Thursday, October 11, 2007

Game Preview: Fresno State (3-2) at Idaho (1-5)

Tom Brandstater isn’t taking games into his own hands right now, but he’s winning and for the most part playing mistake-free football. That’s saying quite a lot considering he keeps losing major weapons to injuries. Brandstater has completed 57% of his passes for 938 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

Idaho senior Brian Nooy (6-2, 199) gets his second straight start after starter Nathan Enderle went down with an injury in a 48-20 loss to Hawaii. Nooy was 8 of 15 for 68 yards and threw two interceptions in the loss, and is 20 of 38 on the year with four picks and no touchdowns.
Edge: Bulldogs

Running Backs
The talent has been there all year – and now it should have plenty of confidence. True freshman Ryan Mathews dissected Nevada for 171 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries (12.2 yards per attempt). Sophomore starter Lonyae Miller had 98 yards and a score on 12 carries (7.9-yard average). Mathews scored on runs of 54 and 67 yards, with Miller scoring on a 72-yard spinning dash across the field. Clifton Smith added 20 yards and a touchdown on two carries and five catches for 74 yards.

Idaho redshirt freshman Deonte Jackson (5-8, 181) leads the WAC with 772 yards rushing. He averages 5.1 per carry with three touchdowns on the year. Senior Brian Flowers (5-9, 190) is second on the team with 195 yards and had a career-high 114 in last year’s loss to Fresno State. Sophomore Jayson Bird (6-0, 221) had 116 yards on the year.
Edge: Even

With top receiver Marlon Moore missing against Nevada with an injury and questionable this week, sophomore Seyi Ajirotutu emerged as the deep threat he should be with three catches for 81 yards, including a 42- and 38-yard grabs. The Bulldogs need to find a way to keep tight end Bear Pascoe more involved. He had just one catch for six yards last week.

Sophomores Eddie Williams (6-1, 249) and Max Komar (5-10, 185) lead the way. The much larger Williams has 23 catches for 277 yards and two scores. But Komar leads the team with 14.6 yards per catch and has 18 grabs for 262 yards and three touchdowns. These are the two who can do damage if Nooy can get them the ball – if.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
Fresno State’s blocking was much improved now that the line finally seems to have solidified with redshirt freshmen Joe Bernardi at center and Andrew Jackson at right guard. No sacks were allowed against Nevada and the group paved the way for 307 rushing yards, including three runs of more than 50 yards. When and if Cole Popovich returns, will only boost this unit. But it still must work on cutting out the unnecessary penalties (Jackson’s personal foul last week).

Despite running back Deonte Jackson leading the WAC in rushing, Idaho gets just 3.6 yards per carry as a team. And the line has given up 21 sacks in six games. Junior center Adam Korby (6-2, 292) is a third-year starter and team captain.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
The depth keeps on dwindling. With Chris Lewis (suspension), Taylor Smith (injury), Jason Roberts (injury) and Ikenna Ike (injury) all out for the season, the Bulldogs learned this week they may have seen the last of NFL tackle prospect Jason Shirley (suspended indefinitely for conduct). The good news is end Tyler Clutts and tackle Jon Monga are tied for the WAC lead with five sacks apiece. Charles Tolbert, with six tackles, two for losses and a sack, gets the chore of trying to fill Shirley’s shoes.

With just three down linemen, the Vandals could be in trouble one week after the ‘Dogs torched Nevada’s 3-4 defense on the ground. Junior nose Siua Musika (6-1, 293) leads the team with three sacks and has 26 tackles. Junior end Taylor Rust (6-2, 232) has two sacks.
Edge: Bulldogs

The Bulldogs’ starters are amongst the best in the WAC as a unit and individually. Marcus Riley leads the team with 52 tackles, six for losses and a forced fumble. Redshirt freshman Ben Jacobs is second with 39 tackles, three for losses and a fumble recovery. Sophomore Quaadir Brown missed much of the Nevada game with an injury but should be back to help cause fits for Idaho. The big loss to depth came with news that key reserve Ryan Machado’s season is over after a knee injury at Nevada.

This is undoubtedly Idaho’s strength. Senior David Vobora (6-1, 240) is all over the field with 83 tackles (3.5 for losses) already this season. His 10.83 per game rank 14th in the nation. Vobora had a career-high 18 last week against San Jose State. He also has an interception. And he’s got plenty of help with junior Brandon Ogletree (6-3, 224), senior Jo’Artis Ratti (6-1, 220) and junior Ben Alexander (6-1, 224). Ogletree is second on the team with 57 tackles (5.5 for losses), Ratti is fourth with 44 tackles (3 for losses) and Alexander has 41 tackles (7 for losses) and a sack.
Edge: Even

Defensive Backs
So much for Fresno State’s No. 2 in the nation pass defense. The ‘Dogs gave up 491 yards to Nevada’s two quarterbacks, although 259 of them came during the garbage-time fourth quarter. But that’s still no excuse for allowing that many yards and letting the game appear far closer than it was. On a positive note, sophomore A.J. Jefferson seems to have blossomed into a key player and future star. But sophomore Damion Owens was reportedly carted out of practice with a hand injury Wednesday. The ‘Dogs are the only team in the country without an interception.

Idaho, on the other hand, has plenty of interceptions. Senior corner Stanley Franks (5-11, 167) is the star of the unit and had nine picks last season. Franks has one so far this year, but sophomore safety Shiloh Keo (5-10, 175) has four and is third on the team with 51 tackles. Redshirt freshman corner Eric Hunter (5-6, 154) hasn’t let his small stature stop him from picking off three passes. With turnovers as Idaho’s best chance to win, Tom Brandstater better not throw too close to these three.
Edge: Vandals

Special Teams
It looks like the ‘Dogs might be up to their old tricks again. Clifton Smith returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown against Nevada, Bear Pascoe blocked a field goal that A.J. Jefferson returned 40 yards for a score and Jefferson added three kick returns for 108 yards to set up good field position. Oh, and Kyle Zimmerman averaged 42 yards a punt. The only question mark right now is kicker Clint Stitser, who is a disappointing 3 of 7 on field goals this season.

Idaho kicker Tino Amancio is solid at 9 of 11 on the year, with a long of 51 yards. But he has had one blocked, which doesn’t bode well as no one blocks kicks better than the Bulldogs. Punter T.J. Conley has seen a lot of action, averaging 37.7 yards per punt and placing just 10 of 43 inside the 20. The Bulldogs will have to watch for Shiloh Keo, who had a 100-yard touchdown return on a punt in a 42-35 loss to Northern Illinois.
Edge: Bulldogs

Pat Hill has led the ‘Dogs to wins over Idaho in each of the teams’ two previous WAC meetings by a combined score of 74-10, including last season’s 34-0 victory. First-year Idaho coach Robb Akey has plenty of energy, but is 1-5 so far this season, and will have to do more to prove himself and his team has what it takes to beat the WAC’s headline programs.
Edge: Bulldogs

As far as homefield advantage goes, Idaho’s 16,000-seat Kibbie Dome, an old airplane hangar, doesn’t do much to intimidate. If anything, it could lull the Bulldogs to sleep and help Idaho catch them off guard with a quick start. But don’t count on it, as Fresno State can’t take any game for granted this season. Idaho’s new grass-like artificial playing surface is a big advantage of the worn-down health-threat turf it had when these teams met in 2005.
Edge: Even


  1. Who is going to have more yards, Tom Brandstater throwing or Ryan Mathews on the ground?

  2. There's no reason either of them shouldn't have plenty...

  3. i see tommy B having a good game, but not becoming anything special yet. its not that kind of game for him, unfortunately. we will run all over these guys and trample them. i see mathews killin' it, clifton jukin' it, and the D-line sackin' it all day long. not to mention, could this be the week we get our first pick of the season?? i think so.

  4. While Brandstater hasn't put up awe-inspiring numbers this year, he has been VERY solid and pretty efficient. He's made great strides since last year.

    The proof...last year his play lost games for the 'Dogs. This year he hasn't done anything to lose games, but been a big part of the wins and near-win against A&M.

    And don't forget he's played with Chastin West and Marlon Moore. Those guys would give him great weapons. Hopefully Moore is back soon.


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