Thursday, September 27, 2007

Game Preview: vs. Louisiana Tech

It’s still early, and Fresno State is 1-2, but junior Tom Brandstater is showing signs of major progress. His completed 61.1% of his passes (55 of 90) for 678 yards and five touchdowns, with only two interceptions. After throwing for more than 200 yards at Texas A&M and Oregon, this could be Brandstater’s breakout game.

Like Brandstater, Louisiana Tech senior Zac Champion (6-2, 202) had five touchdowns and two interceptions, both coming in his last game at Cal. He has completed just two fewer passes than his counterpart, yet he has far less yards at 407.
Edge: Fresno State

Running Backs
The deep and talented stable of Fresno State backs is suddenly in doubt with the questions surrounding the offensive line. But if they get blocking, expect true freshman Ryan Mathews and sophomore Lonyae Miller to cause La Tech nightmares, while senior Clifton Smith and sophomore Anthony Harding keep the other Bulldogs guessing. The unit also has to shore up its fumbling problem.

La Tech has a pretty good back of its own in junior Patrick Jackson (5-10, 193), who averages 4.6 yards a carry with 286 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson had 98 yards against Hawaii and 120 against Central Arkansas. Sophomore Daniel Porter (5-9, 189) has added 155 yards and two touchdowns on 7.4 yards per carry.
Edge: Louisiana Tech

It would be hard, if not impossible, to find a better tight end in the nation than junior Bear Pascoe (6-5, 260), who has 14 receptions for 228 yards and four touchdowns while averaging more than 16 yards a catch. Sophomore Marlon Moore is the only other Bulldog with more than 100 yards at 179 on 13 catches. The supporting cast has to step up for this team to win the WAC title.

Everyone has to step up for La Tech, which has no one with 100 yards receiving. True freshman speedster Joe Anderson (6-1, 195) leads the squad with 12 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Edge: Fresno State

Offensive Line
This is where the game could very well be decided. The ‘Dogs need better play from the line than they had at Oregon. With All-WAC guard Cole Popovich sidelined, Pierce Masse didn’t quite fill the void. This week, All-WAC anchor Ryan Wendell slides from center to left guard (where he’s played most of his career) and redshirt freshman Joe Bernardi (6-3, 280) gets his first start at center. Redshirt freshman Andrew Jackson (6-5, 290) remains at right guard in place of Adam McDowell, who’s out for the year.

Tackle Tyler Miller (6-7, 314) and guard Ryan Considine (6-6, 297) are the bookends of an otherwise inexperienced line. Both have already graduated, and lead sophomore Ben Harris (6-4, 280), who has one year experience, and two freshmen.
Edge: Fresno State

Defensive Line
Fresno State took another big injury hit at Oregon, losing highly-touted end Jason Roberts for the season with a broken leg. With Chris Lewis’ yearlong suspension, what was a deep position now has two true freshmen as the primary backups in Chris Carter (6-2, 220) and Kenny Borg (6-3, 245). Junior Ikenna Ike (6-3, 255) is arguably the team’s best pass rusher, and now slides into a starting role to replace Roberts opposite All-WAC standout Tyler Clutts. Big NFL prospect Jason Shirley (6-5, 335) should have no problem dominating the middle.

Sophomore tackle D’Anthony Smith (6-2, 292) hit the scene for La Tech last year, and is off to another strong start with 17 tackles, four for losses and a sack this season. His matchup with Wendell will be a key to the game. Reserve end Chris Pugh (6-3, 235) has 3.5 sacks already.
Edge: Fresno State

Fresno State might have the best three starters in the WAC in senior Marcus Riley, sophomore Quaadir Brown and true freshman Ben Jacobs – a scary thought with the group’s youth. The three have a combined 81 tackles, with Riley’s 33 leading the way. Their speed could cause problems for La Tech’s offense.

While La Tech doesn’t have as much depth at the position, it does have one of the WAC’s top linebakers in junior Quin Harris (6-2, 221) from Redwood High in Visalia. Harris is second on the team with 22 tackles and has 3.5 for losses, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He’ll be aiming for a career night in front of many family and friends who will be in attendance.
Edge: Fresno State

Defensive Backs
Maybe the most surprising stat of the early season, Fresno State leads the nation in pass defense – yet the ‘Dogs have no interceptions. Part of it is attributable to playing Texas A&M, an option team, but this week will be a better glimpse into this unit’s talent. Senior corner Damon Jenkins was shaken up late in the Oregon game but is expected to start.

On the other hand, La Tech has had no problem creating turnovers. Corner Tony Moss (5-11, 185) has three interceptions and junior corner Weldon Brown (5-10, 184) has two – team totals 10. Sophomore free safety Antonio Baker (5-11, 200) leads the WAC with 40 tackles.
Edge: Even

Special Teams
Senior Clint Stitser’s inexplicable botch of an extra point – and it was a bad botch – has to be cause for concern, especially while he’s just 2 of 5 on field goals. But punter Kyle Zimmerman had a career game few knew he was capable of, averaging 45.4 yards per punt, although his long of 61 inflated that average a bit by taking a nice Fresno State bounce. True freshman Devon Wylie looks to be on the verge of taking a kick to the house. Fresno State’s kick-blocking ability is a big advantage.

Speaking of punting, La Tech junior Chris Keagle (6-0, 233) is one of the country’s best, averaging 44.9 yards and pinning 10 of 19 inside the 20-yard line. Kicker Danny Horwedel is just 1 of 3 on field goals. Patrick Jackson averages 25 yards per return, less than Fresno State’s Wylie.
Edge: Even

To keep this short and sweet, Fresno State has 11th year leader Pat Hill and La Tech has first-year coach Derek Dooley.
Edge: Fresno State

Fresno State is coming off a mojo-killing beating at Oregon, but has a chance to get off to a great start in WAC play starting Saturday. It’s never easy for a road team at Bulldog Stadium, although La Tech took advantage of a demoralized Fresno State team in the final game of 2005 in Fresno.
Edge: Fresno State


  1. Nice writeup.

    For Fresno having almost every advantage the teams sure have performed pretty evenly.

    I think the difference is special teams and turnovers. Tech uses that to even the field against teams that have beat them by a lot in yardage.

    It will ALL depend on turnovers.

  2. I hear ya! It's just hard to justify giving La Tech the advantage looking at the personnel matchups.

    But the thing is, the real test is always how La Tech's RBs fare against Fresno State run defense, or how Fresno State's WRs fare against La Tech's secondary?

    You're right though, turnovers will be huge. And that's an area where La Tech has done very well and Fresno State terribly. Even at RB, I would have made the edge at least even if it weren't for the fumbling woes of Mathews and Smith.

  3. Thanks, I needed a good laugh. My prediction is that the west coast dogs will be stickerless next week.

  4. Good laugh? You serious...?

    Care to explain?

  5. Explain? Sure.
    Read "Grading the 'Dogs: at Oregon". I think it's funny how the team was average to below average then and now after the bye week Fresno has "some of the best ____ in the country". It's funny.

  6. The best ___ in the country. Let's see, tight end Bear Pascoe -- you can argue he's not the best but you can't argue he's not at least in the top five.

    Pass defense? It ranks No. 1 in the nation. That's a fact. Do you argue fact? And I said this week will be the test to see if the pass defense is really going to remain that well. AND, I gave La Tech an even at that position even though they've given up a truckload of yards through the air (because of their ability to create turnovers).

    So what else did I say was best in the nation?

  7. I predicted Tech to win big because your team is young, injured, and turnover prone.

    I would say Tech's O-Line is better right now because we have our third experienced guy back, Accardo, and you just lost two key guys.

    I would say our D-Line is better because we are forcing turnovers and getting to the qb, while you are not so much.

    I would say the linebackers are even due to Tech having three returning starters and Quin being one of the best in the WAC.

    Obviously both of us are homers, my blog is designed to "pump up" Tech to the casual North LA sports fan.

    It should be a good game, but I think it is our turn this year. Good Luck and I am sure Coach Hill will have your team back in the WAC spotlight soon.

  8. You kept it "short and sweet," re the coaches. However sweet it may sound, it may not be accurate. Hill lost (badly) to a first-year coach last year, and it could happen again.

    Don't forget that Dooley must be pretty good himself, or he wouldn't have lasted around Saban for so long; Saban only keeps coaches that make him look good, afterall.

    I do expect a win--but I have been a Bulldog fan for a long time, and I do respect Pat Hill--but I have seen the inexplicable happen due to questionable preparation and game-day coaching.

    So give Hill the advantage if you think it is right, but you do your readers a disservice when you act like it doesn't even require consideration.

    Go 'Dogs (the Fresno State ones)!!

    Steve Burnes

  9. Good writeup. I wrote a similar one for the Barkboard, but was unfortunately forced to conclude that the the two teams are statistically closer than your conclusions seem to dictate. Nevertheless, I concluded in favor of Fresno State since I think this will be a breakout game and it is the first one of the year against a similar opponent. Also, I am glad you pointed out the turnover factor since I neglected to do so in my post, and it is going to be decisive in my opinion. Anyway, good writeup and hope we are both right about the victor

  10. Don't get me wrong, I think the two are probably "statistically" close right now, but I don't think they will be at season's end. I think both teams are similarly young and talented, but Fresno State is more talented. And at home, I don't see an upset coming...but you never know?

  11. I'm not saying Dooley isn't going to be a good coach. But, right now, it would be pretty outlandish to say he's as good or better than Hill. He has to prove something first. And Hill's proved plenty.


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