franklin's sack attempt and hits Malaulu's for the game winner with :18 left to play.

That game made the FS-SJSU rivalry the most intense and hated series in Bulldog football history. The winner of the game from 85-91 won the conference title and played in the Cal Bowl. At the time, I never thought the series would die. But it did, and aside from a few games early this decade, the FS-SJSU rivalry has had little flavor since the late 80's and early 90's.

SJSU fans still have hatred towards Bulldog fans, but for most Bulldog fans it is almost hard to "hate" San Hoser, when you can't help but feel sorry for them. I can't stand the Donks, and I don't have much love for the 'Bows, but a cocky bunch of San Hoser fans are still the most fun to hate.

I can't speak for the Fresno State-San Diego State rivalry of the 60's and 70's. Although it was renewed in 1992 -- when FS joined the WAC -- it didn't have the luster, in my opinion, because BYU ruled the WAC. It will take some good years for the SJSU-FS rivalry to pick up steam again, but this year is the most anticipated game between two, despite Fresno State's lack of success in 2006.

San Jose would love nothing more than to send Fresno State into the off-season with its worst record since 1978. And it seems for the first time since 1991, Fresno wants to desperately to beat San Jose State. SJSU Head Coach Dick Tomey doesn't have too many years left in him to coach, and unless Hill makes some changes he might not be around long enough to see the rivalry evolve once again. Hopefully, one school or another doesn't fall off the radar, and I really do mean that. A loss to San Hoser, will erase the three wins against against the WAC's St. Mary's Schools of the Poor, the Bulldogs work so hard to achieve.

In order for the changes Hill made post Boise to have any justification, the 'Dogs need to win and leave little doubt. A blow-out would be nice, but as long as San Jose doesn't pull a NMSU or LA Tech mistake late in the game to give the 'Dogs the game, I'll be happy with a close win. Granted SJSU has beaten just one team with a winning record, which happens to be IAA Cal Poly, the Spartans are still -4.5 favorites. Outside of the Utah State debacle, the Bulldogs have proven they can handle the WAC's doormats. The win over Nevada, gives the 'Dogs the edge in terms of WAC "quality" wins and beating San Jose State would "prove" Fresno State is the third best team in the WAC. It seems to be the one thing Hill can accomplish each and every, and that is finishing among the top three teams in one of the weakest conferences in college football.

Where Do We Start?

Over the 2006 Fresno State football season we have seen plenty go wrong for this Bulldog team. Lately we have been lucky enough to see this team somewhat turn their season around (albeit against terrible teams). Today I only propose one question to anyone who reads this blog. Please give me your insight so we can discuss this through you readers as well. Believe me I enjoy giving every one of you readers my thoughts on the Bulldog season and what I have thought of the coaching and the players. However, I think Fresno State's failure this season is something that we all have an opinion on. So here is my question for every Bulldog fan out there that desperately wants to see this team improve:

"What do we need to do to fix this team?"

I know there are many problems within the Bulldogs football team but I wonder what you as fans think needs to be fixed in order to turn Fresno State back into the squad that challenged every team on their schedule regardless of who they played. I am sure many of us are confused and maybe we can come to some kind of concensus on the Bulldogs team and where they need to improve before we embark on the 2007 season. At the same time I guess there is one other question i would like to ask as well.

"What is already working and needs no improvement at all?"

I look forward to anyone who wants to respond and let me know what they think about the 2006 season and what we can do to make 2007 better.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Rivalry Renewed?

When you think of rivalries the first that come to mind tend to be the national rivalries that we always see on TV, hear about on the radio, and watch when they are televised. You have USC-Notre Dame, Ohio State-Michigan and Florida-Georgia just to name a few. Here in Fresno we tend to think about Fresno State-Hawaii as the rivalry that we love/hate the most. At one time that rival was San Jose State. In a series that began in the early 1900's the San Jose State-Fresno State series has seen every type of game possible between the two. San Jose State has gone on a long streak of victories over the Dogs just as Fresno State has done the same over the Spartans. In the past these two schools would play for the Cal bowl year in and year out. The winner of the annual San Jose State-Fresno State game would be awarded a Cal bowl birth. Unfortunately times have changed for these two schools as Fresno State seems to have changed it's focus with respect to football. Over the past sixteen years San Jose has not had a football program that Spartan fans tend to be proud of. With losing season after losing season the Spartans have more often than not rolled over in the Fresno State-San Jose State series. The Spartans are currently on a 12 game losing streak to the Bulldogs. During the twelve game losing streak San Jose has only been competitive in three of the twelve games as the rest have all ended in blowouts. In 2000 Fresno State took on San Jose State with a birth to the Silicon Valley Classic on the line. The Bulldogs would win that game 37-6. That may have been the last time this series could have been considered a rivalry.

While it is true that the Bulldogs only won the 2002 contest 19-16 the fact remains that this series has had very little turmoil of late. In order for a rivalry to exist one team has to take something away from the other. One reason Boise State is not a rivalry is because Fresno has never taken anything from Boise State. Sure Boise State came into Fresno State in 2001 and ended our BCS run, but how have the Bulldogs responded to that loss to Boise State? The Bulldogs responded by losing four out of the next five games to the Broncos. Fresno State will not be able to make the Boise state series a rivalry until they knock them off and take the WAC title from them. The same set of rules applies to the Bulldogs and Spartans. If the Spartans can continue to improve and the Bulldogs get back on track next season this series may see the rivalry side it once held in the eighties. San Jose State will have to beat Fresno State sometime soon for us Bulldog fans to consider this any type of rivalry. I can tell you right now that Bulldog fans see San Jose State on the schedule and consider it a win regardless of who has the better record. The Bulldogs just beat San Jose State year after year and until the Spartans do something about it this will not be a rivalry.

I realize that San Jose State fans may see this game differently. San Jose fans and players are on the losing side of this series right now so to them this is much more of a rivalry than to the Fresno State side of the series. Fresno State seniors don't want to lose this game because they do not want to be the first Bulldog team in 13 years to drop a game to San Jose. San Jose wants to win this game because their seniors have never beat the Bulldogs. This game Saturday is much more intriguing than most games between the Dogs and Spartans. Fresno State wants to end the season on a four game winning streak sending Dwayne Wright off on a winning note. Dwayne Wright at the end of the San Jose State game will go down as one of the most dominant backs in Fresno State history. I believe he is the single best running back we have ever had. He will do all he can to carry the Bulldogs in this game. San Jose on the other side of it all wants to end a 12 game losing streak. San Jose wants to go into their first bowl game in forever on a winning note. San Jose wants to beat the Dogs more than any other team on their schedule and knows that the fans will be out to see this game Saturday.

Whatever happens Saturday there is a chance that these two teams can renew a rivalry that has been dead over the past seven-ten years. This will be a close game and Fresno State looks to be on the same level as San Jose State for the first time in a long while. I still feel like the Bulldogs are a better team overall. It has been shown if they get at least decent play from their QB they will win games. The same will go for the game against San Jose State. If Brandstater does not shoot himself in the foot Dwayne Wright will carry the load and the Bulldogs will come out on top in the latest installment of Fresno State-San Jose State.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fresno State - San Jose State Preview

First off, expect to see a great deal of Dwayne Wright this Saturday. He will get the ball between 25 and 30 times depending on the flow of the game. There is no way Brandstater will throw the ball more than 25 times throughout the course of the game. If the Dogs have to rely on the passing game they will not beat San Jose. San Jose is not the most talented team. I realize they have won seven games but I question how truly good this team is. San Jose's victories have come against teams with a combined record of 21-59 (and that is including div. 1AA Cal Poly who went 7-4.) I am not saying Fresno State is any better because our four wins have not come against very good teams either (aside 8-4 Nevada although that is debatable as well). However, the nation has the view that Fresno State is in a down season while San Jose State has overachieved. I guess this is true if you feel that San Jose beating six of the bottom thirty teams in the nation is overachieving. However, this is an evenly matched game across the board. Both teams have good running games. Both teams passing attack is suspect although San Jose is much more efficient with their QB than Fresno State is with theirs. Adam Tafralis is having a very good season under the radar because of QB's like Brennan and Holbrook also happen to reside in the WAC. If Fresno State's pass rush (12 sacks in the past three games) can continue to put pressure on San Jose's offensive line the Bulldogs will succeed in shutting down Tafralis. However, Yonus Davis is a very good running back and will be tough to stop.

What most people do not know about San Jose is they have one of the better defenses in the WAC. With respect to scoring defense they rank second only to Boise State who we all know went 12-0 this season. At the same time the Spartans are a very good home team this season. San Jose is currently 5-1 at home with their only loss coming to Boise State on the last play of the game. Fresno State will have it's hands full in this game regardless of how well they play. The Bulldogs will not be able to turn the ball over three times and still come away with a victory. San Jose has not beaten the Bulldogs since 1990 and has their best chance to knock the Bulldogs off this season. During it's current twelve game losing streak to Fresno State San Jose has been favored to knock the Dogs off before. This year's squad is far more talented than any of those teams during the 12 year streak. In other words this year's team has the best chance of breaking this string against the Bulldogs.

Both teams have plenty to play for. San Jose still views this game as a rivalry and will give it their all on the field Saturday. Fresno State will not be going to a bowl game for the first time in eight season and would love nothing more than to knock San Jose off for the thirteenth straight time and finish the season with momentum heading into 2007. As I said earlier this game will be one that is decided in the fourth quarter. SJSULatina has made it very clear to me that San Jose State is going to break the streak this season against the Bulldogs. I can't say that I have major confidence in anything the Bulldogs do this season, but if they do one thing well it is beat San Jose. I understand all streaks have to come to an end, but I believe this will not be the year that the San Jose streak is broken. If the Spartans took us on in the fourth or fifth week as they did last season then they would have beaten us. Unfortunately for the Spartans they get Fresno State on a three game winning streak. The Spartans will face a team who is confident and believes they will win this game. Brandstater will not play great but he will refrain from making major mistakes that will cost the team. Both Dwayne Wright and Yonus Davis will have stellar games. This game will come down to a field goal by Stitser and as we have seen he has been quite good lately.

Fresno State - 30
San Jose State - 27

This will be a well played game by both sides as both teams will deserve to win. Unfortunately in college football there is only one winner. Fresno State will do enough to win another game at it's home away from home. There will be plenty of Bulldogs fans in Spartans stadium to root the Dogs on. Everyone who attends the game will be in for a treat. I just wish I could make it up there to watch the renewal of a rivalry between the Dogs and the Spartans.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What Could Have Been

The Utah State game will haunt Pat Hill forever. 5-7 is better than the 1-11 most fans were thinking less than a month ago, but most thought the Utah State would be one of many "bad" losses this season. But it is turning out not to be the case, and the Aggies lone win of 2006 will likely be the culprit for breaking the Bulldogs West Coast leading seven game bowl streak.

Colorado State nose-dived after beating the 'Dogs. The Rams were 4-1 after beating Fresno State then UNLV the following week but lost their last seven. It looks like a bad loss, but nothing as bad as losing to 1-11 Utah State. The Aggies were never close to winning any game except Fresno State, and that game should have never been close. Coach Hill can speak all he wants about how this team will finish strong, but with losses to Colorado State and Utah State, not even a blow-out over San Jose State will shake the bad-taste from this season.

Especially when you consider the bowl possibilities the Bulldogs could have enjoyed this season with an average 6-6 record. The MPC Computers Bowl gets the "first" selection among WAC bowls, after Hawaii gets its "auto" bid to the Hawaii Bowl. Fresno State would be the likely favorite over 8-4 Nevada and San Jose State. The opponent in Boise is more than likely going to be 6-6 Miami. 6-6 Florida State is headed to the Emerald (not official until Sunday) and that leaves Miami as the 8th selection from the ACC.

Even if the MPC Bowl selected Nevada, the WAC could have marketed the Bulldogs as at-large team to face TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. 7-5 Northern Illinois is the bowl's choice to face the Frogs. The Bulldogs would have sold more tickets and traveled better than Husky fans. The Poinsettia wanted to select Fresno State last season but knew it had no shot after the Liberty Bowl showed interest post Boise State and USC games. But a loss to pesky Utah State is the reason Fresno State will be playing for pride and not a bowl game in San Jose on Saturday. Oh, what could have been....

Is Tommy Our Guy?

Over the past few days I have read countless messages covering the topic of everyone's favorite QB Tom Brandstater. I have to say it is actually quite funny to see such a discrepancy with respect to what the fans truly think about Tom. A large group of fans do not approve of him and I can see their point. A smaller group of fans do approve of Tom and I can see where you are coming from as well. My opinion on Tom is to sit in the middle and see how the situation plays out. Earlier in the year I had a stretch of six or seven posts in a row where all I did was complain about the Bulldogs QB position and how I did not approve of Tom. I felt very good about having Sean Norton in the game but felt he was not given a fair shot. However, my concentration of this post is not whether Norton received a fair shot this past season or not, but instead if he will receive one over the offseason. I also want to focus on if Tom has truly earned the starting QB position with his play over the past ten games.

First and foremost there is absolutely no way Brandstater's play has warranted him a guaranteed spot as the starting QB for next season. With throwing totals of 155, 99, 109, and 143 against Utah State, New Mexico State, Idaho, and La. Tech there shouldn't even be talk about the QB position being locked up. Brandstater has not come through when we needed him to and I do not feel he has done a good enough job to warrant him as the starter for 2007. At the same time that does not mean he cannot practice hard enough to change this over the off-season. Brandstater's biggest problem is not his size or arm-strength. God was kind enough to bless him with both of those aspects to make him a college football QB. His problem is field vision and Brandstater needs to go back to the drawing board with respect to this aspect of college football. Against La. Tech countless times Brandstater hit his receiver but only after he was open for a good two to three seconds of waiting. Crawley's great catch in the end zone should have been a bullet right into his chest as he stood open in the end zone for two seconds before Brandstater was able to connect with him. I do not have a problem with a receiver not being seen from time to time, but the truth is Brandstater has missed so many receivers with respect to vision that I cannot even recall the correct number. Norton seemed to hit receivers as soon as they were open on their respective side of the field. But once again Pat favors Brandstater so that is something we as fans are going to have to deal with for a while.

Over the offseason Norton should have a fair shot at the starting QB position but I have a feeling that is not going to happen. Next year we will have four (yes four) QB's competing for the starting job with Norton, Brandstater, Faulkner (likely redshirt, the new QB's always do), and Colburn. There will be no room for error for Brandstater next season as he will have even more competition. I hear very good things about Colburn but until I see him perform on the field I will continue to question the strengths of each of these QB's. Yes Brandstater has a strong arm, but has he used it to his advantage this season? How many deep balls has he thrown to receivers down field? Even more importantly, how many of these balls have been caught by our sure handed receivers? As you can see my faith in the QB position has been completely shaken because of this season, and the truth is if it is not fixed by the beginning of next season this team is going to suffer through another 2006 season.

In the end what would it mean for the Bulldogs to continue a downward spiral with respect to the football program? First and foremost many of the fans will stop attending games (loss in revenue), as was shown in the last two home games of the season. Secondly, ESPN stated they will not allow Fresno State to have another down season. In other words if this happens again our national reputation will slowly disappear (If it hasn't already). Lastly we may begin to lose out on recruits. True this season's recruits already are looking very good, but if Pat Hill does not figure out a way to fix the QB position it will not matter in the end. With a better QB we will score more points. Scoring more points allows the defense more room for error meaning we can gamble more often and make plays. More plays on defense allows more opportunities to score on offense. Overall there is not a more important position than QB. Brandstater needs to improve his game if he wants to lead this team to cheers instead of boos. Without a QB this team will struggle next season. Remember if Brandstater struggles next season we will not have Dwayne Wright to fall back on. Truthfully that is something I do not even want to think about, and I know everyone who reads this blog will agree.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Positive Ending?

Fresno State's season has been a winding road that has led us to this point:

1) Three wins in a row

2) A running back who has single handedly carried us through the past three games inscluding 295 yards rushing Friday night.

3) A QB that may have found some confidence this past week with three td passes.

4) A 4-7 record with one game remaining.

The last statement shows that 2006 has been a disappointment to say the very least. Fresno State has become synanomous with winning over the past five years in college football. Whether it be ESPN, CBS, or ABC they all wonder what happened to the team that normally challenges for a BCS slot through the first half of the season each year. 2006 did not begin this way but the Bulldogs seem to have found some life towards the end of the season. The seniors did not want to go out on a losing note and the team as a whole has done everything in it's power to make sure that does not happen. San Jose State is the only obstacle that stands in the way of Fresno State winning it's final four games. Coincidentally the Utah State game is the only reason Fresno State will not be playing in a bowl game this season. If the Bulldogs had beaten Utah State and finished the season with a win over San Jose State they would have most certainly have been chosen for either the MPC or New Mexico bowl. Instead those births will go to Nevada and San Jose State (or so it seems). With Boise State playing in a BCS bowl this season the WAC should have four bowl teams total. Maybe a non-bowl season will give the Bulldogs time to reflect on what has gone wrong this season and lead them to correct their problems before 2007 begins.

I will be the first to admit that I have never been a fan of Tom Brandstater. However, I have to say that he made some very good throws this past Saturday against La. Tech. Yes, I realize how bad La. Tech's pass defense is, but shouldn't Brandstater find some type of rhythym against a bad team? Would you rather he just played horrible against everyone and never put a good game together? Maybe this is exactly the type of game he needs to get some confidence again. He looked like he would be a very good QB when the season started and if he can put up some good numbers against San Jose State maybe he will gain some much needed confidence going into the 2007 season. Brandstater is going to be our starter barring injury and I hope that Bulldog fans will just realize that. I know he may not be our choice but we do not coach the Bulldogs and should support the players that are on the field. I may not like every player on the field but they are out there giving 100% for the University of Fresno State and that is something I try to remember every time I watch a game.

With that being said the season is coming to a close. I hope that everyone will tune into channel 5 at 1pm on Saturday. The Bulldog-Spartans game should be a much better one than we are used to between these two teams. This is the first year in a long while that the Spartans have a chance to knock off the Bulldogs. If the Spartans win they will finish the season 8-4, yes the Spartans will have eight wins. If the Dogs can win they will extend their winning streak for another season. Many of us cannot remember the last time the Dogs lost to the Spartans and don't want to see them do so this season. I have a feeling we are going to see the Dogs best effort of the season this Saturday. At the same time if the Dogs don't come to play Saturday San Jose will break their winless streak and go to a bowl game riding a high they have not felt in over a decade.

Note - What the hell happened to Nevada against Boise State? I have never seen a team fall apart so badly in a big game. Boise State dominated every aspect of the game and will continue to own this series as long as Nevada falls apart in big games. Regardless of how bad Fresno State has played this season, not one time did they look nearly as bad as Nevada did Saturday. At the same time keep an eye on Colt Brennan. He needs three td's to tie the record for a season. With Oregon State coming to the island he will have a chance to break the record of 54 td's in a season.