The game of college football at times rests on the desire a team has to win a game. One may think that every team that steps on the football field has a desire to win, but the truth is over half of the teams that step out on a college football field don't believe they are going to win the game. Yes the coach can pump his team up and make them believe but the players have to believe in their hearts that they can win the game. Fresno State during the post USC game era has seemed to have lost that desire to win the games they play in. The reasons this desire seems to have disappeared are suspect as there really is no one area that can be pointed to as the cause of this lost desire. So what has changed since the loss to USC? Why is Fresno State a combined 4-12 since that historical game at the coliseum against the Trojans?
First and foremost Fresno State's underdog status seems to have disappeared. Since 2001 Fresno State had been known as the small school that could. They would take on bigger programs and continually knock them off, sometimes in very impressive fashion. However I want to point out that the media made many of these wins out to be much more than they truly were. Yes the win at Colorado was impressive due to their #9 ranking at the end of the season but both wins against Oregon State and Wisconsin ended up being far less impressive than first thought. Beating a team like UCLA during their decline really doesn't count for much and the Washington and K-State wins were heavily aided by two teams that finished a combined 5-18 during the 2004 season. The Bulldogs in the end should still take credit for winning many of these games as they were forced to do it on the road in hostile environments. Many times the Dogs would challenge solid teams such as Wisconsin in 2002 and Oregon three years in a row. Each of these games went down to the wire because the Dogs had the desire to fight throughout the entire game.
A second reason the Dogs seem to have lost some of their luster is the loss of a difference maker. I feel like this is the most important reason as to why the Dogs have fallen apart over the past season. As much as I hate to say this losing Richard Marshall affected this team far more than I ever thought it would. Although Marshall gambled quite often he would make up for it by making tremendous hits that would change the course of the game. Having a player such as Marshall on defense made the entire secondary better. McCauley played on top of the world in 2005 and Marshall can be credited with that because McCauley knew he had help out there. Marshall was a leader on defense in the same was that McKintyre was on the defensive line. McKintyre brought fire to the defensive line and would fight every single snap to get to the QB. Every team needs a playmaker who can change the course of a game with one gamble and Marshall was that man for Fresno State.
The 2006 season saw a return to mediocracy for the Bulldogs. In order for the Dogs to once again make a difference in the college football world they are going to have to realize that once again they are the underdogs. The Dogs are going to have to feel like no one respects them. The Dogs are going to have to find that one player who becomes a team leader. Whether it is Riley, Jenkins, or one of the Freshman someone needs to be able to make a difference on the team. Kendall Edwards did not always make the best decisions on the football field but he hit harder than anyone on the Bulldogs. Fans and players saw the effort Edwards put out there and the rest of the Bulldogs followed suit. The 2007 squad is looking to be much faster than the 2006 version. If the Bulldogs can use their speed and make plays they will have a chance to beat anyone they have on their schedule. However, the fire needs to return to this team. Our offense needs to execute and our defense needs to hit again. We need to be able to watch a game and say "God he knocked the crap out of the guy". I cannot recall one time this season where I watched the Dogs and thought "What a hit." If Fresno can find that fire again they may be able to figure our how to win close games and come away with a much more respectable record than 2006. If not 2007 may be a repeat of the year many of us would soon forget.