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.