Monday, September 18, 2006

Who's To Blame?

The last two weeks have not been very good to Fresno State fans. With two close losses that could have easily been wins Fresno State is now looking at an uphill battle to turn this into a successful season. The problems that lay ahead for the Dogs is the fact that their schedule still includes Hawaii, Boise State, LSU, and La. Tech. If Fresno State does not fix their offensive woes they will lose all four of these games leaving them with a 6-6 record this season. Obviously that will not go down as a great season for a Fresno State team that has continually made it to a bowl game year after year. Over the last two weeks I have read many comments on who is to blame for this mess that we have had on the football field. Some fans blame the players, while others blame the special teams. Other fans blame the coaching or some have just pinned it on inexperience and bad luck. Here is my take on who is to blame for the past two games.

1) Inexperience - I am not sure why so many people thought the transition from one quarterback to the next would be flawless. Look around the nation and aside USC most schools struggle with this aspect in college football. You cannot take a four year starter (albeit I was never a fan of Pinegar) and replace him with someone who has thrown a total of 13 passes in his college career. Yes, Brandstater has been in the system for two years up to this point, but his game experience had been next to nothing. You cannot simulate game experience and because Brandstater has little game experience you had to feel he would struggle throughout the early games this season. I am one of those fans who is in the Norton corner, I just can't understand putting a parade All American on the bench but I trust in Pat Hill and know he does what is in the best interest for this football team. Those of you who are calling for Norton this early in the season can't be serious. If you feel like Brandstater is the reason we lost the last two games you are not watching closely. Brandstater is not given the chance to throw the ball unless you consider throwing it 21 times in a game a chance. Fresno State is a run first offense and as long as Hill is the coach they always will be. I will touch more on the qb situation a little later in this post.

2) Play Calling - Cignetti left Fresno and for most of us this wasn't something that seemed to be a bad thing for Fresno State. Cignetti's offense has been known as vanilla by so many other coaches because of the relative predictability that it entails (North Carolina is not doing too much better with Cignetti as their coordinator) . I have to say that Steve Hagen's offense is exactly the same. Everyone knows it is going to be Dwayne Wright on first down and a majority of second downs as well. Many of our fans will say that is because Brandstater cannot make the throws, but how do you know that? Do you know why Brandstater struggles on third and longs? How many chances during the course of a game is Brandstater given the chance to throw the ball 15 yards? Against Washington he probably threw the ball 15 yards four times. So of course when the game is on the line with a 3rd and 15 he is going to mis-fire. Brandstater has to have the opportunity to unleash the ball from time to time and the offensive play calling does not allow this. Case in point: Watch the film from games 1-3 and tell me how many times he has gone deep to someone else aside Williams? If your answer is none then you are correct. What kind of offense only draws up deep routes for one player? If your answer is Fresno State you are correct. Even with Cignetti we still tried to go deep to Williams and Jennings. Now defenses know they just have to cover Williams deep because the Dogs will not throw to anyone else down field aside Williams. If the Dogs are to make this a successful seaosn (which is definitely possible) they need to open up the playbook. Dinking and dunking the ball five yards here and there isn't going to get it done. If it didn't work against one of the bottom three teams from the Pac-10 it isn't going to work against anyone.

3) Special Teams - I don't understand what has happened to this facet of Bulldog football. First you have the blocked field goal that turns into a nightmare. Next you have the fake field goal that ends up being the difference in the game. The following week you have two botched snaps and a ball trickle into the end zone that should have been downed on the one yard line. Not to mention our special teams coverage has been bad this season. Against Oregon we allowed two big punt returns putting the Ducks in great field position to start drives. Stitser had every reason to be upset the past week as his holder could not get the ball down into good position for him on both missed kicks. He also pooched it beautifully on a field goal he could have easily made and I believe that is why he was so upset. Hill took a chance away from Stitser to give us three points because he wanted to pin Washington deep and our special teams could not get it done. If there is anyone area of the Bulldogs that has been a disappointment this season it has been the special teams unit.

However you look at the start of the season there are two people you cannot in any way blame for the losses: Pat Hill and Tom Brandstater. Pat Hill does not call the offensive plays, Steve Hagen does. If you have a problem with the offensive playcalling (which I definitely do) address Hagen when posting, not Hill. If you have a problem with the quarterback situation realize that Brandstater has thrown the ball 91 times in his college career. If you expected him to come in and take over right where Pinegar left off then you put unrealistic expectations on this young man and that is on you as fans. There is no way anyone should expect Brandstater to be flawless at this point in his college career. If he still makes the types of mistakes he has made this year as a senior then you have a reason to complain but right now he is learning and the play calling is not helping him one bit.

Fresno State has an opportunity to get back to 3-2 before Hawaii comes calling. It is going to be very important over the next three weeks to get Brandstater some snaps against both Colorado State and Utah State. These games are both very winnable games for the Dogs. If they can pull these out then we have our biggest rivalry coming to town on October 14th (somebody's 29th birthday by the way, yes it's me). If ever there was a time that Fresno needs our support as fans it is now. Every year is not going to have an 8-1 start with a #16 ranking. We need to support the Dogs when Colorado State comes to town. The point I always make is Tennessee did not play in a bowl game last year but still sold out every home game. Their fan support was there and look how they started out this season. They lost to a very good Florida team but are now ranked #15. If you just have faith it will work out in due time. Fresno State will be ok, just let them work out their problems. It is early in the season, and believe me it is much better to have these problems now rather than later. If we can just fix them the season will be a success. It's still Bulldog football, don't forget that.

So my question for all of you Dogs fans is who do you blame for what has happened and why? Should we blame anyone or should we just support the Dogs? I am on the latter half here. I do throw blame out there but I will be a Bulldog fan regardless and I hope most of you will as well.


Ral said...

I have seen plenty of schools around the country throw in Sophmore quarterbacks that have gotten the job done. To me Brandstater will still be the same as we have seen by the end of this season. He simply panics and makes bad throws. For example this last game when he threw 2 interceptions in a row to end the game.From what I counted in the Washington game,he singled handidly snuffed out at least 6 drives because of horrible passes that cost the Dogs momentum and points.
His biggest mistake is that he stares down his intended reciever far too long and then throws bad passes to them.
You are right, he does need the experience to get better but his coaches are responsible for everything he does on the field and starring down recievers must be fixed asap.These caoches need to start doing their job and help him.
The offensive plays have no imagination and are the same as under Cignetti. In order to have a winning team, the Dogs need to get creative with play calling.The talent is certainly there to still pull this season out with plenty of wins.

nsc said...

I agree ral, the play calling for Brandstater is absolutely horrible. They give him very little to work with and that makes no sense seeing that he has such good receivers to work with. Hell, Pinegar who had an average arm flourished in this system because of what he had around him. I hate to say it but if Pinegar were here this season we would probably be 3-0. He wasn't a good quarterback but they let him throw the ball, so why won't the let someone with a much stronger arm throw the ball? It will always be a mystery to me.

pleasewintheWAC! said...

UCLA is another team who has excelled in their first two games with a sophomore QB. Having a new QB should not be an excuse. I agree, the play calling is bad. I'm not blaming TB as much as I'm blaming the play calling for not helping him get into a rhythm.

Stop babying him coaches and let him play! This is not a rebuilding year!!! COACH HILL himself said this years team has at least SIX NFL draft picks on the team!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Pinegar it would be 3-0. That I never thought I would say!!! Although, the last drive of the game was sure Pinegar-esque...interception baby!

Hum, I remember making this comment last week, rings even truer this week:

"And someone needs to tell Tommy B to get use to passing on third and long. Volek did it, Carr did it, Pinegar did it (albeit not very well). We love to run and sometimes it works well, but never fails that we get stuffed on one of them and blow second down too. If he can step up on those third downs and make his best passes of the game, he will be on top of all those names."

Special teams are a crutch. You can not RELY on them to win. There are three phase to the game and you have to win at least two to win the game, we didn't. We have always had good Special teams in the past, but again if you have to rely on them to win your last two games there are bigger problems at hand. If the score is 35 to 7, you can give up quite a lot on Special Teams, you get my point?

Who's to blame:

Truth is this is Fresno State. If we have a great O-Coordinator/D-Coordinator, someone's going to come along and offer them more money to leave. So not only are we developing players, but coaches as well. We would be in a much different situation if coaches like Tedford were still around. But, that's not going to happen. It's going to take some time to get both the players and coaches back up to speed. It's really too bad because that is the only reason why we aren't 3-0. Similar thing happened in 2002. Remember how B. Berrian was used then, boy what a shame.

That is the thing you really have to appreciate about Pat Hill. He wins without depth of talented players and with new coaches every other year. It's really amazing if you stop to think about it.

In the end, it sucks because we are growing to expect so much more out of this team. We now have the talent to win year-in year-out. But, there is a chemistry needed between players and coaches inorder to go undefeated. That's just not there this year.

After it's all said and done, this team can still accomplish the one thing that has eluded Pat Hill's teams, WAC Championship. Time to focus on that!

nsc said...

Pleasewinthewac, I understand your point about UCLA but you think beating Rice 26-16 is excelling? Just wondering your thoughts on that. UCLA played well against UTAH but wait until they play against the bulk of their schedule such as USC, Oregon, Arizona State.

I feel like fans are forgetting that our goal was to win the WAC this season and not the BCS. Boise has a much better shot at the BCS with a senior qb. We need to try and knock them off for the WAC and that should be our goal. WAC first, OOC second.

Anonymous said...

Now im not taking anyones side here but i dont think there is any one plase to leave blame. Yes some areas more that others need it but not just one.

Tommys lack of experience is one. I will agree with everything that was said about Tommy and he "stares" down his recievers to long. That is the lack of experience. Yes part of the lack of experience is do to play calling and not leting him play. When he has thrown the ball for ten yards or more he is ither dead on or way off. If he could just get the ball closer to his reciver and give them the option to get it it might be a different storie. Our recivers are very able to make plays. He can also make up for his lack of passing experience by running the ball more. He has already shown he can take a hit. RUN THE BALL insted of throwing a bad pass. That there can be a BIG confedince booster. He has to work with what the coaches give him. We will be in a 5 game losing streak befor the coaches deside to change what they are doing.

Now is Norton the answer I dont know. But like alot of people have siad "Why keep and all-american on the Bench?" Yes he was with the secound string for pre-season but look what he had to work with and look at what he still did. Why not give him a chance with the first string. You will know how he is going to do in the first 3-4 posesions. Maybe let Tommy get eh game started then give that ball to Norton. You never know it might be just the insentive for Tommy to step up his game. Another option use them both. It will probably never happen at FSU but its an option. There was a team last year that did it and they did better than they probably would have if they wouldnt have went with both.

What about the D. Mostly our backs. With the exception to Mccauly they aint been doing so well. They are not playing up to there ability. There has been numeres time that they have let the recivers get behind them and catch the ball for a big gain. For the most part FSU has done better at stopping the run. They have slowed it but not stopped it wich is a big plus. How ever where they have exceld more at the run-D they have lost that much in the passing-d and that aint like FSU.

pleasewintheWAC! said...

nsc, Good Point with the Rice-UCLA game. That was more of a Pat Hill contest. Running backs went for for 208 yards and 102 yards, while Ben Olson threw for a Brandstater-esque 124 yards.

But after that Utah game, I had to say that it looked like Olson could excel. Going 25 of 33 for 318 yards and 3 TDs against a defense that was pretty damn good last year. My point was he excelled in his first game. We'll see how they do in UW this week. That will be a good comparison, right?

I'm still waiting for Fresno to show me a passing game.

nsc said...

you know I have been waiting for fresno to show me a passing game every year since Carr left. Even when we had Carr i still felt that our offense held back to much. In the game against Boise with the undefeated season on the line you know we ran two out of the last four plays to get into the end zone. Out of our final four plays we threw the ball once because Carr fumbled the fourth down snap. I just get sick of being conservative. This is the NCAA not the NFL. Put points on the board. Hawaii does it, why cant we?

Anonymous said...

Jenkins, Mays and Briscoe have not been very impressive so far. I seriously doubt they would be playing much for any of tne Pac 10 teams including Stanford.