Tuesday, October 31, 2006
"I root you for you guys in every game except the one against us."
"Boise State is my second favorite team."
Quotes like these make me sick! I am a Fresno State fan, not a WAC fan! I love my Bulldogs the rest of conference can kiss my... Sure on occasion I will root for a WAC team to knock off a "big boy" but that is it. I could care less if they win or lose, I just may dislike them less than the other team. I am also a college football fan but when it comes to loyalty it is all about Fresno State. I enjoy watching USC, I have every fall since I was kid. I was a big Ohio State fan when I was younger, but not anymore. I became a fan of Florida State in the late 80s, but none of these schools are rivals nor in the same conference as Fresno State.
The only team out of the WAC I want to see succeed is Fresno State. I know I might catch a lot of flak for this, but I could care less if Boise State went unbeaten and played in the BCS. The Broncos are not a rivalry in my book because, Fresno State has been owned in the series, there is little history between the schools and frankly there is too much @$$-kissing between the respective fans. While some, maybe most, would wish for Fresno State to go 12-0 and Boise State to finish 11-1 with the one loss to Fresno State. I am the guy that wants to see the Bulldogs go 12-0 and the Donks go 0-12. Are Michigan fans rooting for Ohio State, are Texas A&M fans rooting for Texas, hell no! Why would Bulldog fans root for Boise State? We sure as hell not rooting for San Jose State or Hawaii.
Records mean nothing when it comes to a rivalry, and Fresno State-Boise State is still years away from becoming a heated rivalry. I'll admit the Donks were easier to hate with Dan Hawkins as the coach, but I am sure I can build a dislike for Coach "Pete". And for the record I don't respect what Boise State has done. What the Broncos have done for the last five years is what Fresno State did under Jim Sweeney in the mid to late 80s. Pat Hill was part of that regime and knows there is a better way to build a program. Although, in 10 years he is still trying to figure out how to close the deal, but at least he knows the only way to build national recognition and gain respect from the media is the play and beat the best teams possible.
Sweeney's teams were good, but fans will never know how good they really were because they never played anybody. The 1985 team might have went 11-0-1 and beat unbeaten No. 20 Bowling Green in the Cal Bowl, but how good was BGSU? The Falcons failed to beat anyone that year as well. The 9-2 '86 team lost at a good SJSU team, but the Bulldogs had that game won. And that same team fell victim to "Island Voodoo" while Kevin Sweeney nursed a dislocated shoulder the entire season. That Hawaii loss cost the Bulldogs an outside shot at a Freedom Bowl berth against No. 15 UCLA, but it would have been nice to have seen Fresno State play a higher caliber opponent in the regular season. The 'Dogs got their chance in 1987 at UCLA. However, the offense failed to show up, but the defense proved it could take on college football's "big boys". Troy Aikman won't forget the double-digit sacks the Bulldogs had that Saturday afternoon in the 17-0 loss.
Enough with the rambling, my point is, I won't respect Boise State until it can beat or at least hang with a superior BCS team on the road. And Bronco fans quit complaining about how BCS schools, other than other regional Northwest Pac-10 schools, will not come to the blue turf. The Bulldogs have the same problem, but Hill has the balls to go anywhere and take on the challenge. It is easy to sit at home, complain about system, beat up on conference foes, while circling games against Oregon State, Utah and Fresno State as your marquee games.
Hey, I'll be the first to admit Pat Hill needs to change some things and this season has pushed him to the limit per se. But at least he knows that playing the "Sisters of the Poor" is not the way to build a program. Note to Boise: the longer you keep avoiding the big boys, the longer it will take before they are willing to travel to the blug rug. And I am sure teams will be more inclined to play in Boise if the turf wasn't blue.
Year after year we go as Fresno State fans face the conodrum of redshirting Bulldog players. We get talented young men that come into the Bulldog system only to sit out their freshman year so they are able to retain a year of elgibility. Of course this makes sense if you think about giving a player time to develop and understand the program. This way of development also makes sense if you don't feel the kid is ready to get in and contribute right away. However, there is an opposing side to this argument that I am going to make because I think the Bulldogs lose a good amount of players recruiting wise due to the fact they choose to redshirt many of their Freshman.
Say you are a star high school player and know you can choose where you want to go to college. Fresno State is interested in you but so are many PAC-10 schools. The PAC-10 schools tell you that you will play as a Freshman and won't have to sit out. You may not start but you will see playing time. Pat Hill comes along and tells you that you are a great fit for the Bulldogs but will have to sit out your Frsshman year to better develop your skills. Hill says if you develop then you will be in the games early and often after your Redshirt Freshman year. As a player which school would you rather choose? I believe this is an easy decision as most kids are going to choose a PAC-10 school where they may not be a starter right away but will have the opportunity to contribute as Freshman. I don't always mind redshirting players as I am one who believes a QB needs to have a redshirt year unless he is far advanced and has the skills to play right away. However, I do not think every player needs to redshirt. Lonyae Miller did not redshirt this season and we as fans can see how good thid kid is going to be. Would it have made sense to sit him out this year and see what he has next year? I don't believe so because the one aspect of development you cannot compare to is game experience. The only way to get better is to play the game. I think Pat Hill is a good coach with a couple of flaws as every coach aside Pete Carroll seems to have some flaws. The way he brings Freshman along works well when our team is stacked, but in years like 2006 it doesn't help at all to hold someone out. With the lack of depth this team has the only way to handle it is to give the younger guys playing time just to get their feet wet so to speak.
If you are going to argue that redshirting is a necessity I will not say you are wrong. I can see why a fan would feel that players should redshirt in order to get ready for their first true year of playing. I am just trying to peak inside of the head of apotential recruit and see hwat he might be thinking with respect to Fresno State. I really feel many recruits pass on the Dogs because they do not want to miss a year of football. We were given a gift in Sean Norton who did not play for two years while waiting for a chance to get in a game for the Dogs. Not every player that comes up is going to be ok with this because they want to play and many of them deserve a chance to do so. I am just wondering what everyone thinks about this aspect of Bulldog player development? Are you happy with the way we develop kids or do you have other ideas about how it should be done?
By the way I have been reading the argument as to whether the Dogs should win or lose this game against Boise because they could lose a half a million dollars in beating them. I say you always go for a win and screw the money. The Dogs would find a terrible way to spend the BCS money anyhow. Hopefully it won't matter and the Dogs will find a way to win tommorow night. I picked the Dogs to win, but the offensive line will be depleted. I might waver on that pick due to this fact. At the same time I will say the Dogs will come within 27 of the spread although we have only covered once this season. We will cover tomorrow night, guaranteed. As of right now I am sticking with a Dogs upset, but we will see.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Every week I look forward to a Saturday of college football filled with upsets and the unexpected. Today was no different as I watched a Trojan team I usually follow with great interest lose to Oregon State 33-31. Yes this is the same Oregon State team that went into Boise and lost 42-14 earlier this season. Now most of you probably wonder what the heck this has to do with Fresno State. If USC can go into Oregon State and lose then there is more than a fighter's chance that Fresno can play on the smurf turf and come away with a win. I know most of you have little faith in the Bulldogs this year but there is no reason to count them out of this game on Wednesday. Here are just a few reasons why Fresno State has a chance Wednesday:
1) First of all I do not agree with the Kelly Carr show and how intricate Boise's offense is. It is a one man show that starts and ends with Ian Johnson. If a defense can shut him down (although no one has yet) they in turn will heavily impair what Boise can do on offense. Zabransky can play there is no doubt about that but let's not confuse this man with Ryan Dinwiddie. Z does not make the same great decisions that Dinwiddie did when he played for Boise and will not torch Fresno's defense like Colt Brennan did. Truth be told although Hawaii does have a loss in conference most feel they are the best team in the WAC and not Boise State. Fresno's defensive strength (yes they actually have one) is stopping the run betwen the tackles which also happens to be Johnson's strength when he runs the ball. If Shirley and Leonard continue their stellar play the Broncos are going to have to look elsewhere to score.
2) College football has more surprises than any other sport out there. Week in and week out there are more upsets partly due to the fact that there are so many schools in Division 1A football. Who's to say having ten days off doesn't help the Dogs get back to where their health needs to be? Who's to say Boise is going to play the perfect game like they always seem to against the Bulldogs? Remember we did beat the Broncos last year so that aura of invincibilty that seemed to be there is gone. Each time we have gone to Boise the games have been closer with the last game being a 33-16 loss. This time the Dogs may be down but they are definitely not out. They have no pressure on them in this game and actually do have something to play for. Hill knows this team needs to open up the playbook to win this game and I think he will. Which brings me to the last reason.
3) The Dogs will open it up in this one. The conservative play calling has not worked and Hill knows we have five games left to do something this season. Hill will not remain the way he has all year and maybe FormerDog will come in and say something good here in the game against Boise. Their pass defense is their weakness and to win a game you have to exploit the weakness of the other team. Williams and Fernandez should be good for this game and West as we all know is becoming a star for the Bulldogs. Norton will be given the opportunity to throw often so it is going to come down to pass protection for him. I know that we have not done the greatest job of protecting this season but Wednesday the Dogs will be ready. We are not playing LSU and although the Broncos are ranked right there with LSU they are not nearly as talented as the Tigers are.
I know most people do not feel that the Dogs can win this game but just as an example Texas Tech is up 24-7 against Texas right now. Texas Tech may not win the game but right now they are playing well against a very sound Texas team (Does this remind anyone of Fresno State-USC last year?). Fresno State needs to come out on fire against Boise. Whatever the line is on the game I am taking the Bulldogs. I know we barely survived the spread against LSU (which was the first time it has happened this year) but this weekend a couple of upsets have happened that I picked. Texas Tech over Texas and Clemson losing to Virginia Tech were two of them. No I do not know everything nor do I make sense in many of the games I pick, but I feel like Fresno State will have a chance to win this game. This time they will come through and end Boise's dream BCS season, Fresno State 38 Boise State 35.
Note - I chose the picture of Wendell Mathis at USC because I wanted to talk about upsets and that was as close to a huge upset as Fresno State will ever be a part of.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Over the past few weeks the BarkBoard has been filled with threads about topics such as Fresno's scheduling and the amount of respect the Bulldogs receive from the general public and media. Yesterday I had the radio on at three p.m. here at work and Kelly Carr mentioned that Fresno State was named the third most disappointing team this season behind only Miami and Florida State. At first I reacted as most Bulldog fans would by saying "Yeah no kidding, this season has been a disaster." However, in that moment I realized something that is actually a positive for the Bulldogs team. We were named the third most disappointing team by Bruce Feldman, the college football know it all for ESPN (He actually is very knowledgeable and usually has a great idea of what he is talking about). Do you as fans realize how great this is for Fresno State? ESPN expects the Bulldogs to play with the big teams year in and year out. ESPN expects the Bulldogs to challenge the BCS yearly. In other words we have a level of respect that very few non-BCS schools have today. If Boise were 1-6 this season do you believe that they would be on the list of the most disappointing teams? I honestly think there is no possible way this would happen.
I want anyone who reads this blog to think about something for a minute. If Fresno State had Boise's schedule this season and were currently sitting at 8-0 do you think they would be ranked at #15 in the nation or higher? I personally think the Bulldogs with their past schedules would be respected far more and probably would be in the ten spot at the moment. I realize that in the past I have said that the Bulldogs need to tone down their schedule, but if this is what it is going to lead to then I have to say I am wrong. I think in the future we need that one huge road and home game yearly, but right now our team is not at the level that other teams of the past have been in. Next year's schedule of Oregon and Cincinnati on the road and K-State and Sac State at home is a perfect schedule for this team. Everyone talks about the tough out of conference schedules but I will say right now that our toughest game next season will be in conference when we travel to Hawaii. We will have such a young defense that playing a team like Hawaii with that offense will be ugly to say the least. Getting back to the respect and rankings we really owe this to Pat Hill and the way he has led this team into battle the past nine seasons (I realize he has been the coach for ten but this year has not been a good example of Hill getting his players ready for the games).
Many Fresno State fans want Pat Hill fired. I personally would not like to see him go because us being ranked as the third most disappointing team of the season is 100% because of Pat Hill and the way he has changed how others view the Bulldogs. True he needs to change, I won't argue that. He is too stubborn as a college coach and sometimes changes are needed. He has actually walked down the change line recently by putting in guys such as Jefferson and Norton to see if it will help the team in the long run. The rest of the season will be how us as Bulldog fans measure Pat Hill's success. If the Dogs can run a streak of five games in a row and beat Boise (Which I think we will) in their house no one will remember how this season started. Remember Hill has many young players out there right now trying to learn the game. 2007 and 2008 will be better years because these men will have experience and our team is going to be relatively young. Regardless of what happens though do remember that the Bulldogs are respected on a level Boise could only hope to reach one day. Their schedules over the past five years have been weak to say the least with the one tough game @ Georgia ending in a massacre. Fresno tends to hang with the big teams and quite honestly did not disappoint against LSU. I guess respect does matter, it just took me three months of writing the Bulldog blog to realize it.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Fast forward to 2006 and the defensive unit for the Bulldogs has a complete new identity. Unfortunately it is an identity that the Bulldogs should not be proud of. Tackles like the picture to the left have become the new rave at Fresno State. We do no wrap up anymore, we do not gang tackle like we used to, and there is not one man on this team that is a leader on defense.
Richard Marshall may have gambled often on defense but he was a leader. When he tackled he did it with a flare that no one on this team has. Everyone has to remember when he picked the receiver up on Utah State and threw him down. Everyone has to remember how he led the complete shutdown of USC's star receivers last year and did it with authority. That is the type of defensive leader we need on this team. Last week against USC Jenkins made a great tackle on a LSU running back. In my memory I cannot remember another tackle this season by a Bulldog where I thought "Wow, now that was a great hit". I noticed a fire in the game against LSU that had not been there before. However, the question I ponder every day until the Boise State game is: Will the Bulldogs be able to keep this fire they showed in the LSU game? They have shown us fans absolutely nothing on defense this season, but if they were to play anywhere near similar to how they did aganst LSU they will then be in the game until the end. Boise State is a good team, there is no avoiding that. Fresno State though is getting better and the defense is beginning to show signs of life. Instead of regressing week after week the Dogs finally seem to have taken a step forward after seeing the game against LSU.
This team used to follow a saying "Shut up and hit somebody". This is a saying that came about in the 2001 season as the Bulldogs showed a tenacity on defense that we had never seen at this school before. Is it possible to get back to that philosphy or are we short on athletes that can make a difference on defense? We have two great run stoppers in the middle with respect to Shirley and Leonard and I have to sya they have finally started clogging the middle as they should be. It seems as if Shirley is in the backfield on every single play. Will anyone else step up on defense against Boise State? As good as McCauley has been for the Dogs we need more from him. We need him to take control of the defense and show the rest of the team a fire they desperately need to see. Andrews needs to step up and drill someone knocking the ball lose. These men are good football players and have the talent to play with anyone. Jenkins and Simmons need to get on the receivers and shove them almost as if they were saying "This is my field and you have to come through me to get the damn ball". The mentality of the defense needs to change. These men have to take it personal when a team goes down field and scores on them. They need to hit hard and show their authority on the field. I know that the Dogs have been down this season but the Boise State game is a great opportunity to look into the future and see what this team can do. Boise as I said is good but they are not the juggernaut team they were when Ryan Diniwiddie played there. This team has weaknesses and a great way to start would be to absolutely smash Johnson on his first carry of the game. If the Dogs could do this they would be saying "We know who you are Mr. Johnson and with all due respect you are not going to run through us and win this game."
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Today Pat Hill made it public that the Bulldogs will more than likely open the 2007 season at home against Sacramento State. Yes Sacramento is a Divison 1-AA school but to begin the season against them is not something I am against necessarily. I know most fans want the Bulldogs to play BCS schools but we already have Kansas State at home and Oregon on the road in 2007. Oregon on the road should be a tough one considering that a good number of their players will be back for 2007. Some rumors for one of our final non-conference games is that Cincinatti is going to step up and trade us a one for one with the Bulldogs going there in 2007 and Cincinatti returning th efavor in 2008. To me that is exactly the kind of schedule the Bulldogs need in 2007. In one sense we will be completely starting over on the defensive side of the ball as Andrews and McCauley will be gone. If we have to revamp our defense completely we need to open up against a team that we can almost practice against. I am not sure of the Oregon date but I am guessing it is going to be quite early in the season as it usually tends to be. The Dogs will have to get ready for Oregon because they will be the toughest game of 2007 and opening against a D1-AA team will only help the Dogs to get ready. Regardless here are the hurdles the 2007 schedule will now offer:
Kansas State @ home, Oregon on the road, Hawaii on the road, Boise State at home, Cincinatti on the road
Now I realize Cincinatti is not the single best OOC game but if we do indeed play them our schedule will fit this team quite well. I feel like the 2008 team is going to be the one that we will remember for a very long time while 2007 is a bridge year to build up the team for 2008. I feel like Sean Norton is going to have a very good Junior year along with Miller, West, Moore, and Pascoe. With another year left to follow the Bulldogs offensive game should be quite amazing. If the defense can begin to fix what is wrong this season, next year should be decent but not outstanding. 2008 could be amazing for the Dogs and I know many of you are going to argue that I should not look forward to the future but let's be honest here: We are all Bulldog fans and will be for many years to come. Why would I not look forward to what we will have with this team down the line? This year ended up being a failure but it does not mean next year will be. Formerdog, Pat Hill is not going to be fired and the play calling is going to suck for the rest of the season. As long as our coach feels that the way to win is run the ball we are going to run it more than we throw it. Is this always the right thing to do? That all depends on who we are playing. This upcoming week against Boise we should throw 60% of the time. Will we? I seriously doubt it but the way to beat Boise is through the air.
As I said before many of you will not be pleased with the 2007 schedule but it looks as if we will play 12 games, 6 at home and 6 on the road. I think this is a good schedule for this team and gives us a great chance to win eight or nine games on the season. Hopefully in the next few weeks the Dogs will show everyone why I am so positive about 2007. I would hate to look like an idiot once again for having faith in my favorite college football team. But in the end that is what college football is all about; Having faith in your team. The Bulldogs need us as fans right now more so than ever and I just hope that most of you will continue to support them regardless of what happens the rest of the season. Every team has a bad season, just know 2007 will be better because it can't possibly get any worse.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Yes. I know so many of you around the valley are in dire straits over the horrific performances that the Bulldogs have put on week after week. But the honest answer to this question I pose is yes. Boise State is not the same killer team they have been in the past. They give up large chunks of yards through the air just as the Bulldogs do. Boise's strength is the one thing the Bulldogs seem to defend well against: the run. Ian Johnson is the best player on Boise State and the offense goes directly through him. Here are the following reasons why Boise State should worry about Fresno State next Wednesday:
1) Boise State's Pass Defense - Horrendous would be a great word to describe how bad Boise's secondary is. I am not saying the Bulldogs secondary is any better because God knows we are horrible when it comes to the secondary. However, Boise State allowed 526 yards passing to Chase Holbrook but came out with the win over New Mexico State. Boise State then allowed 326 yards passing to Idaho's QB but again came out with a close victory. Boise State has the same exact problem in the secondary that the Bulldogs do but this will only be a plus for the Bulldogs if they decide to throw the damn ball for once.
2) The Boise-Fresno Rivalry - Fresno State will be up for this game, I don't care what anyone thinks. We may be a soft team this season as FormerDog has pointed out about a thousand times in the comments section, but I saw a different Dogs team against LSU. I thought the Dogs played well against a far superior team in LSU. If the coaching would open the offense at all the Dogs would have been in that game well into the fourth quarter. If our wide receivers would catch balls right in their hands that game against LSU could have possibly been tied going into the fourth quarter. Boise State is not on the level of LSU (even if the BCS has put them ahead in their ridiculous rankings that also has a very strong Texas team at #7). Boise State is in the position that Fresno State was in 2001 and this Bulldog team is not as bad as the 1-6 record says. Fresno State will be in this game down to the end. Of the big three game stretch they were to endure this season I felt the Boise game was the most winnable of them all. We do not match up well with Hawaii's offense and LSU is just too good overall. However, Boise State is not that much better than most NCAA teams this season and have just closed out the games the way a decent team should.
3) Pressure - Fresno State has absolutely no pressure on them anymore. They have endured one of their worst years to this date but can begin to turn things around and give us something to look forward to in 2007. Sean Norton will only get better and if the Bulldogs can follow through with a medical redshirt he will have three years remaining as the starter for the Bulldogs (even if they can't two more years as our starter bodes well for the future). This kid is a gamer and if you are not convinced that he can make the necessary throws to win games then you did not watch the LSU game closely. No the receivers dropped the great throws he made, but look how well Norton threw all three deep balls in the game. True one was underthrown to Williams but he made the catch. His other deep ball to Williams was where it needed to be and his first deep ball to Moore may have been the best throw of the day. Our offense will get better and against Boise we will score at least 30 points. Formerdog I know you don't agree, you don't have to tell me this but we will get better on offense.
This is going to be a great game between two teams that are usually at the top of the WAC year in and year out. Last year we broke the streak of four straight losses to Boise and I think we can steal one this year and ruin their BCS chances. Boise is not invincible to say the least. We just need a few breaks and have to get an interception on defense soon. We are the only divison one school without an interception this year and I am willing to bet Zabranski will throw one to us. Just have some faith, I know it's hard to right now but I really believe that fans need to support the players. Even if you have no faith in the coaching don't forget that many of the players are out their doing their best for us. Support them and know that we can only go up from here.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
What do you take from a game like last nights? How can you look at a physical beating such as the one LSU gave us and find positives? Fresno State was outplayed in every possible aspect of college football last night in their 38-6 blowout loss to SEC powerhouse LSU. The funny thing is if you watched this game Fresno State had a chance in the second half to get right back in the game. Trailing 17-3 Sean Norton hit Paul Williams for a 30-35 yard gain to put Fresno State on the 20 yard line. Unfortunately I am not so sure the play calling after that made any sense. On first and goal from the seven yard line Wright ran up the middle for a gain of three. After a false start on Fresno State Norton hit West on an out pattern that did not go into the end zone. On third and goal Hagen called a flare out to Wright that once again did not go into the end zone. I don't understand how you can have three plays from inside the seven yard line and not one time do you actually go to the end zone with the ball. Week after week the playcalling on this team continually gets worse. I cannot count how many times Fresno State ran on first and second down once again last night and the crazy thing is Sean Norton played well. He finished 13-20 for 134 yards but had three dropped passes that were put right where they needed to be. Williams dropped a deep ball but did get crushed after the ball landed in his hands. Marlin Moore dropped maybe the most important throw of the game early on. Fresno State already down 7-0 went deep and Moore was alone on the right side and somehow the ball went right through his hands. The last drop was a great throw right into the hands of Kinter on fourth down that someho was also dropped. If these passes are caught this game is much closer and Norton finishes 16-20 for about 200 yards. Norton did not throw one ball that was in danger and continually put it where it needed to be. Our QB future is fine and I think offensively we will have the tools to score non stop with the right play calling.
Once again our defense was absolutely terrible. LSU has great team speed but sometimes I am left wondering why Mays does not attack the hole on a run to the left or right. The scheme to sit back and let a RB who is much faster than you come at you without attacking makes no sense. On LSU's first TD Mays sat back and let the RB run right by him. We just don't have the athletes on defense to shut anyone down this season. The D-Line did well last night pressuring Russell countless times but when we needed pressure on him we did not get it. On 3rd and 15 Russell threw a 58 yard touchdown. The D-line leeds to get pressure in these types of situations. At the same time I have come to the realization we just do not have the corner opposite McCauley to shut anyone down. It does not matter if it is Jefferson, Jenkins, or Simmons that side of the field is continually getting exposed. Our defense has so much work to do to get better but I will say I was impressed with the amount of blitzing from other positions on defense last night. At least Brown didn't sit back and just let the other team fire away play after play. This game was a step up from the Hawaii game and gives us some confidence going into the Boise State game. Boise's pass defense is just as bad as ours, but they score plenty of points to cover up that problem. This game should actually be a pretty decent one as long as Fresno State can stop Boise's RB Johnson which I think they can. Overall the Boise game should be a pretty close affair with the Dogs being in the game the entire way. At the same time we have ten days to prepare meaning our guys will be fresh for the game.
I know LSU beat us, and I know in the end the score was ugly. But Fresno played much better this weekend than they did against Hawaii. I feel like this team is on its way to fixing these problems and eventually we will be right back where we were before: Challenging Boise for the WAC title year in and year out.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
First off I want to say it is great to have someone running a heisman website for Sean Norton. It is pretty obvious this person has been a fan of Norton far longer than most of us Bulldog fans have and it's definitely a good thing to have support in this sense. Now on to tonight's game against 14th ranked LSU. I wrote yesterday that I truly think it's possible the Dogs can keep this one close. Whether they do or not will depend on the defense because LSU will not give up to many points. I am not sure but their season high may be the 23 points they gave up to Florida, a far cry from the 68 Fresno State allowed this past weekend. Seaon Norton is going to have the world on his shoulders tonight because I just don't see the running game exploding like it usually does. At the beginning of the year many Bulldog fans thought LSU might overlook us as we fell right in the middle of their tough SEC schedule. Well I hate to say it but it doesn't matter if they overlook us or not, they still have the talent to win the game even if they don't play their best game overall.
I think the most interesting angle on this game will be how the Bulldogs react after it is over. I realize because we have quite a few seniors from Pat Hill's so called best class of 2002 that many of these men have played in front of 90,000 fans before. When this game ends the Bulldogs will have to turn their attention to Boise State who they will face ten days from now. Although Fresno State cannot win the WAC they can do their best to create some havoc by knocking the Broncos off. I am sure Hawai'i would love us for it because that would give the Rainbows an inside track to the WAC title as they would tie the Broncos (so should we try to win the game against Boise then?). Remember for all of you thinking "But didn't Boise beat Hawaii?" the WAC does not use tiebreakers and instead crowns co-champions. Tonight's game could very well be a springboard into the rest of the season for the Bulldogs. Yes the Dogs could be 1-7 after the next two games, but if they run off four straight wins and get their defense figured out maybe that would be the kind of springboard we need going into the 2007 season. At the same time we may be able to ruin San Jose's bid for a bowl game, and of course every Fresno State fan would love it if we could do that to the Spartans.
Tonight's game could end up ugly or the Dogs could fight and stay in the game throughout. The only impossible outcome would be Fresno State winning this game by more than seven. I realize before tonight my game predictions have been no where near correct. The last four games I have been as far off as possible, but maybe tonight will be where my thoughts get back on track. I just cannot see the Dogs faltering over and over again as they have up to this point. Eventually we are going to play a good game and I feel like this will be the game to start the remainder of our season. Today I also wanted to mention something about a QB I watched play again last night in the Clovis West - Clovis East game. I understand everyone thinks that we have our future QB in Ryan Colburn. I have to say Beau Sweeney for Clovis West is as good as it gets in high school. He is only a junior right now but has an absolute cannon. Although he doesn't get to show off his arm often I have seen four games this season and he can throw the ball 45-50 yard on a line if needed to. At the end of his senior season it would be nice to see Hill go after the son of former QB Kevin Sweeney. I have been hearing a lot of pub about Marks from Buchanan (the tall RB) but I watched him play and he cannot break a tackle. When he is hit he goes down at the point of contact. Don't second guess the Dogs not getting this guy because he just would not fit into our system. We need strong physical RB's and he is not one.
Well I hope most of you will watch the game tonight. It may not go the way we want it to but as long as the Dogs play hard that should be enough to keep the fans watching. Go Dogs, give the Tigers hell.
Friday, October 20, 2006
A few days ago I wrote a blog saying what could possibly happen in the game against LSU if Fresno State could control the clock, pass efficiently, and play turnover free ball. One of the comments left after the blog asked me to say what I think will happen as opposed to what could happen. I didn't realize it until now but I never really say what I think is going to happen. I usually just write about the possibilities. Well the game against LSU is the perfect chance for me to let you fans know exactly what I think will happen in ths game.
Take a look at the picture on the left because I expect to see a lot of this from LSU during the course of the game. LSU is absolutely amazing on defense and if their offense doesn't shoot itself in the foot the defense will produce a near shutout almost every time they set foot on the field. With that being said I think Fresno State is going to come onto the field with a lot of fire. This will be the first game with Sean Norton at QB and I believe the Dogs feel like they have a better chance to win the game with him on the field. The defensive stops we did not make last week we will make in the first quarter this week. Don't get me wrong, LSU is a very good football team but they do not run an offense like Hawaii's as the Bulldogs match up much better with the Tigers. I do not expect Fresno State to be able to establish the run because of how strong the Tigers defense is. If the Dogs are going to score points they are going to have to take chances down field on inside post routes and crossing routes. I expect this to be a close game by halftime. At halftime the Dogs should be within ten of the Tigers with a legitimate chance to come back in the second half.
With the game being close at halftime Fresno State will feel like they can win this game and come out on fire again to start the secnd half. I feel like they will even make this a close game as they will close within three to seven at one point in the second half. However, LSU has far too much depth for the Bulldogs to be able to keep up and will score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. As I said I think the score will be LSU 41 Fresno State 24. The Bulldogs will leave with a sense of accomplishment as they know their offense is young and learning with each game that passes. Sean Norton is going through a learning process at QB but will provide an opportunity for the offense to throw the ball successfully. I also want to say that I feel the offense will open up a bit more in this game because the coordinator knows LSU is far too disciplined to handle basic runs over and over again. Look for Norton to roll out often. Look for misdirections and counters often. I would say even look for the option in this game. The Bulldogs will be pulling out all of the stops to try and get a win in Baton Rouge which in turn should make for a very entertaining game to watch from a Bulldog fans standpoint.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Saturday night's game against LSU would have been the showcase game for Fresno State had the Bulldogs began this season as we thought they should have. Many of us figured the worst Fresno State would be at this point was 4-2 with losses to Oregon and Hawaii. There were even some Bulldog fans (including this one) who thought it was possible for this team to start out 5-1 or 6-0. After a strong start against Nevada everyone hear knows what happened. One failure after another has led the Bulldogs to a 1-5 record and a date Saturday night with the 15th ranked team in the nation in LSU. Ten days later the Bulldogs have to travel to Boise to play the 18th ranked team in the nation in Boise State. In other words the next two games for Fresno State could not have come at a worst time. Right now Fresno State needs games against teams that can help build their confidence. While these two games could possibly provide that more than likely they will not. With the possibility of Joe Fernandez and Paul Williams not making the trip for this game the Bulldogs will be down to of their best offensive players against the leading defense in the nation. LSU gives up an average of 8 points per game on defense, yes I said 8 or 60 less than the Dogs gave up last week at home against Hawaii. LSU has a tenacious defense that will blitz often and does two things well the Bulldogs defense doesn't do: Tackle and hit with a purpose. It may seem like this game is one that Fresno State is going to have more problems with than any other game on their schedule for numerous reasons. However, the Bulldogs have plenty to play for and the truth of the matter is this game is going to be much closer than the game against Hawaii.
First and foremost LSU does not have an offense that will exploit the weak pass defense the Bulldogs have. Ok, they may be able to exploit the Dogs but not nearly as well as Hawaii did this past week. Being that LSU is in the SEC they play a style of football that is built around their strong defense. To be honest here LSU runs an offense that is very similar to the Bulldogs, aside the predictability factor of course. Jamarcus Russell is a good QB, do not be confused about this. However fickle Fresno State fans are they have absolutely nothing on LSU fans. Russell has completed nearly 70% of his passes with a 13-4 td to int ratio and has only been sacked four times up to this point in the season. However, if you were to ask LSU fans if he were a good QB they would talk about how he cannot get the job done and they should be starting someone else. Now does that sound like another group of fans we all know around here? Russell can read defenses well and has a very strong arm, not to mention that he can also run the ball if he has to. Fresno State is going to have to do something different on defense this week. LSU is physical and the Bulldogs wil not be able to finess there way through this game like they tried to against Hawaii. If an LSU player shoves a Bulldog player off the line, the Bulldog player needs to shove him back. If an LSU player gets in a Bulldog players face, the Bulldog players need to show they are not afraid to be just as aggressive and physical as the players from LSU.
Fresno State will be playing in front of a crowd of over 90,000. This will by far be the single biggest crowd they go up in front of this season. For many of the younger Bulldogs this is going to be a different experience than they have ever seen. Sean Norton has never played in front of a crowd of this magnitude nor has West, Ciccone, Moore, or Crawley. In other words our QB and receivers will be experiencing something new this weekend at LSU. How these men play during the course of the game will dictate whether Fresno State is down seven or twenty- one going into the fourth quarter. If Fresno State can develop some sort of passing game against the Tigers they will have a chance to stay with LSU in this game. This is going to be a dangerous first start for Sean Norton but he has played against great competition before. He will be able to play his game as long as he sticks with what he does best: rolls out and while hitting his receivers on the run. Against Hawaii Norton showed that he can be a very dangerous QB if he is given time to either run or throw the ball. Obviously LSU's defense is much more sound than Hawaii's is, but the Tigers will not be impossible to score on.
Fresno State is going to have to find a way to mix their offense up. Running the ball with regularity is fine as long as you do it without telegraphing it. Against LSU running the ball on first and second down and throwing on third will not work. It didn't work against Utah State and there is just no way it will work against LSU. During the practice week Fresno is going to have to work on ways to disguise what they are doing on both offense and defense. From time to time the Dogs will need to blitz and take chances. Turnovers are going to be important in this game. If the Dogs do not turn the ball over but do not force any turnovers they will not win this game. They need to take care of the ball and force LSU into turning it over, something the Dogs have not done all year long. If Fresno turns the ball over numerous times this game will turn into a blowout, something many of us do not want to see happen again.
It does not matter how you look at this game, LSU is a better team than Fresno State this season. Fresno State is not playing together as a team right now and will need to learn how to do that in order to stay with LSU during this game. The key is how they start the game. If the Dogs are in this game at halftime look for it to be a close one throughout the second half. I have seen predictions on the Barkboard of the Dogs losing 77-20 or so. I am a bit more realistic with what I think the score is going to be. I don't think the Dogs will give up 50 points in this game, not after last week. I expect a hard fought game between two teams looking to get themselves back on track. In the end I do not feel Fresno has the players to win this game this year. If this game were played two years from now maybe, but right now I just don't see it.
LSU 41 Fresno State 24
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
In my short lifetime I have witnessed one player change the course of a season for an entire team. Usually that one player is the QB when talking about a football team. This was evident when Utah State knocked off Fresno State two weeks ago. Utah State brought in a new QB which seemed to energize the team leading them to a very important win over Fresno State. Do I believe Sean Norton is capable of the same type of energy towards the Bulldogs? Yes, I do feel he brings an entirely different aspect of football to this team and will change the overall outlook of the Bulldogs a whole. Do I feel Fresno State will win most of their games with Norton at QB? No, because the defense is still terrible and unfortunately Norton has nothing to do with the defense. However there is a side effect that the defense will see if the offense is more productive. If Norton comes into the game and can give the Dogs 4-5 scoring drives a night they will end up with somewhere between 28-35 points or so. That in turn means our defense will not be on the field as long, nor will they be counted on to hold the opposing offense to such a low scoring output. The upcoming game against LSU will be a perfect opportunity for a guy like Norton to show if he is ready to play against the big time teams of the college football. Will he succeed? I have no idea but you have to figure he is going to have to be ready because his first two games are going to be against nationally ranked Boise State and LSU.
Norton does change our offense and gives us the opportunity to run the option as well as throw downfield. Hopefully in the end this will all work out for the better and he will be able to stay healthy. The Dogs are a much better team on offense with Norton in, but their defense is just as bad and that will not change anytime soon. I wrote about what I thought needed to be changed on defense, what does everyone else think we should do to make the defense better overall or is it even fixable at this point? If you can leave comments, the more the better as opinions are always welcome here. We are all Bulldog fans and we all want to see the team win. Here's to a great game between Fresno State and LSU this Saturday.
Monday, October 16, 2006
I have read some of the comments left by people who responded to my article on what went wrong with our defense Saturday against Hawaii. I am sure I missed plenty with respect to what went wrong but at the same time I was a little confused by the fact that people are beginning to find faults with both McCauley and Andrews. I am sorry but I do not see any reason to blame these two for anything. That would be like blaming Norton for the loss against Hawaii because he threw the interception for a touchdown. You would be ignoring the 225 yard passing and three touchdowns by only paying attention to his one bad throw. McCauley has been beaten in the last few games on deep plays. He has been having problems in coverage the last few weeks but do you really feel this is his fault? Do you really believe McCauley is to blame at the end of the day? I want everyone who comes on here to go back and watch the three big plays he has been beaten by in the past three weeks. If you pay attention the Colorado State game should have been offensive pass interference as the receiver threw McCauley down and somehow the referee missed this penalty. Go back to this past Saturday and watch the Hawaii game over again. Don't just sit and view the game, watch it in detail. If you notice our defensive scheme was absolute crap. McCauley had to cover two receivers on countless plays. If one person comes on this blog and says they can cover two Hawaii receivers at the same time they are liars. Andrews at the same time was forced to cover a wide receiver far too many times for a Linebacker. I am really surprised that most fans did not notice this during the game. I counted three toucdown passes to wide receivers who were being covered by Linebackers. If you want to place blame for this do not put it on McCauley, Jenkins, Simmons, Shirley, Mays, Andrews, or McCauley. You put the blame where it all begins and that is with Dan Brown.
Hawaii predominantly runs routes of eight to ten yards. If you know they are going to do this there is only one way to stop a run and shoot or spread offense. You tell your corners to absolutely explode on the receiver when the plays begins. You are allowed to chuck the receiver within five yards so you do it. When Hawaii is running patterns all over the field with four to five receivers why do you not blitz? By blitzing Linebackers you cause the RB to stay back and block taking him out of the play. I just wonder if our coaches even watched prior games with respect to Hawaii. Last weekend Nevada was outmatched on defense but kept the game close by blitzing and forcing Brennan to throw the ball before he wanted to. Brennan had to roll out countless times against Nevada to get away from the pressure and when you roll out you are taking away one side of the field for the offense. I sit here and I am not even upset with our defense on the whole, I knew Hawaii would score plenty of points. I am upset with the fact that the coaches for Fresno State did not adjust to what Hawaii was doing on offense. The Dogs did not try anything different and have done the same thing all year. They can hold a team to third and long and then give up a first down because the QB has absolutely no pressure to deal with.
We are going through hard times right now and I have to say it is getting tough to endure all of this. But the faults and blames should start with those at the top. The coaches are the ones who have to get the team prepared to play and it is obvious they are not doing the job right now. Our offense is going to turn around if Hill decides to play Norton and let these other young men have a chance to shine. It's time to fix the defense and the Dogs need to start this offseason by saying goodbye to Dan Brown.
LSU Game Note - Coach Hill has named Sean Norton the starter for the game against LSU and rightfully so. Norton played outstanding against Hawaii and gives us a glimmer of hope on offense against a fast and tenacious LSU defense.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I cannot remember ever watching a Bulldog game quite like yesterday's at Bulldog stadium. Not only did Hawaii completely outplay us in every possible way, but they did it in humiliating fashion. Fresno State had no answer for Hawaii's spread/run and shoot offense. Colt Brennan threw for 409 yards and five touchdowns as he was able to sit back and throw the ball to whomever he pleased. The Bulldogs were not able to pressure Brennan and when they did he eluded it with ease. To make matters worse for the Dogs the only offensive weapon that hadn't faultered all season did in the first quarter as Dwayne Wright fumbled two times leading to two touchdowns for the Rainbows.
What exactly went wrong for Fresno State yesterday? Well in one word: Everything. Our defense was the absolute worst I have ever seen in a Bulldog team. The defense put no pressure on Brennan, did not tackle, did not cover, and could not stop the run. It is becoming apparent that even Marcus McCauley is affected by the horrendous play of our defense. McCauley is often trying to make up for what the other db's and safeties don't have in coverage skills and is getting beat on deep passes because of it. The goals for this game were as follows:
1) Keep the ball and grind the clock: Failed
2) Win the turnover battle: Failed
3) Pressure Brennan into throwing the ball before he is ready to, leading to mistakes: Failed
I am sure there were plenty more goals for the Bulldogs in this game but I believe they did not achieve any of them. However, from a Bulldog fans standpoint many left the stadium in a much better mood than one might have expected. We were able to see Sean Norton play for the first time this season and he played exactly how we hoped he would. Norton finished 14-24 with 225 yards and three touchdowns in two and a half quarters of play. He threw one interception but he will learn not to make that type of throw in a game with more experience. Norton is very mobile and makes accurate throws on the run. He had ten incompletions but four of those were dropped balls that should have been caught by his receivers. At the same time Lonyae Miller came in and ran the ball very efficently. We hve a good strong nucleus of players on offense and if we can continue to get these young guys some playing time our offense is going to get back to the well oiled machine it was when David Carr was around. With Pascoe, Norton, Miller, Crawley, Ciccone, West (this guy is going to be amazing), and Moore returning next season I have to say our offense has a chance to be outstanding. If our offensive coordinator can figure out how to get Norton out of the pocket on roll outs and such he then becomes a dangerous weapon in more ways than one. However, all of this is a moot point if the defense does not figure out what they are doing.
One of the the major problems on defense seems to be this team just does not adjust to anything. If the offense for the opposite team is running plays between eight and ten yards on the average why are your corners off the receivers ten yards? Why do you not bring the corners up and bump the receiver off of the line? You are allowed five yards to "chuck" the receiver so why not do it? Not only can that ruin the route the receiver was going to run but it absolutely screws up the timing of the play as well. Another problem was one I mentioned this past week: The Bulldogs do not hit anymore. Yesterday was one missed tackle after another. I wil be the first to admit I might have errored in judgement on Jefferson as he was burned on the second touchdown Hawaii scored. I don't know if he is a bad cover man because he was there to make the tackle, he just didn't make it. Our Linebackers also seem to be in the complete wrong spot on every single play. Hawaii was throwing on us as if we had five men on defense instead of eleven. So if Hawaii was killing us with the pass and we weren't stopping them why did we not blitz? Why did we not try and change something on defense? We never brought anyone aside the normal four every down. Last week Nevada forced Hawaii into making bad decisions by blitzing Brennan often, a key reason why Nevada had a chance to tie that game with two minutes left. In the end it just might be time to say goodbye to Dan Brown. Our defense has never been anything to write home about and a change here might benefit the team next season.
As Bulldog fans what should we take from this game? Well for one that will depend on tomorrow and who Pat Hill decides to start against LSU. To me this decision should be easy because Norton directed four scoring drives in six attempts and had one drive end on a dropped pass by Fernandez. Brandstater directed a scoring drive on the first possession and did finish 4 for 5 for 79 yards but 75 of those yards came on one play. His other completions were all high and the receivers made very good catches to keep the plays going. I don't believe Brandstater came out because he tweaked his knee, he just doesn't have what it takes to get the job done. In the first quarter when he was sacked on second down he held on to the ball for six seconds. In college football you have a three-four second window to throw the ball. You need to get rid of the ball as soon as you possibly can and Brandstater just has not been able to do so. LSU will absolutely murder Brandstater in the backfield if he holds on to the ball for that long. I will walk away from this loss thinking that if we can fix our defense over the next six games and maybe bridge this season into next season then we will have a decent team for years to come. Our offense will become a scoring machine if Hill can figure out he needs a coordinator that likes to open it up. Look how well throwing the ball downfield to Pascoe worked yesterday. Pascoe had two catches of over 20 yards and Moore also made a great catch and run for a touchdown to start the second half. It was nice to have a quarterback who hits his receivers in the chest with the ball. I feel bad for Tom because of the reception Nortn received when he entered the game but it was time for a change. That is going to be the theme the rest of the season: What else can we change to make things work? The unfortunate thing is I just don't believe we have enough spare parts to put this team back together this season.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Let's look at the remaining schedule paired with what has happened in the WAC up to this date. As we sit right now the WAC standings go as follows:
Team W L
Boise State 2 0
Idaho 2 0
Hawaii 1 1
Fresno State 1 1
Utah State 1 1
San Jose State 0 0
NMSU 0 1
La. Tech 0 1
Nevada 0 2
Boise State looks as if they are going to run the table in the WAC and finish undefeated this season. So for the sake of argument let's just rule out the WAC title for the Dogs. However, Idaho will lose at least three to four conference games as will Utah State, La Tech, NMSU and San Jose State. That leaves Nevada (who probably will finish with three WAC losses at the most) ,Hawaii, and Fresno State. If Fresno State found a way to knock off Hawaii tomorrow they would stand at 2-1 with tiebreakers over both Hawaii and Nevada with respect to bowl placement. Since both teams would have at least two losses Fresno State would move ahead of them at the end of the season if all three finished 6-2 in the WAC. I realize this is me being very optimistic (yes it does happen) but I do feel like this is possible. If Boise were to finish the season undefeated they would be placed in a bowl better than the one reserved for the first place WAC team (possibly a BCS bowl). That would leave the second place WAC team to fill the bowl slot for Boise which in turn would mean Fresno would play in the MPC bowl (I believe that is the first place bowl for the WAC). of course this is saying that the Dogs right the ship this week and only lose to Boise State in their remaining conference games.
I feel like the team is going to fix many of their problems tomorrow as Hawaii's rivalry status is going to lead the Dogs to play their asses off out there on the field. I realize there will not be as many fans as the first three home games had, but I don't necessarily think the Dogs need a packed house to play well against Hawaii. To me this is the first of five must win games for the Dogs. They must beat Hawaii and every other WAC opponent aside Boise. I realize 6-6 is not the best of seasons but if this team were to get into a bowl game against an ACC team that could help with recruiting and such. This type of finish could also help the team with confidence going into what seems to be a very tough 2007 season. I realize we had all hoped for at least eight wins this season but that is looking unlikely right now. This Bulldog team has the players and the talent to finish this season strong. If Pat Hill makes some changes (and he sounds like he finally is going to do so) the Dogs may be able to rebound and give us one of the most memorable of seasons. The momentum we would gain from a win against Hawaii could carry over to the LSU game and maybe we can come out and surprise them in their house. LSU has not been that impressive on the field of late and could be ripe for an upset against a team that runs a very similar offense.
I know I predicted the Dogs to lose by four but I have funny feeling about tomorrow. If Norton or Brandstater can come out and set the tone this could be one of the better WAC games of the year. I hope everyone makes it out to the stadium tomorrow morning to tail gate and see the Dogs put it all on the line against Hawaii. I just feel like this is going to be one of those games fans shouldn't miss.
Today I wanted to write about how the rivalry between Hawaii and Fresno State sat at an all time high. I wanted to write about how June Jones helped fuel the fire this week with his comments about how he was happy the Bulldogs lost and maybe our fans would throw screwdrivers at our own players instead of his. However, when I read the Fresno Bee today it seemed that Matt James was thinking of writing the same exact article. Regardless I feel like I have a much different take on the Hawaii-Fresno State rivalry that has become one of the best that the WAC has to offer. So many people want to point to Fresno State-Boise State or Fresno State-San Jose State as our great rivals but when you look back at the team the Bulldogs seem to hate the most I believe it is Hawaii. Honestly would screwdriver comments such as the ones Jones made even matter if another coach made them? Would comments such as those even fire up Fresno State if they were made by La. Tech or Nevada? I do not believe the Bulldogs get up for playing any team like they do when the Rainbows come to town. If this was not evident the last time Hawaii came to Fresno (2004, Fresno State 70 Hawaii 14) then I don't know if it ever will be.
Over the past five years the Hawaii-Fresno State series has been owned by one team or the other. The series has not alternated with respect to wins for a while now. Hawaii had a streak of three wins in a row from 2001-2003. In 2001 the Rainbows and Ashley Leilei beat the David Carr led Bulldogs 38-34 as they scored with less than 30 seconds left to win. In 2002 Timmy Chang led a courageous comeback in the fourth quarter at Bulldog stadium to defeat Fresno State. In 2003 the Rainbows welcomed the Bulldogs to the island and promptly blew them out of the water (Many of you might remember this game because KFRE screwed up on the telecast and it went blank for half of the game). 2004 would be a year of revenge for Fresno State as the Bulldogs racked up over 500 first half yards en route to one of their biggest wins over Hawaii. In 2005 the Dogs went to the island and walked away with only their second win in the history between these two teams on the island. Wendell Mathis led the way with over 200 yards rushing as the Dogs defeated Hawaii 27-13. What does this all mean with respect to 2006? Well one thing is for sure: these two teams will put it all on the line tomorrow at Bulldog stadium. I realize Fresno State is slumping right now but what better way to break out of a slump than to be your most hated rival? Truthfully I believe if the Bulldogs offense can find a way to get going then these teams are actually pretty even. Hawaii has the more explosive offense but that is usually the case regardless of who they play. From watching their game against Nevada I did see many holes in the Hawaii team that I did not realize were there before. First and foremost Nevada brought extra men on almost every play to hurry Brennan and in the second half this worked well. Hawaii drove up and down the field at will in the first half as they led by ten 31-21. In the second half Nevada limited Hawaii to ten points and forced two turnovers. The problem was Nevada turned the ball over often in the game as well. If the Bulldogs can somehow manage to get pressure on Brennan (which looked relatively easy to do when Nevada tried) this game is going to be much closer than many Bulldog fans think. Because Hawaii runs the spread offense the QB does tend to deal with much more pressure due to the lack of blocking kept back to help him out. But what does this all mean with respect to the rivalry between the Dogs and Bows?
In the end this all should amount to a very competitive and close game between the Dogs and Bows. The comments Jones made will only help the situation for the Dogs as it will more than likely be used for motivation in the locker room. I don't believe the Dogs will need any motivation to get up for this game. They want a win badly and know they need this. They are playing their most hated rival and there is a very good chance we will see rotating QB's in the game until one of the two steps up and leads this team. Hawaii is still bad on defense because they are on the field so much. Fresno's control offense should have a chance to score more points this weekend than they have all season, but will they? We need the kicking game to click and we need the passing game to flourish. No more running the ball 65% of the time on first and second down. Hawaii's pass defense was exploited by Rowe and the same will happen if our QB's can get into the flow of the game. Look for this to be a close hard fought battle with the winner taking the game in the fourth quarter. Right now I am not to sure who will win but because Hawaii is so explosive I will go with them for now.
Hawaii 35 Fresno State 31
Thursday, October 12, 2006
In my first post today I asked what kind of offense everyone prefers. I aksed if you as Bulldog fans enjoy this clock eating offense that allows us to score between 20-24 points a game or do you prefer the quick strike offense that had been in place during the Sweeney era where we scored 35-40 points a game? I have always been a proponent of a quick strike offense because I feel like that type of offense is always putting pressure on the defense of the other team. At the same time how often is a team going to win a college football game when scoring 20-24 points a game? Part of the problem with the clock eating offense is if you play a team such as Hawaii who comes at you fast and furious your defense is now looking to force turnovers to stay in the game. When you run a quick strike offense you don't necessarily have to force any turnovers on defense because your team is scoring 35 points without any turnovers. This has been shown with respect to Fresno State this season. We do not have an interception up to this point and have had very few fumble recoveries. With the type of offense we have we are lucky to score 28 points in a game such as we did against Nevada.
Now let's take a look at the alternative to Fresno State's offense, the type of offense I would have wanted to run to start the season. This is the type of offensive coordinator I believe we should have hired instead of a conservative type of guy such as Steve Hagen. I know I am going to get crap for this idea but I truly believe it would work with the skilled players we have on this team. First and foremost this team has the ability to run the option/ spread offense easily. Just bare with me for a minute and listen to what I am proposing before you think this is the most ridiculous idea you have ever heard.
Spread Formation W/the Option - At the beginning of the year we had the ability to line up on every single play with Fernandez and West on the left side and Williams and Fairman on the right. We would have Norton at QB (or Brandstater, they both can run) with Wright or Miller at RB. Now many of you would say this would kill Wright's numbers but I say look at the numbers Hawaii's RB puts up. He is slightly bigger than Wright and runs in the offense I am trying to prove would work at state. Three of our receivers at the beginning of the season were as good as you could hope to have. I know Fairman went down but now you just substitute Pascoe in on one side or another depending on if you want to run trips or not. With the spread option formation the defense has to guess if you are going to throw, option left or right, or run the ball. Linebackers tend to blitz because you only have your five lineman and maybe a TE in on the line, but once they do your speedy receivers now have the middle of the field wide open to roam in. An offense like this could really put the scoring back on the map here in Fresno. I know that many of you prefer the Pro Style and I think that is a good offense to run if you do it like many of the SEC teams run it, but right now we are not executing that offense. I know we won't change the way we run offense, but these are just ideas to talk about from time to time. If the Dogs went to an offense like this they would score 35-40 a game base solely on the fact college corners just aren't good enough to run across the field step for step with a receiver (well aside maybe three or four select corners, McCauley included).
In the end I know this is a pipe dream but after explaining it I hope some of you understand where I am coming from. I played QB in Japan for the island football team for three seasons and we ran the Pro Set the first season. We finished 2-8 and I was contastanly under pressure. The next season we had a new coach who installed the option/spread formation and we went 8-2 because teams were lost on every play. I am not saying the league I played in was nearly as difficult as college football is, but it does work. Just watch the teams that run it with the right talent in place. Hawaii runs this offense amazingly and if we don't beat them Saturday they will not lose another game this season. I am wondering if anoyne else out there who has seen the Dogs play this year has an offensive idea that might help (aside the obvious get a QB who can make the throws and such). If so I would really like to hear it as I am as offensive minded as one guy could possibly be.
I realize over the past two weeks the blog has dealt with many negative topics, but you have to realize that is what tends to happen when the team everyone in the valley loves is struggling. Today I think I would rather blog about something that is highly debatable but in a positive way. Fresno State has had some pretty good teams in the past. Truthfully, Fresno State has had some downright dominant teams in the past (this of course is relative to the conference they played in). Unfortunately many of these great Fresno State teams had hiccups during their season which in turn made them look far less dominant than they truly were. For example the 2001 Bulldog team blew out half of the teams they played that season. The problem is the nation will remember us for losing back to back games against Boise State and Hawaii (who by the way were good teams that year, the nation just didn't know about them yet). Another great example is the 1989 Bulldog team that went into New Mexico with a 10-0 record and lost their only game of the season.
Over the past five years Fresno State has put itself in position to make BCS runs two different times only to faulter in the end but that does not reflect how truly good these teams were. These teams just had down weeks that would lead to a drop in the polls. So here is a list of the most dominant teams in Fresno State history. I am wondering who each of you die hard fans think is the single best team Fresno State ever had? I am only going back to the 1985 team that went 11-0-1 because I was not in Fresno before that. I don't know much about the Bulldogs from back in the day but if you feel a team before the undefeated 1985 team was truly the best Bulldog team ever then feel free to chime in and let everyone know what year and why they were truly the best.
Year Team Record PF PA
1985 Fresno State 11-0-1 481 209
1989 Fresno State 11-1 441 220
1991 Fresno State 10-2 507 235
1992 Fresno State 9-4 510 364
2001 Fresno State 11-3 560 344
2004 Fresno State 9-3 482 253
Now when you look at these seasons and the numbers I believe it is obvious which team is the best. The 1991 Bulldogs seemed to have the best overall makeup of a team. Unfortunately these Dogs could not run the season as they lost a heartbreaker at Utah State 20-19 after opening the season 7-0 with wins at Washington State and Oregon State. This team's second loss occurred in the final week of the season against Bowling Green in the Cal Bowl 28-21. The 1991 Bulldogs lost a total of two games by a combined eight points. If you look at the point differential of this team you realize that they were absolutely dominant game in and game out. I realize the 1985 team went undefeated and finished the season at #16 in the coaches poll, but I truly don't feel like there was a better team in Bulldog history than the 1991 team. I would like to know from as many fans as possibly who their pick is for the most dominant Bulldog team in history. This should be a good discussion to say the least.
Which Offense Do you Prefer - In the mid 1980's to the mid 1990's Fresno State ran an explosive offense that often put up 40 points per game. The QB's during this period of time threw for astronomical numbers as the WAC became the conference where games were commonly found to be in the 48-45 range. Fresno State did it's part to show how explosive their offenses were with QB's such as Barsotti, Sweeney, Dilfer, and lastly Volek. In 2001 David Carr had the single most explosive season in Bulldog history as he threw for over 4500 yards and 40 TD's on the season. Today the Bulldogs offense has completely changed. Today we run a clock controlling offense where drives are commonly seven minutes long with respect to TD's. We don't have the explosive offense that can score in one minute if we have to. I prefer an explosive offense that can score in the blink of an eye. I am wondering how many fans enjoy the kind of offense we have today? How many fans enjoy the offenses of the late 1980's and early 1990's? In the end as long as the team wins the offense doesn't matter. I just really enjoy those types of offenses that can score on command.
Norton's Chances Good to Play - With each day that passes it seems more and more likely that Sean Norton is going to get into the game Saturday. Coach Hill is looking for a spark that can help the offense and if Brandstater struggles at all it looks as if Norton will enter the game. Today in the Fresno Bee there is an article on the struggles of Brandstater (On a side note how about two thumbs up for the Fresno Bee for finally writing articles that have to do with what is wrong with Fresno State right now). In the article it looks as if Brandstater has accepted the fact he is not getting the job done and that the right move might be to put Norton in to see if he can succeed. I am not sure if this will have a positive effect in the long run but how can you ignore 4,000 yards passing and 44 td's in his senior year in a highly competitive high school out of Southern California? I just think sooner or later you have to make this move to see if it effects the team in a positive light. Whether I am right or not does not matter, all that matters is the team succeeding from here on during the season. A win vs. Hawaii could go a long ways with respect to the Bulldogs confidence and momentum heading into the LSU game next weekend. Let's just hope for the best regardless of who is in there at QB. We will need a good performance against Hawaii from our QB to have a chance in this game.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Second, the BCS started in 1998, Pat Hill's second season and Fresno State has just beaten the 10 teams from the BCS, all from 2000-2004. The Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime mantra is a smoke screen that give Fresno State unbelievable amount of national exposure. Hill knows what he is doing; he is the face of the program and the media eats that stuff up.
If you want to dig deeper and compare Hill's "impressive" record of BCS wins to other programs, take a look at East Carolina.
The Pirates have beaten 10 BCS teams (that's right the same amount) from 1998 to the present, including wins over No. 9 Miami, West Virginia, Syracuse, NC State and Texas Tech in a bowl game. What makes is somewhat puzzling, and in a weird way impressive, is the ECU has not had a winning season since 2000. The Pirates won eight of those games over the span of two seasons, 1999 and 2000. Was ECU known as the "giant killer" those years? No!
In fact ECU started the 1999 season beating four BCS teams in row, sound familiar? Granted one was at home against lowly Duke, and two were at neutral sites in North Carolina against West Virginia -- that finished 8-4 the year before -- and the other against the No. 9 Miami team. The fourth game was a win at South Carolina, who was in the midst of 21 game losing streak. But ECU started their four game run with the win over West Virginia and ended it with the emotional win over Miami in Raleigh, a game that was moved because of Hurricane Floyd.
ECU moved into the rankings for the first time that season, after beating the 'Canes, at No. 20 in the Coaches Poll and No. 19 in the AP, a spot behind Miami in both polls. ECU beat Army the following week and moved up to No. 16 in the AP, but then lost to USM and dropped from the polls. And despite another bad loss to UAB, ECU did beat one more BCS team that season (NC State) finished 9-2 and ranked No. 18 in the Coaches Poll. But lost to 7-4 TCU in the Mobile Bowl, and finished the season unranked.
The list of schools might not look impressive, but the fact of the matter is non-BCS schools are not suppose to beat BCS schools. East Carolina does not pride itself on beating BCS schools, but after beating a couple of ACC doormats (Duke and Virginia) the Pirates have tied the Bulldogs, in what is considered an elite group by the media.
Pat Hill is a great at creating hype, but imagine if East Carolina actually recruited against Fresno State. A recruit could say I want to play at Fresno State because Coach Hill plays the best and is known as a "giant killer". Well, Lou's kid Skippy could respond with, ECU has the same amount of wins over BCS schools as Fresno State, 10, and ECU has beaten two in the last two years. And Fresno State has not beaten a BCS school since 2004. And as far as playing the best, ECU plays three BCS teams in 2006, two at home including one against top five West Virginia.
We all know, ECU has been bad the last few years, 2002-2005 to be exact, but that is because ECU got a little frustrated with Head Coach Steve Logan after 11 years. He led ECU to six winning seasons and five bowl games. But his 2001 team was a preseason top 25 team that was hyped as being the best ECU team ever (keep in mind ECU finished 1991 11-1 and ranked No. 9).
Well, ECU limped to a 2-3 start, rebounded but lost its last three (sound familiar), including a 64-61 2OT loss to Marshall in the GMAC Bowl, where ECU had a 38-8 lead at the half. ECU finished 6-6 and Logan was clinging to his job. His team 2002 team did beat No. 22 TCU but it was one of just four wins on the season. Logan was fired a day after the season ended. Was it a good move? Well, ECU went 3-20 the next two years under John Thompson, who was fired after those two years. ECU won five games in Holtz's first year(2005) and looks to be climbing back into the ring of respectability.
Now, for everyone who wants to fire Hill, keep in mind the grass isn't always greener(ask ECU). And Hill knows that the grass isn't always greener for coaches either(ask Dan Hawkins).
We as fans could see a lot of changes the remainder of the season, and very well, a new Bulldog mantra for the future years. Just be patient, but if Hill doesn't change anything this season, you can count on the program being in the dumps (ask the Fresno Bee).
1) Win the WAC
2) Get established recruits
3) Establish a top 25 team yearly
4) Play BCS teams yearly
5) Become a household name
6) Break into the BCS and win a National Championship
Pat Hill set lofty goals for Fresno State when he arrived. He wanted to make the Bulldogs a nationally known product with respect to the college football landscape. Many fans have been arguing back and forth about what Pat Hill has actually accomplished with respect to the football program at Fresno State. If we take a look at the list of goals I remember him setting for the Bulldogs we are able to go down the list and figure out which goals he has accomplished and which ones he hasn't.
First off we have one WAC championship in 1999 and that was a co-title. We have not won the WAC outright and maybe blew our best chance with our losses at Nevada and against La. Tech last season. I do believe Pat Hill has brought in much better recruits over the past few years. We have continually put players in the NFL that end up performing very well. David Carr, Bernard Berrian, Richard Marshall, and Logan Mankins are just a few players that have prospered in the NFL to date. In the future you will be able to add Marcus McCauley, Kyle Young, Dwayne Wright, and Paul Williams to that list. So overall the recruits have been a step above what we had before Pat Hill arrived. Hill's third goal of establishing a top 25 team yearly has not worked out as he once hoped it to be. We have finished in the top 25 one time in his tenure and that was not with David Carr at QB. In 2004 we finished #22 I believe after we beat Virginia in the MPC Computers Bowl. With respect to number four well we do play top of the line BCS teams yearly as we have taken on Oregon the past two years, USC, and this year LSU. However, I don't think this scheduling tactic helps the Dogs out in the long run. They put so much energy and effort into beating top tier teams that they have nothing left when it comes to playing in the WAC. Goal number fiive definitely has materialized as most people in the nation now know who Fresno State is. Hill has been able to make us a household name and most people do not want to take on the Dogs as they see it as a lose-lose situation knowing that their team could very well lose the game. Lastly we have not played in a BCS bowl so of course that goal has not been reached. Here is the problem with this goal. When Utah made a BCS game they did not aim for that, they just went from their first game to their second and on and on. Boise this season is doing the very same thing and you hear very little talk of a BCS game with respect to Boise State. If Boise does make it they might be the most surprised that they get into a game of that magnitude. Here in Fresno we have changed our goal to BCS or nothing and honestly that is such a bad goal to have. This is on Pat Hill as he has made this a goal for the team when I feel they should focus on the WAC and the OOC schedule should be secondary.
So when it comes down to it how much has Hill accomplished? He has given us a national name, scheduled BCS schools yearly, and brought in better recruits. At the same time we have our new locker room facilities and the new video board is now present at Bulldog stadium. You figure that we will either do something to the field or expand one day and you have to think it is going to happen because of Hill's vision for the team. At the same time Hill has failed with respect to winning the WAC, and finishing in the top 25 yearly. I know he has failed to get us into a BCS game but I think that is a goal that should be made for much later on down the line. I can see why some want Hill gone and why others want to keep him here. Who is right and who is wrong? I guess the last seven games of the season will decide that.
When I woke up this morning I went through my normal routine and after I finished getting ready to go to work I jumped on the internet to read the latest news on the Bulldogs. I have to say that when I went to the Fresno Bee I was shocked to read a column on what needs to be done to make the program successful again. I realize this past weekend Matt James wrote an article about changing the quarterback, but this article today covers many of the same ideas that we have been discussing over the past few weeks on the Blog and BarkBoard. The article suggests that we rid ourselves of the play anytime anywhere motto. I have to say I was never a big fan of that idea in the first place because it made us sound desperate to get a game with a big time BCS school. If we did get a game with a school like USC it would be under their terms and we would have to travel to their school with no return trip involved. So to do away with the idea of playing anyone, anywhere is something I am completely ok with. However, this made me think of all of the slogans that Pat Hill has used over the years and there is one that seems to have disappeared that I was big supporter of. What ever happened to the saying "Shutup and Hit Somebody"? In the early part of the decade Fresno State may have had questionable defense but they always hit hard and did their best to intimidate the offenses of the teams we played. No one can forget the hit Kendall Edwards put on Oregon State's two players on the punt return in the second half of the game in 2001. Our team this year seems to be void of those types of players that live for that one big hit. Aside McCauley (who has done a very good job of tackling) the rest of the team looks scared when trying to bring someone down. This just doesn't seem like the Fresno State defenses I remember from the past. What do you as fans think the problem is with our loss in determination and fire on defense? Is it the scheme our defense is put in or do you think our defense is just void of these types of players this season?
The truth is everyone that reads this Blog knows that we need to make changes to have a chance the rest of the season. I know a big part of the fan base is hoping to see Norton come in on Saturday in one way or another. But when the Fresno Bee decides to publish an article on what is wrong with the Bulldogs then you know something is not right in Bulldog land. Since John Branch left we have not had anyone who dared to write an article that questioned what is going wrong with the Bulldogs. I have always had a problem with the articles and news that is published with respect to Fresno State. The reason is publications such as the FresnoBee and GoBulldogs.com never seem to capture what is truly going on with respect to the Dogs. When we lost to Colorado State the focus should have been what went wrong with our offensive line, defensive secondary, and passing game. Instead the news that was put out had to do with Clifton Smith making his first start and the positives that Pat Hill came away with from that game. To me this is laughable because when I left the stadium that night I wondered what the hell happened to our team's killer instinct and I am sure most other Bulldog fans wondered the very same thing.
So this leads me to my question of the day today. I know most of you have read that I feel 2007 is going to be a much tougher year than 2006 currently is. Right now I may have to take that back knowing that there is a chance we could start the season 1-7 this year. However, we are losing plenty this offseason and have little to replace those who are leaving. With Hawaii and Oregon on the road and Boise State at home next season how do you feel our team is going to be? At the same time is Fresno State going to take a hit for a couple of years with respect to recruiting because of this loss to Utah State? Are we slowly dropping back into the mediocrity of college football or is this just a one year drop for the Dogs? I unfortunately feel that if we cannot pick up some big wins here against Hawaii, and either LSU or Boise State then our recruiting is going to take a huge hit this offseason. I cannot see anyone wanting to play for a team that starts the season 1-7, loses to Utah State, and will be lucky to go 5-7. On the other hand if we pulled out some games and finished 7-5 somehow that may change how recruits view this team. They might want to come here to get us over that hump and make us a team that can accomplish the BCS and win the WAC one day. I am just wondering how everyone else is viewing this season towards recruiting.
Lastly what is this season going to do to Pat Hill? I have read that many fans want Hill around while many think it is time for him to move on. I would have to say right now I am leaning to him moving on unless he is capable of making changes to better the team. I just don't feel Pat Hill is open enough to make changes needed to win anymore. This can be seen on offense or defense when our team is struggling. It seems to me that the other team is always the one making the adjustments while the Dogs seemed lost most of the time. What do you as fans want to happen with Pat Hill? Is his ride as Bulldog coach over in your minds or is he going to be around for many years to come?
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
This Saturday Hawai'i comes to Fresno to play a Bulldog team that is considerably down. There are many different views one can take on this game, but what can we expect to happen? One thing is for sure: These two teams absolutely do not like one another. This rivalry runs much deeper than the football program. With respect to baseball, basketball, and softball it seems that Hawai'i and Fresno State are two teams that are always in some sort of battle for the upper echelon of the WAC. No this may not compare to the Red River Shootout or the Notre Dame-USC game that happens yearly, but here in Fresno there is not a team that we love to hate more than Hawai'i. Fresno State could go 0-11 against the rest of the nation, but if we beat Hawai'i we would remember this game forever (although if we went 0-11 against everyone else that would be horrible).
The series has not alternated like one might expect over the past four years. Hawai'i won in Fresno in 2002 coming back in the 4th quarter to put the Dogs away. In 2003 Fresno traveled to the island and were obliterated as they never had a chance. 2004 and 2005 went to the Bullodgs as they finally broke the island curse in Hawai'i in 2005. In 2004 Fresno State crushed Hawai'i 70-14. At the beginning of the game Hawai'i actually ran down through the Bulldogs doghouse which pushed Fresno State to take a 35-0 lead in the second quarter. Of course we have the famed screwdriver incident in 2002 in which June Jones accused a fan in the Fresno Stat section of throwing a screwdriver at his players. However, it was later determined that the screwdriver did not come from the student section at all. As soon as June Jones learned that Fresno lost this weekend he made the comment that "Maybe the Bulldog fans will throw a screwdriver at their own player instead of his".
Regardless of how badly Fresno Sttae has played this season they do not get blown out at home. If they struggle early this will be the game where Sean Norton is inserted as QB. The Dogs will have a fire this weekend to go out there and get the job done against as hated a rival as they have ever played against. True the attendance might be down, but the fact Norton could play will keep many of us at the stadium just to see if the backup can come in and get the job done. Fresno State is the underdog but they will keep this game close somehow. I am not sure if they will come out of it with a win, but if they do this could be the momentum we need to make a run. if the Dogs were to run these next three games (highly unlikely but bare with me for a second) how would you as fans view the team? Would it upset you that we used our backup and began to win or would you be happy that we were winning again and may have found our fix for the future? I know I would be on the latter half of those options as I just want to see the Dogs win. Hawai'i could provide that spark we need to get back into the win column but the fans and the Dogs need to perform as we can. I hope to see as many fans at the game as possible. If you feel like we are going to get bombed ask yourself this: When is the last time you watched Fresno State lose at home without a chance to win (Aside La. Tech last year)? It has been a long time and I don't see that changing this weekend.