Thursday, November 29, 2007

Comparing Tom Brandstater and David Carr (yes it can be done)

by nsc

In 2001 we all remember the magic ride the Fresno State Bulldogs embarked on to begin the season. The Dogs opened up with three straight wins over BCS schools and were awarded the #8 ranking in the nation for doing so. David Carr had an amazing season as he threw for over 4000 yards and 45 td's leading the Bulldogs to an overall record of 11-3. Today it seems that regardless of how good or bad our teams are we continually compare them to that 2001 team. The other day I wrote a blog on Tom Brandstater and how he has matured over the season. I wrote that I feel his development is ahead of where David Carr was at the same point in his Junior season. I am quite sure many of you do not feel the same way as I do so I decided to use opposing team's record, common stats, and team schedules to try and further prove that Tom Brandstater is right where we need him to be at this point in his career. Brandstater had a very tough 2006 season but I cannot use that in comparison because David Carr was not our starter his sophomore season. While many awful things were said about Tom during our 4-8 season last year he was only a sophomore and there is no way to reference that for any type of comparison. Instead I will use Tom's Junior season and the records from the teams we play his senior year to compare the two QB's side by side. Now don't get me wrong, David Carr was an absolute godsend for this program as he helped put the Dogs into the national spotlight. All I am trying to say here is that Brandstater may be on the same maturation level as Carr was when he blossomed into one of the best QB's in college football. Let's begin the comparison by referencing Carr's Junior season and how he did during that season.

In 2000 Carr led the Bulldogs to a 7-5 record as they lost in the Silicon Valley Bowl to Air Force 37-34. In that game David Carr showed us glimpses of what he would become in 2001. Carr threw for 388 yards and five td's while bringing the Dogs back from a 34-7 halftime deficit. For the season Carr finished with the following stat line:

216 for 349 for 2,729 yards 62% completion rate 27 td's

What is far more interesting about the Bulldogs 2000 season is the record of the teams that Carr won and loss against. The teams Carr led the Bulldogs to victories over had a combined 26-56 record. The teams Carr and the Dogs lost to had a combined record of 41-19. In other words the teams the Dogs beat that season were teams they were supposed to beat. The Dogs did not lose to anyone they shouldn't have lost to with respect to team record and the Dogs did not beat anyone they shouldn't have beaten. Now let's take a look at Brandstater in 2007 and how he has fared against believe it or not very similar competition overall. Brandstater's line to date is as follows:

178 for 288 for 2,164 yards 62% completion rate 14 td's

Remember that Brandstater still has two games remaining. No Brandstater will not throw for 13 td's in the next two games but it is possible that he may throw for 500 yards and say five td's. If that does happen he will end up with 2650-2700 yards passing (right where Carr was) and around 18-20 td's. Now let's take a look at the win-loss records of the teams the Dogs have played in 2007. Against teams the Dogs have beaten the opponents record is: 23-47. The teams the Dogs have lost to have a combined 36-10 record. You can try and make a case that the teams we lost to in 2000 are superior to the teams we have lost to this season but a further look shows this to be untrue. In 2000 we lost to Ohio State which is comparable to this year's Oregon team (record wise). In 2000 we lost to UCLA which is comparable to this year's TAMU team (record wise also). However, in 2000 the only other team that was anywhere near as good as this year's Boise and Hawaii team's would have been TCU. Air Force was not a dominating force in 2000 nor was UTEP. If this is not enough in the comparison arena for those who read the blog let me take a look at Carr's 2001 season to further prove that Brandstater will have a chance to show he can be our next star QB.

In 2001 Carr had what many consider to be the best QB season in Bulldog history. We know his stat line was astonishing and there is no way Brandstater will ever match what Carr did in 2001. However lets take a look at the win-loss records of the opponents Carr faced in 2001. The teams Carr led the Bulldogs to victories over had a combined 57-71 record. The teams Carr and the Dogs suffered a loss to had a comnined 24-12 record. As of right now the team's Brandstater will take the field against in 2008 have a combined 68-75 record. In 2001 Carr led Fresno State to three straight victories over BCS teams. In 2008 the Bulldogs also open the season with three consecutive games against BCS teams. I realize that comparing stats of two players is quite hard to do. I know that Carr and Brandstater are playing in different eras of Fresno State football. While we ran the ball in 2001 we realized that our QB could win games for us and our offense allowed Carr to do just that. In 2008 I expect much of the same from our offense. I expect early on that J-Mac and Hill will realize that if we have to we can win games by throwing the ball we will. I expect the offense to put trust in Brandstater and ride his back to victories from time to time. As I said earlier Tom will not achieve the stats Carr did in 2001, that's just not possible in today's Bulldog offense. However, if Fresno State finishes 10-2 or 11-1 and Brandstater throws for say 30 td's with 7 int's or so and 3000 yards won't that be enough to say Brandstater was just as successful as Carr was as our starting QB? Remember you cannot compare their sophomore seasons, that is not fair to either QB due to starting time and the team surrounding each QB. If the Dogs can come through in 2008 and finish 10-2 TB will have a record of 18-6 (assuming we beat NMSU this Friday and not counting our bowl game this season). Carr had a 18-8 record as our starter in 2000-2001. To me that sounds eerily similar. If you do not see the connection that is fine. I realize many of you loved David Carr and cannot fathom Brandstater as the type of QB Carr was for this program. However, if you take the time to look at the numbers and compare the two you might find out they are much more similar than at first glance.

Monday, November 26, 2007

NSC...on Brandstater's Revival

by nsc

2007 has been an interesting season to say the least. Fresno State has endured more injuries across the board than most teams in Div. 1A college football, yet they sit at 7-4 on the season. The Dogs travel to NMSU for their final game of the season this Friday with a chance to double their win total from 2006. Fresno State will play in a bowl game again this season. Fresno State's offense has pulled a complete 180 this season as they have averaged well over thirty points per game, up from 23 per game in 2006. However the biggest improvement this season has been in our signal caller. Brandstater struggled through 2006 as we all know. But what we did as fans that was not fair to Brandstater was blame him more so than everyone else on the team. We as fans felt that Brandstater was the sole reason that the Bulldogs offense failed miserably in 2006. We as fans were completely wrong. Today every single Bulldog fan should be praising Brandstater. For some reason that is not happening, at least not from what I am reading on the BarkBoard. Brandstater turned in a performance that was reminiscent of Carr in 2001 as he completed 23 out of 29 passes for 313 yards and 2 TD's with no int's against K-State this past Saturday. Somehow it still comes across as not good enough for many fans.

On Saturday Brandstater looked comfortable as he hit his receivers in stride and continually put the ball where only our receivers could catch it. At the same time the progression chart seems to have become a part of Tom's game as he would look down field for a receiver and check down to his second or third option if receiver one was not open. On one play Tom avoided a sack, spun around in a complete circle and looked up to complete a fifteen yard pass downfield. On that one play I realized that Brandstater had arrived. But the problem is Brandstater had arrived much earlier during the 2007 season, not just on Saturday. While Saturday certainly was an outstanding performance for our Junior QB this was not the first game Brandstater had done well. If we take Tom's past three games into account he has completed 51 out of 73 passes which equates to a 70% completion rate. In that same span Brandstater has accounted for nine TD's and only one int. To say one game does not make Tom a good QB is correct, but it has not been one game that Tom has been outstanding this season. It may just be me but I feel like so many of you have forgotten why we had a chance late against Hawaii. We did not come back against the Warriors because of our superior running game or our great defense. Instead our offensive passing game gave us a chance late in the second half. True our defense gave us the ball often in the second half against Hawaii but we would not have scored any points had it not been for Brandstater and his receivers. To ignore what Tom has done over the past month for this football team would be a disservice not only to Tom but to the Bulldog football team as a whole. So many have complained about the way Tom has played, but in all honesty his Junior year is on pace to match many of the numbers that David Carr put up. The most important stat (Wins) may very well pass up what Carr was able to do his junior year as well as the Dogs that season finished 7-5 with a loss to the Air Force in their bowl game.

As I stated earlier Fresno State is going to play in a bowl game to end the season. Whether that game is in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Boise, or New Mexico is yet to be determined, but Brandstater and the Bulldogs will play in a bowl game. For many Bulldogs it will be their first experience in a bowl game as most of the players on the team are Freshman and Sophomores. But the bowl experience will be one that the players can build on heading into 2008. Brandstater has done his part to make the Bulldogs a successful team this season. Tom has averaged nearly 200 yards a game for a team that leads with the run. Tom also has a completion percentage of 62% while throwing for 14 td's to only five int's. As I showed in a blog a week ago David Carr also completed 62% of his passes for 2700 yards his junior year and look what happened to Carr his senior season. If Tom can go out Friday night and perform as he has the past month I have no doubt that he will once again throw for 200-250 yards with 2-3 td's and no more than one int. If Brandstater throws for 250 yards in each of the final two games this season he will close with 2650 yards averaging over 200 yards a game. In other words Tom will be very proficient in the Bulldog offense.

All I am trying to get across to many of the Bulldog faithful is that Brandstater has become a very competent QB in our system. Saturday Tom showed that he can throw the seem pass, and he can throw it quite well at that. For those of you who focus on the pass he threw behind Harding shame on you. Why not pay attention to the twenty great throws Tom made this past Saturday and forget about the one throw he did not complete. In fact why not concentrate on how many throws Tom has made the past two games that have been close to being intercepted. Well if you try to do that then you will realize he has not made one throw that was anywhere close to being taken away. Brandstater has come full circle and we as fans should support the changes Tom has made both on and off the football field. While Brandstater has had a tough go to this point remember that David Carr's breakout game came in 2000 against the Air Force in the Silicon Valley Bowl where he threw for 388 yards and five td's with one int. If you take that game into consideration I would say Brandstater is actually ahead of where Carr was at this time seeing that Brandstater still has two games remaining before the end of the 2007 season. I am pleased with the improvement of this team and especially the improvement our QB has made this season. The Bulldogs have a chance to finish the season 9-4. If you told me during the 2006 season that next year we could go 9-4 with 28 injuries to key players I would have told you to get your head examined. Instead it looks like I have to be the one to get examined because the Bulldogs are doing exactly what we all wanted: Playing hard and getting results on the football field. In the end isn't that all we really can ask for from this team? Don't forget we are one play away from being 8-3 right now. This has been a very successful season for Fresno State and I just hope that each and every one of you realize it before the 2007 season comes to an end.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Not So Offensively Challenged Anymore

by nsc

Each time I write about our offense I have to refer to 2006 and how everything went horribly wrong. I don't do this because I enjoyed what happened during the 2006 season but instead I use 2006 as a reference to show Bulldog fans how bad things truly were for this program at this very same point last season. At this point last year Fresno State sat at 3-7. Our offense was non-existent aside one Dwayne Wright and our defense looked worse as the season wore on. Fans continually complained about the execution of our offense and how often the Bulldogs ran the ball regardless if the defense put nine men in the box to stop the run. Our QB looked lost, our plays lacked creativity, and our receivers did very little to help our QB succeed. We as fans threw most of the blame on the QB when in reality the problem lay with our offensive coordinator Steve Hagan. Hagan seemed to run the offense into the ground. The reason I say this is under Frank Cignetti the Bulldogs averaged 39 points a game the previous two seasons. In Hagan's one year as offensive coordinator the Dogs average dropped to 23 points per game. Fresno State had the same running game, three returning receivers, an outstanding tight end, and a stellar offensive line under Hagan yet they could not sustain a drive the entire season. At that time it may not have been obvious but our offensive coordinator was the sole reason this team struggled throughout the entire 2006 season. Enter Jim McElwain at offensive coordinator and everything immediately began to change.

Jim McElwain spent six years of his coaching career at Louisville and Michigan State. During his tenure at Louisville the Cardinals averaged 31 points per game. While McElwain wasn't the offensive coordinator for Louisville he helped lead the Cardinals to the Liberty Bowl in 2000 and 2001 and the GMAC bowl in 2002. From there McElwain moved on to Michigan State where the Spartans averaged 31 points a game as well. McElwain then made the jump to the NFL where he took over as the QB coach for the Oakland Raiders. However, we all know the Raiders had absolutely no talent to work with making J-Mac look much worse than he actually was. In a sense the Raider failure led J-Mac to Fresno State where for the first time in his coaching career he would become an offensive coordinator. J-Mac had his work cut out for him once he arrived here due to the fact that Hagan had ruined everything great about the Fresno State offense. McElwain was going to have to make the Bulldogs believe that they could dominate the game once again on offense. At the same time J-Mac would have to work under Pat Hill who had always preferred the run over the pass, the opposite of the offense J-Mac worked under in the past. Would J-Mac be able to succeed in a system that was foreign to him up until this point in his college career? In one word: yes.

To see the difference McElwain has made with the offense look no further than QB Tom Brandstater. His completion percentage has gone up 6% while he has thrown twice as many TD's as interceptions. Instead of handing games to the opponent Brandstater is now managing games in which he has given us a chance to win every single game this season aside the Oregon game. While the QB position has improved tenfold under the watchful eye of McElwain the running game has also thrived to the surprise of many. The Bulldogs knew going into the season they would have a strong runner in Lonyae Miller. What they did not realize was that Ryan Matthews as a true Freshman would shine the way he has. With two games remaining Matthews needs 250 yards rushing to top the 1000 yard barrier. If the Dogs qualify for a bowl game Matthews will have three games to reach the 1000 yard goal. While the running game has thrived in McElwain's system the wide receiving core has done far better than their counterparts in 2006. Seyi Ajirotutu has become a receiver the Dogs can count on down-field. Marlon Moore has emerged as a go to receiver in the slot. Clifton Smith has been amazing underneath and we all knew Bear Pascoe would be huge the entire season. The offense has gone from averaging 23 points a game in 2006 to 31 a game this season. While 31 points a game in college football is not an amazing number the way Fresno State gets to thirty one is the reason they are winning twice as many games as they did last season. McElwain has been able to keep defenses honest with his variety of formations that he lines up with. At times we see Brandstater alone with five receivers on the field. Other times have three receivers bunched on the left with one receiver to the right. Still there are times where McElwain will line up two running backs to stay in and block for Brandstater. In other words this offense is a shell of what it was in 2006.

Last season we as Bulldog fans realized how amazing our offense truly was before Steve Hagan arrived. We realized that maybe we had been spoiled with the offensive explosions the Dogs put up week after week. In one five game stretch during the 2004 season Fresno State averaged over fifty points a game. McElwain is trying his best to get the Bulldogs back to that level on offense. Generally it takes most teams years to improve their offense to the point they are happy with it. Fresno State will not work out all of the kinks in one season. We have made a vast improvement from the product that was put on the field in 2006. The goal from here on is to improve to the point that our offense in 2007 is an after thought. If Fresno State can hold on to McElwain at coordinator for the next couple of seasons this offense will begin to thrive in ways we have never seen before. Next year Ebahn Feathers comes into the Bulldogs system as he will add a variation to the Dogs offense we have never seen. I truly believe McElwain will use Feathers to help Brandstater enjoy his most successful season as a Bulldog. It is for these reasons that I believe when all is said and done the 2008 season will be one of the more successful seasons for the Fresno State Bulldogs. Finally Bulldog fans will be able to count on the Dogs scoring often once again, a feeling we all want back much sooner than later. With McElwain in charge I no longer worry about if this offense is going to explode but instead look forward to when it is going to happen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On the Right Track

by nsc

The past two seasons have been a tumultuous time for Tom Brandstater. In 2006 he was booed more often than he was cheered. In 2006 he led the Fresno State Bulldogs to their worst record since 1996. Brandstater's stat line was less than stellar in 2006 as he completed 54% of his passes for 1490 yards with 13 td's and 14 int's. The future looked dim for the Bulldogs signal caller. The fans in Fresno did not want to see Brandstater take another snap after his horrendous start. However, Pat Hill stuck with Brandstater throughout 2006. While Tom's 2006 season was not one to write home about the chance to erase all of those memories would come at the start of the 2007 season. Whether fans feel like Tom has moved past 2006 is left up to their perception of the QB position at Fresno State and how they view success. I feel Tom has been very successful in 2007 and to show why I feel this way I am going to use the junior seasons of two of the best Bulldog QB's in our recent history: Bill Volek and David Carr.

Everyone remembers David Carr and Bill Volek as outstanding QB's in the Fresno State football system. Carr threw 46 td's his senior season compared to only nine int's. Volek threw 30 td's his senior season compared to only 3 int's, which today is still the most efficient college football season in history. But what most fans tend to forget is what these two players did their junior seasons. Below are three stat lines without the players names. Can you tell me who is who:

216 for 349 for 2,729 yards 62% completion rate 27 td's
151 for 261 for 1,973 yards 58% completion rate 10 td's
155 for 259 for 1,851 yards 60% completion rate 12 td's

Each of the above stat lines represent Tom Brandstater, Bill Volek, and David Carr's junior seasons. If you could not tell by now the top line is David Carr, the second line is Bill Volek, and the third line is Tom Brandstater. Tom is doing much better with respect to these other two QB's than many have come to perceive on the BarkBoard. Not only is he having a much better year than Volek did his junior year, but if Tom were to continue to play how he has the past two games he would end up with close to 20 td's, and 2500 yards passing on the season. In other words maybe Brandstater is not nearly as bad as many have made him out to be. Playing QB in college is a tough job. Many don't realize how hard it is to become the focal point of an offense. I am not making excuses as to why Brandstater's sophomore season went horribly wrong but instead am trying to get people to understand that he is headed in the right direction. In today's' era we expect a QB to step in and do the job right from the first snap. Honestly this is as unreal an expectation as one could have of a QB. Most college QB's do not step in and perform the way Tim Tebow has at Florida. Instead struggles are common for new QB's. Sometimes the QB cycle follows a different path as a QB has a solid first season and struggles his second year (See Jared Zabranski).

Brandstater has dealt with various situations since he took over at QB for the Bulldogs. I have to admit that I was one who wanted to see him replaced last season, but I failed to realize that Tom was not the only problem with our team last season. I wanted to put the blame on the guy who throws the ball without looking elsewhere. The fact of the matter is last season our receivers underachieved, our defense was atrocious, our offensive coordinator was lost, and our team as a whole was bad. To blame one man for the entire season is wrong and I am as guilty of that as the next Bulldog fan. Earlier this year Matt James wrote an article in which he apologized for the chastising of Brandstater in 2006. I did not go to the extremes James did but I do feel I should recant many of the things I said about Tom. He has played hard every game he has stepped on the field and he deserves some credit for the improvement of the team this season. Would any Bulldog fans have imagined being down to TAMU and Hawaii big only to come back and make it a game with our passing offense? To me that shows that Brandstater has improved far more than we give him credit for. He has finally began to look for receiver options two and three in the offense and can make the dump off throw underneath far better than he ever has.

However, I do see a problem with our offense headed into our final two games of the season and I am going to trust that our offensive coordinator will take care of it. The Bulldogs offense heavily relies on the run which is fine. The problem is that we sometimes fall in love with the run so much that we forget our QB can throw the ball. I fully expect J-Mac to throw the ball much earlier next game as Kansas State is susceptible to the passing game. I do not see Brandstater throwing for 300 yards, but he does not need to do so to win games. Brandstater needs to continue to be efficient in this offense in 2007 in order to lead the Dogs to victories. I am sure Tom has learned quite a bit in his two years as a starter. There is no reason to think that 2008 won't bring Tom his best season yet. After all both David Carr and Bill Volek had average junior years only to explode their senior season. Why can't Tommy do the very same? I believe and think he will and I hope that by now the rest of the Fresno State faithful have begun to realize the improvements Tom has made on the field. If you haven't then please take off your blinders because if you don't you are going to miss some good QB play in the next year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Four Quarter Requirement

by nsc

Saturday night Fresno State mounted a comeback against Hawaii that many Bulldog fans did not believe was possible. Fresno State's offense had left many of us wondering what would happen if we fell behind a good offensive team by a large amount early in the game. Oregon jumped out to a insurmountable lead in the first half earlier this season and Hawaii looked as if they were on their way to doing the very same to Fresno State this past weekend. However, the 2007 Fresno State Bulldogs showed us that they are nothing like the team from last season. We all know last season a game such as the one vs.Hawaii would have ended with Fresno State losing by forty. In 2007 the Dogs fought back and lost by seven. While the comeback can be used as a great motivational tool in the locker room what the Dogs should learn from this experience is that it takes four solid quarters of football to win a game. Up until this point in the season you would be hard pressed to find a game that Fresno State played a solid four quarters in. Let's take a look at the season and see where exactly the Dogs may be able to make improvements to play a complete game.

The Bulldogs first challenge this season came from Texas A&M where the Dogs played a horrendous first half only to mount an impressive second half comeback. If the Dogs played a solid first half they walk away from the A&M game with a win. The following week the Dogs started slow once again against Oregon. Fresno State played a decent second half but found themselves too far behind to mount any kind of comeback. The three games after all told the same story. La. Tech showed us that the Dogs can play defense but they did not come out on offense until the second half. Against Nevada Fresno State opened up strong but played a shaky second half. The Dogs did the very same thing against Idaho and we all know what happened against Boise. Utah State brought the Dogs a very strong first half but the second half was a disappointment to say the least. Leading into Hawaii the Dogs had not put one complete game together and after the Dogs left Hawaii they still have not put one complete game together. The first half against Hawaii went as so many games do with the Warriors. The Warriors scored three touchdowns before Fresno State had even settled on to the football field. The Dogs mine as well have begun the game down 21-0, at least they would have had more time to come back in the game. My point is if Fresno State can come out with that instinct to take care of business right from the first snap they will win games more frequently.

Fresno State could have beaten Hawaii. Fresno State should have beaten Hawaii. Yes, with 22 injured players and Pascoe and Matthews on the sidelines Fresno State still should have walked out of that stadium with a victory. Unfortunately Fresno State did not win the game and they need to learn from this experience. Every Bulldog fan is tired of hearing how our team is young and will be great next year. The saying "Wait till next year" has been used by countless Dogs fans for the past five seasons. There is no more waiting, the time needs to be now for the Bulldogs. Fresno State has to learn and grow from this experience against Hawaii. Aside the Bulldogs game against Oregon this season they have been close in every game they have played. This team is a few plays from being 8-2, but they are not 8-2. However, Fresno State does have 2 games remaining. If the Dogs play a full four quarters in both of these games I fully expect them to end the season 8-4, one game better than I had predicted at the beginning of the season. An 8-4 record will lead the Dogs into the bowl season once again and will give them momentum heading into off-season recruiting. In other words the Bulldogs have an opportunity in front of them. If they handle their business in the final two games of the season they very well may be rewarded with a West coast bowl game that Bulldog fans will travel to in large numbers. But if the Bulldogs once again find a way to play incomplete games they will spend the bowl season watching from home, something seniors like Marcus Riley and Tyler Clutts do not want to experience again.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What We Learned in Hawaii

In 2006 Hawaii came into Fresno and jumped out to a 28-7 lead before Bulldog fans could get comfortable. We all remember what Hawaii did from that point on as Colt Brennan tore Fresno apart en route to a 68-37 victory. The Bulldogs defense never seemed to get on track in that game and everyone in the stadium knew as soon as Fresno State fell behind by two touchdowns the game was over. The 2006 Bulldogs lacked heart. The 2006 Bulldogs lacked toughness on the football field. The 2006 Bulldogs did not have the talent to come back from a deficit of any margin. Saturday in Hawaii Fresno State once again fell behind by 21 points to the Warriors in the first quarter. It looked as if the Bulldogs would be blown out of Aloha stadium once again as trips to the island have never gone well for Fresno State. But something happened when the Warriors put their third touchdown on the scoreboard nine minutes into the game. Fresno State decided this game was not going to get out of hand. A.J. Jefferson returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-7. It was the second week in a row that Jefferson had done so on a kickoff return. Right before halftime Fresno State drove down field getting into the end zone to cut the lead to 31-16. While many of us felt good about what the Bulldogs did in the second quarter that would be nothing compared to what they did to Hawaii in the second half.

After numerous blown opportunities to close the gap Fresno State finally made a play we have not seen since the San Jose State game. Hawaii had the lead at 34-16 and Brennan was driving the Warriors for the killing score in the third quarter. Brennan fired a bullet over the middle that looked to be in stride with his receiver. The score would have been 41-16 and all but out of reach for Fresno State until Marcus Riley made what looked to be one of the most athletic interceptions ever at Fresno State. Many people probably do not realize how important that play was for Fresno State. The Bulldogs kept Hawaii out of the end zone the entire second half only allowing the Warriors three points. Fresno State was able to fight back and close the gap with one minute remaining in the game as they were down 37-30. Unfortunately the onside kick did not bounce Fresno State's way and they once again left Aloha stadium with a back breaking loss. Where Fresno State goes from here will be important to the future of this program. Fresno State has a bye week coming up followed by games against two opponents they can beat. If Fresno State can knock off Kansas State and New Mexico State they will finish 8-4 headed to a bowl game once again. I am holding out hopes that we can replace the Pac-10 in a bowl game somwhere on the West Coast here (Emerald or Las Vegas bowl) but any bowl is better than no bowl.

I realize that we have gone down the "This team is getting better" route thousands of times. This time around Fresno State has to move on and make that jump. The school cannot degress anymore. Fresno State in 2001 made a jump to a level many of us were not expecting. Today we know the talent on this team is there to become an elite team not only in the WAC but in the nation. Whether the Bulldogs do this or not truly falls on the shoulders of our coaching staff. J-Mac has given this team a life on offense we have not seen in many years. However, one improvement the Dogs are going to have to make is at the QB position. I do not mean they need to replace TB but instead they need to allow him to throw the ball much earlier in the game. He may not be 100% accurate but he has shown of late he can throw the ball when given the oportunity. Against Hawaii he finished 15-26 and had three balls thrown perfectly that were dropped. You can make the argument that he missed some throws so they cancel out, but I cannot recall many missed throws in the Hawaii game. His last two halfs where he was given the opportunity to throw the ball look like this: 22-33 5td's no int's. Those stats consist of Brandstater's first half against Utah State and his second half against Hawaii. In other words maybe Tom is ready to throw the ball more than the Bulldogs coaching staff is allowing him to do.

Losses hurt regardless of who they are against. Sometimes you can look at a loss as a turning point for a team while other times losses should just be forgotten as they hurt the program more than they will ever help the program. Fresno State must make Hawaii a turning point. The Dogs went into a hostile environment with ridiculous fans and should have left Aloha stadium with a win. They played defense when they had to and their offense made a comeback that many of us fans did not know was possible. The Bulldogs were down 37-16 and pulled within one TD. If they do not fumble on the opening drive in the second half who knows what happens in this game. As I said before this game must be used as a turning point for this team. Marcus Riley and the rest of the seniors have one home game left. They deserve our support when the Dogs take on Kansas State. I hope that the rest of the Bulldog fans feel as strongly as I do about this team and will be there two weeks from now when the Bulldogs knock off Kansas State. It would only be fair to those on this football team that have given their all for the valley and every fan in this city.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Instructions on Beating Hawaii

Tomorrow night Fresno State will begin another compelling match up
with the Warriors of Hawaii. At first glance this game looks to be a
mismatch as Fresno State does not generally implore the type of
defense that can stop Hawaii. The Dogs tend to play a soft defense
that allows the five to seven yard route. Fresno State relies on it's
LB's and secondary to make tackles as soon as the ball is caught
(something they have not done too well this season). There is a way
to beat the Warriors and it was on display last season when the Oregon
State Beavers traveled to the island. True, Oregon State was quite
hot and had defeated a very talented USC team only weeks before, but
they ran the type of defense it took to stop the Warriors amazing
offense. While I can write down the steps to stopping Hawaii's run
and shoot offense it does not mean that they will necessarily work.
College football is a game of sixty minutes and Hawaii can adjust to
what a defense is doing as well as any other offense in the nation.
However, these are the steps I deem
necessary to knock off the Warriors on the island. I am sure you will
notice this is written like a recipe and rightfully so since
directions need to be followed in order to beat Hawaii.

1) Add a little pressure to Colt Brennan's passing attack- Oregon
State sacked Colt Brennan six times last season and forced him to
throw two int's. While Brennan still managed over 400 yards passing
the Warriors lost because Oregon State forced Brennan to throw the
ball much earlier than he anticipated. Brennan does not make many
mistakes and when he does defenses must take advantage of them.
Fresno State will have to find a way to pressure Brennan on every play
or he will sit back in the pocket and do whatever he pleases. If you
want proof of how good Brennan is when he has time to throw watch the
highlights of the 2006 Fresno State-Hawaii game. That game should be
used as an example of what not to do when playing Hawaii.

2) Mix in physical play from the corner position - Hawaii loves the
underneath routes. This team uses five to seven yard routes to create
thirty yard gains. Grice-Mullin, Bess, Rivers, and Hawthorne (yes
they have four accomplished receivers) are all capable of turning a
small route into a large gain. If the Dogs do not get up close to the
line and knock these receivers off their routes right from the start
it will be a long day for the defense in Hawaii. True Hawaii is a
place where vacations are wonderful, but the Dogs defense will
experience a nightmare of a game if they do not play physical football
against Hawaii. Playing ten yards off the pass and allowing the
receivers to run underneath routes untouched will not get the job done
Saturday night.

3) Throw in a little blitzing from all over the field - Fresno will
have to disguise it's defensive game plan to in a sense trick Hawaii.
The Bulldogs will have to make the Warriors believe one man is
blitzing when someone else is altogether. Fresno will have to bring
the safeties at times. On other plays they will have to bring the
corners. Still the LB's will have to be forced to blitz as well. The
key is to sack Brennan or force turnovers. For a team that has one
interception the entire year they will need a breakout performance
resulting in at least two interceptions if they hope to beat Hawaii.

4) Add in a sprinkle of ball control - Fresno State loves to run the
ball. While Matthews may not be 100% for this game he is scheduled to
play along with Miller and Pascoe. Our offensive line will not be
100% due to all of the injuries suffered to this point but they have
played together long enough to know what blocking schemes are what.
Fresno State will have to do everything in their power to control the
clock. If the Dogs do not hold the ball for at least ten minutes
longer than the Warriors they can kiss a victory goodbye. Hawaii
scores fast and the only way to combat that type of scoring is to hold
on to the ball for long drives. To see how this is done watch the
super bowl that took place in the early 90's between the Buffalo Bills
and the New York Giants. The Bills held the ball for all of 19
minutes in that game and still should have won. That is the kind of
effort it is going to take from Fresno State to win tomorrow.

5) Last but not least avoid mixing in turnovers - The Warriors will
have the ball enough to score fifty points if their offense is
clicking. The last thing Fresno State can do is allow the Warriors to
touch the ball more than after the Dogs score or punt. Last year
Fresno State turned the ball over three times en route to the 68-37
bombing they took. This year in order for the game to play out
differently the Dogs must reverse the turnover story. If Fresno State
cannot take the ball away from Hawaii and continues to give the ball
to the Warriors as if Christmas came early, there is absolutely no way
Fresno State will be close in this game.

I realize these steps are easier said than done. Stopping the run and
shoot offense is next to impossible, but it can be done. As I said
before Oregon State did it last season and if the Dogs can follow that
defensive plan they will have a shot in this game. If the Dogs do not
put pressure on Brennan and allow the Warriors to run untouched across
the field look forward to turning this one off at halftime. We just
do not have the type of offense that can come back from a large
deficit and that is exactly what Hawaii will try to do to us in the
first half.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Random Thoughts

by nsc

Each time I write a blog on Fresno State I try to be as objective as I possibly can. I try my best not to use any personal bias when I predict scores or how the flow of a game will go. I try to analyze each aspect of what a team brings and in turn compare each team's strengths and weaknesses against one another. I do not predict scores or discuss a game based on how much I love the Fresno State Bulldogs or how much I dislike the Hawaii Warriors. Instead I give those who read the blog a fair assessment of what could happen in each football game the Bulldogs play in. But today I don't want to discuss the Hawaii game. Today I don't want to think about the 6-3 record the Dogs have or what bowl game they could possibly play in. Today I don't want to assess the positives and negatives of the Bulldog football program. Today I would rather focus on random thoughts across the sports world. I like blogging about the Dogs but every now and then it is nice to have some fun with what you write about. So without further adieu here are my random thoughts on the sportsworld:

1) 350 million dollars for A-Rod? Are you kidding me? Who wants to pay 350 million dollars for a guy who has gone 0 for his last 27 with men in scoring position in the playoffs? Knowing my luck my Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (yeah what a name) will pick him up so he can go 0 for 10 in the playoffs this season as well.

2) The valley playoffs start tonight in Fresno when Buchanan takes on Sanger. At least there will be no complaints that Fresno fans can't make the Bulldog game because of a muy importante high school football game in the valley.

3) Apparantly going undefeated doesn't warrant you a number one seed in the valley playoffs as well. Maybe the C.I.F. is following the college football mold a bit too closely as El Diamante was awarded the one seed at 9-1 while Tulare Union went 10-0 and was granted the 2 seed. While there doesn't seem to be much of a difference El Diamante does not play in the first round and Tulare Union does. Wow, see what playing Clovis West gets you in the central section. El Diamante is rewarded for losing to Clovis West as the C.I.F. stated "Hey at least they played Clovis West, who cares if they won the game".

4) If Ohio State makes the college football championship I might ram my head into my bedroom door. I was as excited as the next guy to find out that Ohio State was rebuilding, only to be screwed when they began the season 8-0. Our only hope in this college football season is for Michigan to knock them off at the end of the season. Yes, the same Michigan team that loss to App. State. If Michigan can't do it then look forward to another wonderful championship game with an overhyped Big-10 team.

5) Fresno State begins it's basketball season tomorrow night as they take on Portland State at the Save Mart Center. However, you may not know that it's a game that counts when an announced crowd of 9,000 turns out to be about 4,000 fans too many.

6) Wait a minute, did another prospect commit to a Pac-10 school instead of Fresno State? Well that just goes to show you that playing time isn't all that important to most of these prospects. Instead it may be that much more fun to ride the bench at a Pac-10 school because they have and I quote "Great Facilities".

7) Oh did you hear that? Another group of Fresno State fans just complained as to why they cannot make the football games in the valley. Amongst the reasons given the most important one I can recall is "Fresno State doesn't win enough for me to be in the seats".

8) Why is it when you predict your team to lose a game you are not supporting your team but when you pick them to win that very same game you are crazy? If you want any further proof check out the difference between responses to my blog on the Bulldogs and Warriors game and what responses Gator received. I said the Dogs lose, and Hawaii fans said I don't support our team. Gator said that we would win and they called him crazy. Weird bunch of fans over there really.

9) This just in: When you are rivals you generally use the word hate to describe how you feel. Ask a Florida fan what he/she thinks about Georgia. You think they will say "I dislike them but I don't hate them because they are in our conference". Fans don't truly hate the other school, they just hate that side of the football rivalry. Fans shouldn't take the word hate to heart, it's all in good fun when it comes to college football.

10) Last but not least one of the many reasons why college football is a much better sport than the NFL will ever be: New England @ Indianapolis last weekend. While the game was in week nine there is no doubt that one of these two teams will win the Super Bowl this season. How is that fun? How is knowing these two teams are far and away better than the rest of the NFL a great time? Yes, the NFL has a playoff but what's the point? At least in college football with four weeks of games left we still have absolutely no idea who will play in the championship. The NFL speaks of true parity. Well check out college football this season, there is your parity in a nutshell. Well that and the fans in college are a much more lively bunch.

If anyone has any random thoughts to share let me know. It's always great to hear what people think about the sportsworld even when it doesn't have to do with the Fresno State Bulldogs.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hawaii vs. Fresno State - Position, Individual and Unit Comparisons

Fresno State is racked with injuries, so this comparison will be slightly different, looking at probable starters by position. We’ve met the Rainbows 39 times, beaten them 20 and have the awful 1985 game as the lone tie. The Bulldogs are 1-5 on the islands since ’95, but did beat them in Aloha the last time there.

Quarterbacks- remains the same; TB is healthy, as is Colt Brennan. The numbers here are likewise straightforward. Brennan is passing for 405 yards per game (2nd NCAA), has 26 passing touchdowns (tied-5th NCAA), and has completed 225 of his 328 attempts for a 68.6 passing completion percentage, and 8.6 yards per attempt. He has thrown 11 interceptions and been sacked 12 times. As a scoring offense, Hawai’i has scored 50 or more points in every home game this year, and no team has kept them under 42 points on the road. For Fresno State, Tom Brandstater has passed for 182 yards per game, has passed for 9 touchdowns and been intercepted 5 times. He has completed 140 out of 233 attempts for a completion percentage of 60.1, and is averaging 7 yards per attempt.
Advantage- Obviously, Hawai’i’s Brennan has ridiculous stats, and while much of the heisman talk has died down some, his numbers have still been video-game-like against every team they’ve played. Still, there are some interesting numbers to look at. Brennan and Hawai’i have faced the 48th, 84th, 96th, 102nd, and 103rd ‘best’ passing defenses in the nation, not including the 74th and 120th best passing D’s in the FCS; the best pass D they have faced all year has been UNLV who allow 211.9 pypg (but they still dropped 49 points on them). Fresno State comes into the game allowing only 192.9 passing yards per game, which is 24th in the country, so this will be the best pass D they will have faced all year (and will prepare them for Boise State at 17th nationwide with 186.4 pypg). This represents an advantage of sorts, but obviously not sufficient to expect to do much more but try to hold the Rainbows to under 50 points for the first time at home all year. The losses of OGs Popovich and McDowell, along with C Joe Bernardi, will mean their backups, likely Masse, Meeks, and Harris, may not provide the same protection to TB as the starters and he may be under more pressure.

Running Backs- This unit is completely torn up for the Bulldogs, which is obviously a huge problem since establishing the running game is always strategy #1 for Fresno State. Both Ryan Mathews and Lonyae Miller, the stars in the offensive backfield and 5th and 9th in the WAC in yard per game, respectively, are questionable for Saturday, and backup Jamal Rashad is out. If Mathews and Miller don’t play, the running game will largely fall on the shoulders of Clifton Smith, whose 40.8 yards per game comes off 62 carries and a 5.9 yard per carry average. He is coming off a career game with 126 rushing yards against Utah State (though he does have the memorable 189 yard punt-return game against Weber State from 2005). Also likely to become more important with the leaders out is Anthony Harding, whose 19.2 ypg average and low 3 yard per carry average would likely rise with more touches. On the Hawai’i side, Kealoha Pilares is their leading rusher with 36.8 yards per game on 50 caries, for 5.9 yards per carry. Also in the mix is Leon Wright-Jackson with 21.9 yards per game and also with 5.9 ypc.
Advantage- Even without Miller and Mathews, the Fresno State running attack should be stronger than Hawai’i’s, even if only because the ‘Bows run the ball so rarely and pretty much only to keep defenses honest. The concern is Hawai’i’s rushing defense, which is 17th in the country and 1st in the WAC, only allowing 102.5 yards per game on the ground. That surprising tenacity should cause problems establishing the running game and keep Smith and Harding from establishing the run, getting first downs, eating up clock and keeping their offense off the field as effectively as a healthy team might. I say that if either Miller or Mathews is able to play, it makes a big difference in the game’s outcome.

Recievers/ Tight Ends – Already a problematic unit for the Bulldogs, ranking 94th in the NCAA with 188.9 receiving yards per game, now that Chastin West is out, and Moore is in but playing hurt, along with the loss of Shannon Dorsey, it all puts the Bulldogs at an even greater disadvantage. But the biggest loss would be that of Bear Pascoe, whose 462 receiving yards this season is 11th in the country among tight ends, and who is probable for the game. Hawaii is a completely different story, with Ryan Grice-Mullen pulling in 952 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns, Davon Bess 748 and 9 touchdowns, and C.J. Hawthorne 519 yrds and 5 TDs. This is in contrast to Moore’s 315yrds and Seyi Ajirotutu’s 266. Hawaii is getting 532 yards per game, and the majority of it from this unit.
AdvantageHawai'i. When a player has more ypg than the opposing team, you know you’re in trouble. When most of the starters are out or playing hurt for the game, you are really in trouble. But Fresno State does have one advantage- the aforementioned passing defense, which is one of the few areas not plagued with injury, with the exceptions of Jason Roberts and Terrence Dennis. While the D-line is really banged up, the passing D that is one of the best in the nation is mostly healthy, which might be expected to keep the UH passing game in check. A defense allowing 194 receiving ypg against an offense generating 461 ypg puts the offense in the advantage, but makes it more likely that they won’t score as much or as often as they have against other opponents.

Defenses- I have talked a lot already about the defenses for both sides, but a more detailed examination of each is revealing. Hawai’i is allowing the 2nd fewest points per game in the WAC after Boise at 22.4, while Fresno State is 3rd in conference allowing 26/game; nether is in the top 25 nationally in scoring D. Of course the injuries to the Fresno state line stand out strongly, with Ahijah Lane, Jason Roberts, and Ikenna Ike out or playing hurt, and Machado, Schenck, Talyor Smith, and Austin Raphael all out, meaning the Hawai’i running game can be more effective. Also a concern is the fact that the Bulldogs have only recorded a single interception all year, compared to Hawai’i’s 17 which is tied for the WAC lead. Interestingly, Fresno State has only allowed their opponents 78 first downs all year, 21st fewest in the nation. This may be particularly relevant against the Rainbows as their major efforts will be to control the game and have our D on the field as long as possible.
Advantage- Hawai’i. Their ground D is solid; our aerial D is solid. Fresno State does have certain situational advantages but overall the Hawai’i defense has allowed fewer points, yards and touchdowns than have the Bulldogs.

Special Teams- Fresno State is 9th in the country in average yards per kick return with 16.22, while Hawaii is 15th with 13.94. Fresno State’s returns are all Clifton Smith, while Devon Bess is the leader for the rainbows. A.J. Jefferson averages 36 yards per kickoff return, 2nd nationwide, while Hawai’i’s Ryan Mouton is tied for 8th with 31 yards per return; both have returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Hawai’i’s kicker Dan Kelly is tied for 30th in the NCAA with 78 points and is in 5th place for longest kick with a 54-yarder; Clint Stitser is tied for 61st with 62, though he is tied for 9th nationwide for distance with a 52-yard kick this year. Neither is in the top 50 in terms of field goal percentage.
Advantage- Fresno State. While both teams are in the top ten nationwide in several special teams categories, Fresno State is clearly ahead statistically. Jefferson is particularly impressive in returning kickoffs, and is a major threat for starting field position.

Coaches- Fresno State’s Pat “the Lineman” Hill is 82-54 (.658) coming into Saturday’s game. He’s 59-26 against the WAC, and 29-38 away from Bulldog Stadium. June “Screwdriver” Jones is 72-40 (.556) with a home record of 53-20, and is 43-24 in conference. Jones is 7-5 off a bye, which they are coming into this game.
Advantage- Fresno State’s Pat Hill is willing to take on anyone, anytime, anywhere, and will have his team more than ready for the #14 Rainbows of Hawai’i. Though there have been some questions as to his leadership by various fans of late, most concur that there are few who would prefer another at the reigns in a big game like this. June Jones, on the other hand, is a great coach, but does have Jeff Tedford to thank for being only #2 on the list of ‘good-coaches-who-are-also-complete-assholes.’

Taste of the Town”- It’s Hawaii vs. California (State), Oahu vs. the San Joaquin Valley, Manoa vs. Fresno… never any love lost between these two schools or regions, and plenty interesting about both. Lets start with food. California produces its own meat, doesn’t get it shipped from ‘the mainland’. But, the seafood isn’t so great in the Valley, while you can probably get some bang-up sushi in the islands. But, they might put spam in it, which wouldn’t be fun. Can you get a big steak in Hawai’i? Not so much. But they do have smoking-hot women. So does Fresno, but… not really the same as Hawai’i.
Advantage- Fresno. I’m going with the place with good looking women and I can get a steak. Seriously, since there’s a lot of trouble I can get into with a post-colonial discourse here, I’ll just say that as cool as Hawai’i is, sun, surf and sand are sweet and all but we can get that in the Valley, too. I’ve made it abundantly clear elsewhere who my biggest rival is, but for most it’s Hawai’i, and all the Wahines out there aren’t going to sway Bulldog fans.

Conclusion- Milk Can and the 152 aside, this is Fresno State’s biggest conference rival, and they are at their highest perch ever, ready to be taken down a notch. Still, the Bulldogs are playing hurt and the Warriors may have their best team in a decade or more. No clear, rational analysis can objectively suggest that the Bulldogs are in a position to knock off the Rainbows from their lofty status as this year’s big Kahuna in the WAC; however, this is the part of the study where I radically depart from rational analysis and dissolve into ludicrous speculation and indefensible flights of fancy. Behind a fired-up TB playing the game of his life, the Bulldog secondary slows down the regularly high-flying Hawai’i offense while the running game and big plays by Smith allow the ‘dogs to match Brennan touchdown-for-touchdown until the final drive to secure the upset. My call is: Bulldogs 52 -
Warriors 49.

Hawaii's Schedule Hurting Credibility

by nsc

It is not often that a team begins the season 8-0 as Hawaii has. The problem is that Hawaii is viewed as a team who has scheduled down in order to get to where they are today. With remaining home games against Fresno State, Boise State, Washington and a road game at Nevada Hawaii does have a chance to run the table and finish 12-0 this season. The question is: Will that be enough to get the Warriors into a BCS game? If the BCS rankings have anything to say about it the answer is a difinitive no and would you really be able to argue this decision? Could you make the argument that a school who has played two Division 1AA schools and has a schedule littered with teams who have won two games or less should be a BCS qualifier? Here in lays the problem with the Warriors. They have all the talent in the world on offense and their defense does just enough to get them wins. But these wins are coming against sub-par competition. Even if the Warriors knock off the Broncos of Boise State later this season and finish the year undefeated a marquee win against a WAC school does not speak volumes to the rest of the college football world. At the same time what does going undefeated with such a soft schedule say to the rest of college football?

Pat Hill has always believed to be the best you have to beat the best. In Fresno the Bulldogs take on schools from across the nation and have received rave reviews from all directions. Although Fresno State has struggled against BCS competition the past two seasons the Dogs are still viewed as a team that has the talent to knock anyone off at any point in the season. Fresno State has not began a season 6-0 since 2001, yet every season they are considered a team who has the opportunity to make a BCS run. The reason behind this is the Bulldogs schedule up when they play out of conference. Instead of continually playing Div. 1AA oponents the Bulldogs take on the elite teams in the nation. In 2005 the Dogs played Oregon and USC. IN 2006 the Dogs played Oregon and LSU. In 2007 the Dogs once again played Oregon but this time add Texas A&M and Kansas State to the schedule. 2008 will have it's challenges as well as Fresno State will play UCLA and Kansas State on the road while Wisconsin travels to Fresno. With an out of conference schedule such as this Fresno State sets them selves up to be a part of the national picture if they ever make any kind of run. That is the reason why in 2001 the Dogs shot up the charts so quickly before their devastating loss to Boise State. Wins over Wisconsin, Colorado, and Oregon State will help a team's image to voters, something Hawaii is struggling to do in 2007.

Hawaii has had a magical start to the 2007 season. They have eaked out close wins over both San Jose State and La. Tech in overtime. The Warriors have destroyed all other teams they have played to this point. But looking back at their schedule if the Warriors had lost any of these games they would not have been considered a threat in the BCS picture. In contrast let's take a look at Fresno State's 2005 season. The Dogs lost their second game of the year 37-34 to Oregon. From that point on Fresno State ran off seven wins in a row and traveled to USC with the #16 ranking in the nation. Had Fresno State pulled off the monumental upset at USC they very well could have qualified for a BCS game at the end of the season even with one loss on their record. What it all comes down to in college football is credibility. Fresno State may have been down for the past few seasons but the nation has the view that Fresno State is the type of mid-major that can challenge you. Boise State is slowly achieving this same status after their upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last season. Hawaii however continually lags in the nation's eyes.

Hawaii has built an offense that most teams (including BCS schools) cannot stop. The Warriors continually pressure defenses into making decisions on who they are going to cover play after play. The reason Hawaii averages 50 points a game is because they take advantage of mismatches all over the field. The Warriors try to get a LB to cover one of their speedy receivers, something that is nearly impossible to do. Unfortunately Hawaii will never get credit for being a great team unless they beat someone of worth in the process. The Warriors schedule in 2007 has left fans of opposing teams upset. These fans have no desire to see a team schedule the way the Warriors have and be rewarded by achieving the BCS dollars. If this were to happen it would prove that a team's schedule doesn't matter. Instead all that matters is making it through the season undefeated. With that thought in mind teams such as Fresno State look ridiculous for playing the teams they do because there is no reward in the end. Hawaii may go undefeated this season and quite possibly will qualify for a BCS bowl. However, until Hawaii makes a statement against a team the nation respects they will always be the team that took the easy road. And as well know the easy road never garnered any team respect regardless of what sport is being played.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Hawaii Challenge

Anyone who knows me knows the hatred I have for the University of Hawaii. I think all true Fresno State fans hold a hated for the Warriors that cannot be rivaled by any other team. Hawaii has been a rival to the Bulldogs in every sport for as long as I can remember. If it isn't football then it's basketball. If it isn't basketball then it's baseball. If it isn't baseball then it's women's softball and so on. There is absolutely no love lost on the field of play when it comes to Fresno State and Hawaii. Pat Hill is known for taking his foot off of the gas pedal when Fresno State jumps out to a big lead, that is of course unless the Dogs are playing Hawaii. Hawaii on the other hand tends to score uncontrollably regardless of who is on the opposite side of the field. Saturday Fresno State faces one of the toughest challenges of the season when they travel to Hawaii to take on the Warriors. Fresno State has not fared well on the island the last twenty years. However the Dogs did win their last game in Hawaii during the 2005 season. In that game the Bulldogs used a strong defensive performance to hold a rather inexperienced Colt Brennan and his offense to 13 points. This year the story will be much different. Fresno State will be at an decided disadvantage if for no other reason than the list below:

2007 Bulldog Injuries

LB Ahijah Lane - starter - completely out
OG Cole Popovich - starter - playing hurt
DT Jason Roberts - starter - completely out
DE Ikenna Ike - starter - completely out
OG Adam McDowell - starter - completely out
RB Lonyae Miller - starter - may return
RB Ryan Mathews - starter - status conditional
C Joe Bernardi - starter - completely out
WR Chastin West - starter - completely out
WR Marlin Moore - starter - playing back in
LB Ryan Machado - backup - completely out
LB Ryan McKinley - backup - playing back in
TE/HB Isaac Kinter - backup - playing well now
LB Nico Herron - backup - may be called in
LB Robert Schenck - backup - completely out
RB Jamal Rashad - backup - completely out
DE Taylor Smith - backup - completely out
CB Will Harding - backup - status unknown
WR Shannon Dorsey - backup - completely out
S Terrence Dennis - true frosh - completely out
LB Austin Raphael - true frosh - completely out
OT Eric Sproal - true frosh - completely out
(Thanks to BarkBoard Poster ARX for the list provided above)

The Bulldogs will head into the game against Hawaii missing numerous contributors who would have had the opportunity to make a difference in a game of this magnitude. With all of these injuries the Dogs will count on many second and third team players to come in and do their very best to stop the Warriors potent passing attack. This game could end many different ways but below is how I feel it will end given the state of the Bulldogs at the present time.

Fresno State will continue to try and control the clock against Hawaii. However, if Matthews, Miller, and Pascoe are not on the field I have no idea how the Dogs will be able to do so. Clifton Smith has done a great job filling in at RB but lacks the strength to take a pounding for the entire game. Anthony Harding will spell Smith when Smith needs a breather. While Harding can take a pounding he seems to lack the vision that both Smith and Matthews have. Fresno State is not going to be able to sustain a drive if Tom Brandstater cannot complete third down passes. We will continually be facing third and long in this game due to the state of our running game so once again we will be relying on our QB to get us over the hump. Hopefully J-Mac will come up with various creative plays to keep Hawaii's defense on it's heels because if he doesn't the Dogs will have very little chance to be successful on offense.

Hawaii's offense will score and will score often. Fresno State's corners tend to give far too much of a cushion and Hawaii takes advantage of quick short routes. The Dogs will allow Hawaii the five yard route because they always seem to. I expect Hawaii to score at least fifty this weekend on the island because our offense is missing too much to be successful and our defense will be on the field too long to stop the Warriors consistently. I do believe our special teams returners such as A.J. Jefferson will give us great field position. He will have a chance to return plenty of kickoffs as Hawaii will get in the end zone often. I don't believe Smith will be much of an advantage on punt returns because he won't be fielding many punts in the first place. With all of this being said I see a game where Fresno State comes out and fights hard. Unfortunately I do not think the Dogs will be able to recover from their massive injury list and will lose this game convincingly. This is not a knock to the Bulldogs. They have played their hearts out this season and I believe they will fight hard once again come Saturday night. Sometimes injuries catch up to you and there is literally nothing you can do about it. That is where the Bulldogs currently stand. If the Dogs were healthy I believe this would be one of the better games in the 2007 season. Unfortunately that is not the case and it is going to take the Dogs best game of the season to keep this one close.

Hawaii - 51
Fresno State - 24

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Walking Wounded

As the injured list continues to grow for Fresno State I have begun to wonder if God has a vendetta against the Bulldogs. I am not sure if I have ever seen a college football team ravished so badly by injuries. To really understand how bad the injuries have been just take a look at what Fresno State has gone through since Summer practices began:

Ahijah Lane: Out for year
Chastin West: out for year (both occur before first game of the season)

When the season finally began the Dogs looked to move past early injuries to play solid football. However the first two injuries on the list were merely a precursor to what would occur during the course of the season. After West was lost for the season Bulldog players began dropping like flies as you can see in the list provided below:

Cole Popovich and Adam Mcdowell - Both lost off of the offensive line at same time
Joe Bernardi - out for season
Lonyae Miller - missed past two games due to bruised knee
Marlon Moore - missed three games due to ankle sprain
Jason Roberts - Out for season
Ryan Machado - Out for season
Ryan Matthews - Status unsure for Hawaii, possibly out
Bear Pascoe - Status unsure for Hawaii, possibly out
Jason Shirley - not injured, however suspended from team for disciplinary reasons
Chris Lewis - school related suspension for entire season

I am sure there are plenty of injuries to this team that I have missed. However, if you take a look at that list you will find at least seven key players on the Bulldogs team that will not return or have missed extensive time on the field this season. It's one thing to deal with the loss of one impact player but it is an entirely different challenge to deal with the loss of five impact players. Lane was a defensive leader. West was the one experienced WR on the roster. Shirley was the run stopper in the middle. Bernardi, Popovich, and Mcdowell helped compose a potent front line that opened up the run and protected Brandstater well. If Matthews and Pascoe do not play against Hawaii do I even have to mention how important they are to our offense? With all of these injuries hitting Fresno State in one season the only thing left to wonder is: Where does this team go from here?

Although Fresno State sits at 6-3 their victories have come against sub-par competition for the most part (aside Nevada who is turning into quite a formidable team down the stretch). If you take a look at the season and how many injuries the Dogs have endured they should feel quite good about where they sit today. They have been blown out in one game to date and that was against a team who very well may play for the national championship. I realize that the Dogs may end up 7-5 this season but the effort to win is there. The Dogs put everything on the line when they step on to the field. This weekend against Hawaii if the Dogs leave the island with a bad loss it will not be because of effort. Our entire team is missing important pieces and if we go into Hawaii without our #1 RB and our #1 WR we will have very little chance to sustain a drive. Hawaii will spend all day on the field and will burn our defense merely because they will be dead tired.

Where the Bulldogs go from this point on will be interesting to see. Fresno State will have to use as many backups as we as fans have possibly ever seen. Whether it works or not remains to be seen but to get down on this team with so many parts missing is wrong. This team could be much worse than 6-3 right now but they are finding ways to win games that they could not do last season. In other words we as fans should continue to support Fresno State because the one thing you cannot plan for is injuries. We cannot blame the Bulldogs for getting hurt or missing the season because of something they have no control over. Fresno State is having what many coaches call a "Character Building" season. My goal today was to point out how many important players the Bulldogs have lost throughout this injury filled 2007 football season. I hope many Bulldog fans will read this and realize how hard it is to win when you are missing so many key players. Instead of putting this team down because of their efforts on the field maybe we as fans should realize that the Dogs are doing their best with what they have to work with. The results may not end up where we want them to but remember that it is not due to the lack of effort, heart, or team character. Sometimes things happen outside of the realm that can be controlled and that is exactly what is occurring at Fresno State in 2007. This is a good team who may become great next season. Don't lose faith, one day the injuries will not kill us and we will be able to play at full strength once again. Unfortunately we will not see that again this season.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Fresno State vs. Utah State- Unit Comparisons

Quarterback – Fresno State is putting up 30.5 points per game, while Utah State is getting 20 ppg. Fresno State ’s 196 passing yards per game is better than Utah State ’s 145. Touchdown Tommy has a QB rating of 125, and has completed 127 of his 215 attempts for a percentage of 59.1. He is averaging 188.9 yards per game, and has 7 TDs and 4 picks. Leon Jackson, QB1 for the Aggies, has a QB rating of 120.5, and has completed 65.2% of his passes for 120 yards per game. He has 4 touchdowns and interceptions.
Advantage - Fresno State’s Tommy B. Every category has Brandstater ahead and he looks to have good situational kung-fu.

Running Backs- Fresno State’s Ryan Mathews is 4th in the WAC in yards per game with 80.6; Lonyae Miller is 8th in the conference with 57.4 ypg. As a unit, Fresno State is 3rd in the WAC with 1520 total rushing yards, 190 per game. Derrvin Speight is Utah State ’s leading rusher, and has 40.9 yard per game on 80 carries. Their rushing unit has 118 yards per game, averaging 3 yards per carry.
Advantage - Fresno State. Ranked 26th in the country in rushing yards per game, ahead of USC, Texas , and Florida , Fresno State is good at pounding the ball on the ground. Utah State is 21st from last in yards per game.

Receivers - Fresno State and Utah State both rank near the bottom of the WAC in receiving yards, Fresno State with 202.1 ypg and Utah state dead last with 145.1. Utah State ’s leading receiver, Kevin Robinson, has 54.4 yards per game, one ahead of Bear Pascoe. Beside Pascoe the Bulldogs have Seyi Ajirotutu, Marlon Moore, and Sharrod Davis, each of whom has more than 35 ypg; Robinson is Utah State ’s only receiver with over 35.
Advantage - Fresno State. With a variety of options for TB, Fresno State should be able to move the ball well on the ground and in the air. While neither team is in the top 25 in receiving stats, Fresno State is well ahead of Utah State in this category as well.

Defense - Fresno State is allowing 25.9 ppg, and 400 yards per game. Utah State is giving up 35 points a game and a conference-leading 456 yards a game. The Bulldogs are allowing 190.25 ypg in the air and 209.8 on the ground; for the aggies, its 285 in the air and 198 on the ground. They have 9 picks to Fresno State ’s 1.
Advantage - Fresno State. The interceptions are worrisome and they do have an advantage in terms of rushing defense; however, the overall statistics are largely in Fresno State ’s favor.

Coaching- Utah State ’s coach is Brent Guy, and he is 4-27 both in his career and at Utah State . One of those four wins was against Fresno State . Otherwise, you got to give the advantage to Pat Hill, who cannot help but to be mindful of the taint of last year’s loss. Hill is taking a lot of heat from some Bulldog fans, but I am not one of them.
Advantage- Fresno State. Revenge is a dish best served cold. It is very cold in… Bulldog Stadium?

“Taste of the Town”- this is a new segment where I examine the ‘intangibles’ of the two teams and their communities. Mostly I wish I were eating food in different college towns across the country like that ESPN guy, so I’ll in include a section where I look at food and chicks in each place. We all know Fresno has some good looking girls and great food. Does Utah State ? No. Plus, does Logan have anything great to offer? I’m thinking no. (this segment promises to get more interesting with other opponents)
Advantage- Fresno. Logan is probably about as exciting as, I don’t know, something really boring. And probably has a lot of uggies. Tell me if I’m wrong.

Conclusion - Fresno State should not lose this game. But, they should not have lost last year either. This game has revenge all over the place, and Fresno will come out angry and make a statement on both sides of the ball. No disrespect to Utah State, but they wouldn't go .500 in the Big Sky (okay, maybe a little disrespect to Utah State). We did lose to them last year, but that was a pit of sorrow from which we will someday recover. This year is a different story- 52-6

So far I am 3-1 su, 1-3 ats.

A Letter to Utah State

Dear Utah State fans,
While it has been a tough season for you up there in Logan I have to say there is a part of me that feels sorry for your team. You currently sit at 0-8 on the season and have to travel to Fresno State to take on a Bulldogs team who will be looking for revenge after the debacle that occurred last season. As if last year's loss wasn't enough apparently your players celebrated a bit too much in the eyes of the Bulldogs making tomorrow's game that much more important to every player who sat through the game last year. Sometimes you play a game against a team who is down and out which makes it that much easier to walk away with the upset. Last season that worked out well for you as the Dogs were definitely down. However, you ran into Fresno State at the wrong time this season. The Bulldogs lost to Boise State last week and will be ready to clear their minds of that game. That is why I truly feel sorry for the Utah State players and fans. Tomorrow is going to be ugly in every sense of the word.

I usually am very reserved when it comes to so called "smack" talking before a football game is played. So much can go wrong on the field of play that no outcome is ever guaranteed. However, tomorrow's outcome was decided on October 7, 2006. As soon as Utah State ran into the locker rooms shouting and screaming about their so called "Biggest" win in history, tomorrow's game was decided. Tomorrow Fresno State will run over you. Tomorrow Fresno State will do whatever they please on the field. Kevin Robinson may be a great football player but even he will push the Bulldogs to turn this game into a blowout. You see Robinson is from our little valley here in Fresno and our players will do everything in their power to show Robinson that he made a mistake by not staying here in Fresno. Tomorrow Fresno State will throw and run the ball when they want to. Tomorrow the Bulldogs will not get caught looking towards Hawaii. Hawaii is an afterthought because of what happened against Utah State in 2006. If there ever was a game on Fresno State's schedule that speaks of a blowout it is this game against your Aggies of Utah State.

You can take consolation in the fact that it will not always be this bad for your Aggies. College football is a cyclical sport, even the worst teams find a way to improve over time. Utah State will get better one day making these horrible seasons much easier to forget. Unfortunately this season is quite ugly for Utah State and tomorrow it is going to hit a season low. Tomorrow the Bulldogs are going to play the Aggies as if they were LSU. Tomorrow Fresno State is going to come onto the field against Utah State and treat them as if they were the defending national champions. Tomorrow Utah State is going to come on to the football field with a target squarely on the middle of their backs. You can beat a team when they are down, just as the Aggies did to the Bulldogs last season. I give Utah State credit for having the game plan to beat us last season, but this season will be a different story. This Bulldogs team is ready to come out and make a statement the week before the Hawaii game. It does not matter if Brandstater or Colburn plays QB. It does not matter if Matthews or Miller walks onto the field as our RB. It does not matter if Clifton Smith, A.J. Jefferson, or Devon Wylie return kicks. The Bulldogs will win this game and it will be quite ugly.

I rarely talk any kind of game smack to opposing teams. However, I feel just like the Fresno State Bulldogs do. There is a lot of pent up frustration inside and it needs to get out. Unfortunately that is going to happen against your Aggies of Utah State. If you have the opportunity to watch the game I would skip it. I have no doubts that this may be the kind of game you do not want to read about Sunday in the paper. Fresno State has something to prove when they step on to the field against the Aggies tomorrow at 2pm. I am willing to bet that the Bulldogs get the job done, and the score reflects something us Bulldog fans saw in 2001 when the Dogs knocked off the Aggies 70-21. I promise you Aggie fans, this one is going to be ugly. I just hope you are ready for what the Bulldogs are going to bring to the football field.