Last night I was sitting in my office at home when you could say I took a stroll down Bulldog football memory lane. I watched some of the game in 2001 against Colorado where it seemed as if the QB for the Buffaloes ran for his life on every play. I watched some of the game against Kansas State in 2004 and could not believe how well the Bulldogs wrapped up Sproles. It seemed like every play Fresno State had a plyaer absolutely drill another player from the opposite team. The speed the Bulldogs brought to the field was unreal. There would not be another team that was faster, more disciplined, or even more talented than the Bulldogs. Gang tackling was an art the Bulldogs perfected between the seasons of 2000-2005. Opposing offensive players often were ripped into much like the picture above and there would be very little any offense could do, Fresno State's defense was just too hard to deal with.
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."