Once again Boise State has come into Fresno and beat our Bulldogs. Once again we are left to question what could have been for this Bulldog football team. Once again we will likely finish behind Boise State in the WAC standings. While Fresno State has made strides to become a competitive football team in 2007 they have not quite caught up to the level that the Boise State Broncos play at. We cannot blame this on the talent levels of the two teams. Boise State does not have better players on the field. Boise State's players are not superior to those at Fresno State. However, Boise State has players that have bought into a system that functions almost flawlessly when they play Fresno State. On Friday night the Broncos once again played a perfect game against the Bulldogs leading to a 34-21 victory. While the Broncos executed perfectly Fresno State on the other hand made countless mistakes leading to another defeat at the hands of the Broncos. Where the Bulldogs go from here will be interesting to say the least. Fresno State can still enjoy a very successful season but will have to put this loss behind them in order to do so. What will happen from here will be up to the Bulldogs and their coaching staff. Hopefully we will not see a quicksand effect as the Dogs have been known to do after a tough loss.
Fresno State has a relatively tough schedule to finish the season. Aside the game this weekend against Utah State the Dogs have three tough challenges left against Hawaii, Kansas State, and New Mexico State. If everything goes to plan Fresno State will beat both Utah and New Mexico and lose to Hawaii and Kansas State. Unfortunately it seems that the Dogs have figured out how to finally win the games they should but they are now losing all the games they should lose as well. Instead of upsetting one or two teams a season Fresno State no longer shows up for games against teams that are in the upper echelon of college football. In the past two seasons we have lost to Hawaii, Boise State twice, Oregon twice, LSU, and have the chance to lose to Hawaii again and Kansas State. While it is great that we are beating the teams we should the Bulldogs seem to be out game planned by every single team with any type of talent. Every season Boise State's coaching staff seems to out coach ours. They blitz when we aren't ready for it and run delays, options, and off tackles when we are looking for something else. Fresno on the other hand seems to run absolutely everything Boise is looking for. Aside one drive this past Friday the Bulldogs did absolutely nothing on offense until eight minutes remained in the fourth quarter. In order for the Dogs to become a challenge to a team such as Boise State they are going to have to improve in the following areas:
1) Third Down Defense - Boise State went 10 for 18 on third downs, a stat I think is actually a bit off (It felt like they were closer to 15 for 18). It seemed that Boise would gain two-three yards on first and second down and ten yards on third down every time. Why the Bulldogs corners do not bump will always be something I do not understand. They continually let receivers run whatever routes they please only to give up ten yards when they need to stop them at seven. Our corners do not shadow the receivers well enough and are missing tackles once the ball is caught. Our safety help seems to be fine and I won't complain about LB play at all. But our corner spot is really hurting us right now.
2) Offensive Play calling - I am not so much upset with the play calling in the sense that I don't like what plays are being called. Instead I don't think the times they are being called makes much sense. On the first drive of the game we gain nine yards on first down and then throw on second and third when we need one yard? Fresno State will always be a run first team and if they try to lead with the pass they will not win games. At the same time when it is third down and eight why are we running draws up the middle? We seem to lack confidence in the players we need to believe in to win games and at the end of the year that will haunt us in games such as the ones against Boise State. If you run the ball outside successfully in the first quarter why do you stop doing so as the game moves along? Fresno abandoned what has worked all year and in the end they truly paid for it.
3) QB Protection - Brandstater would be hit on nearly every play by a delayed blitzing LB during the course of the game. Fresno's offensive line did nothing to protect Tom and he would be forced to throw many passes early leading to his erratic play. I will not blame the offensive line completely for Tom's performance. One of these times Brandstater is going to have to hit an open receiver deep for a TD. Early on he missed a wide open Marlon Moore downfield. Brandstater cannot continue to do this if he is going to make any kind of difference here at Fresno State.
4) Play up to the level of our opponent - The Dogs played A&M evenly. Fresno State did not play Boise evenly. Fresno State looked as if they felt the Broncos were better than them and they allowed the Broncos to dictate the pace of the game. In the future the Dogs need to go out and have that killer instinct that the Broncos have. If the Dogs can start a game like they did against Boise and keep the foot on the gas pedal maybe the outcome will be differently in the future. However, if they continue to sit on a small lead and run predictable plays they will lose every game against a team with superior game day adjustment ability.
Overall the game against the Broncos was quite heartbreaking not only for the players but for the fans and the city of Fresno as well. One day we will have to figure out a way to beat the Broncos. I am not sure Pat Hill will ever be able to out coach Chris Petersen on a day where the Broncos and Bulldogs play one another. I hope I am wrong but it seems that Petersen's innovation is just too much for the Bulldogs staff to figure out. Until the Dogs can open up their game plan and figure out how to run plays the Broncos have not seen nor are they ready for the Dogs will continue to lose to this WAC Cinderella story. Hopefully the Broncos run will end sooner than later, but if we continue to play at the level we are right now we will experience many more years of playing second fiddle to the team from the Blue turf up North.