Sunday, October 11, 2009

Grading the 'Dogs (2-3, 1-1) @ Hawaii (2-3, 0-2)

FRESNO STATE 42, Hawaii 17

Quarterbacks: B+
Ryan Colburn did everything he needed to for Fresno State to stick to its game plan and win big. And while I don't know what the heck his 204.86 passer efficiency rating means, I know it's a darn high rating. Colburn threw 2 TDs, no interceptions (a first this year) and completed 12 of 14 passes. Throwing for 120 yards isn't going to impress anyone, but there was no need for him to throw any more than he did. He methodically picked apart Hawaii's defense going from sideline to sideline to open the middle of the field for the run -- game management at its finest.

Running Backs: A-
Goodness gracious these guys are just unstoppable as WAC standards go. There's no one left on Fresno State's schedule to give any reason to believe Mathews won't top 100 yards every game this season. He went for 149 yards (6.2 per carry) on Saturday, edging his No. 2 in the nation season average of 148 per game. And true freshman Robbie Rouse has a chance to run wild on the rest of the WAC. Rouse had 2 TDs on 73 yards (12.2 per carry), including a career/season-best 34-yarder where he looked faster than every Hawaii defender. Lonyae Miller started and scored the team's first TD (though he later lost a fumble). And Reynard Camp's big-time blocking efforts at fullback did not go ignored.

Receivers: B+
Stats weren't flashy with Seyi Ajirotutu's 48 yards leading the way, but wideouts did a lot with the routes that were called. Highlight was Devon Wylie's 17-yard TD where he embarrassed Hawaii's defensive back with a nifty outside-in juke at near full-speed. And Chastin West's 17-yard TD grab in the front corner of the end zone just before half in double coverage ranked right up there (especially considering that a white truck appeared to back into West on the sideline as he ran through the end zone and out of bounds).

Offensive Line: A
Just can't applaud this unit enough right now. With Joey Bernardi battling injury, Richard Pacheco stepped in and played well enough for no one to notice Bernardi's absence (which is a compliment because Bernardi is a darn good player). Leslie Cooper also got early action and was the lead blocker on Miller's early TD run. Nice to see Matt Hunt get some reps as well. Overall, the unit helped the backfield earn 5.9 yards per carry as a team and gave up 1 sack. This group has the potential for greatness, considering none of the regular starters are seniors.

Defensive Line: C+
Credit the d-line for not giving up any big runs to the opposing QB, but for cryin' out loud would somebody please step up and help Chris Carter with some pressure? Carter literally abuses his opponent with speed and agility nearly every down, but pressure from the tackle spots is almost nonexistent (save for the occasional Logan Harrell spin move) and Kenny Borg hasn't produced as we expected after seeing him play so well in fall camp. Redshirt freshman Matt Akers saw his most extensive time (as Pat Hill loves putting speed rushers against Hawaii's overmatched offensive tackles) and showed some positives but also was pushed easily off the ball on one first down run. Carter got his WAC-high fourth sack (though we could have sworn he should have been credited with 2 Saturday night). P.S. Carter was held at least 10 times in the game without getting calls.

Linebackers: B-
The Bulldogs again stuck with mostly three-linebacker sets while defending a spread-type passing offense, but luckily it didn't hurt this time because of Hawaii's inaccurate passer (which is odd because coming into the game we all heard accuracy was his strength -- obviously not). Ben Jacobs picked off a pass, and Nico Herron nearly got one, while Kyle Knox forced a fumble. Those are the types of game-changing plays the Bulldogs need from this unit. But it also must take partial blame for Hawaii's early success in the running game (despite having one of the worst rushing attacks nationally).

Defensive Backs: B-
Desia Dunn really played up at corner, leading the team with 10 tackles and a forced fumble, and Moses Harris intercepted a pass in the end zone -- something Fresno State should expect from its safeties but rarely gets. It was Harri's second-career pick, but most impressive was the footwork he used to put himself in position and play for the turnover instead of fixating on the opposing receiver. Redshirt freshman Phillip Thomas saw his most extensive playing time, as did sophomore Isaiah Green. Thomas was second on the team with 8 tackles (1 for loss), but was caught out of position at times in the running game. Zak Hill gave up a touchdown on a missed tackle for the second straight game, and then missed another tackle the same way just minutes later. His play recently is a liability for the Bulldogs defense.

Special Teams: B
Just when the Bulldogs put the "special" back in special teams after blocking a field goal attempt on Hawaii's first possession (which Jacobs returned nearly 60 yards to set up a TD) and a fumble recovery by long snapper Bobby Shepard after he ran down in coverage in the Bulldogs' new shield punt formation, a mistake scarred the elation. Hawaii recovered an onside kick with more than 7 minutes to go when the Bulldogs weren't in onside formation and the ball bounced away from Vince Pascoe.

Coaching: A-
Coaching staff continues to impress with game plans put in place this season. Pass was designed to keep Hawaii's defense away from the middle of the field, opening big space for Mathews and Rouse to attack. Refreshing to see special teams coach John Baxter break the stubborness that has killed the Bulldogs in coverage and test new schemes. Still confused, though, why West is returning kicks/punts instead of Rouse, Wylie or Marlon Moore? Also refreshing to see Thomas and Green get more time. Great to see Derek Carr get some playing time, but coaches need to let him rip downfield instead of keeping his pass package conservative (there's no need to keep his arm under wraps like that, he's ready).
***Photo courtesy of Juan Villa

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