The Oregon Aftermath
It wasn't supposed to go like this. Fresno State was not supposed to travel to Eugene for the fourth time in the past fifteen years and come home with a loss like this. The Dogs were supposed to go to Eugene and compete with an athletic Ducks team. The Dogs were supposed to go into Eugene and show they were ready for big time college football. Instead the Dogs left Eugene wondering if they were indeed ready for that step up level of college football. Make no mistakes about this one: Oregon is a better team than our Fresno State Bulldogs. Oregon has speed, size, and the ability to take over a game right from the first snap. Oregon will force you into making mistakes and will continually put pressure on the offense to make a play. Unfortunately Fresno State was not able to come through when it mattered the most in this game. Terrible decisions by senior leaders on the Bulldogs would be what did the Dogs in. Marcus Riley's late hit on Dennis Dixon could be viewed as the momentum changing play of the game. Fresno State went from receiving a punt down 14-6 to giving up a TD only two plays later and trailing 21-6. Riley is not known for making such mistakes and I am quite sure this will not happen again this season. However, this was not the only mistake made by the Bulldogs. Fresno State turned the ball over two times, both of which nearly led to defensive TD's for the Ducks. The Dogs also made mistakes on kick return coverage and our punt returner made a terrible decision when he decided to call for a fair catch and instead decided to drill the gunner coming for the ball. Although this game went against what we had hoped for as fans I still believe this team can compete for the WAC and here is why.
1) The WAC is wide open this season - After seeing Hawaii struggle against La. Tech and Boise struggle to beat Wyoming I have to believe that Fresno State has as good a chance as anyone to win the WAC this season. The Dogs now have two weeks to prepare for La. Tech at home and the schedule is favorable for the Dogs. They have an early game in Nevada meaning the weather should not affect their play. They finish the season at NMSU where the weather also should not pose a problem. If the Dogs can figure out that you can also open the running game through the use of the pass I have a feeling the season will completely turn around. How many receivers have dropped passes this season? I have been able to count two dropped balls by receivers up to this point and after three games that is quite impressive. At the same time how well has TB played? I have to say he has come a long ways from that QB that we had absolutely no faith in last season. I am going to guarantee that Brandstater throws for over 300 yards in one of the Dogs first three WAC games.
2) Fresno State is a young inexperienced team - Believe it or not this may actually help us when going into the WAC season. Because this team is not a senior laden team they will be able to shake off the losses on the road and come home for a win. The 2007 Dogs still are quite fast and compared to the rest of the WAC they should have no problems keeping up with anyone on the field aside Hawaii.
3) We were not going to go undefeated in the first place - I truly believe that the coaching staff knew this team was not going to win every game that it played. For that reason I feel like the Dogs goal at the beginning of the season was to win the WAC. Although many of you feel that is a terrible goal for this team I on the other hand personally feel that is exactly the goal this team should have. I feel like the Dogs should aim to win the WAC in 2007 and go for it all in 2008. The Dogs will only get stronger as the season progresses (barring any other unforeseen injuries) and 2008 will offer a chance at a wonderful season for this team.
Remember that this is a relatively young team. These players will have time to grow together as a unit. Fresno State's LB's are still very strong and their secondary has done a decent job in coverage as well. Although the pass unit has not faced a team like Hawaii they are still keeping the opposing team's QB's from achieving astronomical numbers on the field. The D and O lines need a lot of help and truthfully losing two O-line starters does not make things any easier for Fresno State. Hopefully having a week off will give the Dogs time to heal and we can enter the game against La. Tech at near full strength. Fresno State will only go as far as their confidence can take them. This seems to be a team that believes they are better than they showed at Oregon. I am sure this team will put this game behind them and begin a streak in the WAC that could possibly take us to Hawaii undefeated in conference play. If that happens then I hope the fans in the city of Fresno will once again support a team that is searching for it's identity as a whole. I believe Fresno State will find it sooner than later and this will be a solid season regardless of the loss to Oregon.