Sometimes a team comes to a point in the season where if changes are not made the outcome will only become worse. Fresno State is at that point early in the season. Although the Bulldogs have only played four games they need to change something and they need to do it soon. This season is as close to over as it possibly can be and we have not hit the halfway point of the year quite yet. In my mind many changes need to made in order for the Bulldogs to salvage the 2006 season. I fear that if no changes are made this team is only going to get worse as the season moves along. In my opinion some of the changes that need to be made are listed below in order of importance:
1) A Quarterback Switch - Tonight after Tom Brandstater threw his second pic in as many series my brother looked at me and said "I was never on the Sean Norton bandwagon, but if he doesn't get a shot to play after the way Tom has started this season he should transfer because he can't be as bad as Tom has been". I have given Brandstater the benefit of the doubt in saying that the offensive playcalling is what has lost us the first two games in this three game losing streak. Tonight we were able to see what happens when the running game is shut down. D-Wright rushed for 77 yards (far below his 150 yards per game average) and the game fell into the hands of our sophomore quarterback Brandstater. Needless to say Brandstater did not come through. He threw for over two hundred yards for the first time this season, but that was mostly because he had to come from behind the entire night. His final line looked like this: 19 for 42, 3 int's, 1 td. Brandstater has shown that he continually looks uncomfortable in the pocket and has absolutely no touch on any pass that is beyond 15 yards. I am not one to knock a guy for giving all the effort he possibly can, but I just don't feel that Brandstater has the gifts needed to be a quarterback for this team. It is quite possible that Sean Norton does not have the talent to lead this team either, but if he does not play how will we possibly know? The Dogs need to give Norton a chance now because Brandstater has been given his chance and has not been able to come through. The season is not lost, but if we don't change this qb situation things will only get worse as the season goes on.
2) Special Teams - An eight yard punt. A 58 yard punt return for a touchdown. A blocked extra point. What is the one thing these three occurances all have in common? They all happened on special teams Saturday night against Colorado State. I do not know if the problem is the fact that Malone does not have the hang time that Lingua does, but something needs to be done to fix the punting game. Whether it be to kick it out of bounds every time or just plain go for it on fourth down, our punter is not getting the results that Lingua did. I am not sure where the lapses are on the special teams return team but not only do we give up great field position every time the opposition has the ball, we also cannot provide a positive kick return to help with field position for the offense. We cannot continue to allow the opposition to start from their 35-40 yard line every time they have the ball. Our defense aside McCauley cannot tackle, cover, or do anything right when it comes down to it. If the special teams is not fixed soon our remaining games could get quite ugly for Fresno State.
3) Secondary Changes - The hard truth is that Jenkins and Simmons are just not getting the job done. I realize that Hill wanted to redshirt Jefferson but he is the freshman who has shown he can stay with defenders. Why he is not playing is something I would love to know. Mays once again showed that four star hype out of high school will get you no where if you don't preapare yourself for the season at hand. Not only has Mays struggled in the safety spot but so has Sherley. The only bright spot in the secondary was Marcus McCauley which is usually the case for the Bulldogs. He did give up a long touchdown that made the score 35-17, but if you were to look back and view that touchdown you might notice a Colorado State receiver pushing off on the play to catch the ball. Unfortunately I do not know how the secondary can possibly be fixed. The Dogs need to figure out if they have a playmaker who can step in and play on the level that Richard Marshall did for the Dogs. If we cannot find any defensive help in the secondary Hawaii is going to man-handle us.
4) Create Pressure on the QB - Tonight in the second half of the game we were able to see Sherley (#97) get constant pressure on the Colorado State offense. However, as I said it only occurred in the second half. For the most part Fresno has not figured out a way to get their players near the opposing team's qb's. If this continues even a team like Utah State will give us a run for our money.
5) Offensive Play Calling - The Dogs coaching staff needs to figure out a way to pass the ball but only in a way that fits Brandstater (or Norton sometime soon). Although I would like to see Norton get a chance I know how stubborn Pat Hill is and there is no way he will blame any of this on the quarterback right now. Somehow Hagen is going to have to figure out a way to get this offense going. I think the change needs to be the quarterback but I am not sure if everyone believes that. If the O-coordinator has a quarterback that can make the longer throws while being somewhat accurate then maybe he would feel confident about calling deep routes more often.
Lastly I want to say it was great to have Clifton Smith in the game returning kicks. He had a chance to run back the first kick he fielded but instead fell down after a gain of 30 yards or so. At the same time it was nice to Marcus Riley out there roaming the field quite often. I know that most of you are avid Pat Hill followers. I realize I am going to take a huge hit from the fans for this one, but I also feel like it might be time for Pat Hll to move on. I know you are going to say that is ridiculous, but we have lost seven out of our last eight games. Hill has done absolutely everything he wanted to during his time at state. He built the program up and made them into a nationally known name. Pat Hill has the ability to be a great NFL coach because of the system he likes to run. It might be time for him to make that jump. At the same time Pat Hill makes an awful lot of money (over one million dollars a year) to coach a team that has won eight games on the average per season. It just might be time to get someone in here that is a little bit more offensive minded.
Fresno State endured a beating tonight at the hands of Colorado State. If the university does not do something about the football program and its coaching then the football team may very well become the Idaho of the WAC. It may not be something you want to hear, but Fresno State this year is definitely along the same lines as of a San Jose State and such (maybe not, San Jose did beat San Diego State 31-10). As I stated before this season is lost if Pat Hill and the Dogs do not change anything. I just know a change is necessary here and if we don't accomplish one then the Dogs will continue to fail during the remainder of the season.