Sunday, December 30, 2007

Game Preview - 2007 Humanitarian Bowl


Fresno State (8-4) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)

Fresno State’s Tom Brandstater has completed 61.2% of his passes this season, along with 2,369 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Being efficient and effective in a "run-first" system, Brandstater has shown he can manage his offense quite well, leading to a team average of 32.2 points per game. His statistics will hardly ever wow your eyes while reading the box score, however he is capable of having a big game against a BCS opponent. Against Texas A&M, Brandstater completed 21 of 31 pass attempts, had 261 yards passing, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. However, the Bulldogs lost in 3OT 47-45. Furthermore, against Kansas State, Brandstater completed 23 of 29 passes, had 313 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. The Bulldogs went on to win 45-29. If Brandstater gets some time in the pocket, he will have a big day.

Georgia Tech's senior quarterback Taylor Bennett (6-3, 215) has rarely been asked to do much of anything this year. His best game this year came against Maryland in a 28-26 loss, where he was 22 of 34 passing, 309 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions. Another quarterback comes in to take some reps for Tech. Freshman Josh Nesbitt (6-1, 204) has 47 carries for 302 yards rushing and no touchdowns. Nesbitt mostly comes in to run the ball, but has completed 4 of 11 passes, 82 yards passing with 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. However, Bennett is the main man at quarterback. Bennett has only completed 49% of his passes this year, with 6 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. With former wide receiver Calvin Johnson in the lineup during Bennett's first start of his career in Tech's bowl game last year, it looked as though Bennett, then a junior, would fit in nicely for senior Reggie Ball. Bennett was 19 of 29 passing, 326 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception against West Virginia in a 38-35 loss in the Gator Bowl. But, that was last year.
Edge: Bulldogs

Running Backs
Sophomore Anthony Harding went over 100 yards rushing for the second time in as many games in the Bulldogs' season finale against New Mexico State, rushing for 121 yards on 28 carries and 1 touchdown. Against Georgia Tech, if senior Clifton Smith (473 yards, 5.8 yards per carry, 3 touchdowns) rushes for at least 27 yards, and Harding (403 yards, 3.9 yards per carry, 4 touchdowns) rushes for 97 yards, the Bulldogs will have 4 running backs over 500 yards rushing this season. The 'Dogs leading rusher, freshman Ryan Mathews (866 yards, 6.0 yards per carry, 14 touchdowns), is injured with a torn chest muscle he sustained against New Mexico State. Sophomore Lonyae Miler (571 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 7 touchdowns) will likely get the bulk of the carries, with Harding getting some carries as well. Look for Clifton Smith to get a few direct snap plays with him lining up at quarterback, as well as some standard carries. Senior fullback Nate Adams, won't get a carry, but is very good at opening the running lanes. The running back by committee scheme, along with injuries, has worked well for Fresno State. The 'Dogs have compiled 2,456 rushing yards and a 4.7 yards per carry average as a team.

Look for Georgia Tech to rely heavily on the production of All-ACC senior running back Tashard Choice. Georgia Tech has been looking to Choice (6-1, 205) to carry their team all season long. And he hasn't disappointed. A future first day NFL draft pick, Choice has 1,310 yards rushing, 5.3 yards per carry, and 10 touchdowns. Freshman Jonathan Dwyer (6-0, 197) has found the end zone quite often, considering his backup role. Dwyer has 7 touchdowns on only 70 carries. However, most of his success came early in the year. During his first 4 games, Dwyer had 256 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. And during his last 6 games, he had 118 yards rushing, and only 1 touchdown. Two other running backs, senior Rashaun Grant (231 yards rushing, 1 touchdown) and sophomore Jamaal Evans (120 yards, 2 touchdowns) have also seen action this year. But both most likely wont get much action in the bowl game. Grant is questionable with an ankle injury. The Yellow Jackets have amassed 2,430 rushing yards and an average of 4.8 yards per carry this season.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Wide receiver Marlon Moore and tight end Bear Pascoe will be targeted the most by Brandstater. Moore, a sophomore, leads the team with 41 receptions, 614 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Moore has risen to the occasion this season, especially of late, having 240 yards receiving the past 2 games. Pascoe is second on the team with 39 receptions, 481 yards, and 4 touchdowns. However, Pascoe hasn't scored a touchdown since the 3OT loss to Texas A&M when he had 3. Sophomore receiver Seyi Ajirotutu averages 16.7 yards per reception, and has 27 catches, 452 yards, but hasn't caught a touchdown. Senior running back Clifton Smith has been known to catch passes out of the backfield, and that trend should continue. And again, if Brandstater gets time to throw, these receivers will have a big day.

With the Yellow Jackets relying so heavily on the running game, the receiving corps hasn't been given that much attention. Sophomore Greg Smith (6-3, 220) is the team leader in receiving and yards (34 receptions, 543 yards 2 touchdowns), and freshman Demariyus Thomas (6-3, 220) leads the team with 3 touchdowns, and is second in receptions and yards (31 receptions, 489 yards). Junior James Johnson (6-0, 190) averages an amazing 18.4 yards per reception, with 21 receptions, 386 yards, but no touchdowns. Johnson had 7 touchdowns his sophomore season. It seems like Tech's receivers are capable of making plays, but without an efficient passing quarterback, and having a top-notch running back, their production is limited.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
The Bulldogs have allowed 18 sacks on the year. But most likely haven't faced a defense the Georgia Tech's yet. The only senior starter for the o-line is guard Ryan Wendell (6-2, 275). Wendell and the rest of the o-line need to be at their best to win the battle in the trenches. The 'Dogs had better be ready for constant blitzing and pressure from the Ramblin' Wreck. For the season, Fresno State's offensive line has allowed their running backs an average of 4.7 yards per carry. However, Tech's defense allows only 2.8 yards per carry.

Georgia Tech has given up 19 sacks on the year, and is a better run blocking unit than a pass blocking unit. They should be able to open holes for Tashard Choice, as the Bulldogs have allowed teams to rush for an average of 5.0 yards per carry. That should bode well for Choice's running attack, as the offensive line opened holes for the running backs at 4.8 yards per carry.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Defensive Line
Fresno State's defensive pressure is lead by senior Tyler Clutts (5.5 sacks), and junior Jon Monga (5.5 sacks). Freshmen Chris Carter (2 tackles for loss) and Kenny Borg (2.5 sacks) have both showed flashes of how they can get into the backfield quickly, playing mostly in the second half of the season. Senior Charles Tolbert has been solid with 5.5 TFL. However, sophomore Wilson Ramos might be the biggest surprise this season on the defensive line. Ramos has 7 TFL in limited playing time. Freshmen Cornell Banks and Mike Cheese, and junior Ikenna Ike (coming back from an injury) will also contribute to applying pressure and stopping the run.

Georgia Tech's defensive line is a very good unit led by senior Darrell Robertson (6.5 sacks, 16 TFL) and junior Vance Walker (8.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 3 FF). Junior Darryl Richard (4.5 sacks, 10.5 TFL), senior Adamm Oliver (4.5 sacks, 8 TFL), and junior Michael Johnson (4 sacks, 6 TFL, 3 FF) will contribute as well for the Ramblin' Wreck's tenacious defensive line. The Jackets lead the nation with a total of 47 sacks for the season, and opponents total 491 yards lost rushing. Ouch.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Senior Marcus Riley leads the WAC with 13 TFL, and also has an amazing 123 tackles. Freshman Ben Jacobs is second on the team with 72 tackles, and also has 6 TFL. They are the key to limiting Tashard Choice's rushing yards. Junior Ryan McKinley (6-2, 220), Sophomore Quaadir Brown (6-0, 210), and freshman walk-on surprise Nick Bates (6-2, 210) will round out most of the playing time for Fresno State's 4-3 defense linebacker unit. Look for Riley to lead the team in tackles once again and make big plays, as he has done the entire season, earning him WAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Expect Georgia Tech's game plan to include plenty of blitz packages. Senior Philip Wheeler (6-2, 238) is third on the team with 6 sacks (9 TFL), and senior Gary Guyton (6-3, 242) is fourth with 5 sacks(13.5 TFL). Sophomore Shane Bowen (6-1, 218) and freshman Anthony Barnes (6-3, 231) adds to the massive overall size of Tech's linebackers, who attack the quarterback more so than any other team Fresno has faced.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Defensive Backs
Senior Damon Jenkins (45 tackles, 7 pass deflections) and sophomore Damion Owens (39 tackles, 5 pass deflections, 1 interception) are the guys that the Bulldogs will lean on at the cornerback position. Sophomore cornerback A.J. Jefferson is still out with an ankle injury, but was also suspended from the team for missing curfew. Sophomore safeties Marvin Haynes and Moses Harris are tied for the lead in tackles (57) in the secondary. Harris also has 1 interception and 5 pass deflections. Freshman Lorne Bell who comes in for the nickel package and splits time with Harris has 51 tackles. Senior cornerback Will Harding and junior cornerback Sharrod Davis have played very well as of late and should see a good amount of action. The defensive back unit only has 3 interceptions, but is still a pretty solid unit ranking 58th in the nation in passing defense.

Senior safety Jamal Lewis leads the Jackets' secondary in tackles with 66, and 9.5 TFL. Freshman safety Morgan Burnett (6-1, 198) leads the team with 3 interceptions, and has 50 tackles. Senior defensive back Avery Roberson (6-2, 197) has 57 tackles and 6 pass breakups. Junior cornerback Jahi Word-Daniels (6-0, 194) has 50 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 8 pass breakups. Look for senior safety Djay Jones to get into the mix as well. Tech has only 2 more interceptions that the 'Dogs with 5. However, they rank 33 nationally in pass defense. Given that Fresno State has played a few more pass happy schools this season (New Mexico State - 623 pass attempts, Hawai'i - 606, Kansas State - 510, Boise State - 460, San Jose State - 450) than Georgia Tech (Boston College - 659, Clemson - 422, Virginia - 400, Notre Dame - 389, Duke - 383) ... I think these two secondaries are very even.
Edge: Even

Special Teams
Fresno State’s kick return game is the second best in the nation with an average of 27 yards a return, and ranks 10th on punt returns. Sophomore kick returner A.J. Jefferson is injured and suspended, so senior Clifton Smith will return kicks as well as his normal duty of returning punts. Senior kicker Clint Stitser has a strong leg, and seems to have put his early season slump behind him, and is 14 of 22 on field goals for the season. Senior punter Kyle Zimmerman has been a nice surprise for the Bulldogs this season dropping 21 of his 48 punts inside the 20 yard line, and averaging a modest 40.1 yards per punt.

Georgia Tech averages 23.8 yards per kick return, and 9.9 yards per punt return. Look for sophomore running back Jamaal Evans and freshman running back Jonathan Dwyer to handle the kick returns. Sophomore running back Tyler Evans (5-8, 186) will handle the punt returns. Senior kicker Travis bell has been solid connecting on 23-28 field goals, and senior Durant Brooks in one of the best punters in the country averaging 45.5 yards per punt, and pinning opponents inside the 20 yard line on 30 of 61 punts.
Edge: Even

Fresno State’s Pat Hill has his Bulldogs headed to a bowl game for the eighth time in the past nine seasons. Georgia Tech’s Chan Gailey has been fired, and defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will serve as coach just for the bowl game. Paul Johnson, the now former coach of Navy, has been hired to replace Gailey after the season.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State is 2-0 all-time against the ACC, and 1-0 against Georgia Tech winning 30-21 in the 2002 Silicon Valley Bowl. Fresno's last visit to Boise's blue turf for a bowl game ended with the Bulldogs upsetting #18 Virginia 37-34 in OT, in 2004. Georgia Tech is in a bowl for the 11th consecutive season. In 2003, the Yellow Jackets played in the Humanitarian Bowl and destroyed Tulsa 52-10. With Fresno State having a comeback season at 8-4 from a 2006 record of 4-8, the Bulldogs are more excited to be in this bowl than Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets had a disappointing season after being ranked #15 after the first 2 weeks of the season, and finished 7-5. The Yellow Jackets seem to have a better defense and a slightly better run game, but this team is old an disappointed. Fresno State is young and excited.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fearless prediction: Fresno State 27, Georgia Tech 24, in one of the closest match ups of the 2007 Bowl Season.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sorry Bozo State...

I know you're in the WAC and all, and it looks good for the conference if we all win our bowl games, but I just can't pull for you. I'm loving every minute of this East Carolina game so far...

I appreciate your support as we get ready to take on Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl New Year's Eve, but I can't be happy when you win. Not tonight. Not ever. I love one college football team. I loathe the rest. And I REALLY can't stand you.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Play Hard!

Maybe the 'Dogs men's b-ball team needs to borrow that mantra from football coach Pat Hill?

It makes me sick to my stomach every time I see Shawn Taylor going through the motions out on the basketball court, knowing he has the size (6-foot-11) and billing (one of the top players as a HS senior) to be a standout. He shows flashes. We know he's capable of being darn good, which would make this year's 'Dogs stop being darn bad.

Play hard. It's not hard to play hard. Block shots. Yell in people's faces. Intimidate. Then sprint full speed down the court, catch the ball, don't get pushed around. Dunk. Be strong. You can do it. I know you can. And the 'Dogs need you to. Badly.

Is it possible some players just aren't capable of playing with that enough emotion to be good?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Did you guys read that today...?

The story in today's paper says Fresno State is thinking about adding one or two more women's sports -- makes sense, until you see the "emerging" list of NCAA "sports" they're thinking about adding.

If it's badminton, I'll show them a birdie. No one wants to watch that. Squash? Are we talkin' 'bout eating or competing? (What the heck is squash anyway!?) Archery, team handball, synchronized swimming? Anyone know what high schools you're gonna recruit those athletes from...? And rugby...who even knew girls play rugby? (OK, actually I might be tempted to go see this).

But let's think a second here. The athletic department just eliminated swimming a few years or so ago. Swimming couldn't have been that expensive to run (here's some cool bathing suits and a towel, good luck). But, heck, if you're not going to reinstate that program, let's at least create one that's gonna be great on a national level (which every program on campus should be).

Wait, here's an idea...women's water polo. Think about it. You have a handful of some of the state's most talented teams right in your own back yard. Clovis West. Clovis. Buchanan. In a few years Clovis North will be one. Maybe even Clovis East? Throw in a couple-few girls from the south Valley and north Valley and you've got an instant top 25 threat. Heck, two of San Diego State's best players right now are Clovis West and Buchanan alums. And the Lady Aztec-sters just finished third in the country!'s a no-brainer.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wendell, Riley, Clutts and Bear, oh my!

You've gotta appreciate that the WAC got this one right -- Marcus Riley, WAC defensive player of the year. I was relieved to hear there was no truth to the rumor Matt Costelo of SJSU was gonna get it.

Hawaii's Colt Brennan got offensive player of the year. Anyone else want a bumper sticker that says, "Our WAC player of the year knocked your WAC player of the year out cold" ...? I do.

Congrats also to Ryan Wendell, Tyler Clutts and Bear Pascoe for their first-team All-WAC honors. But you've gotta wonder how the heck A.J. Jefferson (the nation's LEADING kick returner) gets left off!?

And Bobby Lepori nowhere on first- or second-team? No Ryan Mathews!? Not even for newcomer of the year. The guy leads the nation in TDs among freshmen despite missing two games with injuries and can't get any mention on the All-WAC list? Nevada's Colin Kaepernick is good, but not Mathews good.

And I see the WAC used this as a perfect opportunity to leave off Ben Jacobs -- good thing, 'cause it'll be their only chance not to choose him for the next three years.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Hawaii to the BCS?

Part of me says "good." (Fresno State could use the extra $300,000 or so)

Part of me says "darn it!" (Who are we kidding? Hawaii has always been full of a bunch of trash-talking jerks in football and b-ball, has a football coach who made screwdriver claims that still haven't been substantiated and unruly fans who pick on old ladies).

Part of me says "I hope they somehow fall to 13th in the BCS rankings." (That way playing a pathetic excuse for a non-conf. schedule won't be encouraged).

Alls I know is that whatever happens, the 'Dogs are setting out to make it next season (only an undefeated 'Dogs record against UCLA, K-State, Wisconsin and Toledo would equal a berth in the national championship). Buckle up Red Wave!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Grading the 'Dogs (8-4, 6-2): at New Mexico State (4-9, 1-7)

Quarterbacks: A-
Brandstater came out more confident than ever, putting zip in his throws, running and throwing for 205 yards (20.5 per completion). Showed no hesitation taking off for a 40-yard run to set up a score.

Running Backs: A-
Harding proves last week was not an anomally, rushing for a career-high 121 and a score, and is complemented by Mathews' 99 yards and a TD before he left with a possible broken clavicle (ouch).

Receivers: B+
A few too many dropped balls, but it was pouring rain. Moore goes over 100 yards for the second straight game with four catches for 106 yards. Ajirotutu adds two for 46, and Lang two for 25. Pascoe returns to field.

Offensive Line: A-
Made Brandstater's day easy, allowing just one sack and giving him tons of time the rest of the game. Had some trouble pushing Aggies defense around inside the red zone early. 'Dogs averaged 5 yards a carry.

Defensive Line: B-
Didn't get much pressure on Holbrook, but helped hod Aggies to 96 rushing yards.

Linebackers: B
Riley and Jacobs are too much, combining for 20 tackles (2 for losses). Riley nearly picked off late desperation pass.

Defensive Backs: B-
Secondary clamped down after shaky first quarter (which seems to be a habit). Davis made two straight key stops in the red zone, and Harding stepped up to fill Bell's void with 10 tackles (2 for losses) and a sack. Still, allowed 323 yards, and Jorde dropped two potential interceptions before leaving with injury.

Special Teams: B
Blocked PAT returned by Owens for two points, but return game struggled without Smith and Jefferson, though Lang could be return man of the future. Stitser made his first two field goals before missing a 24-yarder with 1:04 left that would have sealed the win.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Game Preview: Fresno State (7-4, 5-2) at New Mexico State (4-8, 1-6)

Right now, more than ever, Fresno State’s Tom Brandstater has to be feeling confident. He finally looked like the impact player Pat Hill thought he would be last week against Kansas State, throwing for a career-high 313 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Heading into the regular season finale, Brandstater has completed 61.8% of his passes for 2,164 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions, compared to 54.5% for 1,490 yards, 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions as a sophomore last season. Brandstater has thrown just two interceptions in his past seven games.

New Mexico State junior Chase Holbrook (6-5, 240) ranks eighth in the nation in total offense, thanks to passing for 3,543 yards and 25 touchdowns with a 71.3% completion rate. But, he’s been picked off 18 times – something that can happen when a guy puts the ball in the air 491 times. Usually, Holbrook would get the edge, but not the way Brandstater played last week.
Edge: Even

Running Backs
Sophomore Anthony Harding became the fourth Bulldogs back to rush for more than 100 yards in a game this season with 115 and a touchdown on 22 carries against Kansas State. Sophomore starter Lonyae Miller added 91 yards and a score, but also fumbled twice inside the opposing 5-yard line. Ryan Mathews, who leads the team with 767 yards and 13 touchdowns on 6.1 yards per carry (tops in the nation among freshmen), returned last week from injury but carried just six times for 16 yards and a score. He could see more of the load Friday. And there’s still senior Clifton Smith, the do-everything shifty runner who was limited with a hip pointer last week, but has 473 rushing yards and three scores to go with 295 receiving yards. He’s third on the team in each category. Senior fullback Nate Adams was praised for opening gaping holes for the tailbacks last week.

The biggest difference between New Mexico State’s offense and Hawaii’s is the running game – the Aggies have one. Junior Justine Buries (6-0, 211) leads the team with 569 yards, though he averages just 3.8 per carry. Sophomore Tonny Glynn (5-8, 190), a converted defensive back, is second on the team with 456 yards (5.6 per carry) and has a team-high four touchdowns.
Edge: Bulldogs

Watch out – Marlon Moore is officially on the scene. The sophomore turned in the Bulldogs’ first 100-plus yard performance of the Brandstater era with nine catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas State. He also had two scores at Hawaii, giving him four in the past two games. Moore now leads the team with 508 receiving yards and five touchdowns, and is second with 37 receptions. Junior tight end Bear Pascoe has 38 grabs for 474 yards and four touchdowns, but has missed the past game and a half and is questionable for Friday. Sophomore Seyi Ajirotutu leads the team with 16.3 yards per grab and has 406 yards on the season. H-back Isaac Kinter has also become a factor in the flat, with 111 yards and two scores.

The Aggies are severely hampered by injuries in the receiving corps, with standout Chris Williams (772 yards, 11 touchdowns) out for the year. Senior Derek Dubois (5-8, 174) didn’t play two weeks ago in a loss to Utah State, but might return Friday. Dubois is second on the team with 708 yards and has three scores. Junior A.J. Harris (6-0, 208) has just 525 yards but leads the team with 73 receptions (7.2 yards per catch). Harris just became the school’s all-time receptions leader with 182.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
The ‘Dogs didn’t allow a single sack and plowed huge running lanes (4.6 yards per rush) against Kansas State last week, something that should scare a New Mexico State team that runs a similar 3-4 defense with lesser athletes. Junior Bobby Lepori has become one of the team’s emotional leaders. Fresno State has allowed 17 sacks on the season.

New Mexico State has allowed 27 sacks this year – a stat that is cause for concern against a Bulldogs defense with 32 sacks coming in. The line has bookend senior tackles in Mike Martinez (6-4, 350) and James Farrelly (6-4, 290). The Aggies average just 3.2 yards per carry.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
Fresno State is enjoying a lot more speed off the edge since moving a few freshmen into the regular rotation. Redshirt freshman Mike Cheese (6-1, 215) had two sacks against Hawaii, and is accompanied by true freshmen Kenny Borg (6-3, 245) and Chris Carter (6-2, 220). Cheese and Carter are undersized as converted linebackers, but are too athletic for some blockers to keep up with. Borg saw extensive playing time last week. But it was a couple of senior who made the biggest impact, when tackle Charles Tolbert sacked Josh Freeman, forcing a fumble that was recovered by end Tyler Clutts and led to a Bulldogs touchdown.

The Aggies’ three down linemen will have their work cut out for them, and will need help from blitzing linebackers. Senior reserve end Maurice Murray (6-3, 323) is tied for the team lead with four sacks, just ahead of senior end Brandon McKinney’s (6-4, 273) three. Nose guard Ray Manumaleuna (6-2, 321) and the rest of a relatively large line will have a hard time defending the run if the Bulldogs get outside the tackles.
Edge: Bulldogs

There’s not a better WAC duo than senior Marcus Riley and redshirt freshman Ben Jacobs. Riley leads the team with 110 tackles, 12 tackles for losses and has 1.5 sacks and an interception (not to mention a TKO of Colt Brennan a few weeks back). Jacobs is second with 65 stops and has five tackles for losses (two sacks). Junior Ryan McKinley (6-2, 225) got extensive time against Kansas State, and has moved up to second on the depth chart in the middle.

Expect the Aggies gameplan to include plenty of blitz packages. If this unit doesn’t come through, there’s no way this game is close. Senior Dante Floyd (5-10, 244) leads the way with 115 tackles, 12 tackles for losses and four sacks. Junior La’Auli Fonoti (6-4, 253) is second on the team with seven tackles for losses (two sacks). Senior Michael Brewer (6-2, 230) and junior Chris Nwoko (6-1, 230) round out the lineup and give the group plenty of size. But can they keep up with the Bulldogs’ backfield?
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Backs
The team suffered a hard-to-swallow loss of redshirt freshman safety Lorne Bell to a season-ending knee injury last week, leaving just one reserve in junior Jake Jorde (6-1, 195). Senior corner Will Harding (6-0, 195) may see some time at safety Friday, but is also needed to fill in at corner, as sophomore A.J. Jefferson is expected to miss his second straight game with a high ankle sprain. Junior Sharrod Davis (6-0, 185) will see a larger role behind Damon Jenkins and Damion Owens.

It might not be so wise for the Aggies to focus on the run now that Tom Brandstater is coming off a 313-yard performance. Junior free safety Derek Richardson (5-11, 190) is second on the team with 96 tackles. True freshman Davon House (6-0, 168) is the surprise of the year with a team-high four interceptions (the team has just seven total and no one else has more than one).
Edge: Bulldogs

Special Teams
Fresno State’s return game is a shell of its former self with the absence of A.J. Jefferson (the nation’s leading kick returner) and Clifton Smith (one of the top 10 punt returners). Smith should be ready to go, missing just bits and pieces of last week’s game with a hip pointer, but Jefferson is expected out. Senior kicker Clint Stitser seems to have shaken an early-season slump, and made his only attempt from 46 yards last week. Senior Kyle Zimmerman has placed 20 of 44 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Aggies senior Jared Kaufman (6-1, 182) averages 40.7 yards per punt, but has landed just 9 of 57 inside the 20-yard line, and had two blocked (not a good sign against Fresno State). Sophomore kicker Paul Young (6-3, 182) has also had two kicks blocked. He’s 11 for 17 with a long of 41 yards. The Aggies return men (Chris Williams and Derek Dubois) have both been injured.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State’s Pat Hill has his Bulldogs headed to a bowl game for the eighth time in the past nine seasons. New Mexico State’s Hal Mumme is 8-28 in three years with the Aggies, and 105-92-1 in his career. His high-flying offense hasn’t proved to be a winner yet, mainly because of his low-impact defense.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State is 13-0 all-time against New Mexico State, winning 23-18 to end a school-record seven-game losing streak last season. With a win, the Bulldogs can flip-flop from 4-8 last season to 8-4 this season (with a bowl remaining, quite possibly the New Mexico Bowl). But it might be hard to get amped up in what is likely to be an empty Aggie Memorial Stadium on Friday. Fresno State won 37-7 in its last trip to Las Cruces in 2005.
Edge: Bulldogs

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Grading the 'Dogs (7-4, 5-2): vs. Kansas State (5-7, 3-5)

Quarterbacks: A+
How 'bout that Brandstater!? A career-high 313 yards. Two TDs. And Kansas State never even came close to picking off a pass.

Running Backs: B-
Gotta love fourth-string tailback Harding's 115 yards and a TD coupled with Miller's 91 yards and a TD against one of the nation's best statistical run defenses. But Miller's two fumbles lost inside the 5-yard line would have been critical mistakes in a close game.

Receivers: A+
Hands down the best collective game this corps has had in the past two years. Moore has scratched his prime as the first receiver to top 100 yards all season (134) to go with two TDs.

Offensive Line: A
Possibly this unit's best game ever. Dominant pass blocking and oft-dominant run blocking equals a blowout.

Defensive Line: A
The pivotal play of the game came just after Fresno State took a 17-14 lead, when Tolbert forced Freeman to fumble and Clutts recovered, leading to another TD.

Linebackers: A-
After giving up 67- and 45-yard TD runs in the first quarter, allowed just 14 yards rushing the rest of the game.

Defensive Backs: B+
Although Nelson gathered 15 catches for 165 yards, Jenkins, Owens and Harris all made clutch stops and deflections. Jorde filled in nicely for the injured Bell.

Special Teams: B-
Special teams didn't play much of a factor as the 'Dogs had their worst return game of the season with Jefferson and Smith injured. Stitser hit a 46-yarder.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Here's to you Tommy Brandstater!

Kansas State Ron Prince:"They have a terrific quarterback (Tom Brandstater) and I don't want to take anything away from that. It didn't matter how our defense played, he was going to find a place to throw the ball. He's a real pro. I have a lot of respect for a good quarterback and he is definitely a good quarterback. We got beat by a good quarterback today."

Now there's a refreshing thought heading into the last couple games of '07 and what could be a very special '08...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Game Preview: Fresno State (6-4, 5-2) vs. Kansas State (5-6, 3-5)

Fresno State’s Tom Brandstater didn’t do half bad, with maybe his best game ever at Hawaii two weeks ago. Brandstater was 15 of 26 for 209 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Brandstater should surpass that 2,000-yard mark on the season Saturday, as he currently sits at 1,851 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s completed 59.8% of his passes. This game would mark his first win over a BCS-conference team as a starter – something Fresno State quarterbacks are measured by.

The ‘Dogs are no strangers to facing some of the nation’s best passers, as is the case again this week with Kansas State sophomore Josh Freeman (6-6, 250). Freeman has completed 289 passes on the year (30 more than Brandstater has attempted) for 3,097 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He’s completed 63.1%. This guy is only going to get better in the next two years.
Edge: Wildcats

Running Backs
The biggest question for Fresno State’s running game is whether true freshman Ryan Mathews will return from an ankle injury that cost him to miss the Hawaii game. Mathews leads the team with 751 yards and 12 touchdowns (a freshman best) while averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Sophomore Lonyae Miller returned from his injury to rush for 78 yards on 17 carries against Hawaii. He’s second on the team with 480 yards and six scores on 4.4 yards per attempt. But the biggest bright spot right now is senior Clifton Smith, who has proved to be capable of carrying an every-down load at times, with 105 yards against Hawaii and 127 against Utah State. Suddenly, Smith is right behind Miller on the season with 472 yards and three touchdowns (6 yards per carry), and is also third on the team with 302 yards receiving. Smith and fullback Nate Adams will have plenty of emotion on Senior Day.

Kansas State’s running game features one back – senior James Johnson (5-11, 200). Johnson has 1,035 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns (6.3 per carry) with 222 receiving on the year. Reserve sophomore Leon Patton (5-7, 187) might remind Bulldogs fans of Kansas State’s back the last time these two teams met in 2004, Darren Sproles. But Patton has blossomed into that type of player yet, through he is second on the Wildcats with 338 yards and three scores (4.2 per carry).
Edge: Even

It’s not often this year the Bulldogs have gotten yards after the catch. But sophomore Marlon Moore made sure it happened late at Hawaii, and it was almost enough to win. Moore caught three passes for 59 yards and two scores. Despite missing 2½ games, Moore leads the wideouts with 374 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Seyi Ajirotutu has developed into the team’s best deep threat, and is second amongst wideouts with 330 yards (16.5 per catch). The biggest problem for the receiving corps is whether tight end Bear Pascoe, the team’s leader with 474 yards and four touchdowns, can return from an injury that sidelined him in the second half at Hawaii. He has been limited in practice this week.

It’s all about senior Jordy Nelson (6-3, 217) for Kansas State. Nelson is second in the nation with 1,441 yards receiving on 107 catches and has 10 touchdowns. Nelson’s size could be a problem for Fresno State, but unlike Hawaii, Kansas State allows the ‘Dogs to key on one receiver. Although, junior Deon Murphy (5-10, 170) can keep defenses honest with his 568 yards and five touchdowns.
Edge: Wildcats

Offensive Line
A Bulldog Stadium crowd will bid farewell to four-year starter Ryan Wendell, who lines up at center. Fresno State allowed a season-high five sacks at Hawaii after ranking atop the WAC with just 12 sacks allowed previously. Kansas State has sacked the quarterback 30 times on the year. As a team, the ‘Dogs average 4.7 yards per rushing attempt.

Kansas State’s average isn’t far behind at 4.4 yards per carry. The Wildcats’ Logan Robinson (6-8, 318) could be playing in his final game as a senior. Something has got to give as Kansas State has allowed 16 sacks on the season and the Bulldogs have recorded 31 sacks.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
End Tyler Clutts enters his final home game as a Bulldog tied for the team lead with 5.5 sacks and tied for third with seven tackles for losses. You can bet he’ll be amped to go out on top. A interesting side note will be how true freshman end Chris Carter is used. He was inserted into the lineup at Hawaii and immediately the ‘Dogs defense started applying pressure on the quarterback. But Carter is still greatly undersized for an end, especially against a Big XII offensive front. Junior tackle Jon Monga is tied with Clutts with 5.5 sacks and is second with 9.5 tackles for losses.

The Wildcats play a 3-4 defense, a scheme Fresno State has done well against this year (Nevada). Senior California-native end Moses Manu (6-2, 260) is tops amongst the line with 32 tackles and is second on the team with 5.5 for losses. He has two sacks. Kansas State nose tackle junior Brandon Balkcom (6-0, 266) will have to rely on athleticism against Fresno State’s bigger interior protection.
Edge: Bulldogs

Marcus Riley. Senior Day. Watch out. Riley made himself into an instant YouTube star by knocking out Hawaii’s Colt Brennan, and leads the Bulldogs with 103 tackles (10.5 for losses). He also grabbed his first interception in the end zone at Hawaii, and has forced three fumbles. Riley has turned into the WAC’s most aggressive defender. Redshirt freshman Ben Jacobs is second with 65 tackles (five for losses).

Wilcats senior Justin Roland (6-0, 245) is second on the team with 63 tackles (4.5 for losses). If he has his way, he’ll be joined in the Bulldogs backfield often with junior Reggie Walker (6-1, 231), who is tied for third with 60 tackles and tied for second with five for losses. Junior Ian Campbell (6-4, 249) leads Kansas State with 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for losses.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Backs
Fresno State has to find the guy to cover Jordy Nelson, and that duty will fall to either senior Damon Jenkins (30 tackles, 1 pass broken up, 1 deflected) or sophomore Damion Owens (29 tackles, 1 for a loss, 1 interception, 3 breakups, 4 deflections). Owens has propelled himself as the team’s go-to guy at corner, but the hits come from redshirt freshman safety Lorne Bell (51 tackles, 3.5 for losses) and sophomore safety Moses Harris (46 tackles, 3.5 for losses).

Kansas State senior corner Justin McKinney (5-9, 191) leads the Wildcats with 69 tackles and is second with three interceptions. Sophomore reserve free safety Chris Carney (6-1, 190) has a team-high four picks. Senior free safety Marcus Watts (6-1, 189) is another to watch out for with 58 tackles (3 for losses) and an interception.
Edge: Even

Special Teams
Two straight weeks Fresno State’s A.J. Jefferson has returned kickoffs for touchdowns, with a 98-yarder at Hawaii. Jefferson leads the nation with 35.8 per return. Clifton Smith is seventh in the nation with 15.4 yards per punt return and also has two touchdowns on the year, and a Fresno State record five in his career. Smith would like nothing more than to get one more in his Bulldog Stadium finale. Kicker Clint Stitser and punter Kyle Zimmerman also are playing their final home game. Stitser is 11 of 18 on field goals, and Zimmerman averages 39.5 yards per punt and has pinned 20 of 43 inside the 20-yard line. The Bulldogs have blocked four kicks on the year.

Kansas State’s Deon Murphy leads the nation with 17.2 yards per punt return and has one score. But the Wildcats’ kick return game is below average with Leon Patton’s 22.2 yards per attempt. Junior kicker Brooks Rossman (6-0, 178) has connected on 22 of 28 field goals, with a long of 52 yards. Senior punter Tim Reyer (5-11, 201) averages 44.3 yards per punt.
Edge: Bulldogs

Pat Hill and Ron Prince have never faced each other. Hill, in his 11th year with the Bulldogs, has earned the reputation as a giant-slayer against BCS-conference opponents. Prince, in his second season, has led Kansas State to a 20-point win over Texas earlier this season and a near-win against No. 2 Kansas, but has his team on the brink of missing a bowl game with a loss Saturday.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State hasn’t beaten a BCS-conference team since it’s 37-34 overtime win against No. 17 Virginia in the 2004 MPC Computers Bowl. That same season, the ‘Dogs handed No. 13 Kansas State a 45-21 shellacking in Manhattan, Kan. in a game which former standout running back Dwayne Wright suffered a two-season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter. It’s Senior Day for the Bulldogs in front of a national television audience that has viewed all four of the Bulldogs’ losses this season, but it’s hard to say how many fans will show up. A Red Wave sellout alone would give Fresno State the edge. Kansas State must win this game to improve to .500 and become bowl eligible. That counts for a lot.
Edge: Even

Sunday, November 18, 2007

In case you STILL need an incentive...

In case you STILL need an incentive to get your butt in Bulldog Stadium on Saturday for Fresno State's home finale against Kansas State, here are three more.

1. Clifton Smith
2. Tyler Clutts
3. Marcus Riley

Actually, there are 16 seniors we'll have to say goodbye to. And as you ponder the best way to bid them farewell (which will have something to do with severely damaging your vocal chords yelling for them as they head through the inflatable doghouse), remember these tidbits:

KSEE24 had a great idea on "Bulldog Insider" tonight, where Alexan Balekian sat down with Clif, Clutts and Riley to talk about their fondest 'Dogs memories. All three of 'em said there truly is nothing in college football quite like the walk down the Bulldog Stadium ramp, getting in that doghouse and running through the smoke and fireworks in front of 42,000 pumped-up Red Wavers. (NOTE TO FANS: that means we need 42,000 Red Wavers Saturday to give 'em that one last dream come true).

Then, if you need further evidence these guys are perfect examples of Bulldog Football, Balekian asked what one thing they will take away from Pat Hill?

Clutts said it's that hard work pays off.

Riley said it's that football teaches lifelong lessons, and the way you act when no one is watching is what's most important.

And Clifton summed up the Bulldog Spirit better than anyone. He said the day he stepped on campus as a freshman he learned from Hill that we're Bulldog born, Bulldog bred, we'll be Bulldogs 'til the day we're dead.

Well Clif, Marcus and Tyler, I'm here to say we'll be right there with you. Look for us in the stands. We're the ones wearing Bulldog Red.

Friday, November 16, 2007

NO EXCUSES not to be at the home finale!

Come on Red Wave! The Utah State showing was pathetic. That's not the Red Wave mentality or Bulldog Spirit that we've all been proud of all these years.

It's time to knock it off. Our 'Dogs can finish 8-4 (9-4 with a bowl win) and get back to a bowl game this year. Kansas State -- only the second Big XII team to EVER visit Bulldog Stadium -- is coming to town!

You can't ask for a better opponent. This is big-time football. Nationally televised to show the country what the Red Wave is all about. A chance to get some revenge against the team that stole 1 1/2 years of Dwayne Wright's career by injuring his knee in the Bulldogs' 2004 rout. A chance to improve to 2-0 all-time against K-State. An opportunity to beat another BCS-conference big boy -- for the first time since the 2004 MPC Computers Bowl.

Let's get out there early for the 12:30 p.m. game. NO EXCUSES!

And since I'm guessing most everyone reading this is the type of diehard fan who never misses a game, take the responsibility upon yourselves to bring people with you or encourage those fans who don't go to every game to go to this one. Show 'em this link, where they can get TWO TICKETS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I don't like having peripheral vision...

I want to be able to concentrate on the fun part of college sports. The family. The friends. The games. The stats. The football team's good grades. Marcus Riley knocking Colt Brennan out cold, making him fumble, Chris Carter scoring a touchdown and none of it counting (but that's a whole 'nother topic).

Anyway, I'm tired of seeing all the scandalous parts of the games out of the corner of my eyes. Sometimes I wish I didn't have that peripheral vision.

When I turn on the Ch. 47 news and the first three stories aired involve scandal within the Fresno State athletic department, it upsets me. Doesn't it you?

Great news! Jason Shirley appealed his season-long suspension and was granted a return to the team. But does he deserve it? It's up to the courts what his punishment will be, and court is becoming an all-to-common site of Fresno State news these days.

The next story aired was about b-ball Kentucky transfer Rekalin Sims, a post player who will no doubt make a major impact if he ever suits up for the 'Dogs, but was reportedly arrested and is being investigated to see how/if he's connected to the robbery of a "handicapped" man. Now, the one time that I've met Rekalin, he took the initiative to approach us and introduce himself by name and say he's glad to meet us and looking forward to playing for Fresno State. Polite guy. More than most. Let's just say if I had to guess which of the b-ball players were most likely to have a legal issue, I would have pegged Sims more like Tyson Parker than Terry Pettis.

Speaking of Terry Pettis, his deposition has been the talk of the town as the Stacy Johnson-Klein lawsuit drags on. That was the third story on tonight's news.

You know, this whole bad-publicity-is-better-than-no-publicity idea is cute, but what happens when it takes so long to report the bad publicity that we run out of time to talk or think about anything else?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Grading the 'Dogs (6-4, 5-2): at Hawaii (9-0, 6-0)

Quarterbacks: B+
Can't ask for much more than than from Tommy B. 209 yards, 3 TDs and a drive in crunch time. He just needed one more possession.

Running Backs: B
After rough first quarter, Smith (105 yards) and Miller (78 yards) mask Mathews' absence, but deficit was too big already.

Receivers: B+
They can run after the catch! Get Ajirotutu the ball more, and keep finding Moore across the middle. Pascoe's injury didn't hurt too bad.

Offensive Line: C-
5 sacks allowed in one game!? The unit had only allowed 12 all year. Still struggling against blitzing schemes.

Defensive Line: C
First quarter was atrocious with zero pressure on Brennan, but Carter's second-half play made up for some of it.

Linebackers: C
As much as I wanna give an A for Riley's slobber-knocking hit that left Brennan squirming on Hawaii's trash dump of a field, the tale of two halves defensively kept the 'Dogs from winning. Give Cheese props for his 2 sacks, and Riley for his interception in the end zone (just the second of the season for the 'Dogs).

Defensive Backs: D
They buckled down in the second half too, but their terrible first-quarter play was inexcusable, getting down 21-0 and allowing Brennan to throw for more than 300 yards in the first half.

Special Teams: B+
Jefferson got the 'Dogs on the board with a 98-yard first-quarter kick return for a TD. But, other than that, special teams wasn't a difference-maker.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Game Preview: Fresno State (6-3, 5-1) at Hawaii (8-0, 5-0)

Tom Brandstater’s most important job Saturday will be keeping Hawaii’s defense honest. If he shows early that he isn’t bashful about playing catch with the wideouts, it’ll open up the running game. Brandstater is having a far better season than last year, throwing for 1,642 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. Most telling is his 60.1% completion rate.

Hawaii’s Colt Brennan (6-3, 201) is the second Heisman candidate Fresno State has faced this season. The other was Oregon’s Dennis Dixon. But unlike Dixon, Brennan isn’t going to look to run much – just pass, pass and pass some more. He has completed 68.6% of his passes, while throwing for 2,820 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. That’s the good news, if there is any – he does make the occasional mistake.
Edge: Warriors

Running Backs
True freshman Ryan Mathews left the Utah State game in the second quarter – and already had 106 yards. He’s questionable for this week’s game, and sophomore starter Lonyae Miller has missed the past two games with injury. Miller is expected to return, but if he can’t senior Clifton Smith, who is best used as a versatile piece of the offense lining up all over the field, will carry the load. Smith led the team with a career-high 126 yards on 27 carries last week. Mathews leads the team with 751 yards and 12 touchdowns (best in the nation by a freshman), while averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Miller has 402 yards and six touchdowns (4.3 per carry) and Smith has 367 yards and three touchdowns (5.3 per carry). Sophomore Anthony Harding has 154 yards and two touchdowns while also seeing time at fullback, but will play tailback if Miller and Mathews aren’t available.

As a team, Hawaii averages just 72.8 yards per game – less than Fresno State’s Mathews averages on his own (83.4). Running isn’t much a part of the Warriors’ gameplan. Freshman Kealoha Pilares (5-11, 190) leads the team with 294 yards and three touchdowns, while sophomore Nebraska transfer Leon Wright-Jackson (6-1, 211) adds 153 yards and a score. Both average 5.9 per carry, but get very few carries.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State got a scare with junior tight end Bear Pascoe banged up from a hit during last week’s game, but he’ll be ready to go Saturday. Pascoe’s 37 catches, 462 yards and four touchdowns lead the squad. Sophomore wideout Marlon Moore has been a big boost for the offense since returning from a sprained ankle. He now ranks second on the team with 25 receptions for 315 yards. Clifton Smith also has 25 gras, with 267 yards total. Sophomore Seyi Ajirotutu, who averages 16.6 yards per catch, is a gamebreaker who the ‘Dogs can take better advantage of.

Everyone’s a threat for Hawaii. Four receivers have more than 500 yards, with junior Ryan Grice-Mullen (5-11, 180) leading the way with 952 and nine touchdowns. He averages 119 yards per game. Elusive junior Davone Bess (5-10, 195) also has nine scores to go with 748 yards. Senior Jason Rivers (6-2, 189) has 677 yards and six touchdowns, and despite missing most of the past two games is the nation’s active career leader with 3,422 receiving yards. Senior C.J. Hawthorne (5-11, 168) has 519 yards and five touchdowns.
Edge: Warriors

Offensive Line
Much like the Boise State game, the play of Fresno State’s line could be where the game is won or lost. If the line keeps the running backs moving forward and grinds the clock, there’s no reason the Bulldogs shouldn’t win this game. But that’s a big if unless the passing game keeps Hawaii from stacking the box. Fresno State is tied for a WAC-best 12 sacks allowed, matching the total the Bulldogs gave up last season. The team averages 4.7 yards per carry.

Hawaii is not far behind with only 14 sacks allowed, a feat considering how often the Warriors pass. Much like the Bulldogs, Hawaii features a smaller, more mobile line led by senior guards Hercules Satele (6-2, 293) and Larry Saufea (6-2, 294). The unit isn’t what it has been in recent years before the departure of numerous NFL-bound standouts. Hawaii averages just 3.5 yards per carry.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
The youth is slowly beginning to step up for Fresno State, with true freshman end Kenny Borg and sophomore Wilson Ramos each collecting two sacks last week. That’s good news, considering senior end Tyler Clutts (7) and junior tackle Jon Monga (6) are amongst the WAC leaders in sacks. Pressuring Brennan into quick, short passes and capitalizing on a mistake or two will be key. Clutts is third on the team with 49 tackles (10 for losses).

Hawaii junior reserve end David Veikune (6-3, 252) leads the team with five sacks, just ahead of senior end Karl Noa (6-4, 251), who has four. Hawaii owns the WAC’s best rushing defense, allowing 102.5 yards per game and 2.9 per carry. But the Warriors haven’t yet faced a running game even close to what Fresno State brings when healthy.
Edge: Bulldogs

It’s hard to find new adjectives every week to accurately describe the type of impact player senior Marcus Riley is. He leads Fresno State with 94 tackles and 12 for losses. He also has three forced fumbles and two sacks. He hits often and hard and hunts down the ball carrier. Redshirt freshman Ben Jacobs is waiting in the wings with 64 tackles (seven for losses) and two sacks. The Bulldogs’ defense is most vulnerable to the run – namely running quarterbacks – something the team won’t have to worry much about this week.

Hawaii has a couple of standout linebackers of its own in juniors Solomon Elimimian (5-11, 218) and Adam Leonard (6-0, 236). Elimimian leads the team with 90 tackles (7.5 for losses) and Leonard is second with 72 tackles (10.5 for losses). Leonard also is tied for the team lead with four interceptions. Brandstater will have to be careful to watch for Leonard lurking in a coverage zone.
Edge: Even

Defensive Backs
Ah, the defensive key to the game. The problem for Fresno State is it has just three proven corners to defend four Hawaii receivers who rank among the WAC’s top 10 in yardage. Damon Jenkins is the only senior, with sophomore Damion Owens and A.J. Jefferson quickly making names for themselves. But watch for junior transfer Sharrod Davis to have a make or break game as the fourth corner, and for versatile redshirt freshman safety Lorne Bell to play a major role. Bell has a knack for picking off passes in practice, but doesn’t have one in a game yet – yet. The ‘Dogs will count on Bell and sophomore Moses Harris to lay big hits and get in the heads of Hawaii’s wideouts. Fresno State’s pass defense ranks second in the WAC, allowing 192.8 yards per game.

Hawaii senior corner Myron Newberry (5-9, 174) is tied for the team lead with four picks. Senior strong safety Jacob Patek (6-0, 204) is third on the team with 53 tackles. As a team, Hawaii has 16 interceptions, also including two each by senior corner Gerard Lewis (5-9, 175) and junior free safety Keao Montelih (5-11, 193). The ‘Dogs bigger receiving threats might be able to exploit Hawaii’s somewhat undersized corners.
Edge: Even

Special Teams
If you’re Fresno State, you want to ensure that special teams plays a big part in this game. The Bulldogs can dictate field position with the nation’s second-leading kick returner in A.J. Jefferson (36.1-yard average), who had an 88-yard touchdown return last week, and nearly untouchable punt returner Clifton Smith, who averages 16.2 yards and has returned two for scores. Kicker Clint Stitser hit a career-long 52-yard field goal last week, and Kyle Zimmerman ranks third in the WAC at 40.8 yards per punt. The Bulldogs recorded their fourth blocked kick against Utah State.

Hawaii poses a threat with Malcolm Lane (6-2, 184), who has returned two of his seven kick returns for touchdowns, averaging 46 yards. Davone Bess averages 9.8 yards on punt returns. Junior kicker Dan Kelly is 6 of 9 on field goals, with a long of 54 yards. All three of his misses came from 40 yards or more. Junior punter Tim Grasso averages 40.1 yards per attempt, with just 21 attempts on the year.
Edge: Bulldogs

It’s a matchup of the WAC’s two longest tenured coaches in Pat Hill (11th season) and June Jones (ninth season). After several years of Hill’s Bulldogs threatening to crash the BCS elitist party, Jones’ Warriors are the biggest threat this season. Will Jones come up with another (tall) tale this season of a thrown screwdriver?
Edge: Even

Fresno State has won at Hawaii just twice since 1965 – but the Bulldogs’ most recent trip, in 2005, was one of those two. Fresno State held a Colt Brennan-led Hawaii club to just 13 points in that game. Hawaii is 29-9 in home WAC games, and its fans have a particular distaste for the Bulldogs – they’ll show and they’ll be heard. If the ‘Dogs were within earshot, we’d give ‘em a big-time, win-one-for-DC3 pep talk – he’s truly amongst the loudest and proudest fans in Red Wave history.
Edge: Warriors

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Grading the 'Dogs (6-3, 5-1): vs. Utah State (0-9, 0-6)

Quarterbacks: C+
Brandstater made some great decisions finding Harding and Kinter for TDs, but still isn't getting the ball in the wideouts' hands enough.

Running Backs: A-
The minus comes from Mathews' premature celebration that caused him to drop the ball on the 1-yard line. He was injured in the second quarter but already had 106 yards, and Smith finished with a career-high 126.

Receivers: C
Pascoe leads the way with only 35 yards, and gets injured. 'Dogs need to better utilize Moore and Ajirotutu.

Offensive Line: A
'Dogs averaged 5.4 yards per carry and Brandstater never got sacked -- a perfect winning formula.

Defensive Line: B-
True freshman Borg had two sacks and Ramos had 1.5, but quick penetration opened up scrambling lanes for Jackson III.

Linebackers: B-
Riley had 11 tackles and the hit of the year on a sack that forced a fumble, and Jacobs had a sack, but opposing running games are still causing the 'Dogs fits.

Defensive Backs: C
Allowed Jackson III to throw for 214 yards and two scores, incluing a 44-yard TD to Robinson where Harding blew coverage. Gotta do better than that this weekend.

Special Teams: A+
Just when you get down on Stitser he goes and hits a 52-yard field goal. Jefferson returns kickoff 88 yards for a TD, and Jacobs blocks field goal.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Game Preview: Fresno State (5-3, 4-1) vs. Utah State (0-8, 0-4)

Junior Tom Brandstater’s season-high 263 yards passing against Boise State last week aren’t necessarily what Fresno State wants to see. The Bulldog seem to do better when the running game carries the load. Brandstater had one touchdown and one interception last week, although the pick was a late-game desperation pass. He’s thrown for 1,511 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions on the year (59.1% completions).

Utah State senior Leon Jackson III (6-1, 206) presents more of a danger to the Bulldogs when he’s on the run than when he’s passing (Fresno State has struggled against running quarterbacks this season). Though Jackson has completed 65.2% of his passes, he’s thrown for just 960 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s rushed for 248 yards and four scores on 90 attempts (2.8 per carry). Sophomore Jase McCormick (6-1, 190) has passed for 201 yards, two scores and two picks in three games. In Utah State’s win last season, quarterback Riley Nelson led the way, but he’s on his two-year Mormon mission this season.
Edge: Bulldogs

Running Backs
Fans were shocked to see the Bulldogs’ running game tamed last week, with just 89 yards total for a group that is averaging 190 yards per game. True freshman standout Ryan Mathews had just 49 yards on 15 carries, but has 645 yards (6 per carry) and 10 touchdowns on the year. Sophomore starter Lonyae Miller missed the Boise State game with injury, and will be a big boost if he can return this week. Miller has 402 yards (4.3 per carry) and six touchdowns on the year. Senior Clifton Smith led the team with 65 yards on five carries last week, and has 241 yards (6.9 per carry) and three rushing touchdowns this year. Smith is also second on the team with 24 receptions for 263 yards.

The Aggies average just 3 yards per carry as a team, and are led by redshirt freshman Derrvin Speight (5-9, 201), a player who’s not even listed in the two-deep chart. Speight has 80 carries for 286 yards and three touchdowns on the year. Quarterback Leon Jackson III is the team’s second-leading rusher. True freshman Curtis Marsh (6-0, 190) is third with 182 yards and a touchdown on 55 carries. Redshirt freshman fullback Jacob Actkinson (6-0, 218) has just 42 yards rushing, but is second on the team with 143 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Edge: Bulldogs

Junior tight end Bear Pascoe (6-5, 260) continues to stand apart from his teammates with a team-leading 33 catches, 427 yards and four touchdowns. But this could be a breakout game for sophomore wideout Marlon Moore, who returned from injury two weeks ago and led the ‘Dogs with six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown grab that was No. 5 on ESPN’s top 10 plays last week. Despite missing 2 ½ games, Moore is second on the team with 293 yards and third with 23 receptions. Sophomore Seyi Ajirotutu is looking better each week and getting more attention in the offense because of it. He’s caught 15 passes for 257 yards (17.1 per catch).

The Aggies are led by former Hoover High standout Kevin Robinson (6-0, 199), a senior who has 39 catches for 435 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson was passed on by the Bulldogs, but got a taste of revenge last season with a game-winning 30-yard touchdown catch with 55 seconds to go. Junior Otis Nelson (6-2, 214) is third on the team with 119 yards and a touchdown on 15 grabs. No other wideout has hit the 100-yard mark on the year.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
The injury bug stung the Bulldogs again last week when redshirt freshman center Joe Bernardi was lost for the year. Since he took over the starting job against Louisiana Tech, the unit had solidified. Now, senior All-WAC standout Ryan Wendell slides back over to center with junior All-WAC Cole Popovich returning from injury to fill the left guard spot. The group struggled to slow Boise State’s blitzing schemes and never seemed to adjust. Its 12 sacks allowed this season match last season’s total, with the team averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

Utah State has one of the WAC’s biggest lines, with center Ryan Tonnemacher (6-3, 288) the shortest of the starters, and redshirt freshman left tackle Spencer Johnson (6-5, 283) the lightest. Senior Pace Jorgensen (6-5, 335) is the leader of the unit that has remained intact all season and allowed a modest 16 sacks. The problem is the running game just doesn’t seem to go.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
Senior Tyler Clutts is well on his way to a first-team All-WAC selection as the conference leader with seven sacks (43 tackles). Right behind him is junior tackle Jon Monga with six. Clutts and Monga are also among the leaders in tackles for losses with nine apiece. Senior Charles Tolbert has stepped his game up since taking over for suspended Jason Shirley. Tolbert has three sacks and six tackles for losses. Sophomore Wilson Ramos is quietly climbing the list too, with two sacks and seven tackles for losses.

Along with Clutts, Utah State junior end Ben Calderwood (6-2, 268) are the only two WAC players on the Hendricks Award watch list for the nation’s best defensive lineman. Calderwood is second on the team with 2.5 sacks on the year. Senior end Carl Singleton (6-2, 235) leads the Aggies with 3.5 sacks and is tied for second with senior Frank Maile (6-1, 275) with four tackles for losses.
Edge: Bulldogs

The more games that are played, the more Fresno State senior Marcus Riley improves his candidacy for WAC defensive player of the year. Riley leads the team with 80 tackles, including 10 for losses (tied for WAC-high). He had a game-high 12 tackles, including three for losses, against Boise State. Redshirt freshman Ben Jacobs is on his way to a Freshman All-America campaign, and is second on the team with 48 tackles. The ‘Dogs will need sophomore Quaadir Brown (39 tackles) to use his speed to keep Leon Jackson III contained.

Utah State’s three starting linebackers make the majority of the team’s stops. Junior Jake Hutton (6-0, 231) leads the team with 62 tackles, while sophomore Paul Igobeli (6-0, 206) and junior De’von Hall (6-3, 220) are tied for second with 58 tackles apiece. While Fresno State should be able to push through Utah State’s defensive line, these guys will need to step up to slow the running game and keep this contest close.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Backs
The Bulldogs’ secondary is much improved from a season ago, though sophomore Damion Owens has the team’s only interception. Coming out of a reserve role, redshirt freshman Lorne Bell is fourth on the team with 40 tackles (four for losses). Don’t be surprised if he picks off a pass or two before all is said and done this season. The Bulldogs are second in the WAC in pass defense (190.1 yards per game) and are the only team in the conference to allow fewer than 10 passing touchdowns (nine).

Aggies junior free safety Caleb Taylor (6-3, 197) is tied for second on the team with 58 tackles. Taylor’s two interceptions are tied with backup free safety junior Roy Hurst (5-9, 187) for the team lead. Sophomore strong safety James Brindley (5-10, 191) is fifth on the team with 44 stops. Sophomore corner Kejon Murphy (5-8, 160) is an Edison High alum returning to his roots for the first time.
Edge: Bulldogs

Special Teams
Where or where has the Clint Stitser we’re used to gone? Stitser was 0 for 2 against Boise State, having a field goal blocked for the first time in his career. He’s now 9 of 16 on the year, for the second-worst percentage in the WAC. Punter Kyle Zimmerman is second in the conference, averaging 41 yards per punt. Clifton Smith’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown against Boise State was the fifth of his career – a new Fresno State record. Bulldogs kick returner corner A.J. Jefferson, is second in the nation with 32.9 yards per return.

Utah State’s Kevin Robinson is 12th in the nation with 30.5 yards per kick return. He’s taken two back for touchdowns this season. He’s also returned a punt for a score, and leads the WAC with 19.6 yards per attempt. Quarterback/punter Leon Jackson III leads the WAC with 42.3 yards per punt, and true freshman Peter Caldwell is 10 of 14 on field goals with a long of 47 yards.
Edge: Even

While Pat Hill is trying to get the Bulldogs bowl eligible for the eighth time in nine years, Utah State’s Brent Guy is trying to win for the first time this season and the second time in two years. But he’s 1-1 all-time against Hill.
Edge: Bulldogs

Besides becoming bowl eligible, the Bulldogs can set up another showdown game next week at No. 12 Hawaii by improving to 5-1 in the WAC. Playing at home, the Bulldogs might also have a hint of revenge on their minds after the most embarrassing loss in program history 13-12 at Utah State last season. That said, Utah State has nothing to lose and a few Valley products who will be amped for the game.
Edge: Bulldogs

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We don't bash the Bee (unless they deserve it)

It never fails.

A Fresno Bee reporter will write something critical about Fresno State, and the Bee bashers are right there with allegations of the local newspaper "hating" Fresno State — as if the Bee has some agenda to be the negative publicity machine for the Bulldogs.

There was a headline about Fresno State"wobbling" after the Boise loss, and someone on started complaining about the negative slant because the headline didn't match the story.

It's a conspiracy, DAMMIT!!

Well, actually, it's not. The Bee has had some awesome sports writers over the past 15 years who have advanced to the apex of the sports journalism profession. Read on.

First off, I assure anyone pissed about the headline that B.J. Anteola did not write it. But that's beside the point. Here's the real issue.

There are no staff meetings where the Bee's bigwigs tell the reporters how Fresno State look like a pile of crap. There is no "the man" sitting in an office telling all of the underlings to screw Fresno State.

There might be some in charge who instruct the journalists to be more critical, but only because they see that as their job. Just as in every other career out there, some people go about their business in an aggressive cutthroat manner. Some don't.

It's not just the media. The same could be said of investing, insurance, retail, computers, entertainment or any number of other industries.

Many journalists think to get ahead they have to be very critical and almost pessimistic. They have to agressively report people's faults or mistakes and overlook or take for granted their positives. It's the nature of the business in a lot of places inside and out of Fresno. It's not just the Bee.

So don't support the Bee for what they've done if you want to, but knowing that in the past 15 or so years you've been treated to some of the best sportswriting around, it would be stupid.

In journalism circles, guys like John Canzano, Adrian Wojnaraowski, Andy Katz, Eric Prisbell, Jeff Passan and John Branch — all Bee alums — are revered for having climbed the rungs of the business. Even lesser-known guys like David White, Vaughn McClure, Anthony Witrado and Milo Bryant have left the Bee and gone to bigtime professional sports markets.

Those guys are why you think the Bee is against Fresno State. But they're also heroes to guys like Matt James and Daniel Lyght who are hoping to follow in their footsteps.

So you say you don't like the Bee because they have some agenda against Fresno State? Well the experts say the Fresno Bee is one of the best training grounds for up-and-coming sports journalists.

And as long as Bee reporters continue to get promoted, they'll practice the same style of reporting that's worked for them all this time.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cheer up, guys

Now, I know plenty of you guys are bummed about the Bwa-zay loss.

Shoot, we're down right pissed! We're tired of seeing Bwa-zay roll around like they're the toast of the town.

Two members of this blog were walking past some unnamed Bwa-zay player back in 2001 when the Broncos upset David Carr and them. And this bozo says, "I knew we would win!"

DC3 almost gave him his patented choke lift. That's how we feel right now. We wanna take the entire state of Idaho and Sprewell its neck.

But here's something that will cheer you up. We saw this today and laughed our asses off for for like 10 minutes.

Washington State's kicker's last name is — get this — wait for it... wait for it...


Romeen Abdollmohammadi. Read the name. Say it out loud and try not to laugh.

And if that doesn't work. Here, look at his picture.

We were very surprised to find out that this guy does not have some fan site dedicated to celebrating his last name. He's seriously our new favorite non-Fresno State player.

He's probably the reason Washington State fans have become so complacent about losing. You read Abdollmohammadi, and who can stop laughing long enough to want to make an angry message board post calling for Pat Hill's head or for Brandstater to get benched?

Sucks to be a journalist in Pullman and have to type his name all the time though.

Dear Marty Tadman...

I saw your quotes in this morning's Fresno Bee. Do you remember? According to the story, you said this:

"They weren't going to out-tough us," Boise State safety Marty Tadman said. "We out-toughed them."

And this:

"That walk is so fun coming up [the ramp] after you just beat them," Tadman said. "You just walk and smile and they can't say anything except, 'take your potatoes and go home' or something stupid like that.

"They can say whatever they want. Because we walked out of here with a victory."

Well guess what Marty Tadman. If I saw you walking up that ramp (the Red Mile), smiling, I would have said something else to you.

I would have said you, Marty Tadman, didn't out-tough anybody. I would have invited you over to my house, pulled the game up on DVR, and showed yourself an early hit on Bear Pascoe in the first quarter that should have been called interference.
Then I would have showed Pascoe dragging FIVE Boise State defenders across the field for an extra six or seven yards before he went down. Were you one of those five Marty? You're too tough for that right? I think that's you over there on the left...No. 20 right?

Speaking of toughness, how fun was that walk the last time you took it? In 2005...? You know, when Fresno State beat you 27-7...?

Your team beat Fresno State this time, and has won six of the past seven meetings. Your success against WAC teams is unbelievable. Really, it is. I can't even figure out how you do it?

But I also figured something else out. You guys really haven't done that much to prove yourselves. It's a bit of smoke and mirrors, this juggernaut personality players like you have. You see, I looked up a few stats.

Boise State has NEVER, EVER beaten a BCS-conference team on the road. Ever. And that's what I would have said to you Marty.

Because, while your offensive line did a heckuva job out-toughing Fresno State, I can't really say anything else. But I'm not gonna just stand there and let you over-inflate your head...

Grading the 'Dogs (5-3, 4-1): vs. Boise State (7-1, 4-0)

Quarterbacks: C
Despite Brandstater's 268 yards, 'Dogs hurt by overthrow of Ajirotutu on would-be TD and lack of awareness in the pocket.

Running Backs: C
'Dogs abandoned the run and chose questionable (predictable) times to use it on third-and-long. Injured Miller was sorely missed, and lining up Mathews at QB was too predictable.

Receivers: B-
Moore, Pascoe, Smith and Ajirotutu all made plays and got open. But absence of running threat negated any positives in the passing game.

Offensive Line: D-
What happened to the physical run blocking? After the first two possessions, no holes were opened for Mathews. 'Dogs never figured out an answer for Broncos' blitzing schemes.

Defensive Line: D-
Boise State O-line dominated up front and it was the difference in the game. Ramos struggled against Clady, and Tharp had far too much time to throw.

Linebackers: D
Another standout game by Riley, but Broncos running backs ate up 'Dogs for 282 yards on 6.6 per carry. Without the big runs and third-down conversions, Boise State loses this game.

Defensive Backs: B-
Owens making a name as great cover corner, although questionable pass interference call on crucial third down handed Broncos the game. Safeties missed a few pivotal open-field tackles early and often.

Special Teams: C
Stitser hurts 'Dogs again with two missed field goals (one blocked), but Jefferson-Smith kick-punt return combo is unparalleled nationally.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Game Preview: Fresno State (5-2, 4-0) vs. Boise State (6-1, 3-0)

Tom Brandstater’s efficiency is not a question right now, but Fresno State hasn’t needed him to take the team on his shoulders in weeks. While Brandstater hasn’t thrown an interception in the past three games (he’s tied for fewest in the nation with three), he also hasn’t thrown a touchdown in the same time span. This is the type of win Brandstater needs to prove he’s stepped his game up another level. He’s completed 60% of his passes for 1,248 yards and six touchdowns.

Boise State hasn’t seen much of a fall-off since Jared Zabransky’s departure – senior Taylor Tharp (6-2, 206) actually might be an improvement. The numbers would suggest as much, as Tharp leads the WAC with a 157.25 rating. He’s completed 65.3% of his throws for 1,857 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Boise State could present the biggest passing threat Fresno State has faced so far this season.
Edge: Broncos

Running Backs
True freshman Ryan Mathews is looking more special by the week. After racking up 144 yards and two touchdowns on 9 yards per carry last week against San Jose State, Mathews leads the Bulldogs with 596 yards and nine scores. His 58-yard touchdown run last week was his third run for more than 54 yards on the year. Sophomore Lonyae Miller, who’s missed some practice this week but is expected to play Friday, is second on the team with 402 yards and six touchdowns (4.3 yards per carry). Throw in senior Clifton Smith (176 yards and three touchdowns on 5.9 per carry) and sophomore Anthony Harding (131 yards and two scores) and the Bulldogs have the deepest and most talented backfield in the conference.

But, with all the Bulldogs’ youth, Boise State has the WAC’s best tailback in senior Ian Johnson, an All-American candidate who coach Chris Petersen said won’t play for the second straight week because of a kidney injury. Taking his place as starter is redshirt freshman Jeremy Avery (5-9, 173), who has 383 yards and four touchdowns with a 6.4-yard average. Johnson leads the Broncos with 693 yards and nine touchdowns. True freshman D.J. Harper (5-10, 185) has 162 yards and three scores.
Edge: Bulldogs

The Bulldogs’ passing game counts on tight end Bear Pascoe and running back Clifton Smith a great deal. Pascoe is the go-to guy with 28 receptions for 370 yards and four touchdowns. Smith is second with 19 catches for 215 yards. Sophomore wideout Marlon Moore, who returned from injury last week, should give the offense a big boost. Even after missing 2 ½ games, he has 17 catches for 214 yards. The team needs to use sophomore Seyi Ajirotutu to stretch Boise State’s defense and keep it honest.

Sophomore Jeremy Childs (6-0, 196) is in the midst of a breakout year for the Broncos with 47 catches for 679 yards and eight touchdowns (97 yards per game). On his own, Childs has two more touchdown catches than all of Fresno State’s receivers combined. True freshman Titus Young is second with 19 receptions for 372 yards and three scores (19.6 yards per catch). Ian Johnson’s 247 receiving yards will be missed if he doesn’t dress, and the Broncos are also without Vinny Perretta and his 120 yards.
Edge: Broncos

Offensive Line
Bad news for Boise State. Just when Fresno State’s line had solidified with the redshirt freshmen center Joe Bernardi and right guard Andrew Jackson filling in for injured starters – one of them is returning. All-WAC junior guard Cole Popovich is expected back for the fist time since the Texas A&M game on Sept. 8. The question is, if he plays, who does he replace? Fresno State is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, and has given up just nine sacks on the year.

Boise State is the team that came into the season with the highly-touted line led by junior left tackle Ryan Clady (6-6, 317), a preseason first-team All-America selection. Seniors Jeff Cavender (6-2, 287) and Tad Miller (6-4, 296) and junior Andrew Woodruff (6-3, 328) add a ton of experience. Like Fresno State, Boise State has allowed just nine sacks this season, and the team averages 4.7 yards per carry (0.1 yards less than the Bulldogs).
Edge: Even

Defensive Line
No Jason Shirley (suspended indefinitely), no Jason Roberts (broken leg), no Chris Lewis (suspended for season), no Ikenna Ike (wrist injury), no Taylor Smith (shoulder injury). Yet – still – Fresno State’s line is thriving. Much credit goes to senior Tyler Clutts and junior Jon Monga, who are tied with a WAC-best six sacks apiece and each have 8 tackles for losses. Monga has developed into one of the best pass-rushing tackles in recent school history and Clutts is playing with a mean streak. Sophomore end Wilson Ramos has stepped up big at the other end spot.

Boise State has a couple talented ends of its own, led by junior Mike T. Williams (6-4, 245) and senior Nick Schlekeway (6-4, 262).Williams leads the team with four sacks and has five tackles for losses. Reserve redshirt freshman end Ryan Winterswyk (6-4, 264) has a team-high 5.5 tackles for losses. They better be on the ball, as the ‘Dogs will try to run right at and through Boise State.
Edge: Bulldogs

Speaking of players with mean streaks, watch out for senior Marcus Riley, who is hitting with more aggression than ever before. Riley leads the team with 68 tackles (7 for losses) and is tied for a team-high two forced fumbles with sophomore Quaadir Brown, the team’s fastest linebacker. Brown didn’t start last week with the emergence of freshman walk-on Nick Bates, who has 13 tackles, 2 for losses. Redshirt freshman Ben Jacobs is second on the team with 52 tackles (4 for losses) and, like Riley, is all over the field.

Boise State is led by junior Kyle Gingg (5-11, 220) and his 52 tackles (4 for losses) and six pass break-ups. Junior Tim Brady (6-1, 207) is third on the team with 33 tackles. Junior David Shields (6-1, 220) was expected to have a breakout year, but has been average so far.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Backs
Hooray – the Bulldogs finally got an interception when sophomore Damion Owens picked off San Jose State’s first attempt last week and returned it 17 yards. When sophomore A.J. Jefferson was beaten for a deep pass in that game, junior Sharrod Davis (a former Oregon corner) saw his first significant playing time, making a key fourth-down stop. Safeties Marvin Haynes, Lorne Bell and Moses Harris have 36, 35 and 35 tackles, respectively. The ‘Dogs defense allows an average of 194.7 yards per game.

Senior free safety Marty Tadman (5-11, 185), a preseason All-America candidate, is second on the team with 50 tackles and tied for the lead with two interceptions. Junior corner Orlando Scandrick (5-11, 198) is fourth on the team with 32 tackles and also has two picks, as does sophomore corner Kyle Wilson (5-10, 190). The Broncos’ 187.9 passing yards per game against average leads the WAC. Fresno State averages 186.6 yards in the air.
Edge: Broncos

Special Teams
A.J. Jefferson built on his nation-best 36.1-yard kick return average with a 61-yarder in his only attempt last week. He and punt returner Clifton Smith will need to put the Bulldogs in good field position to win the game. Kicker Clint Stitser has quietly put together a streak, making 6 of his past 7 field goals, including 3 of 3 last week in strong winds. Punter Kyle Zimmerman is the reigning WAC special teams player of the week after averaging 49.8 yards on four punts last week. Zimmerman leads the WAC with a 42.6-yard average on the season. One of the Bulldogs’ trademark blocked kicks could be pivotal in this type of game.

Senior corner Rashaun Scott (5-10, 197) averages 23.9 yards per kick return, while Marty Tadman averages 11.4 per punt return. Redshirt freshman Kyle Brotzman (5-10, 170) has hit 7 of 9 field goals this year, with a long of 40 yards. True freshman punter Brad Elkin (6-3, 188) averages 38.3 yards and has landed 6 of 18 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Edge: Bulldogs

Pat Hill has his Bulldogs back in position to contend for a WAC title with a win over Boise State. A year after finishing a stunning 4-8, Fresno State is 5-2, 4-0 in the WAC and with a renewed confidence that will skyrocket if Fresno State wins this one.

Boise State’s Chris Petersen is the only coach since 1900 to win 13 games in his first season with a Division I team. He’s now 19-1 all-time since moving from offensive coordinator to head coach. Petersen led the Broncos to a 45-21 win in last season’s meeting. Boise State is 5-1 against Fresno State since joining the WAC, with the all-time series at 5-4.
Edge: Broncos

If you can’t get up for this game, you might not have a heartbeat. Bulldog Stadium will be rocking Friday evening with a Red Wave that might show up in black to "turn the lights out on Boise State." The crowd was loud and fired up for San Jose State, but the dislike for Boise State is exponentially higher. Boise State has won 42 of its past 43 WAC games – the lone loss in that span coming in its last visit to Fresno, when the Bulldogs laid a 27-7 spanking on the Broncos.
Edge: Bulldogs