Thursday, December 25, 2008

Do you know...

...the story behind the first Mercy Bowl, in which Fresno State beat Bowling Green in the 1960s? If you don't, this saddening Sports Illustrated story will fill you in.

Merry Christmas Bulldog Bouncers!

First, let me start off by wishing all the readers a very Merry Christmas. Hope you all had a fantastic holiday with your loved ones. In addition, hope Santa was very kind to you. Here's a list of a sleigh full of gifts I'd like to see some of those in Fresno State athletics receive:

To: Tom Brandstater
We, the Red Wave, hereby revoke all boos you ever encountered. We had some good times and tough times together, but you're still a Bulldog QB, and that should forever entrench you into our hearts for being the team's leader and one tough son-of-a-gun. And please know this Tommy B., many of us never, ever booed you, and in fact got quite upset when we heard the minority of fans who did. So Merry Christmas Turlock Tom. Your Bulldog Born, Bulldog Bred card lasts forever!

To: Pat Hill
A time machine and a reminder. The time machine would allow our great coach to travel back to 1997, his first year, through 2005. All during those years Hill couldn't stand excuses. He was no-nonsense and never made them. He was all about proving it on the field and answering to the critics if his team fell short of those goals. We, the Red Wave, want that attitude back Coach Hill. And the reminder we'd like to give you, there are plenty of us out here who are standing true to you and arguing tooth and nail with anyone who says you can't get the job done. Some of us are the ones who have gotten a close look at the inner-workings of the program and have built up some insight. And we continue to believe in and support you Coach. Pat Hill is Fresno State!

To: 2008 Diamond 'Dogs
A big, giant hug. All the great words in Paul Loeffler's book, the great sounds on the DVD set, the T-shirt and hat sales at the Bulldog Shop, the parade and the ceremony at Beiden Field cannot even begin to explain just how special the 2008 season was to those of us who've followed and attended Fresno State baseball our entire lives. Or even those who have had season tickets for a decade or more. Your Bulldog spirit, fight, fun charisma and effort are what makes being a Fresno State student, alum or fan so unique to the college sports landscape. Justin Wilson said it best. No, we are not Cinderella. We are Bulldogs.

To: Steve Cleveland
All our support and some Bulldogs history lessons. We know you're fighting an uphill battle Coach Cleve. But many of us are confident you're winning that battle. Many of us are stoked about the young kids you've brought in like Paul George, Mychal Ladd, Bryce Cartwright and Ned Golubovich. And many of us are so glad you were able to convey the meaningful difference a hometown guy like Greg Smith can make by choosing the Valley's university. We'll be at the Save Mart Center night in and night out yelling as long as the lights are on. And we'll get anyone we can to join us. In the meantime coach, please accept our advice to make darn sure every young man who puts on that Bulldog Red uniform understands the history and tradition of Fresno State basketball. Make sure they know Boyd Grant, Rod Higgins, Ron Anderson, Tyrone Bradley, the Bookend Forwards, Grant's Tomb, Tark, Melvin Ely, Chris Herren, Rafer Alston, Meechie, T-Robe, Courtney Alexander, etc. Make sure they understand where Fresno State basketball has been on the national scene, so they are confident they can get back there and give it a cleaner image this time. Make sure it means something to be a 'Dog!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Clif is a Pro Bowlin' rookie

Gotta love Clifton Smith being named to the Pro Bowl as an NFL rookie undrafted free agent. It's still just short of mind boggling how he went undrafted -- you'd think some team out there would want a surefire return specialist at least on Day 2 of the draft...?

Clif said on KSEE 24 tonight when he got a call of congratulations he thought he was being Punk'd at first and was waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out of the bushes. He's one of the truly special players in Fresno State history -- the type of guy who probably would have been in the stands yelling and cheering with us if he wasn't on the team.

Sadly, a few other 'Dogs were snubbed from the Pro Bowl, namely Logan Mankins, Bernard Berrian and Lorenzo Neal.

Not to rain on the Clif parade, but Berrian has as many TDs as Roddy White on about half the number of catches and also averages about 4 yards more per reception. Oh, and Berrian is the sole bright spot of the Vikings' passing game. Not to mention he's one of the NFL's top return men.

Then you have Mankins, who should be a shoe-in for the next 12 years or so. Last year talk was Mankins was the best guard in the NFL. He still is -- but why the snub?

And the AFC's starting fullback? Leron McClain? Excuse me, but if I'm not mistaking McClain is on the Baltimore Ravens. He's their leading rusher at tailback. The fullback...that would be Lorenzo Neal, the greatest in NFL history.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A proud day to be Marvin Meyers!

Marvin Meyers $2 million gift toward a new sports medicine center near the Duncan Building and the Ricchiuti Academic Center should make Pat Hill's heart all warm and fuzzy.

It truly is touching for all of us to see alumni or friends of the university giving so graciously. All of us can make an impact either through giving our time to help the Bulldog Foundation fundraise and/or sharing our wealth. Let's continue to build onto the greatest group of volunteers of any university nationwide...

Monday, December 8, 2008

I find it odd...

that Chris Dufresne of the LA Times pokes fun at Rutgers coach Greg Schiano and Fresno State coach Pat Hill for being the only two coaches to vote for Rutgers in the top 25 poll. Really Chris? With a straight face, are you suggesting Rutgers isn't a top 25 team? Rutgers who started a horrific 1-5, but then rattled off six straight wins to close out the season.

The Scarlet Knights' only two Big East losses were West Virginia by 7 and Cinicinnati by 3. Thing is, what would happen if these teams met now? Outside of Oklahoma and Florida, there might not be a hotter team in the country right now than Rutgers. And QB Mike Teel is putting up video game numbers after being shut down by Fresno State in a 24-7 season-opening loss. Even that game, though, was closer than the final score.

Why did Hill vote Rutgers in the top 25? Because he's been paying attention. It's not like Hill's pushing Rutgers to try and increase Fresno State's BCS ranking. Come on man...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Now that that's settled...

So now that Pat Hill has announced his intention to remain at Fresno State, as we all know I've been hoping like crazy for, let's hope he puts some of that stubborness behind him.

While it's definitely a great quality of his to be so no-nonsense and preach physical, punch-'em-in-the-mouth football, he also must step back and see that his biggest shortcoming as a coach is sometimes refusing to adjust proactively.

Don't be afraid to be unpredictable Pat. It doesn't mean we're not tougher or more physical than the other guys. It just means we're multi-dimensional. And, yeah, some of those fans who whine and complain all the time and think they know enough to tell you how to coach are irritating, but forget all that. Pay them no attention. You're the 'Dogs coach, we've all bought in to your vision. Let's make it happen. Just let us know how to help you along the way.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

If I know Pat Hill as well as I think I do...

He won't be going to Washington, despite all the recent reports out of Seattle media that he might be the Huskies top choice. And now this report from The Fresno Bee saying that Hill flew to Seattle, presumably to interview with Washington folks about the job.

Now here's the thing -- the University of Washington is located in Seattle. It rains a lot there, people never hit the streets without a mocha choco latte in their hands, they roam around the city looking for wi-fi hot spots, they listen to eclectic music and drive around in hybrids. It's a cleaner, less annoying version of San Francisco. And it's definitely not Fresno.

Pat Hill is Fresno. He spent part of his early years sleeping in his car because that's what he could afford. Hard work got him to where he is now. He hardly knows what a computer is, and doesn't like polite chats at the coffee house. He's a no-nonsense, meet me in the parking lot when it gets dark and we'll settle this type of guy. If Pat Hill coached the SuperSonics, they would have bolted for Oklahoma years ago.

Once an assistant at Fresno State, Pat Hill returned to his roots to take over as Jim Sweeney's successor in 1995. He came in talking about building the program from the ground up, with high school players. Bringing in kids who would excel academically and making that a priority. Scheduling big-time teams and eventually beating them consistently so that Fresno State too would be a big-time program. Hill did it all.

"Why not us?" Hill proclaimed to anyone and everyone in the nation who would listen. "Shutup & Hit Somebody," he shouted in 2001. "Anyone, anywhere, any time," he added.

Soon the Pac-10 teams, especially those residing as Fresno State's neighbors in California, scattered like the broken glass of a dropped mirror if Pat Hill came asking them for a game. Cal has played the 'Dogs twice ever, losing both times. USC is 1-1 against the 'Dogs, including the '05 game everyone remembers at the LA Coliseum when Fresno State almost knocked off "the best team in college history." UCLA has never been brave enough to play at Bulldog Stadium, yet has still lost its past two meetings with Fresno State. And Stanford, well they haven't played the 'Dogs since the 1920s (Fresno State didn't even join Division I-A until 1980).

Between the disappointments fans have felt as Hill and his chip-on-the-shoulder Bulldogs failed to go undefeated in 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2007, and going without a WAC title since 1999, Hill has established the second most feared football program in the state, behind USC's quasi-professional franchise.

There's something to be said for that. He's doing it with half the budget of most Pac-10 teams, yet still outrecruiting several of them. But best of all, most fitting of all, is Hill and Fresno State have identities that go hand in hand. Hill doesn't drive a hybrid, he drives a ghastly beast of a Bulldog Red Hummer. He does talk politically correct, he tells you what he thinks. He doesn't hide from the BCS chatter the way other coaches might, he welcomes it. He turned Bulldog Football into an adjective. He had former MLB slugger Larry Walker wearing a Fresno State cap to practice with the Rockies. He opened up a line of compliments for any Fresnan on vacation in any spot in the country from fellow vacationers who admire what he's done at Fresno State.

Pat Hill has our vision. If you're a Red Waver who truly believes Fresno State will one day win a national title in football, you love Pat Hill. If you don't have that confidence, you criticize him. But Hill has worked tirelessly for this program and this vision, and that's what we should do too -- yell as loud as you can every game, gift as much as you can to the university, invite others to attend games with you and gift whatever they can too. That's the difference of college sports and pro -- in college sports you really are allowed to say "we" when referring to your team. Because you're really part of the team.

And I want my team to include Pat Hill for years and years to come.

NObama, NOregon State!

Talk about an idea for an instant classic sign to hold up at this afternoon's 2 p.m. tipoff between Fresno State and Oregon State at the Save Mart Center.

I mean, regardless of your personal political views, that's just funny.

If you don't know by now, Oregon State's first-year head coach, Craig Robinson, is Barack Obama's brother-in-law.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Grading the 'Dogs (7-5, 4-4) at No. 9 Boise State (12-0, 8-0)

Quarterbacks: D
Credit Brandstater for being a tough son-of-a-gun, but he's just an average QB at best right now. He doesn't do anything to win ballgames, including when he spiked the ball with 1 second remaining in the first half.

Running Backs: D
2.4 yards per carry will never, ever cut it at Fresno State. Harding stopped moving his feet too often in the backfield. Hard to believe not having Mathews makes that much of a difference with this offense.

Receivers: D+
What a terrible time to start dropping passes. Bear Pascoe and Ajirotutu had costly drops on a key drive that led to a punt, then West drops one (that was thrown behind him) and it gets picked off.

Offensive Line: D
See above 2.4 yards per carry is absurd. The 'Dogs never seem to be able to run on Boise State, and until that is fixed they will struggle against the Broncos.

Defensive Line: C
Applied some of their best pressure of the year in the first half, but Broncos QB Kellen Moore didn't panic and got rid of the ball every time. He made plays when necessary.

Linebackers: D
Reverted to more poor tackling and struggled to get off blocks in the second half.

Defensive Backs: C
Great pick-6 by Owens in the first quarter, but 'Dogs confusion in the third quarter more than negated it.

Special Teams: F
Here we go again. Two blocked kicks for the 'Dogs and then what do they do? Allow a 90-yard punt return for a TD (yes, Malone was held by a Bronco, but the team shouldn't have had to rely on its punter anyway). For a special teams guru such as coach Baxter, he sure doesn't seem to be doing much coachinig this year. Where are the adjustments in personnel? The 'Dogs don't have enough speed on the coverage unit, especially with Wylie out. Dunn defended the punt return horribly and it cost them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I have a hard time with Bozo State fans...

They're just so cocky. And I don't respect cocky. In fact, I dislike cocky.

Now granted, Boise State has accomplished an amazing thing -- going through its first seven-plus seasons in the WAC undefeated at home on the Smurf turf. That's impressive. Heck, it's almost unbelievable. And they've beaten Fresno State a handful of times while they were winning a handful of WAC titles. So head to head, there's no room for Fresno State to talk. As a college student back in 2001 I didn't have a lot of money, but I would have gone all in betting Boise State would never accomplish anything close to that record. I mean, it's Boise State -- the team we were all so angry was being added to the WAC, a patsy like Utah State, Idaho and New Mexico State.

Only Boise State turned out not to be such a patsy (although it consistently schedules like one). The Broncos enter Friday's 3 p.m. game against visiting Fresno State undefeated at 11-0 and ranked ninth in the nation. That was supposed to be Fresno State's record right now.

The strange thing about Boise State, the conundrum, that I just can't quite figure out, is how it is so darn successful against the WAC but just barely won on the road against a BCS-conference school (Oregon) for the first time in history this year...?

Even more annoying, is when we have to sit back leading up to this week's game and listen to such garbage bravado from Boiseans about how Fresno State hasn't beat anyone good all year. Hello -- Oregon is no better than Rutgers. Rutgers is one game in the loss column from heading to a BCS bowl. Oregon is nowhere near that. And the Pac-10 is down, perhaps, more than ever before.

In actuality, Fresno State has won TWO BCS-conference road games THIS SEASON -- twice as many as Boise State has won in its history. How's that for a fact? Heck, even La Tech matched Boise State's success this year against BCS-conference opponents. I mean, welcome back to planet Earth Boise State. Stop whining about getting shafted from a BCS bowl game.

If you want in, play a respectable schedule, beat highly regarded programs outside of conference, and earn the right. Stop trying to backdoor your way in to the limelight.

Heck, I know your university spawned from what started as a women's college, but it's time to man up.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm just gonna come out and say it...

Clifton Smith is the greatest return man in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history.

There. Simple. One sentence. And I believe every word of it. After a horrifying injury at Oregon in 2005 during Smith's first real action, in his first big road game, in the first quarter, as a Fresno State up-and-comer, he suffered a horrible knee injury. It basically killed his sophomore and junior seasons -- the stuff medical redshirts should be granted for.

After a breakout senior season in '08, Smith was an undrafted free agent (mostly 'cause he's only 5-foot-8) who everyone the 'Dogs ever played knew was one of the NCAA's great return men of all time. Not because he's astonishingly fast. But because he's Batmobile quick and makes cuts that are too impressive for analogies.

The Bucs had gone more than 30 years as an NFL franchise with just one -- ONE -- kick return for a touchdown. Clifton Smith has returned a kick and a punt for TDs in his first four games as a Buc. And a smart person would not bet against him doing it another time or two before the season is over.

You know the way people say someone is almost as fast as Devin Hester? Well, get ready to hear, "almost as elusive as Clifton Smith." Just take a looksie for yourself...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Grading the 'Dogs (7-4, 4-3) at San Jose St. (6-6, 4-4)

Quarterbacks: F
Brandstater's worst showing in since the '06 season finale at San Jose State (if not worst ever) amounts to 5 of 18 for 71 yards, an pick and a fumbled snap. Made bad decisions and consistently missed open receivers.

Running Backs: B
Would be a D if not for an eye-popping fourth quarter capped by a 22-yard Harding dip and dodge TD run and Rashad's breakout game of 41 yards (8.2 per carry). Harding led with 99 yards and Miller added 62.

Receivers: D+
Five guys had one catch each -- two receivers, a tight end, an H-back and a running back. Ajirotutu went without a reception for the first time all year and Moore was a non-factor in his first game back from injury. Bear Pascoe was robbed of a beautiful diving catch by a poor call by an official. Blame can't lay solely with Brandstater, but he missed several big plays while failing to make his reads.

Offensive Line: A-
Fourth quarter was so physically overpowering that any shortcomings from the first half take the back seat. Robbins proved why he should have been starting over Cunningham and Pacheco all year long when Popovich went down with injury. And Lepori and Bernardi possess unparalleled Bulldog Spirit. Solid game by Avon as well.

Defensive Line: A-
Banks had perhaps his finest game stuffing the middle and being imposing while doing it. Ike continues his late-season blossom, and Carter has taken over as by far the team's most dangerous D-linemen and should permanently move from linebacker. Team held Spartans to minus-5 yards rushing -- the second straight game holding a team to negative yards.

Linebackers: B+
Poor first quarter tackling, but credit the defense for staying strong despite being on the field the whole half as the offense struggled. Herron showed improvement in sticking to his assignment as he forced San Jose State QB Sean Flynn to fumble on an option pitch. Knox continues to impress.

Defensive Backs: B
San Jose State went deep many times and didn't complete anything besides the first quarter halfback pass for a TD. That said, Owens has been getting beat constantly, and Dunn did against the Spartans. Makes one wonder why the team's best cover corner, Jefferson, has been MIA at corner for weeks? Great, aggressive effort by Davis didn't go unnoticed.

Special Teams: B+
A strong effort besides West's botch fielding the opening kickoff, but he made up for it returning a punt for the 'Dogs first TD in the third quarter. Malone might end up one of best in school history averaging 43 yards per punt, including booming a 74-yarder out of the end zone in a critical field possession battle. Goessling nailed his only field goal attempt, and Spartans missed 2 of 3 field goals.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Do you know the way to San Jose?

If you need any more of a push to get in the car and drive to smelly San Jose today -- other than just plain being Bulldog Born and Bulldog Bred -- look no further than this video posted on YouTube after the 2006 game at Spartan Stadium.

San Jose State beat Fresno State for the first (and only) time since 1990 on that day. And after this guy talked so much trash to Pat Hill and the 'Dogs about it being a new day, Fresno State hammered San Jo 30-0 in 2007.

This time, a bowl berth could be on the line...IS THERE A 'DOG IN THE HOUSE!?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

He's rated P.G.!

Check out P.G., Paul George, in only his second collegiate game throwing down on two St. Mary's players for SportsCenter's No. 1 play of the day. Crazy thing is, he had a dunk almost as good in his first game against Sac State.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shut Up & Hit Somebody

I've been thinking a lot about this ol' Pat Hill/Bulldog Football mantra lately. Problem is, have the Bulldogs been thinking about it?

Maybe it's time Hill return to his roots so to speak, and bring this saying out of the archives. I know he tries to come up with a different motto every season and all, but never before has "Shut Up & Hit Somebody" been so meaningful.

Enough with the weekly press conferences talking about how the days of 35-point wins are over. Enough with ranting at fans each week on the Pat Hill Show on KMJ. No excuses. This team is talented. It's deep. It might be missing the proper scheme. It might be missing an impact player or three on defense. But make due. Coach around the shortcomings. This defense hasn't stepped up and hit anyone in the mouth consistently in weeks.

Note: To those of you who have been disappointed to see fewer blogs as of late, we apologize. Some of you have made good points. Maybe the blogs shouldn't slow down just because the team isn't playing well. But we don't plan to be quiet for much longer. Against New Mexico State this week, we want to see a fanatical effort from the 'Dogs that results in a statement win and brings all the momentum heading into a game at evil san jose state (that school doesn't deserve to have its name capitalized). So here's to a full Bulldog Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m., many packed tailgating lots starting at 10 a.m. and a 'Dog beatdown!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A 'Dogs-filled day

You may have noticed the game previews have been missing for a few weeks...and they will return once Fresno State returns to playing Bulldog Football. We wouldn't even mind seeing a nice little blowout over Utah State today (that '06 games still tastes disgusting).

And after the 'Dogs noon kickoff with the Aggies, we can all tune in to see former 'Dog Matt Garza take the mound for the Rays in Game 3 of the World Series against the evil Phillies.

Side Note: So much for San Jose State being that cat's meow -- apparently beating three lower-tier WAC teams doesn't bode all that well for the Spartans after all. It's just like in '06, when San Jo beat bad teams and built up confidence -- they started to believe they were really good even though they weren't. Sorry Sparty (see ya Nov. 21)!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hill to Washington?

Fat chance if you ask me, but this guy doesn't seem to think so. The question is, has he ever even asked Pat Hill, or is he just going on a blind assumption?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

3 worst moments in Fresno State history

3. No. 21 Fresno State's 32-29 overtime loss to Hawaii in 2008.
No excuse for No. 21 'Dogs losing to a scantily talented Hawaii team in Bulldog Stadium, knocking themselves out of a top-25 ranking, ending all BCS bowl hopes, making the climb to the WAC title an uphill battle and making the program the butt of more playing-down-to-the-competition jokes for at least another year.

2.No. 16 Fresno State's 50-42 loss at No. 1 USC in 2005.
It was a game against the "mighty" (disrespectful) Trojans that many college football aficionados were calling the greatest team of all-time -- and it quite possibly was. Still, the 'Dogs went blow-to-blow in a night game at the LA Coliseum in front of 25,000-30,000 visiting Red Wavers who made the trip. After leading much of the game, turnovers did the 'Dogs in as they threw a fourth interception going for a potential game-tying touchdown at the end of regulation.

1. No. 8 Fresno State's 35-30 loss to Boise State in 2001.
The Bulldogs had reached their highest-ever ranking behind QB David Carr and company and Pat Hill's vision had become reality as the 'Dogs were on a downhill slope to becoming the first non-BCS-conference team to ever reach a BCS bowl. Then a team nobody had ever heard of, Boise State, came into Bulldog Stadium and caught the 'Dogs sleepwalking for the come-from-behind upset. And they've had the 'Dogs number ever since.

Ya gotta ask some questions...

As much as I love Pat Hill, and have always supported him 100% and trusted him, that final drive in regulation has to be questioned. Three straight power runs up the gut when Hawaii has 10 guys in the box? It didn't work the first two tries, so why do it on third down?

Sure, it allowed the clock to keep running, but show some confidence in an offense that had just dumped buckets of yardage on Hawaii all night. Even if Tom Brandstater threw another interception on that third down play, it wouldn't have done any more harm that letting a field goal get blocked -- which is exactly what happened when Hill sent Kevin Goessling and the kicking team out to give the 'Dogs the lead.

At some point, Hill, you've got to be the aggressor. Otherwise, you end up in close games against bad teams -- Hawaii, UCLA, Rutgers. It's getting old fast. As Fresno State fans, those of us doing our jobs are pouring our hearts and souls into every game giving a fanatical yelling effort every single play of every game. And to have upsets at home to our rivals every year...?

C'mon Hill, you're probably the best thing to ever happen to Fresno State football, but don't be too proud to make necessary adjustments to your philosophy. Coaching is a chess match right? And we had bigger weapons and more pieces than Hawaii last night, but still let them win because they knew what move was coming next.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A moment captured forever

Fresno State's Ryan Mathews leaps over UCLA's Courtney Viney (the Edison High product who chose to attend UCLA over the hometown Bulldogs) on his way to a 25-yard touchdown in Fresno State's 36-31 win at the Rose Bowl.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Grading the No. 21 'Dogs (3-1) at UCLA (1-3)

Quarterbacks: A-
Watching game film shows just how much game control and confidence Brandstater had while enduring big hit after big hit; after slow start (including batted pass that was intercepted) he was unstoppable.

Running Backs: A
Against possibly the best defensive front the 'Dogs have faced, Mathews rips UCLA for 166 yards and adds a 25-yard TD catch highlighted by his hurdle of an ex-Edison High player.

Receivers: A
How can you give 'em anything else the way they stepped up with injuries to Wylie, Crawley and now Moore? West looked better than he ever has with 5 catches for 69 yards and a TD, Ajirotutu had 5 for 67 and Bear Pascoe 5 for 33 and a TD. But the biggest catch of the day was true freshman Evans for a first down on 3rd and 4.

Offensive Line: B
Too many false starts and holds, but outmanned UCLA in the running game (team averaged 5.2 per carry). Though he took some hits, Brandstater was able to stay in the pocket most of the game.

Defensive Line: C
Monga's absence hurt, but Harrell showed great growth and Stuart and Lewis both had their best games as Bulldogs.Rebounded after poor first quarter, but was only good in spurts. Lost containment too many times in fourth quarter and allowed far too many rushing yards by the opposing QB Craft. Roughing the passer call on Banks was mighty questionable.

Linebackers: C+
Carter is officially a stud at the position and led the team with 10 tackles. He is aggressive, fast and all over the field. Jacobs had a surprisingly quiet game and got tangled up by a pulling guard on a key play or two.

Defensive Backs: A
Made Bruins wideouts work hard for catches and held the passing game at bay for the most part. Haynes saw increased playing time and stood out again. Replays showed Harding might very well have been robbed of an interception, and Owens' interception was negated by an iffy roughing penalty on Banks.

Special Teams: D
Kick/punt coverage was so bad the unit can't get higher than a D. Plus Jefferson botched his only return opportunity. Moore provided the biggest highlight with a 63-yard TD return on UCLA's first punt less than a minute into the game.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Game Preview: No. 24 Fresno State (2-1) at UCLA (1-2)

Tom Brandstater is coming off his best game of the season, completing 22 of 28 passes for 231 yards and 4 touchdowns in a double-overtime win at Toledo. Brandstater also rushed for a touchdown. On the season, he averages 224 yards per game and has thrown just 1 interception while completing almost 61% of his passes. The Bulldogs haven’t let him throw downfield much yet though – a sign coaches either don’t think a more open style fits Brandstater’s game or they’re just being stubborn with a conservative mentality.

With UCLA’s top two quarterbacks shelved before the season started with injuries, the starting job fell to transfer Kevin Craft (formerly of San Diego State). He’s taken every snap this year, throwing just 1 touchdown compared to 5 interceptions (4 in a season-opening win over Tennessee). He’s completed almost 56% of his passes for 570 yards, and his season long throw is only 29 yards.
Edge: Bulldogs

Running Backs
For the first time this season, the Bulldogs got a game-breaking performance from a back not named Ryan Mathews. Though the sophomore Mathews led the team with 87 yards (and averages 101 yards per game), junior Anthony Harding rushed for 86 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown scamper that should have sealed the win. Fresno State now has three backs with more than 100 yards rushing on the year in Mathews (304), junior Lonyae Miller (113) and Harding (107). Mathews, who averages 5 yards per carry on 61 attempts, also has 4 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.

UCLA starter Khalil Bell (6-0, 219) has been limited to just 5 carries for 11 yards this year before an injury. But Bell ran for 795 yards on 5.6 per carry last season. He’s expected to return to the field Saturday. Junior Chane Moline (6-1, 232) combined for just 17 yards in the first two games this year, before carrying 11 times for 72 yards in a loss to Arizona last week. The injury bug delivered another big blow to the Bruins this week with news that junior fullback Trevor Theriot (6-0, 239), primarily a blocker, is also out for the season. Sophomore Tobi Umodu (5-11, 230) moves atop the depth chart at fullback.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State’s leading receiver from a year ago, junior Marlon Moore, is back. So is its leading receiver from two years ago, junior Chastin West. So is one of the nation’s top tight ends, Bear Pascoe. Yet still, the most effective playmaker of the group has been junior Seyi Ajirotutu, who burst onto the scene with a team-high 227 yards on 10 catches. Pascoe leads the team with 11 grabs, but has just 87 yards and a score. Moore has 8 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown (a 38-yarder that luckily fell into his arms after being intended for another receiver last week). And West, while flourishing as a blocker, has only 2 receptions for 9 yards. Sophomore Devon Wylie, who has 3 catches for 98 yards and a touchdown, sat out the Toledo game with an injury and is in question for Saturday’s contest at UCLA. Junior Jason Crawley, though, is expected to see his first action of the season after an injury kept him out of the first three games.

The Bruins are led by junior Terrence Austin (5-11, 161), who in three games this season already has more catches (18) than he did all of last year (17). Austin leads the team with 161 yards, and sophomore Dominique Johnson (6-3, 207) is second with 118 yards on 12 grabs. Junior tight end Ryan Moya (6-3, 234) has the team’s only touchdown catch to go with 99 yards receiving on 13 receptions. Though 13 different Bruins have caught passes this year, 6 players are tied with 1 catch apiece. True freshman Taylor Embree (6-3, 186) burst onto the scene with 5 catches for 53 yards in the opening win against Tennessee but has been relatively quiet since.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
Usually the Bulldogs rely on the guys in the trenches to control games. But so far this year, the line play has been the shakiest part of the team. A career-ending injury to All-WAC guard Cole Popovich catapulted sophomore Devan Cunningham into the starting lineup. After struggling in a loss to Wisconsin, he showed steady improvement last week. The biggest question is whether he’s in good enough shape speed-wise to pull quick enough on running plays. If Fresno State can establish a physical running attack it can run away with a victory. The team has already allowed 7 sacks, compared with 12 all of last season. One has to wonder if Adam McDowell should move back to the line after being converted to tight end earlier this season because the unit was thought to have so much depth.

UCLA’s line is in a state of flux, with inexperienced players dominating the rotation. Junior left tackle Micah Kia (6-5, 297) is the veteran presence with 11 career starts. The next most experienced starter, Micah Reed, sprained his MCL at BYU and is sidelined. Junior right tackle Nick Ekbatani (6-5, 294), sophomore left guard Darius Savage (6-4, 350) and sophomore right guard Sonny Tevaga (6-5, 339) made their first career starts in the loss to Arizona last week. Sophomore center Jake Dean (6-4, 294) started for the second time.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
As if there weren’t enough concerns already with the lack of pass rush from the front four, now Fresno State is without All-WAC tackle Jon Monga – the team’s only solid interior pass rusher – for at least three games because of an injury at Toledo. Sophomore tackle Cornell Banks missed the Toledo game, and is likely out again, meaning the Bulldogs will start sophomore Mark Roberts and fill the other spot with either an end or true freshmen Logan Harrell and Chase McEntee. Harrell plunged through Toledo’s line to pressure the quarterback on a failed two-point conversion that clinched last week’s win for the Bulldogs. Junior Wilson Ramos and Ikenna Ike – the starting ends – both could see time in the interior line. If one starts on the interior, Michael Stuart is likely to fill the role at end. The Bulldogs must get more pressure on the quarterback (just 2 sacks all year).

Tackle Brigham Harwell (6-1, 280) is the Bruins’ leader as an Outland and Lombardi trophy candidate. His 21 tackles (1.5 for losses) ranks third on the team, pretty impressive for an interior lineman. Harwell will be key in stopping the Bulldogs, who love to pound it up the middle. Sophomore tackle Brian Price (6-2, 300) is also on the Lombardi watch list, but has just 6 tackles this year. Junior end Korey Bosworth (6-1, 244) has 15 tackles (2.5 for losses) and a sack on the year.
Edge: Bruins

All that early season doubt from some of the “experts” seems to have quieted with the emergence of sophomores Chris Carter and Nico Herron. Carter is second on the team with 23 tackles (1 for a loss), behind sophomore Ben Jacobs’ 28 (3 for losses), and Herron is sixth with 13 (3 for losses). Sophomore Nick Bates returned to practice this week for the first time since an injury at Rutgers in the opener. If he can go, the unit will be plenty deep with redshirt freshman Kyle Knox (8 tackles, 4 for losses) an impact player in the making. Freshman walk-on Shawn Plummer (8 tackles) has had to grow up quickly, and has done a nice job, but had a setback at Toledo with multiple missed tackles.

UCLA junior Reggie Carter (6-1, 220) is one of the nation’s top linebackers, and was named to the watch lists for the Bronco Nagurski, Ronnie Lott, Chuck Bednarik and Dick Butkus awards. Carter hasn’t disappointed so far this season, registering a Pac-10-best 30 tackles (2.5 for losses), including a 20-tackle performance in a 59-0 loss at BYU. Kyle Bosworth sat out the Arizona game with injury and is in question Saturday. The other two starters are inexperienced in John Hale (6-4, 227) and true freshman Sean Westgate (5-11, 202), who might make his first career start. Keep an eye out for reserve junior David Carter, the older brother of Fresno State’s Chris Carter, who has just 1 tackle this season.
Edge: Even

Defensive Backs
For as great a job as these guys do, they might be the most unheralded unit on the team. Junior strong safety Moses Harris is third on the team with 20 tackles (1 for loss) and delivered a monster blow at Toledo. Jake Jorde (19 tackles) is making it tough for Mavin Haynes (9 tackles, 2 interceptions) to win back the starting job at free safety. And over at corner, Sharrod Davis (11 tackles, 2 for losses, 5 pass breakups) has become the lockdown guy, while junior A.J. Jefferson (19 tackles) is playing like the team’s most sure tackler.

The Bruins’ secondary is led by junior corner Alterraun Verner (5-11, 177), who is on the Lott Award watch list and ranks second on the squad with 22 tackles and has an interception. Verner had 4 picks last season. Backing up Verner is Fresno-native star Courtney Viney (5-8, 150), a former Edison High star. Freshman free safety Rahim Moore (6-1, 176) has the team’s only other interception.
Edge: Bulldogs

Special Teams
Welcome back A.J. Jefferson. After leading the nation in kick returns last season, Jefferson broke it open for the first time this year at Toledo with 5 returns for 191 yards. He averages almost 32 yards per return. Redshirt freshman kicker Kevin Goessling rebounded from a 1 for 4 performance against Wisconsin to hit 2 of 3 last week, with his only miss wide from 58 yards out. Junior punter Robert Malone is ninth in the nation with 44.6 yards per punt.

Aaron Perez (6-4, 225) ranks fifth nationally and first in the Pac-10 at 46.3 yards per punt for the Bruins. Nine of his 10 boots have gone at least 50 yards, and 5 were downed inside the 20-yard line. The problem is Perez might be out-kicking his coverage, as the Bruins are giving up 19 yards per punt return. Sophomore kicker Kai Forbath (6-0, 196) was expected to be one of the country’s best, but is 3 of 5 on the year with a miss inside 30 yards and another inside 40 yards. Kick returner Terrence Austin averages 22.8 yards.
Edge: Bulldogs

Pat Hill has been rallying the troops into a frenzy – including the media – all week long about the Pac-10 shying away from games against Fresno State. The L.A. Times even picked up on the story. Hill is 1-2 all-time against UCLA, with a Silicon Valley bowl win (17-9) in 2003. Overall, Hill is 87-56.

First-year UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel owns a career record of 67-32 with previous scandal-marred stints at Colorado and Washington. He’ll turn UCLA into a winner, but asking him to do it this year might be too much. He also told media this week he’d have no problem playing a future game at Bulldog Stadium – let’s see if he measures up to that.
Edge: Even

Fresno State is 0-4 all-time at the Rose Bowl (0-6 at UCLA), with its most recent loss 24 -21 in 2000 coming after a fumbled snap. But Fresno State has been more successful than the Bruins and any other team in California besides USC in the past decade, and this is the Bulldogs’ chance to prove something. Instead of UCLA having a big home field advantage, this game is likely to be more like a bowl atmosphere with as many as 20,000 Red Wavers expected to make the trip to Pasadena. Still, the Bruins have had a horrendous two-week stretch and will be fighting their hearts out to get back on a winning track.
Edge: Even

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Earth-shattering news!!!

Fresno State today signed baseball coach Mike Batesole and women's basketball coach Adrian Wiggins to Letters of Appointment!

Oh my goodness gracious holy cow can you believe it wow!?

Wait...what the heck is a letter of appointment? All this story says is they'll still be the coaches this year, but what does this mean exactly? How long? How much money? What are the terms?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A headline I've waited my whole life for

Growing up a diehard Fresno State fan meant a lot of things -- namely going around with a chip on your shoulder and telling anyone who would listen that we can beat the UCLAs, USCs and Cals. When I become a fan, we weren't as good or even close to as well-known or respected as any of those programs. But I never stopped believing that would one day change -- especially with a dad who reinforced the idea that huge things were in Fresno State's future.

So you can imagine the way my lips swooped into a smile -- a smirk almost -- when a Google alert hit my inbox with this headline: "UCLA seeks upset of 25th-ranked Fresno State."

What!? UCLA seeks upset!? Yes, Fresno State has reached that point, where losing to UCLA -- AT UCLA -- would be an upset. A surprise. A shocker even?

It would be tough to argue that, other than USC, Fresno State is California's most successful program over the past decade. And the Pac-10 teams don't want anything to do with scheduling Fresno State most years. That's a fact I was very glad to see in the LA Times today.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Boise State is finally potty trained

Mommy wow, these Broncos are big kids now!

OK, OK, Boise State has already been to -- and won -- a BCS bowl game. And Fresno State still hasn't. But Boise State backed in that year with a wussified schedule while Fresno State was sticking to its "anyone, anywhere, anytime" mantra it has never wavered from.

But this past Saturday, Boise State made history by beating a BCS-conference team on the road (Oregon) for the first time ever. Winning at Autzen Stadium isn't easy...even if Oregon was using it's fifth-string quarterback. So the Broncos should be congratulated.

But come on...what's up with this sudden Boise State lovefest in the national media? They jump from unranked to No. 19 and No. 20 in the two major polls, leapfroging Fresno State? Why, because they beat an Oregon team that is notorious for crumbling when its starting QB gets injured (the Ducks blew BCS bowl hopes at Arizona last year for cryin' out loud...Arizona!).

Suddenly, Fresno State is an afterthought after losing by 3 points to the now No. 8/No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers. People, it seems, just expect the 'Dogs to win every big-time non-conference game nowadays while Boise State hides behind its Smurf turf playing the Idaho States of the world.

If -- and this is a huge if right now -- Fresno State wins the rest of its games, and Boise State the rest of its games up to the finale, then can anyone with a conscience honestly rank the Broncos ahead of the Bulldogs when one played three BCS-conf. teams and the other just one?

Apparently, ESPN's Graham Watson and Mark Schizzlegizzlebah (better check that spelling) are already officially off the Fresno State bandwagon and aboard Boise State's. Here's what Schlabach most recently wrote:

4. Don't forget about Boise State.
If a Mountain West team doesn't finish unbeaten, the Broncos might be the team from a non-BCS conference that crashes the BCS party. Boise State is the class of the WAC after upsetting Oregon 37-32 on the road Saturday. Quarterback Kellen Moore is playing well, and tailback Ian Johnson is still running on the blue artificial turf. The Broncos might be 11-0 heading into a Nov. 28 home game against No. 25 Fresno State.
So let's see here, Boise State beat one BCS-conf. team on the road (for the first time ever might I reiterate) and Fresno State has also beaten one (and will go for No. 2 at UCLA on Saturday). Sounds like the 'Dogs have just as good a case right now to me. And that Ian Johnson character he's hyping up...well he hasn't rushed for 100 yards yet this year and averaged a measley 2.1 yards per carry against Oregon.

Oh, and really think there are SEVEN non-BCS-conference teams better than Fresno State? Really? Talk about a dip in credibility...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Grading the No. 25 'Dogs (2-1) at Toledo (1-2)

Quarterbacks: B
Brandstater got stronger as the game wore on, completing his final 10 passes and was 22 of 28 with 4 passing TDs and 1 rushing.

Running Backs: B-
Overtime dominance bumps them up; Harding emerges with 31-yard TD run, but also fumbled, as did Miller.

Receivers: A-
Came through with limited downfield opportunities coaches allowed them; Ajirotutu established himself as go-to guy and Moore finally made some plays. Pascoe and Kinter big as well with TDs. West was a blocking beast.

Offensive Line: C
Cunningham still seems to be hurting team with lack of quickness and team is allowing tons of pressure on Brandstater; allowed a couple more passes to be batted early.

Defensive Line: D+
Pass rush almost non-existent, though Harrell came up with huge pressure on final play. Allowed a plethora of rushing yards with no containment by the ends. Not have injured Monga and Banks was almost the downbringing.

Linebackers: C
Plummer's and Herron's tackling was pathetic, though Herron jumped in front of final pass to clinch win. Jacobs is quickly becoming one of the best in school history against the run, still has work to do in passing game.

Defensive Backs: B+
Missed some tackles, but Harris had big hit and Jorde had 11 tackles. Haynes hardly played.

Special Teams: C+
No excuse for Baxter not having team better prepared (in position to retrieve 10-yard kick) for tricky onside kick. Also allowed fake punt early. Moore improved on his pointing to the ball on punt returns but is still doing absolutely zero back there. Jefferson burst into kick return form. Goessling rebounded nicely and would have likely made 58-yard game-winning attempt from the other hash.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Grading the 'Dogs: vs. No. 10 Wisconsin

Quarterbacks: C+
Took a few ill-timed sacks and was indecisive at times with the football. Needs to take off and run when opportunity is there and protection breaks down.

Running Backs: B-
Miller and Mathews battled, but just didn't have the holes, especially early on. Mathews' best play was on a screen pass and Miller had 57 of his 58 yards on one run.

Receivers: C-
If it weren't for Wylie's 47-yard TD, grade would be lower. West and Moore have become nonexistent, and despite flirting with reaching stardom, Ajirotutu's late drop was painful.

Offensive Line: C-
First quarter was horrendous with two botched snaps. Bernardi returned to lineup, and Cunningham made first start, but wasn't quick enough pulling to allow 'Dogs to run outside to the left. Three sacks is unacceptable for this group. Lepori has to do whatever it takes to stop defensive lineman from intercepting batted pass. Must keep defenders from getting their arms up.

Defensive Line: B+
Give them credit for sticking to assignments and allowing the linebackers and safeties gaps to hit. Monga looked like a standout, and Roberts came up big in place of injured Banks. Nice play by Stuart as well.

Linebackers: A-
21 combined tackles by Jacobs, Carter and Herron, plus another huge hit in the backfield by Knox and a taste of Plummer's blitzing speed. This is an aggressive unit.

Defensive Backs: A
Jefferson quietly becoming team's most sure tackler with 11. If Owens hangs on to interception that's right in his hands, it's a TD and 'Dogs take the lead.

Special Teams: C
Great plays and un-great plays balance each other out. Blocked punt and field goal (walk-on Dunn), but then three missed field goals by Goessling, including 35-yarder. Moore not getting job done at punt returner, called for fair catches each time after hurting the 'Dogs with questionable decisions and side-to-side running at Rutgers. At least point up to ball so Jefferson knows to get out of the way on what ended up a turnover.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Game Preview: No. 21 Fresno State (1-0) vs. No. 10 Wisconsin (2-0)

Tom Brandstater (6-5, 225) didn’t get off to the best of starts in the opener at Rutgers, completing just 11 of 24 passes. Still, he made big, clutch plays (including a long of 77 yards), resulting in 216 yards total. The most noticeable difference though between Brandstater now and Brandstater in his first year starting in 2006 is poise. He puts off a confident persona and looks like a leader on the field.. The Bulldogs didn’t show much of the variety expected from their offense this season, which should be an advantage. Plus, the X-factor or true freshman Ebahn Feathers (6-1, 210) remains. Will he make a cameo on Saturday?

After throwing just 10 passes for 75 yards in his starting debut against Akron, Allan Evridge (6-2, 212), a former Kansas State transfer, broke it open with 308 yards and a touchdown against Marshall last week. Evridge has completed 66.7% of his passes with 2 scores and 1 interception. In a come-from-behind blowout of Marshall, Evridge relied heavily on the short passing game with his tight ends, but also had a long of 42 yards.
Edge: Bulldogs

Running Back
Sophomore Ryan Mathews (5-11, 215) wasted no time proving last year was just a taste. He had ESPN analysts oohing and aahing on his way to 163 yards on 26 carries (6.3-yard average) and 3 touchdowns. Mathews’ big-play ability is pure instinct – the type of thing that can’t be taught. Still the Bulldogs will need more from co-starter (if you will) junior Lonyae Miller (5-11, 215), who had a 23-yard scamper, but just 6 yards on his other 4 carries. Junior Anthony Harding (6-0,215), has shown he will be deadly on draw plays this season. He had a long of 18 yards with 3 carries at Rutgers. While Mathews might be as talented as anyone Wisconsin has, the Badgers depth edges out Fresno State’s.

Just another area where these two teams are eerily similar. Wisconsin has three very good tailbacks, including junior P.J. Hill (5-11, 236), a guy similar to the running style of former Bulldog Dwayne Wright who’s already getting a little Heisman hype. Hill bombarded Akron for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns, but was held to just 57 yards on 18 carries (still with 2 scores) against Marshall. Still, the Badgers running game excelled behind sophomore Zach Brown (5-11, 207) and redshirt freshman John Clay (6-2, 237), a brute runner who might be the most talented of them all. All three already have more than 100 yards this season (Hill with 267, Clay 125 and Brown 123). And they’re all big backs. With fullback Chris Pressley (6-1, 259) leading the way, this unit plays straight up smashmouth football (sounds just like what Pat Hill talks about with his Bulldogs).
Edge: Badgers

Many predicted it, and it all came true as junior Seyi Ajirotutu (6-3, 210) had that breakout game with 3 catches for 113 yards, including a 77-yarder where he broke wide open through a blown coverage to set up the game’s first touchdown. But the key play of the game was his 31-yard twisting, leaping backwards grab on third-and-23 to give the Bulldogs a first down inside the 5-yard line and set up the clinching score. It’s honestly tough to predict who will be the team’s leading receiver this season between Ajirotutu, junior Marlon Moore (6-0, 190), junior Chastin West (6-1, 215) and sophomore Devon Wylie (5-9, 170). West left the Rutgers game early with injury, and his status is unknown for Saturday. Moore, the most established standout of the group, was surprisingly quiet with 1 catch for 9 yards, but Wylie took his second career reception 31 yards to set up a scoreless-tie-breaking field goal. It’ll be a treat to see arguably the nation’s two best tight ends head to head. Look for Bear Pascoe (6-5, 260) to be more involved this week. Senior tight end Adam McDowell (), who was just converted from offensive line, will join Pascoe in double tight end sets to essentially give Fresno State 7 above average offensive linemen. And injury to junior Isaac Kinter will be a big blow to the team’s short-yardage passing game.

Everyone’s waiting to see the showdown between Bear Pascoe and the guy many call the best tight end in America, Wisconsin’s Travis Beckum (6-4, 235). Beckum is expected to return from injury to make his senior season debut at Bulldog Stadium, and while he’s faster than Pascoe, he’s nowhere near as physical or strong in the blocking game. The Badgers’ tight end dominance doesn’t end there though. Sophomore H-back Lance Kendricks (6-4, 227) leads the team with 4 catches for 102 yards, and is followed by junior tight end Garrett Graham (6-4, 237) and his 6 catches for 96 yards and the Badgers’ only 2 receiving touchdowns. A pair of talented sophomore wideouts, David Gilreath and Kyle Jefferson, couldn’t be much more different. Gilreath (5-11, 165) is a small, jittery runner, while Jefferson (6-5, 175) has the height to overmatch defenders. Yet, neither has become a standout-caliber receiver yet.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
Junior center Richard Pacheco has his first start in the books (false start included), but the unit allowed Rutgers to apply all kinds of pressure in the first half. Partly to blame was bad field possession throughout the half, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Last year, sophomore Joe Bernardi shored up the line in his first start last season, and will be waiting to jump in if Pacheco struggles. The second half was a different story, as Fresno State completely wore down the Rutgers defense.

The Badgers’ line is as loaded with experience as Fresno State’s – and larger. The unit averages 6-6 and 319 pounds. The most inexperienced of the starters is sophomore center John Moffitt (6-4, 323) who started the final 6 games last season. Right guard Kraig Urbik (6-6, 332), an Outland Trophy candidate, has started 41 straight games for a group that’s combined for 114 career starts.
Edge: Even

Defensive Line
The front four wasn’t able to apply much pressure in the passing game at Rutgers. And that’ll be a challenge again this week against the large offensive line of Wisconsin. If the Badgers move to the passing game as they did last week against Marshall, the Bulldogs will need more bodies in the backfield. Jon Monga (6-2, 280) and sophomore Cornell Banks (6-3, 300) were the only two members of the defensive front combining for 1 tackles for a loss. Still, the unit engaged enough with their blockers to allow Fresno State’s linebackers and safeties openings to make plays.

End Matt Shaughnessy (6-6, 253) leads a veteran defensive front that includes 3 seniors. With 11.5 career sacks, Shaughnessy is a feared pass rusher who’s up for multiple honors. While he doesn’t yet have a sack this season, he’s got 5 quarterback hurries and 2 pass deflections. Senior tackle Mike Newkirk (6-3, 264) is the only Badger with multiple tackles for losses (2). Despite the talent, this hasn’t been much of a playmaking front four to this point in the season.
Edge: Badgers

Already the thinnest position on the team, the Bulldog took a big hit with the loss of sophomore Nick Bates (6-1, 210) to injury (reportedly up to 6 weeks). But many questions were seemingly answered with the young core of sophomores Chris Carter (6-2, 220) and Nico Herron (6-3, 240). Carter tied for the team lead with 8 tackles in his first game at linebacker, since being converted from defensive end. Herron made several big, physical plays as well. And the biggest standout might have been reserve redshirt freshman Kyle Knox (6-1, 215), who had 7 tackles (2.5 for losses) and the team’s only sack in his first collegiate experience. Sophomore Ben Jacobs (6-3, 240), the only returning starter, made a big play in pass coverage to prevent a touchdown, and seems to have already embraced the leadership role of the defense.

The Badgers’ biggest playmaker – hands down – has been junior Jaevery McFadden (6-3, 220), who leads the team with a whopping 20 tackles after 2 games. DeAndre Levy (6-3, 228) is tied for second on the team with 9 tackles. Fresno State’s offense will keep these linebackers busy, having to worry about Ryan Mathews out of the backfield, Bear Pascoe’s size at tight end and a bolting Devon Wylie on quick slants.
Edge: Badgers

Defensive Backs
So much for waiting more than half the year for an interception this season (as was the case the past two years). Junior free safety Marvin Haynes (6-1, 205) picked off two passes in the opener, including one on a flea flicker to the end zone. Junior corner A.J. Jefferson (6-0, 190) emerged as a playmaker in pass coverage, showing the timing ability to disrupt passes. Sharrod Davis (5-11, 190) also turned in a solid performance, with junior strong safety Moses Harris (5-11, 205) tying for the team-high 8 tackles. The most pleasant surprise to Bulldogs fans was the quick return from injury of reserve safety Lorne Bell (5-10, 200), who harassed Rutgers in its own backfield all day.

Oddly enough, for a Wisconsin defense built around speed, the secondary might be its least speedy unit, relatively. It’s definitely the youngest, with two sophomores, a junior and a senior starting. Sophomore corner Niles Brinkley (5-10, 177) already has 2 interceptions, and junior safety Shane Carter (6-2, 202) has the other for the Badgers. Reserve freshman corner Mario Goins (6-1, 186) is tied for second on the team with 9 tackles.
Edge: Bulldogs

Special Teams
Returning just two kicks in the opener, A.J. Jefferson didn’t get much of an opportunity to show off his skills that led the nation in kick return average (35.8 yards) last season. A bigger concern was Marlon Moore at punt returner – he made two questionable decisions to catch the ball deep in Fresno State territory, and on one ran side to side instead of getting up field. Redshirt freshman kicker Kevin Goessling (6-0, 190) connected from 36 yards on his lone attempt, and junior punter Robert Malone (6-2, 215) averaged 39.8 yards on 6 tries while battling bad field position. Although they weren’t blocked, Fresno State held Rutgers to 0 for 2 on field goal attempts.

The Badgers young crop of legs is off to an impressive start. Freshman punter Brad Nortman (6-3, 215) averages 50.2 yards on 4 tries, and has booted 2 punts 50-plus yards. Freshman kicker Philip Welch (6-3, 190) is 2 for 2 with a long of 45 yards. David Gilreath averages 31 yards per kick return after taking one 63 yards. The Badgers are getting solid play from this group right now, but it’s still not proven against tougher competition.
Edge: Even

This is the perfect recipe for Pat Hill’s brand of football. The Bulldogs have now won three straight games against teams from BCS conferences. Fresno State stuck to a basic game plan in its opener, and showed hardly any of the unconventional looks seen toward the end of last year. That could catch Wisconsin off guard a bit if the playbook is opened up, although the Badgers did get plenty of scouting looks at Ryan Mathews.

What can you say negative about Bret Bielema. In just more than 2 years at Wisconsin, the former Wisconsin and Kansas State defensive coordinator is 23-5. Only two other Big 10 coaches have ever won 21 or more games in their first two seasons. The only knock is that he’s far less experienced as head coach than Pat Hill.
Edge: Bulldogs

Simple – the game’s at Bulldog Stadium. It’s the first Big 10 team to ever visit Fresno. Tied for the highest-ranked team to visit Fresno. A traditional powerhouse program. A sellout, standing-room-only crowd. The home opener. Jim Rome said on his show today these 45,000 fans at Bulldog Stadium will sound more like 90,000. If so, that’s going to affect the Badgers. The all-time series is 1-1, with Fresno State winning 32-20 at Camp Randall Stadium in 2001, and Wisconsin kicking the game-winning field goal with just more than 2 minutes left the following season to win 23-21 at Camp Randall.
Edge: Bulldogs

**Photos by Cary Edmondson

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Biggest event in Fresno history?

Short answer? Yes.

So driving home from work today I hear The Bee's Mike Oz as a guest on the Kelly Carr Show talking about this very subject. Mike Oz, who's The Bee's featured music/entertainment writer, has been blogging about the question of what's the biggest event in Fresno history? Being that he's more into music than sports, he talked about big concerts. He says Rolling Stones is the biggest in Fresno. And being that he's a good, knowledgeable guy, I'll take his word for it.

But there's just no way a concert is as big as a Fresno State football game. Especially one in which Fresno State is ranked No. 21 and Wisconsin is No. 10. Just consider this:

  • This game is on national TV... what local concert has ever been on national TV?
  • It's the first time two top 25 teams have met in Bulldog Stadium, and the first time a team from the Big 10 Conference has visited Fresno.
  • This game will have 42,000 to 44,000 in attendance... the Rolling Stones paled in comparison.
  • Plus, it's impossible for the Rolling Stones concert to be the biggest event in Fresno history. It was held in the Save Mart Center, which is an on-campus basketball arena at Fresno State. Hence, if it weren't for sports being the big show in town, there would be no Save Mart Center and no Rolling Stones, Madonna, Britney Spears, Elton John, etc.
  • It's actually impossible for ANY concert held at the Save Mart Center to be the biggest event in Fresno history. If that were the case, the opening itself of the Save Mart Center would be the biggest event. While huge for a basketball arena (16,000 give/take), Save Mart Center is still much smaller than Bulldog Stadium (41,031).
Now, consider this (and don't get all huffy and puffy music lovers. As a self-admitted Fresno State sports nut, how can anyone compare a concert to a sporting event? You've all heard the songs that are played before the concert -- probably hundreds or thousands of times. You know pretty much exactly what's going to happen when you sit down to watch the Rolling Stones (for example). Heck, you're probably even singing along.

Sports is a whole different ballgame (yep, that's a pun). The buildup is magnified by the fact none of us really know what's going to happen at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday when the 'Dogs and Badgers take the field. We know who's on the team, but we have no certainty who will win. It's a competition. An unknown. And it's our home team. As Fresnans, we're ALL represented by this university and this football program. Pat Hill said it best by referring to the sports program as the "porchlight" to the entire Fresno community and the Valley. It generates the most headlines for Fresno (yes, even more than the weird sausage crime), and it gets more people nationwide talking about Fresno and familiar with Fresno than anything else you can every think of. Heck, it even indirectly makes your Fresno State degree more valuable and respected by making Fresno State a household name.

This game that goes down on Saturday night in Fresno will never be duplicated anywhere else. A concert though, is nearly replicated at every stop of a band's tour. Usually the same songs, same agenda, same stage, same special effects.

That said, this doesn't have to be a line in the sand between Fresno State alums and Fresno music lovers. We should all embrace this as an opportunity to give the nation a little taste of what Fresno has to offer. Take it as an opportunity to be proud of where you're from and where you live and get out there and show your support. Heck, maybe we could even get the Rolling Stones to perform the national anthem before this week's big game!?

Pssst...listen here athletic dept.

Since SO many fans LOVE the Bulldog Bounce (yet it is a direct ripoff of Wisonsin's Jump Around) let's pick our own song to play between the third and fourth quarter and let everyone go bonkers over.

And let's make it a song about 'Dogs! Here's the perfect idea to replace "Jump Around"...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Spread the word, and spread it good

Wisconsin at FRESNO STATE this Saturday. It's the biggest game in Bulldog Stadium history. Let's make sure the Red Wave does it right.

The No. 1 key most important item on the checklist is this -- make sure you, and everyone within earshot of you, is INSIDE Bulldog Stadium at least 30 minutes before kickoff. Be LOUD and PROUD from the get-go. We know the Red Wave will be at full strength for this one, but let's greet the 'Dogs with a packed house as soon as they hit the field for warmups. (And it won't hurt to get a raucous FRES-NO STATE chant going either as the Badgers are walking down the Red Mile...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Journey to Jersey

This was exactly what we signed up for. It was a grueling trip, one that started with a 2 a.m. drive from Fresno to the San Jose airport for about seven hours of fly time to get to the east coast. We left during Saturday's wee hours, half of us packing nothing but the clothes that say "Fresno State" or "Bulldogs" on them. We knew it was a good sign when a less-than-2-year-old baby gave us a high-five while boarding a connecting in Houston. Her dad followed by telling her to say, "Beat Rutgers," but I think that was just to make up for a few David Carr jabs he delivered moments prior.

We spent the beginnings of Labor Day weekend multi-tasking -- touring some of the nation's most storied sites while doubling as life-sized advertisements for our beloved Fresno State (you get quite a bit of attention driving through Baltimore, Arlington, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Piscataway towering over the rest of traffic in a large white van flying Bulldog Red car flags). By the way, the average Fresno State car flags these days aren't what they used to be -- they're better. These two flags survived what seemed like a tropical storm in Baltimore and about 500 miles of driving with only a few stray threads (as opposed to last year's flag who has since retired after a receiving a battering on the drive to Eugene). In addition, these flags survived one fall (errant rolling down of the window by driver) in pretty much the worst possible block of Baltimore after dark, and another fall about 100 yards from a toll booth in the middle of the Jersey turnpike. I am, however, happy to report that both were recovered (no man left behind!).

The east coast is weird. Not just because parts of it feel like a completely different country to what we're used to in California, but because it's sunny, hot and humid one minute, and pouring rain the next. Pouring hard. As in harder than I've ever seen in my life. As in if we were in Fresno messages from the Emergency Broadcast System would have scrolled across our TVs. Oh, and the restaurant we went to just prior to this downpour didn't have food (somebody else please tell them not to post an attractive dinner menu on the door if they only serve appetizers). So we had to run across the street -- many of us opting to go barefoot to keep our shoes dry for the D.C. trip the next day.

Speaking of which, if anyone tells you Georgetown's campus looks unreal and Fresno State's doesn't compare...don't argue. But then ask them how they're football team did this past weekend.

On gameday, there was a quick pit stop to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. By pit stop, I mean, open the van doors and jump out as we're screeching to a halt, speed walk two blocks to take one photo each with the bell and hall in the background, politely nod as USC fans pretend to be complimentary while really just looking for more ways to bring up how good their team is, and then sprint back to the van and drive to Piscataway to arrive two hours before kickoff.

That's where it was kicked into high gear. Give Rutgers fans some credit -- hardly any were rude, save for one student who embarrassed himself at halftime -- but it's still a mystery whether the fans are just kind-hearted people in Piscataway or whether they couldn't tell who the Red Wavers were with everyone in the stadium wearing red? (Note to Red Wavers: lots of Rutgers fans wear red even though their official is scarlet; let's make it a goal to wear more red than any other fan base in the nation this year please).

We yelled loud, long and hard. So hard some of our voices still haven't recovered and some of us flew home today with sore, irritated vocal chords and a voice sounding more like Dennis DeLiddo's than our own (save wrestling!). After all that yelling it was still 0-0 at half, a bit of a downer to us fans, but we took it as a challenge, drank 3 bottles of water and came back recovered for the second half. As did the 'Dogs, jumping to a 10-0 lead en route to the eventual 24-7 win (the first 24-7 win for the program since its 1992 Freedom Bowl victory over USC -- a fun but meaningless fact).

We drove another three-plus hours back to Baltimore after the game, exhausted but proud of the way our university battled 3,000 miles away from home. We were proud to see another 200-300 Red Wavers in attendance, collectively gathering every bit of vocal prowess within to try and lift the team to victory. Will we be at more road games? You betcha. But more importantly, we should ALL be at EVERY home game, starting Sept. 13 when our now No. 21 Fresno State Bulldogs take on Wisconsin.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Grading the 'Dogs (1-0) at Rutgers (0-1)

Live from Rutgers, it's Grading the 'Dogs!

Quarterbacks: C+
Brandstater didn't have much time, but didn't look crisp.

Running Backs: B-
Mathews ended with huge totals, but yards were hard to come by until Rutgers wore down.

Receivers: C+
Only big plays were Ajirotutu, but receivers caught most of what was thrown to them.

Offensive Line: C
Struggled to run and pass block until late in third quarter.

Defensive Line: C
Put barely any pressure on Teel throughout game, but made a few nice diving trip-ups.

Linebackers: B
Injuries to Bates and Herron concerning, but Knox had a coming out party with hit of the day.

Defensive Backs: A-
Held Britt and Underwood both under 90 yards, Haynes grabbed 2 picks.

Special Teams: B
Kick coverage and Goessling's debut turn out well; return game lacking.

Coaching: B-
Zone coverage turned out better than it started; Hill outlasted Schiano's clock-burning ways.

Friday, August 29, 2008

GAME PREVIEW: Fresno State @ Rutgers

Fresno State saw a drastic change for the better in Tom Brandstater (6-5, 225) last season, and will quickly find out if he’s going to make the same types of strides this season as a senior. Brandstater’s confidence and performance down the stretch last year – including trusting his speed and not hesitated to take off with the ball – have many believing he’ll be one of the top handful of quarterbacks in the next NFL Draft. Brandstater completed 63% of his passes for 2,654 yards, 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions last year – an eye-opening improvement from 55%, 1,490 yards, 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions as a sophomore. If the game is close, don’t be surprised if true freshman Ebahn Feathers (6-1, 210) appears on the field for a surprise play or two – he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at a high school combine.

Rutgers senior Mike Teel (6-4, 220), like Brandstater, is a third-year starter. Teel put up more prolific numbers last season with 3,147 yards and 20 touchdowns, but was also less efficient completing 58% of his throws and tossing 13 interceptions. The big test for Teel will be how he performs under the spotlight now that superstar tailback Ray Rice is gone. Teel is likely to see more pressure and focus shifted toward the passing game. But he proved a lot last season directing the first offense in NCAA history with a 3,000-yard passer, 2,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers. Reserve junior Jabu Lovelace (6-2, 215) is a running threat with 332 yards and 4 scores in 2007.
Edge: Even

Running Back
If the Bulldogs’ talented trio protects the ball and controls the clock, Rutgers will have a tough time winning. Sophomore Ryan Mathews (5-11, 215) and junior Lonyae Miller (5-11, 215) are expected to share most of the carries with junior Anthony Harding (6-0, 215) taking handoffs and catching passes out of shotgun formations. Mathews is plain and simple one of the most talented backs in the country, and led the team with 866 yards and 14 touchdowns (tops in the nation for freshmen) last season on 6 yards per carry. Miller had 625 yards and 5 touchdowns on 4.6 per carry, and Harding 449 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 3.9 per carry (but he often got the ball in short yardage situations).

Ray Rice was just pure dominant last season, there’s no other way to put it. But gone are his 2,012 yards and 24 touchdowns – being replaced by two sophomore backs who combined for just 54 carries and 260 yards last season. Neither Mason Robinson (5-10, 190) or Kordell Young (5-9, 185) scored a touchdown. Young went down with a season-ending knee injury in the third game last season against Norfolk State. The ol’ big-shoes-to-fill adage doesn’t get any more appropriate than this.
Edge: Bulldogs

This might be the most depth the ‘Dogs have ever had at wide receiver – and they’ve had a lot. Junior Marlon Moore (6-0, 190) broke out late last season with 5 touchdowns in the final 6 games, and tallied 48 catches for 694 yards as arguable the team’s fastest player. The go-to receiver from 2006 returns after missing last season with an injury in junior Chastin West (6-1, 215). Add to that an expected breakout year by deep threat Seyi Ajirotutu (6-3, 210), who had 491 yards on 16.9 per catch, the team’s top possession receiver junior Jason Crawley (6-2, 185) and sophomore Devon Wylie (5-9, 170), who is basically uncoverable in the first 10 yards of a route, and defense should be scared. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to key on senior Bear Pascoe (6-5, 260), one of the best three tight ends in the nation

The Scarlet Knights send an absolute two-headed monster onto the field in junior Kenny Britt (6-4, 215) and senior Tiquan Underwood (6-2, 185). Underwood led the team with 65 catches and was second with 1,100 yards and 7 touchdowns. Britt was second with 62 catches and led the squad with 1,232 yards and 8 scores, while racking up a whopping 19.9 yards per catch. Junior Tim Brown (5-8, 165) added 340 yards and 2 scores, and senior tight end Kevin Brock (6-5, 255) had 241 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rutgers doesn’t have quite as many weapons here as Fresno State, but the Bulldogs will have to keep constant attention on a Britt-Underwood duo that Pat Hill said will be more of a challenge than USC’s Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith in 2005.
Edge: Scarlet Knights

Offensive Line
Four starters return from a group that allowed just 18 sacks last year, and senior left tackle Bobby Lepori (6-5, 290), senior left guard Cole Popovich (6-2, 290) were both major parts of the unit that allowed only 12 sacks in 2006. Fresno State has at least four legitimate first-team All-WAC candidates in Lepori, Popovich, sophomore right guard Andrew Jackson (6-5, 295) and senior right tackle Kenny Avon (6-3, 285). Attempting to fill the large shoes of departed Ryan Wendell at center is junior Richard Pacheco (6-2, 285), who came on so strong in fall camp he unseated sophomore roommate Joe Bernardi (6-2, 290), a future All-WAC player.

While the line is a big unknown for Rutgers with three starters gone from last year, standout sophomore left tackle Anthony Davis (6-6, 325) returns as the only sophomore named to the Outland Trophy watch list. Junior center Ryan Blaszczyk (6-4, 295) is the other returning starter, though senior right tackle Mike Gilmartin (6-5, 290) saw action in every game of 2007. The other two starters are redshirt freshmen in guards Kevin Haslam (6-7, 295) and Caleb Ruch (6-4, 285).
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
Many have questioned what is somewhat of a no-name defensive line other than senior Jon Monga (6-2, 280), the WAC’s premier pass rushing tackle with the best motor on the team. But the ‘Dogs expect just as big a pass rush from the edge with a healthy senior Ikenna Ike (6-2, 255) at end. The team’s biggest problem defensively in recent years has been stopping the run. If sophomores Cornell Banks (6-3, 300) and Mark Roberts (6-4, 300) play as well as they did in spring and fall camp, the problem will be alleviated. Keep an eye out for sophomore Chris Lewis (6-3, 260), one of the most ballyhooed recruits on the roster who could be an X-factor as a reserve end.

The biggest knock on Rutgers’ defensive front is size up the middle. Senior tackle Pete Tverdov (6-4, 270) and sophomore Alex Silvestro (6-4, 250) are much leaner and lighter than the typical major college tackle. But Fresno State has, at times, had some trouble with smaller, quicker defenders. Tverdov started 8 games last season with 36 tackles (8.5 for losses) and a sack, while Silvestro made 3 starts with 13 tackles and a sack. Both will have their work cut out for them against a strong push from Fresno State’s experienced line in the running game. The ends though, excel in the pass rush. Senior Jamaal Westerman (6-3, 265) led the Knights with 8 sacks, while junior George Johnson (6-4, 260) tied for third with 4 sacks as a part-time starter.
Edge: Bulldogs

Sophomore Ben Jacobs (6-3, 240) was an instant standout last season, finishing second on the team with 81 tackles. At the position with the least proven depth on the team, it’ll be up to him to raise the bar as new starters are ushered in. Sophomore Nico Herron (6-3, 240) is a ferocious hitter, and sophomore converted end Chris Carter (6-2, 220) has great speed and strength. Expect redshirt freshman Kyle Knox (6-1, 215) to make his pass-rushing presence felt.

Senior Kevin Malast (6-2, 235) is the stud of the unit, finishing second on the team with 92 tackles (7.5 for losses) and 2 sacks in 2007. The team’s third-leading tackler (67 tackles, 7 for losses, 2.5 sacks) from a year ago is junior Damaso Munoz (6-0, 215) who’s listed second on the depth chart in the middle behind junior Ryan D’Imperio (6-3, 240), who broke his leg in spring 2007. Redshirt freshman Manny Abreu (6-3, 245) fills the other starting role. Abreu was rated the No. 2 weak linebacker in the nation coming out of high school by one recruiting service.
Edge: Even

Defensive Back
The biggest positive in the secondary coming out of camp is a newfound aggressiveness that was missing last season when the team finished tied for a nation-low four interceptions. Junior corners A.J. Jefferson (6-0, 190) and Damion Owens (5-11, 200) team with senior Sharrod Davis (5-11, 190) to form what looks to be a formidable unit. Jefferson has tremendous athleticism and speed, Owens is a coverage specialist and Davis keeps his man in front of him and delivers strong tackling. Junior strong safety Moses Harris (5-11, 205) showed immense improvement in his closing speed during fall camp, and is the team’s hardest hitter. Junior free safety Marvin Haynes (6-1, 205) can deliver punishment as well.

One of the top free safeties in the nation lives in Rutgers’ secondary in senior Courtney Greene (6-2, 215), who is on both the Nagurski and Lott trophy watch lists. He led the team with 101 tackles last season (2.5 for losses), a sack and an interception. Junior Zaire Kitchen (6-2, 215) and sophomore Joe Lefeged (6-1, 200) are battling for the strong safety spot. The McCourty brothers return at the corner position in senior Jason McCourty (5-11, 190) and sophomore Devin McCourty (5-11, 185). Devin led the team with 2 picks last season.
Edge: Even

Special Teams
A.J. Jefferson led the nation at 35.8 yards per kick return last season, including 2 touchdowns. The Bulldogs are almost among the tops in the country in blocked kicks as well, with Jefferson returning one for a touchdown last year. Bear Pascoe is a force who disrupts the middle of field goal formations. However, the ‘Dogs must break in a new kicker in redshirt freshman Kevin Goessling (6-0, 190), a power-legged lefty who was lights out in camp. Sophomore punter Robert Malone (6-2, 215) has a chance to be a special player if he finds consistency.

Like Fresno State, Rugers introduces a new kicker in redshirt freshman San San Te (5-9, 180), who was rated the No. 5 prospect nationally by one service coming out of high school. Sophomore punter Teddy Dellaganna (6-2, 210) also has yet to see game action. In the return game, the Knights were led by Tim Brown’s 20.7 yards per kick return, and had no one shine returning punts.
Edge: Bulldogs

Hey, it’s Pat Hill sticking to that “anyone, anywhere, anytime” mentality by opening at Rutgers. Hill is the longest tenured coach in the WAC as he enters Year 12, and is among the top 3 and 4 of WAC coaches in all-time wins and bowls. For the fourth time in the past 8 years, Hill has the national media talking BCS for the ‘Dogs.

Eighth-year coach Greg Schiano deserves respect. The guy turned around a Rutgers program that was absolutely stuck in struggles for years, and has led it to three straight bowls. And, unlike many BCS-conference coaches, Schiano doesn’t shy away from good competition in the early season. The two coaches are very similar in style and philosophy, but Hill wins out on longevity.
Edge: Bulldogs

Pat Hill, Red Wave, get your THUMBS UP!

In honor of the United States and our great performance in the 2008 Summer Olympics, we’ve decided to have a little fun — albeit with real opinions — with the Fresno State football team. Anybody can write a preview about keys to the game, position match-ups and game previews (including us, so check back again today to read that too), but not many football gurus have the kind of outside the box (hardly), attention demanding (read if you feel like it) material that goes for the Gold, a la Michael Phelps. So without further ado, here are our medal winners (Gold, Silver and Bronze) for random but intriguing and unheralded attributes regarding Fresno State football’s best.

Oh, and for your listening and viewing pleasure as you read, here is the Fresno State fight song. Click play and then read; that’s our recommendation.

Hardest hitter
Gold: Moses Harris
Has shown growth each year, improved his speed and learned how to use his body for big impact hits.
Silver: Nico Herron
6-3, 240-pound animal likely deserving of the gold, but we’ll keep him here until he proves it on game day.
Bronze: Lorne Bell
Head down, heat-seeking missile; when he’s locked in you’re done.

Surest tackler
Gold: Jon Monga
Take a second to think about all the tackles Monga’s missed; you can stop thinking, it hasn’t happened.
Silver: Ben Jacobs
He’ll take a shot at you if he has a chance to, but he knows not to gamble if a guy could get by him.
Bronze: Eric Brown
A Kyle Goodman-like presence on special teams, he thrives at being the first guy downfield on kickoffs.

Fastest WRs
Gold: Marlon Moore
No explanation needed.
Silver: Devon Wylie
Devon Wylie doesn’t run like the wind, the wind runs like Devon Wylie.
Bronze: Chastin West
Others in the mix, but haven’t necessarily had the chance to prove it yet like West has.

Fastest RBs
Gold: Lonyae Miller
Similar 40 time to Mathews, but with longer strides and still hasn’t been caught from behind.
Silver: Ryan Mathews
Gone before you know it, but still has something left to prove with breakaway speed.
Bronze: Anthony Harding
Harris and Ellis haven’t proved it yet, and Harding ran so fast he knocked a Georgia Tech guy out.

Fastest LBs
Gold: Mario Moore
175-pound walk-on is just flat out faster than the rest.
Silver: Quaadir Brown
Especially now that he dropped all that weight.
Bronze: Chris Carter
Somebody has to win bronze; Carter gets the nod for experience.

Fastest DBs
Gold: A.J. Jefferson
Just ask those who have chased him what his dust tastes like.
Silver: Isaiah Green
It’s not easy be(at)ing Green.
Bronze: Sharrod Davis
I’m going to make fun Oregon ‘cause they don’t have him anymore. Edges out Phillip Thomas.

Fastest Overall
Gold: A.J. Jefferson
If he and Moore ran side by side they’d tie, but somebody had to get first.
Silver: Marlon Moore
If he and Jefferson ran side by side they’d tie, but somebody had to get second.
Bronze: Devon Wylie
Caught from behind at Texas A&M, but more stamina, speed and strength this year.

Stickiest hands
Gold: Bear Pascoe
Winnie the Pooh was recently overheard saying, “This honey’s as sticky as Bear Pascoe’s hands.”
Silver: Vince “Cub” Pascoe
If Cub played baseball, he’d be catcher.
Bronze: Chastin West
He made the tough, acrobatic catches all camp long.

Best cover guy
Gold: Damion Owens
A true coverage corner who doesn’t allow WRs much space.
Silver: A.J. Jefferson
Jefferson is faster than Owens and can cover best deep.
Bronze: Sharrod Davis
If you catch a ball in front of Davis, you’re getting’ hit.

Special teams guy
Gold: A.J. Jefferson
No. 1 in the country in kick returns and a preseason All-American.
Silver: Bear Pascoe
He’s the reason for the push in the middle that leads to so many blocked kicks.
Bronze: Bobby Shepard
Redshirt freshman is in there every play and expected to be a four-year mainstay.

Most Outgoing on-field personality
Gold: Joe Bernardi
“Joey, Joey, Joey.” If he’s within a mile, you’ll know it.
Silver: Bobby Lepori
A chatterbox on and off the field who is everyone’s friend.
Bronze: Jason Crawley
He’s been seen at practice with a feather in his helmet and a Fresh Prince headband.

Coolest facemask
Gold: Ryan Mathews
The DNA helmet was a fresh look.
Silver: Richard Pacheco
A true old-school O-line mask.
Bronze: Tapa Taumoepeau
We mostly just wanted you to try and say his name.

Prediction for most bones
Gold: Tom Brandstater
His growth coupled with the most opportunity gives him the gold.
Silver: Bear Pascoe
Bones for blocking, catching and blocking kicks.
Bronze: Ryan Mathews
If he goes for 1,000 yards and similar TD numbers he’s in the mix.

Most intense coach
Gold: Pat Hill
Every time I see/hear him I want to run through a brick wall.
Silver: Dan Brown
When he’s fired up, the D better be ready for a lecture.
Bronze: Derek Frazier
Brings the hands-on intensity when he doesn’t like what he sees.

Best tactical coach
Gold: Randy Stewart
He teaches and teaches and teaches, ‘til his shirt is soaked with sweat.
Silver: John Baxter
Special teams results speak for themselves.
Bronze: Derek Frazier
Do it right or he’ll show you how to do it right.

Route runner
Gold: Devon Wylie
No one can keep up with his quick cuts and change of direction.
Silver: Jason Crawley
His most refined trait; a true possession receiver who gets the tough first downs.
Bronze: Darren Newborne
Hard-working former walk-on has mastered the little things.

Jump ball catch
Gold: Chastin West
He’s proven his acrobatic ability in games.
Silver: Bear Pascoe
Hands, size and toughness to pull it down in traffic; he’d get Texas A&M’s vote.
Bronze: Seyi Ajirotutu
Height, hands and jumping ability.

Best at changing direction
Gold: Ryan Mathews
He can stay at full speed while contorting his body to either side.
Silver: Devon Wylie
Low to the ground and accelerates fast; uncoverable in the first 10 yards.
Bronze: A.J. Jefferson
Makes his cuts while still moving up the field.

Best practice player
Gold: Ryan Colburn
He’s gone from looking like a mess as a freshman to looking like a big-time QB because of the time he put in.
Silver: Kenny Wiggins
Just waiting for an opening to become the next O-line star.
Bronze: Richard Pacheco
It’s no coincidence why he earned the starting nod at center.

Best NFL prospect
Gold: Bear Pascoe
His skills are most likely to guarantee him a roster spot on an NFL team.
Silver: Tom Brandstater
Might have the highest ceiling, especially as a late bloomer.
Bronze: A.J. Jefferson
As long as he proves last year wasn’t a fluke, he can make it on return abilities alone.

Best motor
Gold: Jon Monga
He’ll grunt, growl, hit and run until the whistle blows.
Silver: Ikenna Ike
Former walk-on had to put out non-stop effort to get to where he is.
Bronze: Offensive Line
They’re a bunch of Energizer bunnies.