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.