Thursday, September 6, 2007

GAME PREVIEW: FS at No. 23 Texas AM

This is it – Tom Brandstater’s golden opportunity. After a tough-to-swallow sophomore season, Brandstater has a chance to erase all that and give Fresno State fans reason to be stoked for the rest of the 2007 season. All he has to do is win at Texas AM. He got off to a decent start with 199 yards and no interceptions last week, but needs to show that wasn’t just because of the sub-par competition.

Junior Stephen McGee is the kind of quarterback the ‘Dogs have historically struggled with – a really fast one, who can run the option. He led the team with 126 yards rushing and two touchdowns against Montana State and threw for 112 yards.
Edge: Aggies

Running Backs
Things just got even better than they already were for the ‘Dogs backfield. True freshman Ryan Mathews led the team with 77 yards on 11 carries. He adds another option to the quadruple threat with Lonyae Miller, Clifton Smith and Anthony Harding. It’s hard to say who’s thunder and who’s lightning, but these guys are capable of causing a serious storm.

It’s much more clear cut for Texas AM – junior Jorvorskie Lane (6-0, 268) is the thunder and sophomore Mike Goodson (6-0, 206) is the lightning. Lane holds an Aggies school-record with 19 touchdowns last season and Goodson rushed for 847 yards while leading the conference in yards per carry.
Edge: Aggies

The tight ends might decide who wins this matchup. Fresno State junior Bear Pascoe (6-5, 260) led the team with 91 receiving yards on three catches in the opener, including a 44-yard score. With Chastin West out for the year, sophomore Marlon Moore nearly doubled his catch total of last season with seven in the opener for 70 yards. Watch for Seyi Ajirotutu and Jason Crawley to get more involved this week.

Speaking of tight ends, the Aggies boast the returning first-team All-Big 12 pick in Martellus Bennett (6-7, 255), who had 497 yards in 2006. Junior Pierre Brown is the most proven wideout with 208 yards last season.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
Keep an eye on the matchup at center. Fresno State sends out Rimington Trophy candidate Ryan Wendell (6-2, 285), who moved over from left guard for the final four games last season. After allowing just 12 sacks as a unit last season, the line gave up two in the opener against Sac State.

Another Rimington Trophy candidate lines up for Texas AM in Cody Wallace (6-4, 296). The preseason All-American heads one of the nation’s most highly regarded lines with Kirk Elder (6-5, 308), a three-time All-Big 12 pick.
Edge: Aggies

Defensive Line
If ever the ‘Dogs needed Jason Shirley, it’s this game. But the 6-5, 330-pound tackle was suspended for the first two games. His replacement is senior Charles Tolbert (5-11, 265), who played great against Sac State. But the ‘Dogs will rely most heavily on ends Tyler Clutts and Jason Roberts to contain the option and stop the Aggies’ star running backs and speedy quarterback from breaking anything big.

Aggies end Chris Harrington (6-5, 268) led the team in tackles, sacks and tackles for losses last season – and got off to a good start this year with a sack in the opener. Red Bryant (6-5, 322) is a beast at tackle and will be much tougher to run through than anyone Sac State had to offer last week. Bryant is coming off a season-ending knee injury toward the end of last season.
Edge: Aggies

Is this the new strength of the defense? All early signs point to yes with senior Marcus Riley (6-2, 220) back at full strength for the first time since the 2005 USC game. He led the team with 11 tackles in the opener and was all over the field with redshirt freshman Ben Jacobs (6-3, 225). On top of that, sophomore speedster Quaadir Brown (6-2, 215) returns to the field after missing most of last season with an injury and missing the opener because of suspension.

Mark Dodge is a tackling machine. He made 14 stops against Montana State and averages 11 in his last four games. The 6-2, 220-pounder has already served four years in the Army. Misi Tupe (5-10, 254) might be short and a bit on the heavy side, but that didn’t stop him from earning Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year honors. He had 54 tackles last season.
Edge: Even

Defensive Backs
The ‘Dogs lack the experience Texas AM has, but might have more raw talent. The question is how quickly will that talent mature? Redshirt freshman safety Lorne Bell might be the most talented of the unit, and he’s not even starting – yet. Reserve safety Jake Jorde dropped an easy interception in the opener, something the team cannot afford this week. The ‘Dogs must capitalize on mistakes and force turnovers.

Safety Devin Gregg emerged in his first full season as a starter last year, and is the third-leading returning tackler. Hard-hitting safety Alton Dixon had 10 tackles in the opener, and corner Marquis Carpenter had an interception (he leads the team with five in his career).
Edge: Even

Special Teams
True freshman Devon Wylie looks to be the primary kick returner, averaging 31.5 yards on two returns. One of the nation’s best takes punt return duties in Clifton Smith, who can break a big one at any moment. Kicker Clint Stitser nailed a 47-yard field goal in the opener and missed from beyond 50 yards – but had plenty of distance. The ‘Dogs also blocked a field goal in the opener and have blocked 71 punts and kicks since 1997, when Pat Hill became coach.

Aggies punter Justin Brantly has a heckuva leg. The junior has a career average of 43.9 yards per attempt. Sophomore kicker Matt Szymanski connected on his only attempt so far this year, a 34-yarder. Kerry Franks averaged 27.7 yards per kick return – a number that could go up this year with the new kickoff rule.
Edge: Bulldogs

Pat Hill always – always – has his team amped up to play the "big-name" schools. And this should be no different. This team is young and has a lot to prove. A win proves Hill is one of the best coaches in the game.

Dennis Franchione is in his fifth season at Texas AM and is the fifth winningest active coach at 181-96-2. Franchione and Hill have met before, when he headed TCU from 1998-2000.
Edge: Even

Normally, playing in front of 82,600 fans at a hostile road environment wouldn’t be a huge deal to the ‘Dogs (they’re usually used to it). But this team is young. Only six players played significant roles two years ago in the near-win at USC. The ‘Dogs better adjust quickly. But don’t count them out – Fresno State doesn’t have a big-game reputation for nothing.
Edge: Aggies


  1. Nice job, dude.

    I liked your point about the 'Dogs being used to big stadiums. However, our squad is very young, and this is their first test.

    GO 'DOGS!

  2. No Dogs Down, 100% effort across the board on every play, wide-open play calling, adjustments made when needed, and I'm smiling again.

    I do not count the 'Dogs out, and I won't be surprised with a win.

    Beat TAMU!!!!!!!!!!!

    Steve Burnes


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.