Monday, December 28, 2009

Fresno State gifts for Christmas?

This time of year we always see a ton of lists with the best sports moments of the past year and biggest stories of year, etc. So let's put a little twist on our list -- Bulldog Bounce style!

Did you receive any Fresno State-related gifts for Christmas? If so, what were they?

Me? I got a red Fresno State T-shirt from a buddy, a Fresno State hat, BBQ sauce and table coasters from good ol' Mom and of course the wonderful $50 gift certificate to the Bulldog Shop from the mother-in-law. Oh, and of course that ever-so-special 12 x 18 print of Ryan Mathews leaping over a ucla defender in last season's Bulldogs' win (thanks photographer buddy of mine)!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Did Ryan Mathews make the right decision?

The Fresno Bee followed a report by ESPN that star Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews is declaring a year early to the NFL.

Was it the best decision for Mathews? Did he have anything left to prove at Fresno State? Will the money be too much to pass up? What round will he go in during April's NFL Draft?

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Well, Fresno State decided to take it to another level of disappointment in yesterdays double-overtime New Mexico Bowl loss to Wyoming. We all know for sure now that the Bulldogs' defense is one of the nation's worst -- and that's just plain hard to argue. And it basically cancels out the Bulldogs' ownership of one of the nation's finest offenses. Sad.

Now only if we could get Pat Hill to talk openly with the fans about it... If he'd just come out and admit the defense has been bad and needs a ton of work, and take some steps to address that problem, it would go a long way in making his critics feel better.

That said, give Wyoming credit. The Cowboys might be a below average team, and one that would have battled Utah State and Hawaii for sixth in the WAC, but they made key play after key play after key play.

--Wyoming forced a Ryan Mathews fumble -- and Ryan Mathews doesn't fumble. (It's happened just three times in his career, one of which was a bad call by the refs earlier this season at New Mexico State when replays proved it wasn't really a fumble.)

--Wyoming made a defensive stand on first and goal from the 1-yard line, stuffing Mathews three times and Colburn once. Tapa Tamopeau blew a blocking assingment on fourth down leading to the debacle.

--True freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels led clock-burning drives and converted third downs all day. (Fresno State's defense makes even the worst offenses look prolific.)

So there you go Wyoming Cowboys -- credit where it's due. You deserved to win because you were more clutch. But it doesn't make the loss any less embarrassing for this Fresno State program.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nobody likes San Jose

Talk about pouring two more tablespoons of a slap in the face into the Fresno State-San Jose State rivalry -- former Fresno State offensive coordinators Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier BOTH reportedly turned down offers to be the next head coach at San Jose State.

Heard on "The Herd"

I don't normally listen to the Colin Cowherd show because, well, his opinions aren't very good. That said, I figure a lot of these big-time radio voices purposely form bad opinions to generate listener feedback.

Well today it worked, but I'm not calling in or emailing his show (which would allow said plan to work), I'm just writing about it here to get your feedback. The debate at hand is whether the NCAA basketball tourney should expand to 96 teams?

Syracuse's Jim Boeheim is in favor, as is Fresno State's Steve Cleveland. I haven't yet decided where I sit on the fence.

But get this, Cowherd says people don't want to watch underdogs. It's a "myth" he tells us. The ratings aren't good. The ratings plummet when Duke is eliminated. People want to see Duke and North Carolina and Kansas an Kentucky. And in football, the lowest rated BCS game will be Boise State-TCU, because people would rather watch USC (his favorite team), Ohio State and Notre Dame. Is this true? Is that who you'd rather watch? I certainly wouldn't.

But let's take Cowherd's argument as fact for argument's sake -- and now let's apply that logic to Title IX. If what's important in bowl games and NCAA tourneys is what gets the best TV ratings, because we have to give the people what they want, then apply that rule across the board. WAY more people like to watch men's football and men's basketball than all the women's collegiate sports put together. So does that mean women's sports don't deserve as much funding as the men's from their respective institutions?

And Mr. Cowherd, if I'm not mistaking the most popular College World Series ever for TV ratings was Fresno State's national title run in 2008.

The Buckeye Battle Cry

Here's a feel of how some ohio state bloggers think about Fresno State and the New Mexico Bowl...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The day Graham Watson drops knowledge on me will be the day that Peter Gammons changes his name to Graham Watson

If you don't know who Graham Watson is, consider yourself lucky. Or, at least you were until I decided to write a Graham Watson blog, which, thanks to it containing her name, now has an unfortunate side effect similar to the one you get when reading her blogs.

Watson -- unbeknownst to many of the people that actually do read what she writes out of boredom -- is in fact a female and non-BCS blogger for That wasn't meant as an insult, but actually a real did-you-know, as more than a few message board-ers have dropped a "he" when referencing Graham. Don't worry though, plenty of insults still to come.

Graham Watson's job is to know non-BCS football (unless she has a second job, in which case only one of her jobs is to know non-BCS football). She is paid to watch them, write about them, read about them and even go to some of the games and cover them in person.

Needless to say, I don't find Graham Watson to be a particularly entertaining writer, or to generally have an informed opinion about non-BCS teams. Count me in as one out of nine Americans who agree with that statement (fine print: who knows if that's true, but I'd like to think it is). Sure, it's hard to mess up links to local newspaper Web sites and a list of players who have won awards (although it's happened). That stuff is generally tolerable. I've got no beef there, plus, beggars can't be choosers.

Rather, it is the lack of pure knowledge of teams, the head-shaking predictions, the perceived arrogance, etc., that make her a villain for college football fans. Her opinion-including blogs are daily evidence of that. She's consistent at least, I'll give her that.

So why do a blog now? Well, for one, I had the time. And then there's, well ... read on.

What if I told you that today, as I half-heartedly browsed through the BulldogBounce twitter feed, I ran across a Graham Watson tweet that provided me great entertainment and a lengthy laugh?

See the evidence below:

As you may have figured out, the "allow me to drop some knowledge" portion of the tweet was the part that did it for me. At this point, I was willing to be suckered, hoping to continue my streak of Graham-provided hilarity's. So I suckered myself into clicking the provided link, only to become utterly disappointed (but not surprised) with the vagueness, cluelessness and general ineptitude that followed.

BUT, for at least a brief segment in time, albeit unintentionally, Graham Watson brought a smile to my face, and now, to yours. That has to mean something. Could it be, that after we've grown apart from her for so long, that we've now learned to love each other. I only thought it fair to capture this event with its due diligence -- a sentimental Graham Watson tribute blog (which you've been reading) and a letter to her (which you will now read).

So to you, Graham, on behalf of the readers and myself, I say this:

Graham, I know we've had our ups and downs in the past, and we readers realize that it was unreasonable for us to expect us to see eye-to-eye on everything, but it became impossible for us grow together once you showed us your wealth of a lack of knowledge on college football. In the beginning, we showed an undying commitment to you, only to feel turned away by your insulting lack of knowledge of our programs.

I'll never forget the time I saw you remind about/request an interview on Facebook for Fresno State running backs Lonyae Miller and Ryan "Matthews." But that's OK, spelling isn't important for a paid non-BCS blogger, nor is knowing how to spell the name of arguably the best running back in the country, who just so happens to play for a non-BCS team.

Still, regardless of our rocky start, stars aligned and brought us back together, for what could only be described as us having a moment that we shall never forget.

Actually, on second thought, you got lucky this one time. Continue to take espn's money and "drop knowledge" on those suckers who can't get their cheek off the hook, and we'll all go our way and continue to know libraries of information more than you about non-BCS and BCS football alike.

Man, what a moment though ...

The end.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fresno State and coach Pat Hill reach contract extension for "years" beyond 2010

Fresno State coach Pat Hill and the rock 'n' roll fu manchu will remain at the helm of the Bulldogs for an undetermined number of years, as reported by The Fresno Bee last night.

Contract details between Hill and the University are yet to be made official, and will be worked out following Fresno State's New Mexico Bowl *edit loss over wyoming this weekend.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A round of belly slaps for left guard No. 79

Devan Cunningham is three years into his career as a Bulldog, and for two and a half years, I couldn't put my finger on why he looked so familiar.

And then, one day this summer ...

The man on top is our guy Devan, while the guy immediately above is either WWE legend Kamala, or a never-before-seen photo of Cunningham at this year's Halloween bash.

For those interested (which by now should be at least 37% of you), Cunningham stands at 6-foot-6, weighs 350 pounds and is anywhere from 20 to 46 years old. Kamala stands at 6-foot-7, checks in at 375 pounds and is 59 years old. I know.

Our boy Devan has been in the news of late (see video refresher below) and thanks to the journalistic rule of timeliness, we can now make this blog relevant.

But there's also another aspect to this play (and most plays of any game) that goes unseen by almost everyone after every game -- the box score's play-by-play. It looks like this:

Two-point conversion attempt, Ryan Colburn pass to Devan Cunningham GOOD.

If you look closely between the words "to" and "Devan," there are about 13 points of action left out of the play that are clearly visible in the video. Nice try Mr. play-by-play typer guy. Nobody expected you to get the entire played in there, but one of these (...) would have sufficed. Let's try it again:

Two-point conversion attempt, Ryan Colburn pass to ... Devan Cunningham GOOD.

You'll also notice the word "GOOD" is in all caps. I'm guessing he was typing the word while this call -- made by Fresno State's own play-by-play man Paul Loeffler -- was being made right next to him. Can't fault him there. Not every day when you get to hear a voice so high it makes Alvin and the Chipmunks sound like this guy by comparison.

And to think, none of this would have been possible without a giant left guard catching a ball and teeter-tottering into the endzone. The only thing missing was the appropriate celebration.

Yes, the bar does get lower. Start the video at 2:20 and feel free to slap along at will.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What's it take for Fresno State to be ranked?

Don't dismiss the idea so quickly. Keep reading, 'cause you'll want to see this comparison between two teams with eerily similar resumes. One is in the top 25. One is Fresno State. (Shout out to "grantstomb" of BarkBoard fame for bringing this to my attention).

See how long it takes you to figure out which mystery team we're comparing the 'Dogs to?

--This team has a 6-2 conference record.
--Fresno State has a 6-2 conference record.

--This team has 1 win against a team with a winning record.
--Fresno State has 1 win against a team with a winning record.

--This team has 1 win against an AQ (Automatic Qualifier) school (a 4-8 Big East team at home).
--Fresno State has 1 win against an AQ school (a 3-9 Big 10 team on the road).

--This team played 2 AQ schools on the road.
--Fresno State played 3 AQ schools on the road.

--This team has two losses to teams that are going to BCS bowls this year.
--Fresno State has two losses to teams going to BCS bowls this year.

--This team beat San Jose State by 10 points.
--Fresno State beat San Jose State by 20 points.

--This team beat Utah State by 17 points.
--Fresno State beat Utah State by 4 points.

--This team lost at TCU by 28 points.
--Fresno State lost at home to Boise State by 17 points.

--This team lost at Oregon by 7 points.
--Fresno State lost at Cincinnati by 8 points.

--This team's opponents are a combined 48-48.
--Fresno State's opponenets are a combined 47-52.

--This team finished third in the Mountain West Conference.
--Fresno State finished third in the Western Athletic Conference.

--This team is 9-3, ranked No. 23 in the nation and headed to the Poinsettia Bowl to play Cal.
--Fresno State is 8-4, unranked and headed to the New Mexico Bowl to play Wyoming.

One could argue that if Fresno State replaced its non-conference game at Wisconsin with a game against 4-8 San Diego State, the Bulldogs would also be 9-3. But would the Bulldogs be ranked in the top 25? What do you say?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Comment Please!

Hey I just want to get a pulse on what Bulldog fans think about the future of Fresno State football. I am interested in what people have to say so please leave a comment!!

What should expectations be for our program on a yearly basis?

What type of personality would you like to see our team take on?

Do we need a new coach?

Do we need an overhaul of our offensive and defensive schemes?

Did we peak in 2001 when we hit #8 in the nation?

How do we spark more fan interest?

What needs to be done to build our program into a perennial power?

These are just a few of the questions you could comment on or add your own flavor!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What are you thankful for in Fresno State sports? Wishful for?

Happy Thanksgiving to our readers and your families! In the spirit of the holiday, what are you thankful for when it comes to Fresno State sports? (And go ahead and throw in what you are wishful for too)...

Thankful for ... Ryan Mathews, the nation's best running back, choosing to stay home and represent his Valley by playing for Fresno State instead of going to any of the other places he could have.
Wishful for ... Mathews to return for his senior season if he's not a first-round draft pick (because that's where he deserves to be picked), and heck, the Red Wave would LOVE seven more chances to see him play in person at Bulldog Stadium next year.

Thankful for ... Greg Smith's Bulldog spirit. The heralded recruit has been Fresno State's best basketball player the first four games this season. It's been a long time since the 'Dogs have had a player play with Smith's type of passion for his school -- a Chris Herren-esque on-court mentality.
Wishful for ... More tenacity from the rest of the team. Let out a yell after a big dunk or 3. Wave your arms to the Red Wave to get 'em loud. Smile. Win.

Thankful for ... Pat Hill's vision for the "sleeping giant" that is Fresno State football.
Wishful for ... A return to the no excuses, shutup & hit somebody, no-nonsense style that made Hill and Bulldog football known around the country.

And most of all, just thankful to enjoy games and tailgates with my closest family and friends, a culture I grew up in. No matter how many wins or losses, those moments with people close to you will always be the best memories.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How much talent is on this year's Bulldog defense?

An interesting question popped in my head after enduring three hours of personal attacks and razzing in the stands by Reno's finest fans. Is this Fresno State defense just flatout lacking talent? If not, it must be a scheme problem. But either way, here's a question we'd like you to weigh in on:

How many of the 2009 Fresno State starters on defense could have started for the Bulldogs in 2005?

DE Garrett McIntyre
DT Jason Shirley
DT Louis Leonard
DE Tyler Clutts
LB Marcus Riley
LB Dwayne Andrews
LB Alan Goodwin
CB Richard Marshall
CB Marcus McCauley
SS Josh Sherley
FS Tyrone Culver

DE Chris Carter
DT Cornell Banks
DT Logan Harrell
DE Kenny Borg
LB Nico Herron
LB Ben Jacobs
LB Kyle Knox
CB Desia Dunn
CB A.J. Jefferson
SS Moses Harris
FS Lorne Bell

Combining those two seasons' starting defenses, who would be in your starting 11?

Grading the 'Dogs (6-4, 5-2) at Nevada (7-3, 6-0)

Nevada 52, Fresno State 14

Short version:

Long version:
Quarterbacks: D+
Who cares if Ryan Colburn throws for a career-high 362 yards if he turns the ball over three times in critical game situations? Colburn again threw a pick at a crucial moment, trying to throw out of bounds near Darren Newborn but failing. The result was a 10-point halftime deficit, when the Bulldogs could have had a field goal and made it a one-score game at the half. Then Colburn fumbled near the 5-yard line on a keeper, and later again fumbled in the red zone under pressure. His turnovers made for as much as a 17-point swing in the outcome.

Running Backs: C
With national star Ryan Mathews leaving the game on a cart after a concussion in the second quarter, the running game was just average. Lonyae Miller had 5.5 yards per carry and 79 all-purpose yards, but Mathews finished with 8 carries for 32 yards, Robbie Rouse 5 for 19 yards and Anthony Harding 2 for 3 yards.

Receivers: B-
The Bulldogs' biggest advantage on the field was the wideouts vs. Nevada's secondary. But even with a prolific day on the stat line, Seyi Ajirotutu fumbled in the open field on a crucial possession -- a dagger in the team's collective heart. Jamel Hamler had the early 57-yard TD, Marlon Moore had a 61-yard grab and 103 yards on the day and Chastin West had 7 catches for 77 yards.

Offensive Line: F
What in the world? Who knew the 'Dogs o-line, which has been flatout dominant all year, was even capable of playing this poorly? Colburn was sacked 6 times and the running backs averaged a season-low 3.2 yards per carry. Losing star Andrew Jackson was obviously going to make an impact, but shouldn't be the difference in the unit falling from dominant to dominated. Might make sense to start Joey Bernardi at center and Matt Hunt at right guard this week.

Defensive Line: F
Another day at the park for Nevada rushing the ball down Fresno State's collective throat. 461 yards. Most of it up the middle. The d-line sure wasn't overpursuing, as the 'Dogs were more concerned with containing Colin Kaepernick than applying pass rush. So what gives? Why weren't more tackles made around the line of scrimmage? It's either a scheme problem or a personnel problem. Besides Chris Carter, no one seems to play with the all-out motor and tenacity needed at this position.

Linebackers: F
LBs racked up many more tackles than the front four, but were still caught not stuffing gaps throughout the day, and not making tackles on initial contact. Ben Jacobs led the team with 11 tackles, and Shawn Plummer had the team's only tackle for loss. Losing Kyle Knox to injury hurt bad, and this team needs Travis Brown and/or Daniel Salinas to step up and rip away a starting job quickly.

Defensive Backs: D
It's not that this unit played poorly in pass coverage. The Wolf Pack was held to 45 yards through the air. But despite Moses Harris and Lorne Bell getting 7 tackles apiece, even this unit wasn't there enough to support the tackling and assignment woes of the front seven. Credit Bell for bringing the physicality, but Harris had a subpar performance.

Special Teams: D
Not wanting to be left out, special teams also had to contribute to the woes. First, a block in the back negated a good A.J. Jefferson kick return and led to the Bulldogs' first punt, a wobbler by Robert Malone. Malone's only two bad punts of the year came in this game, as he averaged just 31 yards. Then, Jefferson fumbled away a later punt return.

Coaching: F
The coaching staff has done some great things this year with new wrinkles on offense and a more open, less predictable style of playcalling. Unfortunately, the defense is same ol', same ol' with a 4-3 scheme that is eaten up by Nevada and Boise State annually. Would it hurt to try something else? At least try it! Boise State was successful playing six guys near scrimmage against Nevada last year. Pat Hill said after last season's beatdown by the Wolf Pack, the 'Dogs needed to find a way to stop the pistol read-option. Umm...? And, then, to top it all off, the 'Dogs are being blown out in the third quarter and the starting quarterback turns the ball over three times and freshman phenom Derek Carr still doesn't come in to get some experience in a perfect passing situation? My head hurts from being scratched so much.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Grading The 'Dogs: Fresno State (6-3, 5-1) @ Idaho (7-3, 4-2)

Quarterbacks: A
Only thing keeping Ryan Colburn from an A+ is lack of yards (159). But he did everything the coaches allowed him too, completing 14 of 14 passes -- a new Fresno State record, besting Mark Barsotti's 15 of 18 performance. And they weren't all easy throws, he hit a streaking Seyi Ajirotutu in the front corner of the end zone and connected with Marlon Moore on a 41-yarder.

Running Backs: A-
The minus only comes on the heavily skewed Ryan Mathews Scale, which is a tougher grading curve than any other back in the country gets. Mathews started the game with a career-long 77-yard TD on the first play -- vacuuming the energy out of the Kibbie Dome. But his struggles for yardage in the second half led to a 5.5-yard-per-carry average (well under his season average).

Receivers: A
What more can you ask of a group that caught everything thrown its way? Literally. Everything. Jamel Hamler had two clutch third down catches, Seyi Ajirotutu had the highlight TD grab and Marlon Moore the big play 41-yarder.

Offensive Line: C+
The early injury to Andrew Jackson left a gaping hole in the Bulldogs' run blocking. Not that his replacement, Leslie Cooper, wasn't capable, but Jackson is a special talent. The running game averaged a season low 4.3 yards per carry. Richard Pacheco was beaten badly for a sack while starting in place of Joey Bernardi.

Defensive Line: D
Nonexistent pass rush inexcusable against a pocket passer. 'Dogs were burned by Idaho for 7.7 yards per carry.

Linebackers: C-
Quiet game by Ben Jacobs, lack of impact by Kyle Knox and Nico Herron. Shawn Plummer should have been credited with a forced fumble and recovery, but the call was inexplicably overturned.

Defensive Backs: B
Lorne Bell earned WAC player of the week honors for his hard hitting and team-high nine tackles. 'Dogs weren't hurt by the pass until late, and held Idaho under 50% completions.

Special Teams: B
The good? Kevin Goessling hit a 52-yard field goal -- his second 50-plus-yarder in as many weeks. But the Bulldogs failed to recover a late onside kick, and still got nothing in the return game from A.J. Jefferson and Co.

Coaching: C-
Why was Marvin Haynes logging so many minutes late in the game when he was being exposed in the secondary? Why wasn't Bernardi playing? Why do the 'Dogs refuse to adjust out of the base 4-3 defense?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Preview: Fresno State (5-3, 4-1) @ Idaho (7-2, 4-1)

Edge: Even

The time is now for Fresno State’s Ryan Colburn (6-3, 220) to prove what he’s made of. He’s been a heck of an upgrade at times this year throwing the deep ball, but has also thrown as many or more interceptions as his predecessor at his worst. On the year, the junior lefty is 100 for 168 (60%) for 1,447 yards, 12 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. But a 4:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio isn’t going to cut it as the Bulldogs head down a three-game stretch against their biggest completion remaining in the WAC – especially when there’s a mega talent standing on the sideline in true freshman Derek Carr (6-3, 190). Redshirt freshman speedster Ebahn Feathers (6-0, 210) isn’t likely to play if Idaho is stacking defenders in the box, but if Colburn opens up the field with his passing, Feathers will have a chance to exploit the Vandals’ defense.

Idaho junior Nathan Enderle (6-5, 227) is the biggest reason for the Vandals’ rise from embarrassment this season. Problem is, Enderle is reportedly a game-time decision with a rotator cuff injury. Bulldogs coach Pat Hill said Enderle emerged last season in Fresno State’s 45-32 win over Idaho at Bulldog Stadium, when he completed 22 of 39 for 237 yards. He’s skyrocketed since, leading the WAC with 267.1 yards passing per game (16th nationally). On the season, Enderle has thrown for a career-high-and-counting 2,404 yards, 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, while completing 62%. He might be the toughest challenge the Bulldogs have had besides Cincinnati’s Tony Pike and Boise State’s Kellen Moore – but Enderle isn’t a mobile quarterback and Fresno State typically has more success against pocket passers. And though he has as many interceptions as Colburn, Enderle’s production is much higher. If Enderle can’t go, it’ll be sophomore Brian Reader (6-3, 220), who’s 12 of 15 on the season for 143 yards and a touchdown. If Enderle plays, give the edge to the Vandals. Otherwise, it goes to the Bulldogs because of Reader’s inexperience.

Running Backs
Edge: Bulldogs

It’s to the point now where anytime you talk running backs, Fresno State gets the edge – no analysis of the opponent necessary. Touting the country’s best running back allows for that kind of confidence, and junior Ryan Mathews (5-11, 220) should enjoy running on Idaho’s flat, artificial surface. Mathews averages a nation-best 164.5 yards per game, nearly 28 yards more than the closest competitor. He’s rushed for more than 100 yards all eight games this season (a school record) en route to 1,316 yards (7.4 per carry) and 11 touchdowns. Then consider Mathews sat about five quarters this year in four different Bulldogs’ blowouts. Mathews’ 31 career touchdowns is four away from tying Anthony Daigle (1991-93) for the school record. He’s 147 yards from passing Dwayne Wright (2006) for third all-time in single-season rushing, and 230 yards from passing Michael Pittman (1993-97) for second in career rushing. Mathews’ resilience in last Saturday’s win over Utah State was impressive as he bounced right back from a big blind-sided hit to carry the ‘Dogs to victory. For the first time all year, true freshman Robbie Rouse (5-7, 185) didn’t have a carry. Rouse is second on the team with 344 yards rushing, 4 touchdowns and a team-high 7.6 per carry. Senior Lonyae Miller (5-11, 220) has 215 yards and 3 scores on 5.4 per attempt. Miller torched the Vandals with 15 carries for 181 yards in the Bulldogs’ win last season, and senior Anthony Harding (6-0, 220) added 94 yards on 8 carries. A banged up Mathews had just 8 attempts for 57 yards.

Idaho’s got a trio of good backs as well – just not as good as Fresno State’s. It starts with rather large senior De’Maundray Woolridge (5-9, 241), who leads the Vandals with 554 yards and 14 touchdowns on 5.3 per carry. Junior Deonte Jackson (5-8, 190), the nephew of the St. Louis Rams’ Steven Jackson, was thought to be the star coming into the season. Jackson ranks third on the team with 325 yards and 2 scores on 5.2 per carry. In between those two is Valley product Princeton McCarty (5-8, 174) with 469 yards and 2 scores on a team-high 5.7 per carry. McCarty was Mathews’ high school teammate. While the three of these guys together are definitely dangerous, none of them present the full package the way Mathews does. But they face a Fresno State defense that’s given up 5.3 yards per rush on the year. Jackson carried 18 times for 93 yards in last season’s meeting.

Edge: Vandals

Will junior Devon Wylie (5-9, 170) suit up after missing Fresno State’s past two games with injury? That’s the biggest question in the Bulldogs’ passing game – the unique ability of Wylie adds a different dimension to the offense. But with or without him, senior Seyi Ajirotutu (6-4, 210) has blossomed into arguably the WAC’s best wideout. Granted he doesn’t pile up the big stats, but his 31 catches for 480 yards and 3 touchdowns are impressive when put into context that he plays on a team with the nation’s top rusher. In Wylie’s absence, sophomore Jamel Hamler (6-2, 205) turned in his second straight 5-catch performance, this time good for 53 yards. Hamler’s now second on the team with 17 catches, but fourth in yards with 215, behind Wylie (242) and senior Chastin West (6-1, 215) who has 225 yards. Senior Marlon Moore (6-1, 190) is second with 3 touchdowns (out of just 7 catches). If Wylie plays, it turns this position into an advantage for Fresno State.

It’s no secret who Idaho’s favorite target is – senior slot Max Komar (5-11, 202), a former walk-on who leads the team with a whopping 50 receptions for 807 yards and 7 scores. Komar already has more yards than any Vandals wideout since 2005. And he’s got help from three juniors with size. Big junior Daniel Hardy (6-4, 235) has 25 catches for 413 yards and 2 touchdowns, even bigger junior Eric Greenwood (6-6, 213) with 29 catches for 382 yards and 2 scores and Maurice Shaw (6-3, 208) has 360 yards (22.5 per catch) for 3 touchdowns. The size of those three, coupled with Komar’s success, will cause match-up problems for the Bulldogs, who are already thin in the secondary. And Fresno State also has to concern itself with sophomore Preston Davis (6-1, 191), who has 296 yards on 25 catches – a reception total that would rank second on the Bulldogs. Davis led the Vandals last year against the ‘Dogs, hauling in 6 catches for 77 yards. Most impressive, four of the top five receivers have already surpassed their yardage and reception totals of last season, and Davis is tied with his yardage total from 2008.

Offensive Line
Edge: Bulldogs

Sit back, relax and pay close attention to the play in the trenches. Fresno State’s line is led by one of the WAC’s top NFL prospects in junior right guard Andrew Jackson (6-5, 295), who was second-team All-WAC last year and was recently named Academic All-District 8. Fresno State’s five Academic All-District players ranked highest in the nation. On top of that, Jackson was named to at least one publication’s midseason All-America team. Overall, this group has allowed just 10 sacks this season (none last week) and is paving the way for the Bulldogs’ backs to average a whopping 6 yards per carry as a team.

Speaking of NFL prospects, look out for Idaho senior left guard Mike Iupati (6-6, 325). The massive Iupati on both the Lombard Award (nation’s top lineman) and Outland Trophy (nation’s best interior lineman) watch list. He’s joined by three other seniors, including senior Adam Juratovac (6-3, 306). The Vandals’ line, though, has given up 19 sacks on the season – but Enderle isn’t a great escape artist and they’ve attempted 276 passes (Fresno State’s attempted 189).Idaho averages 4.4 yards per carry.

Defensive Line
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State struggled last week against the WAC’s fastest starting quarterback, and was kept off-balance the week before by New Mexico State’s duel quarterbacks. While this Saturday’s test features the WAC’s passing yardage leader, the Bulldogs’ defense should be relieved to face a pocket passer. The No. 1 reason that’s a relief? Enderle is far less likely to outrun junior end Chris Carter (6-2, 230) when he gets into the Idaho backfield. Carter leads the ‘Dogs with 4 sacks, 9.5 tackles for losses and 3 hurries. If he can get to Enderle early and often, and the Bulldogs get some help from sophomore end Kenny Borg (6-3, 245) on the other side, Idaho’s offense could stall. But that’s a big question mark considering Fresno State averages just 1 sack per game.

Idaho hasn’t fared much better than Fresno State this season, recording just 11 sacks. But the Vandals boast a couple of linemen to watch out for in the passing game – junior end Aaron Lavarias (6-3, 248) and junior nose tackle Jonah Sataraka (6-2, 280). Each is tied for the team lead with 3 sacks, while Lavarias has 6 tackles for losses and Sataraka has 4. This will be the toughest offensive line the Vandals have faced all year – and the best running back – so the Vandals will have to step it up a notch to prevent Fresno State from controlling the tempo and time of possession.

Edge: Even

Ben Jacobs (6-3, 225) keeps on keepin’ on. With 60 tackles, the junior middle linebacker has nearly twice as many as the next closest Bulldog. He’s also second on the team with 5 tackles for losses, has an interception and 2 breakups. The ‘Dogs linebackers will be needed in pass coverage Saturday against a Vandals team that like to distribute the ball through the air. It would be nice to see the Bulldogs experiment more with a two-linebacker set, but history suggests that won’t happen. This group will also be responsible for preventing too many big plays from the Vandals running backs, especially McCarty, the change of pace guy.

Junior strong linebacker JoJo Dickson (6-2, 229) is the one to watch for in the Vandals’ front seven. Dickson is second on the team with 54 tackles and 2 interceptions. He flies under the radar in the WAC, but is a solid player. Also keep an eye out for little known sophomore Tre’Shawn Robinson (5-11, 233) who is tied for the team lead with 6 tackles for losses. Both also have a sack on the season, but will be vulnerable to Mathews’ agility, speed and power and won’t be able to tackle him without squaring up (which is tough to accomplish with a back who can maintain speed the way Mathews does while changing direction and twisting his body).

Defensive Backs
Edge: Even

It should be a fun evening for free safety Lorne Bell (5-10, 200), the Bulldogs’ most vicious hitter. Bell thrives against pocket passers, when he can focus on blitzing or spying running backs (see Wisconsin). Despite missing two games with injury, Bell is fourth on the team with 31 tackles (3.5 for losses) and had his first career interception two weeks ago for a touchdown. The corner play has improved dramatically since the start of the season, with junior Desia Dunn (5-9, 190) and senior A.J. Jefferson (6-0, 190) combining for 10 breakups. But neither has an interception – in fact no Fresno State corner on the two-deep rotation has a pick this year. Add to that the challenge the Bulldogs’ secondary faces with four Vandals receivers over 6-foot tall. Jefferson is the Bulldogs’ tallest corner, with senior Damion Owens (5-11, 200) and sophomore Isaiah Green (5-10, 180) filling out the two-deep. Redshirt freshman reserve safety Phillip Thomas (6-1, 205) is capable of holding his own in coverage and will likely be the nickel back.

Lurking in the defensive backfield for Idaho is the WAC’s leading tackler, junior Shiloh Keo (5-11, 211) who has 88 tackles (2 for losses) and a team-high 3 interceptions. Keo is a big strong safety, and will be the Vandals best hope for containing Fresno State’s running game (ranked fifth nationally). Senior free safety Jeromy Jones (6-1, 200) is third on the team with 48 tackles, and Idaho has a group of underclassmen holding it down at corner with freshman Aaron Grymes (5-11, 160) and sophomore Kenneth Patten (5-9, 178) starting. This group hasn’t yet faced a team with as many weapons at receiver, especially if Wylie is healthy.

Special Teams
Edge: Bulldogs

Just how good is Fresno State sophomore kicker Kevin Goessling (6-0, 190)? He’s nailed 10 of 11 field goals on the year, including a 50-yarder last week that was as perfect as a kick can get. Since missing a field goal last season that could have tied the Wisconsin game, Goessling has missed just twice. His last miss was this year’s game at Wisconsin in Week 2. At punter, senior Robert Malone (6-2, 225) averages 47.5 yards – a number that would have him high amongst the nation’s leaders if he had enough attempts (he’s punted 25 times). Fresno State’s special teams have been at a high level since early season woes, but the kick return game still hasn’t come around. Two years ago, Jefferson led the nation in kick returns, and he had touchdown returns in each of the past two seasons. Yet this year, Jefferson averages a measly 22 yards per return with a long of only 36 – and he fumbled away a return last week that caused the Bulldogs to fall into a 10-point halftime deficit.

Idaho freshman Justin Veltung (5-11, 175) was the WAC’s special teams player of the week after returning a kick 94 yards for a touchdown this past Saturday in a win over Louisiana Tech. But he’s had just four returns all year, with Kama Bailey (5-9, 200) getting most of the returns and averaging 21.1 yards. True freshman kicker Trey Farquhar (6-1, 170) has been quite impressive – connecting on two 50-plus yarders this year and 12 of 16 overall (he’s also missed one from under 30 yards). But Farquhar has enough upside for Idaho to feel comfortable in a late-game situation if it comes down to the wire. Redshirt freshman punter Bobby Cowan (6-5, 221) averages 44.3 yards per try and has pinned 10 of 25 inside the 20-yard line.

Edge: Bulldogs

Credit third-year Idaho coach Robb Akey for a season that’s earning him coach of the year consideration. Akey’s Vandals are 7-2 after winning just three games in the previous two years combined. That said, they still have to prove they can compete with the WAC’s best – Nevada beat them 70-45 and they haven’t yet played Fresno State or rival Boise State. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are consistently the WAC’s most talented team (albeit not the best at living up to expectations). Pat Hill is in his 13th year with the Bulldogs, more than any other WAC coach, and has the second most wins in Bulldog history behind Jim Sweeney.

Edge: Vandals

The Kibbie Dome is going to be rocking like never before. Former Fresno State players say the tiny converted airplane hangar is a flatout difficult place to play regardless, but with a packed house of 16,000-plus thunderstick-clanging fans enjoying Idaho’s best season best season in recent history, the Bulldogs are in for a noisy battle unless they can jump out to a big lead in a hurry. A win is crucial to both teams’ bowl hopes considering the tough games remaining on their schedules, and the loser is pretty much eliminated from WAC title hopes. Oh yeah, and Idaho is 4-0 at home this season. But, the Bulldogs haven’t lost to the Vandals since 1967.

***Photos courtesy of Juan Villa

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Extra! Extra! Moscow blacksmith wins inventor of the year award

See that jumbo-sized medieval knight's battle axe? Yeah, it's not exactly the Where's Waldo of its medieval brethren, so we'll move along ...

The idaho vandal football team has been toting around "the battle axe" (known in history as the executioner axe) as part of an alleged revitalization of a past tradition, which we can only assume must somehow correlate with winning. As legend has it, touching the axe turns L's into W's, as its Harry Potter-like power is able to turn players such as Max Komar from cheap walk-on to all-conference caliber, and the Kibbie Dome from House of Horrors to the Miracle on 34th Street.

True as it may be, my own alternate ending involves idaho coach Rob(b) Akey coming late to a team meeting, battle axe in hand, and after a long hard-fought battle of Laire, decided he quickly needed a plan of action. I think it's Akey's mustache that makes it so believable.

Regardless of how the axe got its powers, fact of the matter is, it has them. The vandals are 4-0 at home and 7-2 overall, which means the people in Moscow can finally use the word win in its plural form. In fact, with all this winning, it's easy to forget that the university of idaho is located in remote Moscow, ID, an old-fashioned place where horse-powered carriages reign supreme and a place where trees and water exist, among other highlights.

But this whole idaho winning with the axe thing didn't just happen overnight. No, the hardworking townsmen of Moscow have dedicated many hours of labor into this turnaround. Such are the perks when competition among blacksmiths is so fierce. Rob(b) Akey asked for his community to get onboard and support the vandals, and they responded with the miracle axe.

That's why we were willing to help spread the word about Moscow's inventor of the year award, given to the talented blacksmith who managed to create a battle axe with such magical powers. With his inspiration, the local youngsters no longer aspire to be the next Charlie Chaplin, but rather the next great smoke-stained iron forger.

That is, of course, unless you happen to be one of the lucky vandals on scholarship, meaning a job can be put on hold for a few years, giving them and their inner Huck Finn the opportunity to splash in dirty water and bite off fish heads. No really ...

There really isn't a smooth transition after watching that. In other news, the Kibbie Dome is looking slightly different this year.

So they added windows and cleaned up a little bit. That should keep the window washer busy for awhile. I realize your level of indifference about this could hardly be weaker, but I couldn't help but imagine the damage Sir-Mix-A-Lot could have done with that much glass.

Simple as the job may have seemed, check out the amount of scaffolding necessary for such a project. I don't know about you, but upon seeing this, the only thing I could think of is the potentially awesome game of Plinko that could have been had.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but after all that I've learned about Moscow through researching for this blog, I might have actually talked myself into making it a future Fresno State football roadtrip destination.

In my defense, I have always had an interest in the Oregon Trail.

How'd you vote in SI survey?

A Sports Illustrated survey like no other I've ever seen is getting in the minds of college football fans. How'd you vote and why'd you vote that way (comment and let us know)?

Below is my ballot:

1. What conference does your favorite team play in?

2. What is your favorite team?

3. Are you a season-ticket holder?

4. How many of your team's home games a year do you attend?

5. How many road games (including bowl) do you attend?

6. How would you rate the tailgate scene on game day?

7. On average, how much tailgating do you do for each game?
4+ hours

8. What is your favorite football tradition at your school?
The Red Mile (which I went on to explain)

9. Which school is your biggest conference rival?
Boise State

10. What is your favorite stadium to visit in your team's conference?
San Jose State

11. Which school has the rudest fans for visitors?

12. Which school has the most polite fans for visitors?

13. What is the worst incident you have witnessed against an opposing fan or yourself at the ballpark?
Besides Fresno State, Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada and San Jose State, no other WAC teams have accomplished enough to build up the passion/following that leads to negative incidents. And with Fresno State playing anyone, anywhere, anytime I've had a chance to see the 'Dogs play in many storied venues. The worst incident was theft. After returning to my vehicle after nearly out-slugging No. 1 USC in 2005, I discovered my Fresno State-themed license plate had been stolen (not the frame, the plate).

14. Outside of your own team's conference, which conference is the strongest on a year-to-year basis?

15. Outside of your own team's conference, which conference plays the most enjoyable brand of football?
Mountain West

16. Should student-athletes be paid?

17. How closely do you follow recruiting?
I am a recruitnik

18. Should alchoholic beverages be served at college football games?

19. How many college football games a week do you watch on TV?

20. Do you prefer college football to NFL?

21. When do you watch televised college football?
All days

22. Which postseason format do you prefer?
Full-blown playoff

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dunkin' 'Dogs tip off

Did you go to Fresno State's open basketball practice tonight at the Save Mart Center? What were your takeaways?

While the men didn't actually scrimmage, they went through 30 minutes of drills and introductions, and here's a sentence on each guy and what first comes to mind...

Jerry Brown Jr., G/F, 6-7, 195, Fr
A brave prediction -- Brown will be All-WAC before his career is over at Fresno State with his smooth, fluid motions and physical development well beyond a typical freshman.

Paul George, G/F, 6-8, 210, So
Do we really need to say much about a guy who is slated as a possible NBA lottery pick heading into his second year of college?

Ned Golubovic, F, 6-8, 245, Jr
Super Golu is getting second-team reps right now, and will be pushed for playiing time, but likely the first big man off the bench; needs to improve rebounding and be more aggressive defensively now that foul trouble isn't as big a concern.

Garrett Johnson, G/F, 6-5, 190, Fr
Good slashing speed for his height, and the look of a defensive stopper if he uses his build to his advantage.

Taylor Kelly, G, 6-2, 200, R-Fr
Doubtful he'll see many minutes based on what he showed in last year's Red-White scrimmage, but can shoot the 3 if he's open.

Mychal Ladd, G, 6-5, 190, So
Most improved player candidate who could really take it up a notch after a nice freshman season with lots of experience.

Sylvester Seay, F, 6-10, 235
Seay's talent has never been in question and the attitude he showed by going 100% through defensive footwork and positioning drills was refreshing.

Steven Shepp, G, 6-2, 170, R-So
Getting second-team reps right now and has a constantly determined, man-on-a-mission look every time he has the ball; quickness not quite ideal for a point guard, but transition speed is nice for the team's most intriguing player.

Greg Smith, C, 6-10, 250, Fr
Eye-popping strength and upper body bulk for a freshman; will help him deliver some of the most emphatic dunks in school history and probably a shattered backboard or two this year.

Brandon Sperling, G, 6-4, 180, So
Surprise, surprise, Sperling works with the starting rotation, but still looks a bit awkward handling the rock.

Brandon Webster, C, 6-10, 275, Jr
Not sure what scale B-Web is using, but it's a kind one; the way he throws it down in practice sure gets frustrating when he hasn't figured out how to apply that tenacity in games consistently -- play angry!

Grading the 'Dogs (5-3, 4-1) vs. Utah State (2-6, 1-3)

Quarterbacks: C+
Ryan Colburn's hot and cold periods aren't helping the 'Dogs. He started the game on fire, ended the first half with three head-scratching plays and an interception, rebounded in the second half and then disappeared the final 10 minutes or so. 1 TD, 1 pick. Average at best.

Running Backs: A
Eight yards per carry for Ryan Mathews. 185 yards total. Two touchdowns. A 46-yard scamper. Mathews was the reason Fresno State won, and his big-play ability was on display all day, the Bulldogs just didn't give it to him enough in the first quarter (he was supposedly hurting a bit). But just one carry for Lonyae Miller and none for Robbie Rouse? That's hard to figure out, especially considering Mathews was sidelined for a couple short stretches.

Receivers: B
In our game preview on Friday, we said Seyi Ajirotutu had developed into a big-time college wideout -- a statement that proved prophetic with his 7 catches for 124 yards and a clutch 18-yard TD on third and long. Jamel Hamler was a playmaker for the second straight week with 5 grabs for 53 yards, again seeing an increased role because of Devon Wylie's injury. But Chastin West's third-down drop of an easy catch on a quick slant hurt bad in the first half. And Marlon Moore disappeared again.

Offensive Line: A
The 'Dogs dominated in the trenches and you don't have to take our word for it. Utah State coach Gary Andersen said the same in this week's WAC teleconference. The 'Dogs averaged 7 yards per carry as a team, and Colburn was protected well all day -- no sacks allowed.

Defensive Line: C+
At times, it was like watching a Pop Warner game where the really fast kid literally runs circles around the other kids. The defensive front was in Diondre Borel's face all game, but he just ran away, behind and around them and made plays. Logan Harrell had the game's only sack, but Utah State had allowed 20 sacks on the year. Credit Cornell Banks (3 tackles) and this group for stuffing the run up the middle for the most part, and credit Chris Carter for 10 tackles and 3.5 tackles for losses.

Linebackers: C
Still confused why the 'Dogs leave three linebackers on the field so often instead of putting more speed out there with an extra defensive back? These guys were in a tough predicament, but struggled in pass coverage in the first half, and had trouble consistently sticking to their option assignments.

Defensive Backs: C
Becoming more and more impressed with Isaiah Green as he's getting more opportunities to play. He had the only pass breakup of the game. After three straight standout performances by Desia Dunn, he got burned early by Stanley Morrison. Lack of aggression in the secondary was a big reason why 'Dogs weren't stopping drives in first half.

Special Teams: C+
Give tons of credit to Kevin Goessling for nailing a 50-yard field goal -- his second straight 50-plus-yarder in as many years against Utah State. But A.J. Jefferson fumbling a kick return away just before halftime almost cost the 'Dogs the ballgame. Robert Malone's punt that was downed at the 1-yard line in crunch time was definitely a game-changer.

Coaching: C
Credit this staff for amping the 'Dogs up at halftime and spurring a second-half shutout of the Aggies, but first-half playcalling was confusing and it took too long to make defensive adjustments. No matter how many were stacked in the box, Aggies couldn't stop the run, so why did the 'Dogs go away from it so early? Make 'em prove they can stop it first.

***Photo courtesy of Juan Villa.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Preview: Utah State (2-5, 1-2) @ Fresno State (4-3, 2-1)

Edge: Aggies

Now more than ever, Fresno State coaches have to be questioning if they’ve got the right Bulldog starting under center. Junior lefty Ryan Colburn (6-3, 220) hasn’t looked capable of winning a game with the pass since Wisconsin – and even that one the Bulldogs lost on a Colburn interception in overtime. While Colburn’s leadership skills, poise and Bulldog spirit are unquestionable, his first half showing this past Saturday at New Mexico State won’t cut it against tougher competition. Colburn fumbled early before throwing a poor pass that was intercepted in the end zone, and he was nearly picked off again at the goal line moments later. It was a surprising series of mistakes considering Colburn was coming off two straight ultra-efficient starts with no turnovers. For the year, he’s passed for 1,191 yards (59%), 11 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. True freshman Derek Carr (6-3, 190) continues to impress. Carr was 4 of 6 in the fourth quarter at New Mexico State, and is 10 of 14 (71%) for 112 yards on the season.

Utah State counters with one of the WAC’s less known quarterbacks, but also one of its most dangerous – especially to a team like Fresno State with a history of trouble defending scrambler. Junior Diondre Borel (6-0, 187) was known mostly for his running ability last season when he had 12 carries for 74 yards and a score against the Bulldogs, but this season has thrown for 1,681 yards, 10 touchdowns and just 1 interception. The downside? Borel has completed just 57% of his throws. But that’s not as glaring a weakness when he has run for 237 yards and 4 touchdowns. Borel nearly doubled the Aggies’ single-season rushing mark for a quarterback with 632 yards last season, and was one of seven quarterbacks nationwide to lead their teams in passing and rushing.

Running Backs
Edge: Bulldogs

It’s official – the Ryan Mathews Heisman Trophy/Doak Walker Award campaign is under way with an official Web site and T-shirts. For the fourth straight week, Mathews leads the nation in rushing with 1,131 yards on a whopping 7.2 per carry. He has nine touchdowns this season – giving him 29 for his career – with is just three from the Fresno State career record of 32 by Anthony Daigle. Mathews 161.7 rushing yards per game is nearly 26 yards more than his closest competitor, Darius Marshall of Marshall (136 per game). And Mathews’ 157-yard showing at New Mexico State last week propelled him past Dale Messer for fourth in school history in career yardage – just 80 yards behind NFL back Dwayne Wright (2003-04, 06). Whew – got all that? Well here’s one more superlative – Mathews has seven runs this season of more than 50 yards (69, 68, 68, 60, 59, 58, 55). Once opponents have focused on how to slow Mathews, they also have to concern themselves with elusive true freshman Robbie Rouse (5-7, 185) and senior Lonyae Miller (5-11, 220). Rouse has 344 yards and four touchdowns, while averaging slightly more yards per carry than Mathews at 7.6. And Miller has added 213 yards and two scores on 5.5 per carry. The Bulldogs’ leading rusher in 2008, senior Anthony Harding (6-0, 220) presents more danger if he gets carries, but with the standout play of the other three backs, Harding has just 10 carries for 21 yards this season. In last season’s 30-28 win over Utah State, Mathews was hobbled by injury and carried 14 times for just 58 yards. Miller led the team with 67 yards on 12 rushes.

With all the talk about the special batch of Bulldogs backs, don’t ignore Utah State sophomore Robert Turbin (5-10, 212), who is second in the WAC and tied for 18th nationally with 104.9 rushing yards per game. Turbin has run for 734 yards (6.5 per carry) and four touchdowns against a schedule that included Texas A&M, Utah and BYU. He had a career-high 148 yards in a loss to Utah when he sprinted 96 yards for a touchdown on one run. Turbin had just five carries for 13 yards last season against the Bulldogs, but has matured significantly since. He’s also a factor in the passing game, as he’s second on the Aggies with 270 yards receiving and a team-high three receiving touchdowns. Borel is second on the team in rushing, followed by junior Michael Smith (5-9, 199) with 187 yards and two scores.

Edge: Bulldogs

It’s become obvious senior Seyi Ajirotutu (6-4, 210) has become a big-time wideout for the Bulldogs. While Ajirotutu served mainly as the deep threat last season, he’s become more of a possession guy this year and greatly improved his hands. Ajirotutu leads the deep group of ‘Dogs wideouts with 24 catches for 356 yards. Junior Devon Wylie (5-9, 170) is second with 15 grabs for 242 yards and a team-high four touchdowns, despite missing the last game with injury. Wylie’s absence hurt Fresno State’s offense even more than expected, as the Bulldogs failed to capitalize on one-on-one match-ups with receivers and defensive backs on the outside as New Mexico State sold out to try and stop the run. If Wylie can play Saturday, it will be a huge boost for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Jamel Hamler (6-2, 205) saw an increased role with Wylie sidelined, catching three passes for a career-high 63 yards, including a 51-yard, bobbling over-the-shoulder grab.

Fresno State defenders will have their hands full with Utah State’s receiving corps, while also spying the quarterback and trying to defend the run. The multi-faceted ability of the Aggies’ offense is what’s made them so much more competitive this season, despite the poor record. Sophomore Stanley Morrison (5-9, 162) is small but capable with a team-leading 434 yards (16.7 per catch) and two scores. And Utah State has plenty more weapons in senior Omar Sawyer (5-9, 174), junior Eric Moats (6-0, 173), senior Nnamdi Gwacham (6-3, 211) and senior Xavier Bowman (6-3, 204). Gwacham has 230 yards (16.4 per catch), Sawyer has 204, Moats 178 and Bowman 112.

Offensive Line
Edge: Bulldogs

Junior center Joey Bernardi (6-2, 280) left with injury during the New Mexico State game, and the Bulldogs had a couple close calls with inaccurate snaps in shotgun formation while senior Richard Pacheco (6-2, 285) filled in. Pacheco has plenty of experience though, and the Bulldogs won’t miss a beat as long as that problem is shored up. A lot of the credit for Fresno State’s 266.7 yards rushing per game (fifth nationally) and 5.9 per carry goes to the offensive line. However, opponents have been more successful pressuring the quarterback the past three games, as the Bulldogs have now given up 10 sacks on the year.

Still, those numbers seem excellent compared with the 20 sacks given up by Utah State this season – which can only be good news for a Bulldogs team that struggles to get to the opposing quarterback. Utah State averages 180.7 rushing yards, ranking fourth in the WAC and 32nd in the country. The lone senior of the group is center Brennan McFadden (6-2, 295).

Defensive Line
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State has shown signs of growth amongst the interior in recent weeks, with junior Cornell Banks (6-3, 300) picking up his first sack at New Mexico State and sophomore Logan Harrell (6-2, 275) collecting one the week before. Junior end Chris Carter (6-2, 230), with four sacks, is the only Bulldog to record more than one. Problem is, Carter hasn’t gotten one since the Hawaii game three weeks ago. He leads the ‘Dogs with six tackles for losses. On the bright side, the Bulldogs are coming off their best defensive performance of the season, where they were swarming to the ball carriers and laying some nasty hits.

Utah State’s two-deep is made up entirely of sophomores and juniors – only one of which has a sack this year. That man is sophomore end Junior Keiaho (6-3, 242), who has a team-best two sacks. The group is extremely undersized at tackle with juniors Sean Enesi (5-10, 275) and Nathan Royster (6-0, 262). Opponents average 197.4 yards per game on the ground.

Edge: Even

Has junior Ben Jacobs (6-3, 225) ever looked more dominant than he did last Saturday? The short answer – no. Jacobs leads the ‘Dogs with 53 tackles – 20 more than the closest teammate – and is second with five tackles for losses. He’s vastly improved in pass coverage this season, and is visibly faster to the ball – making his love for hitting more dangerous to the guys in his path. The other two starters have been very similar, as junior Nico Herron (6-3, 240) and sophomore Kyle Knox (6-1, 215) each have 23 tackles (1.5 for losses). Herron, though, has the 94-yard interception return for a touchdown in the opener against UC Davis. Fresno State’s still waiting to see a breakout game from Knox, who’s capable of becoming a Marcus Riley-type presence if he plays with more reckless abandon.

The strength of Utah State’s defense might be this group. Sophomore Bobby Wagner (6-1, 217) leads the WAC and is tied for 15th in the country averaging 10 tackles per game. Wagner has 70 for the year (and a team-high four for losses) – far ahead of the big name on the Aggies defense, senior Paul Igboeli (6-0, 220) who has 31. Igboeli, however, missed last week’s win over Louisiana Tech with an ankle injury. Starting in his place was sophomore Kyle Gallagher (6-1, 203), who’s tied for fourth on the team with 32 tackles, and second with 1.5 sacks.

Defensive Backs
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State has to be quite pleased with its secondary play after allowing minus-1 yard passing on four completions to New Mexico State’s starter last week. The cornerback play might be the most improved of any position on the field this season, and it starts with junior Desia Dunn (5-9, 190), who’s third on the team with 33 tackles and has a Bulldogs-best six pass breakups. Senior strong safety Moses Harris (5-11, 205) is second with 33 tackles (three for losses) and was announced Thursday as one of 16 finalists for the “Academic Heisman.” The return to health of junior free safety Lorne Bell (5-10, 200) is the biggest boost of all. This defense plays with a different attitude when Bell’s healthy and popping pads with people as he was last week. It’s Bulldog Football with an attitude. Bell reeled in his first career interception last week, returning it 17 yards for a score.

The safety play for Utah State is nothing to scoff at. Senior James Brindley (5-11, 189) is second on the Aggies with 59 tackles (2.5 for losses) and has a team-best three interceptions to go with a sack. Brindley also has six pass breakups. Scary news for the Aggies is Brindley will likely miss Saturday's game with injury. Junior free safety Rajric Coleman (6-2, 179) is third with 45 tackles and has one pick. Sophomore reserve safety Walter McClenton (5-11, 191) had 14 tackles last week after recording just one previous tackle in his career. Both starting corners also have picks this season in former Edison High standout senior Kejon Murphy (5-9, 168) and junior Curtis Marsh (6-1, 193).

Special Teams
Edge: Bulldogs

You can bet Fresno State sophomore kicker Kevin Goessling (6-0, 190) is still haunting Utah State after his 58-yard field goal won the game with no time remaining last season. Goessling has been dominant since, making 9 of 10 field goals this year with a long of 49 yards. His only miss was beyond 40 yards. Senior punter Robert Malone (6-2, 225) averages 47 yards and 1/3 of his 21 punts have gone for 50-plus yards. With so many weapons in the return game, the Bulldogs finally took one back for a touchdown as Chastin West had an 88-yard punt return last week. Most teams have avoided the Bulldogs’ return men at all costs. The Bulldogs also blocked yet another kick, thanks to Andrew Jackson (6-5, 295).
Senior kicker Chris Ulinski (6-3, 203) is turning in a heck of a year so far, having nailed 9 of 11 field goals with a long of 48 yards. Junior punter Peter Caldwell (6-4, 231)has been phenomenal with 22 of 49 punts pinned inside the 20-yard line and an average of 42.9 yards. Freshman Kerwynn Williams (5-9, 180) averages 23.2 yards per kick return with a long of 41 yards.

Edge: Bulldogs

Utah State’s Gary Andersen is in his first year at the helm after directing Utah’s defense previously. Andersen already has the Aggies pointed in the right direction, and has a good shot to make noise in the coming years. Defense is the weakness right now, but he can be counted on to turn that into a strength. Still, there’s no way to give a first-year coach the edge over the WAC’s longest tenured leader, Pat Hill, who’s in his 13th year.

Edge: Bulldogs

Utah State has given the Bulldogs fits the past three years, losing by three in 2008, 11 in 2007 and beating the ‘Dogs in 2006 in a shocker. That said, Fresno State is 10-2-1 against the Aggies all-time in Fresno, and hasn’t lost at home to Utah State since 1980 – the year the Bulldogs became Division I-A.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Heisman Vote - Fan Rankings


Let's try to get Ryan Mathews (college football's leading rusher) out from the bottom rank of this 14 player fan vote on

------------------------- VOTE HERE -------------------------

It's obvious that Mathews has not been watched by the voters.

It also doesn't help that he missed significant playing time in his first 2 years.

Maybe these clips will open their eyes:

(Video above also includes Lonyae Miller and Robbie Rouse rushing plays)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Upcoming opponents and their defensive ranks YPG


It's time for the Bulldogs offense to shine.

Here are the upcoming opponents for the 'Dogs and the corresponding defensive yards per game ranks (and the 'Dogs defense YPG). If the Fresno State can secure the football, they are capable of putting up huge numbers from here on out.

104. Illinois - 415.86 YPG

101. utah st. - 413.57 YPG

100. nevada - 413.43 YPG

92. idaho - 401.25 YPG

66. louisiana tech - 360.29 YPG

61. Fresno State - 353.86 YPG

Side note for Heisman candidacy: 12. boise state - 281.57 YPG. Ryan Mathews himself rushed for 234 yards all by his lonesome, with the help of the o-line of course.

>>>>>>>>>>>>VOTE HERE<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Stats provided by USA Today

***photo courtesy of Cary Edmondson

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Grading the 'Dogs (4-3, 3-1) @ New Mexico State (3-5, 1-3)

FRESNO STATE 34, New Mexico State 3

Quarterbacks: C-
Despite a beautiful 51-yard toss to Jamel Hamler in the second half, it was the worst overall outing of Ryan Colburn's career. The first half was error-laden with a pick in the end zone, another near pick at the goal line and a lost fumble. Colburn finished the first half 4 of 10 for just 58 yards -- just plain not good enough. Especially with Derek Carr waiting on the sideline for an opportunity. Carr completed 4 of 6 passes in just two possessions, good for 57 yards. If the 'Dogs are going to pull the trigger on a QB change, now's the time.

Running Backs: B+
Even facing eight or nine defenders in the box, Ryan Mathews couldn't be stopped. He was held under his yards per carry average, but still managed 6.3 per carry and had 157 yards and two touchdowns, including a 68-yard, hurdling rumble to the end zone. Mathews also got credited with a fumble that wasn't a fumble (and the 'Dogs failed to call for a review). The other running backs were contained -- Robbie Rouse had his least impressive showing with four carries for 15 yards, and Lonyae Miller struggled even more with four carries for two yards. But the lack of a passing threat made things too tough on the backs.

Receivers: B
They were open and they caught the ball when it was catchable. Seyi Ajirotutu had three grabs for 64 yards, while Jamel Hamler had three catches for 63 yards. Hamler got extra reps with Devon Wylie out with injury.

Offensive Line: B-
Two more sacks allowed, and just 4.8 yards per carry as a team (which isn't good for this Bulldogs squad). The o-line played well considering the Aggies were selling out to stop the run, but in his first game back from injury against Cininnati, Joey Bernardi made things tough on Colburn with a couple high snaps.

Defensive Line: A
Havoc. It's what the Bulldogs want to cause every week, and it's exactly what they did cause on Saturday. Everyone on the defensive front was making tackles, getting into the backfield and pressuring the QB. Cornell Banks and Kenny Borg each had sacks and Chase McEntee had two tackles for losses. Wilson Ramos, Matt Akers and Logan Harrell were in on the tackle-for-loss action too. Take away the big run on the Aggies' first possession, and this performance was an A+.

Linebackers: A-
Another big game for big Ben Jacobs (13 tackles, two for losses). And credit Shawn Plummer for stepping up with a sack on an attempted QB scramble and batting a pass away. The only negative was the 70-yard first-quarter run.

Defensive Backs: A+
Can't ask for anything better than holding the starting QB to minus-1 yard passing on four completions. These guys were all over the place and in the receivers' faces. Granted, the Aggies have very little talent, but credit these guys for playing as well as the possibly could. It was A.J. Jefferson's best defensive performance of the year, Desia Dunn is getting stronger as the season goes and Lorne Bell (who also had a pick-six) is back to laying the wood. And how 'bout Phillip Thomas and Zak Hill popping the Aggies' QB as he tried to scramble to the end zone on fourth down. He's gonna feel that for a while.

Special Teams: A+
You're darn right. That's Bulldog Football. A blocked field goal. A Marlon Moore punt return inside the 10-yard line. Another Moore punt return to set up a field goal seconds before halftime. An 88-yard Chastin West punt return for a touchdown -- the Bulldogs' first special teams score of the year. And don't forget Andrew Shapiro booting 4 of 6 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Or Kevin Goessling making field goals from 23 and 43 yards -- he's now 9 of 10 on the season.

Coaching: C+
The special teams unit was sure ready, and the defense adjusted after the first series to dominate. But Colburn struggled and the coaches left him in too long. Mathews was the only guy who could move the chains early, yet the 'Dogs passed on third and short, and gave lots of reps to Miller and Rouse in the first quarter when it just wasn't working.

Friday, October 23, 2009

WAC rundown Week 8

Louisiana Tech (3-3, 2-1) @ Utah State (1-5, 0-2)
Saturday, noon, ESPN 360
Last week: Louisiana Tech 45, New Mexico State 7 / Nevada 35, Utah State 32

Golly that stings for Utah State. A double-digit lead late against Nevada blown, and all of a sudden the Aggies are 1-5 with solid showings against Texas A&M, Utah, BYU and Nevada, and an inexplicable loss at New Mexico State. This thing is gonna go one of two ways for Utah State -- either it improves and picks up a big win or the season turns into a reeling mess. The La Tech defense is starting to look darn dangerous, but I'm goin' with the upset.
Prediction: Utah State

Idaho (6-1, 3-0) @ Nevada (3-3, 2-0)
Saturday, 1:05 p.m., ESPN 360
Last week: Idaho 35, Hawaii 23 / Nevada 35, Utah State 32

Can you say statement game? That's exactly what this can be for the Vandals. Win, and even the latest bloomers blossom into Vandal believers. Lose, and it could be the start of a totally different second half for an Idaho team with games still remaining against Fresno State and Boise State. Nevada lucked out to come from behind and beat Utah State last week, but it's hard to picture that Wolf Pack offense not presenting a ton of problems for Idaho. For the record, I hope I'm wrong on this pick, because I'd thoroughly enjoy seeing Chris Ault be sad.
Prediction: Nevada

Fresno State (3-3, 2-1) @ New Mexico State (3-4, 1-2)
Saturday, 7:15 p.m., ESPNU
Last week: Fresno State 41, San Jose State 21 / Louisiana Tech 45, New Mexico State 7

The past three match-ups between these two teams have been decided by seven points or less, though Fresno State is 15-0 all-time against the Aggies. Coming into the season I proclaimed that New Mexico State might well be the nation's worst team -- there really is a huge lack of talent -- but somehow the Aggies have won three games. Still, they haven't seen any running backs like these, any receivers like these or any offensive line like this. And the Aggies flatout won't be able to slow the Bulldogs' offense.
Prediction: Fresno State

Boise State (6-0, 1-0) @ Hawaii (2-4, 0-3)
Saturday, 8:05 p.m., ESPN 360
Last week: Boise State 28, Tulsa 21 / Idaho 35, Hawaii 23
It's really tough to figure this Broncos team out. It's the quickest they've ever reached such a high ranking, and maybe their highest hopes ever, but they've struggled with FCS UC-Davis and a much overrated Tulsa team the past two games. Hawaii falls somewhere in between those two squads, and beat the Broncos last time they met on the islands. But that was with Colt Brennan and Co. in Hawaii's BCS-bowl-crashing season (which seems so long ago now). Maybe Boise State will get caught sleeping at some point this year, but until it happens it would be ridiculous to pick against the Broncos.
Prediction: Boise State

Be the Hammer: san jose was full of nails, and we hear new mexico state has a bunch too

There are several players eligible for sledgehammer duties this week after a physically dominant performance in all three facets of the game against san jose state, including special teams. That's where this blog comes in.

Despite not being able to get up a Be the Hammer blog last week, the Bulldog Bounce board of execs did expect offensive lineman Andrew Jackson (who took the honors) to run out of the Dog House with the hammer, for his big-time momentum changer after blocking a hawaii field goal attempt.

It was just mere weeks ago when we at the Bounce were clamoring for more physical play, and there have been some very worthy candidates who have responded. Of course we can't ignore the fact that the recipient of this week's award has done his damage against the spartans, but it's still fun to watch our guys lay the wood, chest bump and celebrate off the field while their guys walk in an un-choreographed, zig-zag, drunk-type walk back to the sideline.

Unfortunately, video for this game appears to be nonexistent, so the entertainment -- if you'll allow for such a stretch -- of the Fresno State special teams squads playing puppeteer to the spartans will have to be solely expressed through words.

I've put up four Bulldogs as candidates for the hammer this week, which was as far as I could narrow it down, a problem I (and I'm sure Bulldogs coaches) love having.

For those in the know, it should come as no surprise that Anthony Harding will walk away as the hammer winner this week. Sorry for spoiling the surprise for the rest of you, but unless something has changed in the very recent past, Harding is your guy.

But alas, we also have a winner to announce. Here's the rundown on the 4 guys we've selected:

  • Anthony Harding, RB - blocked punt: Just prior to the play, Bullogs coaches literally designed a plan of attack on the sidelines that they had not practiced nor discussed yet this season. This included bringing return man Marlon Moore up from his returner position to overload one side of the line, and assisted in getting Harding more space to get his hands on the kick. Blocked kicks are always big-time, and I personally love the fact that the best athletes relish the opportunity to make plays on special teams, Ryan Mathews included.
  • Michael Harris, RB - Hit and tackle on kickoff coverage: Harris ran down the field, maintained his lane and came around the edge to tee off on the san jose state return man. I have a special place in my heart for a de-cleating tackle executed with perfect form.
  • Vince Pascoe, TE - shield block in punt formation: I've been told Pascoe uses every ounce of his frame (which is undersized for a tight end), but the best proof of that came this past Saturday when Pascoe Uncle Phil-ed some poor spartan player. Standing next to Matt Hunt on one side of what turns into a 3-man wall, or shield to protect punter Robert Malone, Pascoe grabbed the foolish spartan (who had first run into Hunt), and proceeded to pick him up and toss him a yard off to the side, where the spartan player laid back on ground and feet in air.
  • Austin Raphael, TE - KO hit on player with embarrassed teammates: I made reference to the stumbling drunk earlier in the blog, and that was only borderline exaggeration to central nervous system control this poor spartan player was left with after Raphael's hit. Had he been thirsting for a beer afterward and there was a fridge full of beer on the sidelines, part 2 of the youtube classic would have been born. Raphael ran down field and leveled this poor guy, who was left stumbling all alone to the sidelines with the rest of the field already cleared while teammates were nowhere to be found to help him find his way.

As you can see, fans at the game got their money's worth with these four plays alone, as the combination of athletic ability and Fresno State dominance was entertaining beyond explanation. For those same reasons, I've selected the winner of this week's Be the Hammer award to be:

Austin Raphael, TE, No. 41

** Be the Hammer is part of a line of Fresno State football related features that gives us the opportunity to further discuss the 'Dogs in more facets. This time, it's in regards to special teams.