Thursday, August 30, 2007

PREVIEW: Fresno State vs. Sacramento State

The way he played last season, junior Tom Brandstater might not give Fresno State an edge in many games. But this is one where he definitely can by simply being accurate. Brandstater completed just 54.5% of his passes last year and threw more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (13).

Sacramento State has no idea what to expect, with redshirt freshman Jason Smith and true freshman Duncan White vying for the starting job. Neither has taken a college snap, and both put up modest high school stats.
Edge: Bulldogs

Running Backs
With Dwayne Wright gone to the NFL, the ‘Dogs turn the reigns over to sophomore Lonyae Miller and company. Miller looks like the next big thing in the Bulldogs’ backfield, and will have plenty of mix-and-match help from Clifton Smith, sophomore Anthony Harding and true freshman Ryan Mathews (who led the nation in yardage in high school).

The Hornets look to former Bullard High junior Travon Jones (cousin of Clifton Smith) to lead the team in the backfield. But Jones was only the second-leading rusher on Fresno City College last season. One positive is he won’t have to run up the middle against Fresno State’s Jason Shirley (two-game suspension).
Edge: Bulldogs

The Bulldogs were dealt a huge blow losing sophomore Chastin West, the team’s leading returner, for the season. But Jason Crawley had an amazing fall camp, and helps form a solid core with speedy Marlon Moore and talented Seyi Ajirotutu. All three are sophomores, but got some valuable experience last season (especially Moore). And it doesn’t hurt to have one of the nation’s best tight ends in junior Bear Pascoe, who will get plenty of looks as a tough matchup for Sac State.

Ryan Coogler had 45 catches for 441 yards in 2005, but caught just one past last year before a season-ending injury. He’s joined by JC transfer Tony Washington, who had 810 yards on 47 catches for Moorpark JC last season, and Tyler Fannuchi, who made just five catches last year. None of the three are taller than 5-foot-11.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
Fresno State has five returners with starting experience, including All-WAC candidates Ryan Wendell and Cole Popovich. Left tackle Bobby Lepori looked imposing and played with a mean streak in fall camp. This is a good sign for a group that led the WAC and was third in the nation allowing just 12 sacks in 2006.

Tackles Jordan Hunter (6-6, 280) and Ray Navar (6-6, 255) will have their work cut out for them against Fresno State’s edge rushers. If they can’t buy some time for their young quarterback, Sac State doesn’t stand a chance.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
The two-game suspension of Jason Shirley won’t hurt too bad in this game, but will be devastating against Texas A&M next week. Look for a breakout game of sorts from end Jason Roberts, who has as much potential as anyone on the line, and hasn’t come close to showing how great he can be yet. As the senior leader of the group, Tyler Clutts can be counted on more than ever.

Sac State returns four seniors along the line, all starters from last season. The group is led by aggressive tackle Dallas Mauga, who originally committed to San Diego State before becoming a Hornet.
Edge: Bulldogs

The Bulldogs are the deepest they’ve been in years at linebacker with Marcus Riley back at 100% leading the way. Highly-touted redshirt freshman Ben Jacobs gets his first start in the middle, replacing injured Ahijah Lane (out for the year) and speedy junior Ryan McKinley fills in for Quaadir Brown (one-game suspension).

Junior Cyrus Mulitalo returns as the Big Sky Conference’s leading tackler, with 120 last year. Junior Mike Brannon has been all-Big Sky two straight years at end before moving to linebacker this year.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Backs
Fresno State’s secondary remains unproven, with senior corner Damon Jenkins stepping up as the leader this season. He was the only defensive back with an interception last season, finishing with 3. Sophomores Marvin Haynes and Moses Harris are set to start at safety, but redshirt freshman Lorne Bell is too good to keep off the field, and will find a way to make an impact.

The Hornets are led by strong safety Brent Webber (Sanger High) and free safety Brett Shelton (Stockdale High). Webber is 13 tackles from cracking the program’s top 10 all-time list, and is already tied for fourth with eight career interceptions. Another local product, Durrell Oliver (Clovis East High) starts at cornerback.
Edge: Bulldogs

Special Teams
Everyone is anxiously awaiting Clifton Smith’s first punt or kick return of the game. The last time he played a Division I-AA team was the 2005 opener against Weber State when he had two touchdowns on three attempts. Senior Clint Stitser looked shaky in the fall scrimmage, but has one of the strongest legs in the game.

Kicker Juan Gamboa made six of his final seven field goals last season, including a 48-yarder against Idaho State. Oscar Dealba enters his first season at punter after transferring from El Camino JC.
Edge: Bulldogs

This Fresno State squad seems angry about last season’s 4-8 record, and it should be. A season-opening rout would be great for the team’s morale – not to mention the fans’ frame of mind.
Edge: Bulldogs

Pat Hill is coming off his worst season – by far—since he’s been head coach. This year will be pivotal in keeping the program from taking a step backwards. The ‘Dogs will miss the presence of defensive coordinator Dan Brown, who recently had surgery, but secondary coach Randy Stewart brings a lot of knowledge to the playcalling booth.

Sac State counters with first-year coach Marshall Sperbeck, who led Foothill JC last season.
Edge: Bulldogs


  1. my prediction? Fresno 24-3 , Bulldogs will probably turn it over 2 or 3 times though

  2. Let's get that prediction up a little earlier next time, whadaya say!?


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