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!