Friday, December 31, 2010

The Bulldog Bounce in 2011 ...

The year 2011 is only hours away, so I'll take this chance to cap the 2010 blog campaign.

There are a lot of directions the blog can go next year and beyond, and here's what I can tell you:

It's no secret the sheer frequency of blogs this year didn't measure up to what the hardcore Fresno State fan craves. Behind the scenes, myself and FSDogs1 have been chipping away at some fun and exciting ideas and plans for the blog, all the while also pursuing and planning for current and future personal ventures. What that will translate to for the blog is to be determined.

What I do know is this — the fire to discuss/obtain new info/spread Fresno State news etc, will continue to burn greater than ever in your blog hosts. It's something we do often, be it over text or dinner with friends. We realize the knowledge, information and opinions we've shared have proven to have great value and offer insight to Fresno State fans, and we're happy to share it.

In the meantime, keep up with us on Twitter @BulldogBounce. Browse our feed, our followers, who we're following and get on board with the best way to stay up to the second with news and opinions. We'll continue to be very active there and have found it to be a great way to blast very useful tidbits to those interested.

Here's to 2011 for you, us and Fresno State.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Idaho "playing for everything"

idaho men's football coach Robb Akey is hyped. And he's gearing his team up to play with its collective hair on fire Saturday at Bulldog Stadium. His vandals are 5-6 with two games remaining, meaning they have to win out to become bowl eligible at 7-6(their final game is home against perennial doormat san jose state).

“Hey, we’re playing for everything right now,” Akey said, in this write-up, “a lot more than they’re playing for.”

Umm, excuse me Robb with two b's -- Fresno State is playing for a ton. A seventh win guarantees the 'Dogs a bowl bid and a winning record in the WAC.

Anyway, let's get to the point. It's always fun to listen to manly man Robb Akey talk in his deep, gravelly voice. And ever since he was hired at idaho a few years ago I've been trying to place why he sounds so dang familiar. Nothing a little YouTube search can't solve (is there such a thing as a voice doppelganger?):

Fresno State's Got Talent

The strangest thing happened today. During the Pat Hill Show on KMJ 580 (which should be uploaded to podcast by tomorrow), Hill said boise state is more talented than Fresno State. Just about the time I realized what he'd said, and concluded that I must have misheard, he alluded to it again. And from the sound of things, he didn't think it was very close.

In the past, that's never been the case. The Bulldogs have almost assuredly had more talent than the Broncos 8 of the past 10 years. And with what seems like a loaded Bulldogs roster this season, it was someone surprising to hear Hill talk as if the talent difference is an issue.

But let's look deeper. And yes, this blog post required my visiting the official boise state athletics site to make sure I had the most up to date stats. I don't make a habit of visiting such sites, and am all for parents blocking said site from their children by any means necessary. So I quickly looked at the stats, cleared my browser history and ran to the bathroom to wash my hands -- twice.

So, is boise state really THAT much more talented than Fresno State right now...?

Obviously, and this is probably the most painful sports-related thing I've ever written, QB Kellen Moore is the best player in the country. He puts balls in his receivers' hands ever so gently, and right on the mark -- every time. No matter how tight the coverage (ask Isaiah Green) the ball is always catchable. Fresno State QB Ryan Colburn (a sixth-year senior counting the greyshirt year) struggled mightily on Friday night, completing just 6 of 23 passes for 76 yards with 2 interceptions. And, once again, looked miserable in blitz situations and delayed in decision-making. So that's one big edge for boise state.

But Fresno State's Robbie Rouse, 12th in the nation in rushing yards per game, is as good as anyone boise has and the wide receiving corps is ridiculously deep. The Bulldogs don't have anyone as dominant as Titus Young or Austin Pettis right now, but have an NFL-caliber target in Jamel Hamler and are far superior in depth at the position.

That brings us to the offensive line, which might be the answer. Fresno State is traditionally among the nation's leaders in sacks allowed, but this season has given up a whopping 25 sacks in 10 games. For a team that only passes 41% of its plays, and was projected as one of the nation's top lines in the preseason, that's insanely high. In comparison, boise state's line has given up 5 sacks on the season. Now, granted, part of that can be attributed to Moore make better, quicker decisions under pressure than Colburn does -- but part is also due to protection and picking up blitzes. boise state also averages 5.3 yards per carry, while Fresno State is at 4.3. Pat Hill use to preach that games are won and lost in the trenches, and he might still say that. If so, a lot of blame for Friday's 51-0 debacle lies here.

While boise state's defensive line is incredible, and leads the nation with 39 sacks, the Bulldogs also boast a very good defensive front (27 sacks). Chris Carter is perhaps as good any player on either line, and is tied for the WAC lead in sacks with teammate Logan Harrell (9 each). The difference is boise state has four dominant defensive linemen, while Fresno State has two, an above average DT Cornell Banks and an average Chris Lewis at the other DE spot (he was injured vs. boise).

Both teams have comparable linebackers, and Fresno State's Travis Brown is perhaps the best of any of them. Defensive backs are also comparable, with Phillip Thomas perhaps the best safety and Jermaine Thomas the best CB (although he missed the game with injury). That said, Will Venable is a force at whatever they call his hybrid position.

It'd be wonderful to hear Hill break down the talent difference by position (we won't hold our breath), but analyzing the rosters makes one wonder if he's really talking mostly about the QB position, with the offensive line a close second...?

Or is the real difference in how the two teams are coaching their talent...?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Returning the favor: Interview with a bronco (OBNUG)

How hard is it to like anything boise state? 10 out of 10 doctors say it's impossible. 

But the closest thing to an exception comes via OBNUG, the boise state-themed blog led by Kevan Lee (to which I explained our relationship in a previous blog). OBNUG produces a generous amount of boise state-related content, which is generally pretty entertaining until they get to talking Fresno State. Then the double standard kicks in. 

It has become OBNUG tradition to Q&A and blog bet opposing teams throughout the football season. We accepted the opportunity exchange opinions on our programs, but said no thanks on the blog bet (for which we have several reasons, none of which is fear of an opposing blog appearing here). 

Kevan posted my answers in his Interview with a Bulldog blog yesterday, so check that out. (We appreciate his compliment that we cover FS athletics from a smart fan's perspective.)

Today I share Kevan's answers to our set of questions. So take your preemptive does of Pepto Bismol and stomach the continued humility and thrown your way from the perspective of a boise state fan. 

The Q&A:

1. What is the perception of Fresno State athletics in boise? Perception of Fresno in general?

I don't think I would be understating myself in saying that Boise State fans do not think too highly of Fresno State football. I assume you meant football when you said athletics because, as a Bronco fan, I am not aware that any other sports exist.

For quite some time, we Bronco fans harped on the "overrated" Fresno State teams that always seemed to be ranked preseason Top 25 and favored to win the conference. Those days are gone, so I think the resentment has softened. Like I've seen you mention on your site, Fresno is not lacking talent, and Bronco fans are aware of that. So our new thing is ripping the Bulldogs for underperforming every year. And of course we can't stand Pat Hill. But I hear that neither can you.

Fresno in general gets a bad rap in Boise because of the Fresno fans. They come across as arrogant, rude, offensive, inconsiderate, and poor sports. And yes, I recognize the irony in a Boise State fan saying all those things (really though, Boise State fans come in all shapes and sizes and it just so happens that the poorly shaped and poorly sized ones make the most noise nowadays).

2. What things do you like and/or respect about Fresno State? Things you hate?

Things I like:

Recruiting and community involvement. I hear these are the only things keeping Pat Hill around, so he must be good at it. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like every year Fresno beats out USC for a high school player. Gotta respect that.
Old-school offense. I am a traditionalist, so I appreciate that Fresno hasn't completely abandoned a semi-traditional approach to offense. Yet.
Checkerboard end zones.

Things I hate:

The V on the helmets. I just don't get it. I mean, I know what it stands for, but I just don't get it.
Whining about Boise State. Seems like Fresno fans hate on our schedule, our players, our fans, our city, etc. It just gets tiring.
Fresno blowing games they should win. Sometimes it is incredibly enjoyable. Other times, it is infuriating.

3. What is the difference between Fresno State's and boise state's football programs right now?

I think the difference is in leadership. Coach Pete trumps Pat Hill a thousand times over with his management of the team, his football coaching, and his considerable god-like qualities. Boise State really hit the jackpot with Petersen. I don't think that the Bulldogs should fire Hill and go out and get a Petersen of their own because I don't think that other Petersens exist. But the Hill-Pete dynamic is going to keep the two programs apart as long as the two coaches stay at their respective schools. Now, that isn't to say that Fresno won't beat Boise ever over the next decade, but from a macro level, the two teams will remain quite different.

4. Flip-flop the successes and failures of Fresno and boise since 2001. What is a boise fan's evaluation of the broncos in the current state Fresno State is in?

If I read the question right, you want me to pretend that Boise State is Fresno State? OK. If I have to.

Fresno seems to have better inroads with nonconference scheduling, and I wouldn't mind that at all. Anyone, anywhere, anytime is really the only way that a non-BCS school can overcome its conference schedule.

Attendance seems about on par with Boise State's, although you do have us beat on stadium capacity. A 41,000-seat stadium in Boise would be sweet.

Fan support in Fresno appears, to an outsider, to be kind of depressing. You don't like your coach. You are tired of underwhelming seasons. It doesn't sound like much fun to be a Fresno fan.

Perhaps the biggest thing I wouldn't like is the athletic budget and state deficit. That would be very hard to work with.

Other than that, Fresno isn't in too bad of a place. You recruit good athletes, you play a decent schedule. The losing would get tiring, but if I get to bring Coach Pete with me, we could fix that.

5. From an opposing fan's perspective, what does Pat Hill appear to do well, and what does he appear to do poorly? If he was the boise coach, at what point, if at all, would he no longer be your coach (or would he still be), all things considered?

It's hard to tell what it would take to get a coach fired at Boise State these days. I can't remember the last one who got booted. Most seem to leave for better opportunities. I guess that the one area that would be taboo is losing fan interest. That's what happened to the men's basketball program and Greg Graham got the boot because of it. Of course, fan interest is tied to wins and losses and performing as expected, so I'd say that a decade worth of Pat Hill mediocrity would be enough to lose fans and get fired.

Like I said above, I believe Hill recruits well and has cultivated a strong tie to the community. I don't believe he coaches football well. In fact, he reminds me a little of Dan Hawkins in that regard. Hawkins was a great motivator and great recruiter, but he lacked a certain something on gameday. Fortunately for him (and for Hill), much of a college coach's job extends beyond gameday.

This next portion includes some of Kevan's questions posed to me, which subtle changes in the details for certain questions:

 6. Describe your team's season to date in 100 words or less. "Just turns me on" must be four of those words.

Hearing poll results just turns me on. Not! Boise State has done everything as expected this year - great QB play, stellar offense, dominating defense - but the overarching theme has always been the polls. It's too bad. This Bronco team may be the greatest in school history. Fans have learned (or are learning) to appreciate that and block out the rest.

7. If Fresno State could pick one player from your team to come play with them, who would it be? If you could pick one Fresno State player to go play for your team, who would it be? Explain.

I'd give Fresno Austin Pettis. Partly because I'm mad at him right now for dropping some balls, but mostly because he is an offense's best friend and someone who could keep drives alive by moving the chains and making solid catches. He's like a better version of Devon Wylie.

I'd take Ben Jacobs if I were Boise. The Broncos lost Byron Hout for the season and could use some depth at linebacker, especially a player of Jacobs' caliber.

8. Imagine for a moment that your team is ESPN's college football coverage. What part is Ron Franklin and what part is Pam Ward? (In other words, strengths and weaknesses.)

Ron Franklin: Defensive line. It is incredible.

Pam Ward: Personal foul penalties. We get a lot of them.

9. On a scale of boy bands, with O*Town being not at all and N*Sync being supremely, how confident are you that your team will win on Friday?

I have what you would call cautious optimism. Or cynical realism. Or tempered pessimism. I guess there's really no easy way to explain it. I have every belief that the Broncos will pull off the win on Friday night, considering how thoroughly they have beaten teams this year and how completely in control they were against Hawaii. In my opinion, Fresno is not as good as Hawaii. Now that doesn't mean that the Bulldogs won't play the Broncos closer than the Warriors, but it does mean I'd be shocked to see FS win outright.

Mark me down as a Backstreet Boys in confidence this week. But not the bad Backstreet Boys, the good ones. Like the "Backstreet's back" Backstreet Boys.

We thank Kevan for his contribution and for his continuous respect and support of our blog.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bulldogs arrive in boise, walk on water marked with yard lines in walkthrough

Fresno State has finally arrived to the land of better-than-you, where pinky fingers aren't allowed near the drinking glass and the manliest man is the one who thumbs his nose up first to pick up the tab.

However, Kevan over at OBNUG and myself have created sort of a weird "Bring it On" mutual respect sort of thing. Kevan just recently posted my answers from our recent Q&A exchange over on OBNUG, with his answers to our questions to follow shortly here on our blog.

In the meantime, Kevan and the guys over at OBNUG have been talking 'Dogs/broncos all week and the rimshots are working overtime in the comment section to try and keep up.

Check back soon for Fresno State vs boise state related updates, but for now, feel free to praise my connections to the underground. Exclusively for Bulldog Bounce readers, a portrait of a young Kellen Moore. Amazing what a simple set of donkey ears can achieve.

Kellen Moore as "Donkey" from Shrek
Halloween 2001

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Keys to beating nevada down

Let's talk keys to the game. And understand, Saturday is a big, big game. The type of game the lowly nevada program is not used to. The type of game the drunken morons sitting behind the end zone cheering for the wolf pack in last year's debacle won't be able to comprehend.

No. 21 nevada, in its highest ranking since the 1940s, visits Bulldog Stadium. Last year with Colin Kaepernick at QB. Coming off two straight wins over Fresno State for the first time (ever?) and last year's beatdown when Ryan Mathews was lost to injury.

Comment and let us know what you think the keys are? Here's how we break it down:

Will Ault be 'Colin' passing plays?
A somewhat overlooked stat from the past two meetings between these teams is Kaepernick's lack of passing prowess. He's 13 for 29 with 173 yards. Numbers like that remove the cape from Kaep and make it a wonder how he could be a legit Heisman candidate. If Fresno State makes nevada pass, the 'Dogs win the ballgame.

Can Fresno State make nevada pass?
The answer the past two years has been overwhelmingly no. But make no mistake, this year's Bulldog defense is a far cry from the last two years' (and they made us cry a lot those two years). DE Chris Carter and DT Logan Harrell are both among the top six sack leaders in the country. That bodes well if nevada is forced to pass, but can it be forced? Perhaps. Travis Brown is a huge upgrade at LB, Phillip Thomas is one of the WAC's best players at S. The Bulldogs have playmakers throughout the defense now. But S Lorne Bell, who doesn't have top end speed, will have to be near flawless in his assignment discipline to prevent the giant runs nevada rode to victory last year. It helps that the Bulldogs' defense has played so many running QBs (cincinnati, utah state, ole miss, cal poly) but the one opponent that ran nevada-esque plays was ole miss -- and the 'Dogs got burned multiple times on big runs, including a read option up the middle for a huge gain. Another X-factor on defense would have been CB Jermaine Thomas, but the 'Dogs could be without him for the rest of the year after he was injured on the final play at louisiana tech.

Can 'Dogs replace J.T.?
Jermaine Thomas is really, really good. Most in the local media don't realize how good. Maybe no one in the local media does. Thomas is the best CB the team has had in years, and is not only lockdown capable in pass coverage, but has helped in the run-stopping game, namely against cincinnati. Think about it -- how many times have you seen Thomas while watching TV this year? It's rare -- because opposing QBs don't even throw to his side of the field. He usually goes unnoticed with his side of the field locked down (save for the TD he gave up to that ole miss receiver who was like 8-foot-6). Replacing Thomas in the lineup on Saturday will be either Isaiah Green or L.J. Jones. Green has lots of experience, and is one of the team's fastest players. But as recently as the san jose state game, he got burned for a big play TD pass. Can't have that this week. The good news on Green is he's a very sure open field tackler, something the 'Dogs will need. Jones is less experienced but will be a very impactful player before his career is over.

What other keys would you add...?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Red-White Scrimmage Round-up

"Meet the Bulldogs" has never been so perfect a saying for Fresno State's basketball team. It's easier this year to name who all is returning than who all is incoming. And all the new faces made the Red-White Scrimmage extra fun and intriguing Tuesday night.

There was a decent turnout compared to last year, but if you were one of those who missed it, you came to the right place for a breakdown of what you missed.

The White team, which seemed to consist at least mostly of reserves, jumped/ran/bolted/shot its way out to a 19-0 lead en route to a 30-12 win in the 12-minute, running-clock scrimmage. The White consisted of newcomers Kevin Olekaibe, Tyler Johnson, Bennie Rhodes, Givon Crump and Bracken Funk. The Red started Tim Steed, Garrett Johnson, Jonathan Wills, Ned Golubovic and Greg Smith, with Steven Shepp subbing in.

0, Jerry Brown, So, F (6-7, 205): "The Governor" (let's hope this name doesn't stick after the next couple weeks) sat out the scrimmage still recovering from a back injury that coach Steve Cleveland said happened months ago. The 'Dogs will need him for the season, as he's a potential starter or first forward off the bench.

DaCo: Word is he's improved a lot too, but we didn't get a chance to see. Hopefully there's little rust to brush off when he's ready.

22, Givon Crump, So, F (6-7, 210): Now that we heard Coach Cleve say it, we know his first name is pronounced "Jivon," which will come in handy the next three years. Crump has to sit out this season after transferring from Baylor, but has the ability to be an immediate starter and impact player as soon as he gets on the court. He participated in the scrimmage on the winning team, but didn't get a lot of chances on the offensive end with all his teammates scoring. He did make a brilliant pass down low to Bracken Funk for a wide-open layup.

DaCo: Strength of game and preference appears to be as a sniper for 3s. He does handle the ball well for his size and made fundamental passes. Good stamina, good energy and good complement to the rest of the team.

45, Bracken Funk, Fr, F (6-7, 240): The wait for the two-year LDS missionary is over as Funk took the floor tonight as the White team's starting center. He's not likely to play that position much if at all during the season, but was forced to tonight because of John Ryan's injury. Funk's role has been a bit of a mystery thus far, but he was one of the eye openers in the scrimmage, showing more speed than expected and a motor that should rub off on teammates. He goes hard every play, offense of defense, and doesn't give up in transition. He looks shorter than his listed height, probably closer to 6-foot-5 or 6-6, but has a wide body that allowed him to hold his own guarding Greg Smith in the post. Cleveland wasn't kidding when he said Funk will remind fans of a Utah State-type player. And that's a darn good asset for this team.

DaCo: Always nice to get a pleasant surprise like this. Love the hustle, love the scrappiness. There are going to be so many potential scorers on the floor, but he is perfectly happy to fill a role of defense, rebounding, screening, etc. Does have that strong body that plays bigger than he looks, and could easily be one of the new fan favorites, not only because of his game, but because of his big personality as well.

15, Ned Golubovic, Sr, F (6-8, 240): We knew Ned had an improved physique this season, but didn't realize he'd lost 25 pounds and chiseled up so much, as Cleveland told the crowd Tuesday. The Bulldogs' lone senior and team captain and Academic All-American supposedly shed the weight to improve his defense. That, along with rebounding, is what the 'Dogs need most from him. If he can establish himself as another low-post threat alongside Smith, he'll likely hold onto the starting job. He was quiet all around in the scrimmage, as he's had a history of on-again, off-again nights, but the good thing is this year's team has the pieces to mix and match until it finds a combination that works and a guy with the hot hand on a given night.

DaCo: I didn't notice 25 pounds of difference, but part of that is because he leaned up and added a lot more muscle mass, in addition to an apparent tan. His leadership and coach on the floor knowledge are his best traits, but I'm hoping Funk's game rubs off on Ned as much as possible. How that his hands/wrists are healthy, his shooting ability should come back into play as well, which is clearly a good thing.

20, Garrett Johnson, So, G (6-4, 195): Cleveland called G. Johnson the most improved player on the team. He received sparse minutes as a freshman last season but showed the ability to play at break-neck speed tonight. He has the skill to be a 3-point threat, but will have to prove himself in game action before he sees a big increase in playing time.

DaCo: Biggest thing for Johnson appeared to be his comfort with this level of ball now. He handled the ball fine, to where there wasn't a noticeable concern with it in his hands, and seems more capable with his shot. He missed a bad layup on a contested fastbreak, where he over-thought the defender's play on the ball, but that's not likely to be a plaguing recurrence.

25, Justin Johnson, So, F (6-6, 205): J. Johnson, son of NBA great Eddie Johnson, was in his team-issued warm-ups for the third straight year. Cleveland told the crowd Johnson has had his last surgery and is still fighting to overcome injury and that we'll learn this year whether it'll be something he can bounce back from. Fans still have little to no idea what this Johnson is capable of.

DaCo: If you assume the worst case, at least we only have one player who is not good/able/whatever. Even if he recovers from this injury, he'll still be the 15th-best player on the team, which for the first time speaks to the rest of the talent rather than his lack of still-to-be-determined ability.

3, Tyler Johnson, Fr, G (6-2, 170): After one night, T. Johnson is the early leader for the Most Likely Johnson to Make an Impact Award. The freshman is a bit scrawny (think Brandon Sperling only WAAAAY more athletic and skilled), but plays the game at a relentless pace and can jump out of the gym. Guys his size aren't supposed to jump like that, says the law of physics. But he does -- he proved it with two breakaway dunks and a couple leaps into passing lanes on defense. If Johnson sustains this type of effort, there's nothing stopping him from becoming a dominant defender at the college level with his quickness and athleticism. Whatever he does on the offensive end will be a bonus.

DaCo: I definitely wouldn't go as far as the Sperling body comparison. Sperling was straight frail. Johnson lacks muscle but at least has the capacity to add muscle if he works hard in the weight room. I still like my comparison to Devon Wylie on the basketball floor, as they have similar athletic ability and directional cuts and movements. He is a very scrappy, energetic, non-stop effort player. Hands are always active on defense, and on offense has a very nice little left-handed jump shot.

1, Kevin Olekaibe, Fr, G (6-1, 165): First things first, Olekaibe (or K.O. as they call him) is not 6-foot-1 as listed. He's probably not even 6-foot. There's no doubt the freshman has scoring potential, but after seeing his small frame, it's hard to imagine him playing any position other than point guard. If he does, he'll be presented with some tough matchups physically. Olekaibe showed range and an enthusiastic spirit that makes you want to root hard for him on the court. He can shoot the 3 and can push the tempo. Too early to tell what type of ball-handling and passing ability he has.

DaCo: Also so much to like with KO. He's a rare confident freshman, and he often smiles and enjoys his time on the floor. KO handles the ball very well and shoots an outstanding 3 ball. Passing ability in the half court offense is still a mystery, but like Funk, has the potential to be another fan fave.

11, Bennie Rhodes, Jr, G (6-6, 190): Arguably the most impressive player of the night, the San Francisco City College transfer and former SMU recruit put on a show. Early in the scrimmage he took a questionable shot or two, but as soon as he started letting the offense develop he was unstoppable, hitting from inside and out, making passes and "wow" plays. And he knocked down a deep 3 to make it 19-0 White. Rhodes looks like the type of player who is comfortable being the go-to scorer. Can't wait to see how he performs with Smith (the two were on different teams for the scrimmage). Oh, and did we mention Rhodes had hands down the dunk of the night, reaching down with both hands below his feet for a power jam from just a foot or two in front of the free throw line? The dunk drew all 10s from the five judges.

DaCo: Starting with my concern first, I hope Rhodes is cool with being a selfless player as well, because he seemed to want to take over the scrimmage. His skills are undeniable, however, and he seems like a huge steal at the moment. Rhodes loves the 3 ball, but goes hard to the basket on fastbreaks as well, where he had what I thought was the most impressive dunk of the night, launching from outside the key past one defender and over another on a powerful tomahawk jam. Rhodes is a pure scorer with shooting ability as well. If he molds comfortably into a team system, this team can grow much faster.

32, John Ryan, Fr, C (6-10, 270): One of the guys we were most looking forward to seeing, the big man sat out the evening recovering from a broken nose. He doesn't look to be anywhere near the listed weight of 270 since dropping some weight in recent months, but is a big body who should provide valuable bench minutes in relief of Smith. If he can handle the role as a freshman, he'll be a huge asset for this squad.

DaCo: It could have been eye foolery, but Ryan appeared to be the tallest member of the team. Since he didn't play in the scrimmage, it's hard to tell if he has skill on either side of the ball, but his body and low post presence is a need for the team.

12, Steven Shepp, Jr, G (6-2, 175): Shepp sat most of the scrimmage before coming in for the Red team, trailing 19-0, and sparking four straight points. The returning starting point guard is academically ineligible until December. It'll be interesting to see if he still has a starting job after Steed or Olekaibe get a crack at it the first handful of games.

DaCo: The surrounding talent should make Shepp a better player, considering his up-tempo style and preference to pass the ball to others to score. Those scorers appear to be in much larger numbers this year. It'll be interesting to see how Shepp competes with KO and maybe Steed when he becomes eligible.

4, Greg Smith, So, C (6-10, 250): Smith, the Preseason First-Team All-WAC selection, is a physical specimen who Cleveland called one of the great big men in the nation. While true, Smith has a lot of room for improvement after last year's inconsistencies. But he also has the upside and potential to be the catalyst for returning Fresno State to basketball relevance on a national level. Especially if they get him to stay beyond this season and solidify the core of the program. With his Red team trailing 19-0, Smith still had not touched the ball, a major concern. The Bulldogs have to become experts at working the ball inside to their best player or they'll be denied that way all season by opponents. Smith finally took his frustration out down low, bumping Funk back with his butt to clear space before turning around and delivering a trademark power jam.

DaCo: Good big men are rare, but a blast to have and watch on your team when you have one. Smith has low post skills galore, can run the floor and can defend. Fresno State needs to find a way to use Smith as a force and intimidator for other teams, before he resorts to his kryptonite of not being fully matured yet, which means occasional pouting and reduced effort.

5, Tim Steed, Jr, G (6-4, 215): We're looking forward to seeing more of what Steed can do on offense. For now, it looks like he'll be the starting point guard in the exhibition season opener against Fresno Pacific on Nov. 6, with Shepp out. Steed made a nice play to the basket late, but didn't have a lot of other opportunities before that. The most encouraging thing from him, though, was a powerful physique and business-like demeanor on the floor.

DaCo: Steed is the kind of player I love having on a basketball team. He is athletic, muscle-bound and skilled, but he's business-like, a leader and tough as nails. Steed is not the best at any one thing, but he's reliable at everything. And he dunks with power.

2, Jonathan Wills, Jr, G (6-6, 185): Wills, the New Mexico transfer who sat out last season, has been much ballyhooed by Cleveland, who said last season he was the second-best player on the team. Wills was fairly quiet offensively tonight but has immediate starting potential and will play a large role on this team.

DaCo: Wills has been touted as a true scorer, but didn't break out on the scoreboard in the scrimmage. That said, you could see his ability to run the floor and handle the ball while running the floor. Wills worked hard and was very active, and won the men's side of the 3-point contest with a very nice score of 17. Once he finds his comfort zone on this team, there's no doubt he can be very productive.

Friday, October 22, 2010

'Dogs headed for unofficial 8th home game

On a sunnyish, shadyish, hotish, coldish fall day in beautiful Fresno, your friendly neighborhood bloggers were gchatting it up about Fresno State football and other things of that nature. The convo went a little something like this ...

FSDogs1: Hey DaCo, what's blueish, yellowish, has 22 hands in its starting lineup and stinks...bad?

DaCo: You know what, I think I know where you're going with this, and I have to say, I think it's rather insensitive in today's world to make fun of what I can only assume is a team with special needs.

FSDogs1: You know what? You're right. That was insensitive of me and I apologize. San Jose State does have many special needs -- offense, defense, special teams...

DaCo: Let me stop you right there. It's clear that my time is of no value to you, otherwise why would you jump into a list that quite possibly, might never come to an end? We are talking about a team whose head coach admits to fielding a JV squad you know.

FSDogs1: This is true. Let's just hope Pat Hill & Co. see to it that Fresno Sate pounds this opponent like a JV squad, unlike last week when they essentially sat on the ball the entire second half and let it look closer than it ever was against New Mexico State.

DaCo: (Pause for reader chuckling and that'll be the day thoughts ... ... ... OK that's enough)
I understand there is a vicious game of paper rock scissors going on already between Rouse, Harris, Slocum and Ellis to see who gets the chance to do some stat-padding against the team from the valley of stuff used for fake boobs.

FSDogs1: Speaking of Rouse, Harris, Slocum and Ellis, what's the deal with the RB situation? Isn't it pretty obvious, despite Rouse's recent big game, that Slocum or Harris should get starting carries with Rouse sprinkled in? That's obviously when he's most effective.

DaCo: Now it's getting serious. And there's no easy answer, which is mostly due to the running backs not taking the job and making it easy. I agree with the Rouse sprinkling, or change of pace theory if you want to call it that (which I do). He's essentially play-action for the run game. That adds more danger to his dangerous potential. On a side note, here's yet another reason not to keep teams "in the game" by running and punting to preserve leads. Reserves lose time to show gamer ability for upcoming games and seasons. Gamer ability > other time ability.

FSDogs1: Absolutely. I was just pondering this over my Chipotle burrito today at lunch. Why does Boise State seemingly have the same team each year? Same abilities, same talent, same strengths? It's because they play all their players. They get big, huge leads and put in everyone they can. Players get used to executing in live game situations and when it's the reserves' turn to be starters, they have that maturity.

DaCo: I lost you after Chipotle burrito. All I saw was Chipotle burrito blah blah bloo bloo blee blee. Nevertheless, I agree with that. To bring myself back on track, I'll say this about the game this weekend — there is a bottom line to the result. A good win against the spartans will be one where their weaknesses are exposed, where Fresno State's will is imposed and an obvious butt-kicking ensues, both on the scoreboard and on the video proof. I tried to make that somewhat generic, so you can have fun filling in the blanks in between those generalities with as many hypothetical's as your imagination will allow. Ah, Devan Cunningham touchdowns...

FSDogs1: Speaking of imagination, was it my imagination or did we see the Swamp Thing lurking around Spartan Stadium back in the day when it was a soggy, muddy mess there? It could be a mess again, with a 30% chance of rain Saturday. I hear they have Field Turf now though -- I guess those hippies from up the road at Cal weren't too worried about destroying Swampy's natural habitat...

DaCo: I have a few thoughts and theories about that, you know. Wasn't it only fitting that a team that consistently played like crap had a muddy field that resembled ... well, poop? I'm guessing Fresno State finally had enough of playing road home games on a mixture of chocolate milkshake and wheat grass, and told the sparta AD to use the ticket revenue from Fresno State fans to install turf. It's OK though, because we still have those flexible wooden aisle steps and PlaySkool benches to enjoy before, during and after the game. Hooray luxury!

FSDogs1: OK, OK, I can see this convo has turned to poop, which I think is our cue to wrap it up and head to the game. My only question is, which quarter are the wooden trampolines which they call stadium stairs going to snap and break from the Red Wave celebrating all the looming touchdowns?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Grading the 'Dogs (4-2, 2-1) vs. New Mexico State (1-5, 0-2)

FRESNO STATE 33, New Mexico State 10

Quarterback: C-
After wowing fans through the first four games, Ryan Colburn looks to have regressed in the past two. Hopefully that trend ends next week, because 12 of 20 for 132 yards doesn't cut it -- certainly not when he's struggling with accuracy. Colburn missed a wide-open Rashad Evans behind the entire defense for a would-be TD, threw nowhere near a wide-open Vince Pascoe squatting in between coverage and was late in his progressions on numerous other throws. He's better than that. And coaches didn't help him by sitting on the ball much of the second half.

Running Backs: B+
Mighty Mouse Robbie Rouse returned to a form we hadn't seen since last year en route to 150 yards and 2 TDs on 16 carries. But the fact the team struggled to overpower New Mexico State in the second half was disappointing, as were Michael Harris' 1.3 yards per carry.

Receivers: B
The wideouts just didn't really get a chance to do much. The highlight was a double "reBurse" to Isaiah Burse for a 30-yard TD. Another true freshman, Jalen Saunders, led the team with 64 yards receiving on 3 catches. Tight end Tapa (I won't attempt spelling the last name) had the only TD catch.

Offensive Line: B
The first half was flatout impressive -- the second half was far from it. Granted, the Aggies knew the run was coming when the 'Dogs were being overly nice to not run up the score, but this unit should have been able to manhandle its counterpart. Overall, it was still a very strong performance with the backs averaging 6 yards per carry as a team. Also good to see Matt Hunt and Richard Helepiko get valuable time. Unfortunately, Helepiko's time came after an injury to C Joey Bernardi.

Defensive Line: A
On Chris Carter's performance alone, this group deserves an A. Carter earned national defensive lineman of the week honors with 9 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles. Beastly. Logan Harrell and Chris Lewis also teamed up on a sack, as the 'Dogs deployed constant pressure on the young, inexperienced Aggies QBs.

Linebackers: A-
The unit helped hold New Mexico State to 30-something yards rushing in the first three quarters before the reserves entered. Kyle Knox turned in a stud performance before an injury cut his night short. Still, he finished with 7 tackles and 1 for loss. The Aggies averaged 3.1 yards per carry as a team.

Defensive Backs: A-
Starting QB Andrew Manley had just 1 yard passing, while backup Matt Christian, the former Fresno State walk-on, had 155 (most in garbage time). In his first career start, in place of safety Phil Thomas, true freshman Derron Smith was tied for second on the team with 7 tackles and 1 for loss. His development will be a big plus as the season continues.

Special Teams: B-
Against a good team, Rashad Evans' first quarter botch of a punt, when he fumbled the ball away, could have been far more costly. Luckily, the Aggies couldn't capitalize. Andrew Shapiro was money on all but one punt, which took a favorable Aggies bounce. He's quietly having a heck of a season.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pre-game Walkthrough: Collecting our thoughts as the 'Dogs take on The Grove

Fresno State's annual hold-your-breath game with utah state is over and done with, complete with a new breakout star and all.

The Bulldogs' attention has now turned to ye olde Miss, thee of the SEC. It's a good thing Fresno State coach Pat Hill and co. enjoy playing the toughest possible games, because the Rebels will be as dangerous as can be this weekend.

What would a 'Dogs game be without an opponent at its best?

You might have noticed the labeling of the Rebels above as "as dangerous as can be." That's because quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is just one hole punch away from filling up his frequent visitor card and getting a free, all expenses paid night in the slammer.

OK, so maybe the Rebels (1-2) present two kinds of danger. They also present a daunting on-field task this week. The rationale? It's do or die for the Rebels. With losses already to an FCS team in Jacksonville State and a usual SEC doormat in Vanderbilt, Ole Miss already has an uphill climb just to become bowl eligible. A loss to Fresno State may very well bury the spirit of the Rebels, making this game the potential turning point in their season and thus, making them as dangerous as they're gonna be.

The stupid elephant in the room

There is one BCS conference left in the world that hasn't been blessed with a loss at the hands of Fresno State — the SEC. That's right, of all the "helmet scalps" the Bulldogs have collected and displayed on the walls of their football complex, none come from the dirty south.

That seems to be a valid enough reason to identify the elephant, who probably has a secret or two to share with Kool-Aid on how to enter a room quietly.

Rebel depression: what Ole Miss fans are saying

The words Fresno State haven't been thrown around much this week by the Rebel faithful. When they have, it is usually as the final accessory to a full-fledged meltdown. Good news san jose state fans, you no longer have to feel alone.

Message boards are full of "what if we fire this coach" topics, I give up claims and overall general confusion about the current state of the Rebels.

The flagship blog for Ole Miss is Red Cup Rebellion of the SB Nation family of blogs. Nowhere have the losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt been more heartfelt than by the younger community of Rebels. All week long, these guys have been sorting through the debris of depression, hoping to find the source of the wildfire. The result has been almost a week's worth of ignoring the opponent that will provide them with the toughest, most physical game they will play all year.

To get an idea of exactly how much these guys new about Fresno State this year, I tuned into their weekly Red Cup Radio podcast. Essentially, during the Fresno State portion of the show, the guys read off stats from the stat sheet and declared which players are starters and what they're capable of based on this. That led to them thinking things like A.J. Ellis missed last week's game and that Ryan Colburn is a dangerous dual threat quarterback. Still, they're probably more reliable than Wes Bunting.

All in all, Rebel fans are dazed, confused and talking each other off of the ledge that each of them is standing on. An Ole Miss win will bring hope. An Ole Miss loss will produce record alcohol sales.

Fresno State players with extra important roles

Ryan Colburn + A.J. Johnson/Jalen Saunders/Matt Lindsey: Colburn will need to find at least one other go-to receiver to distribute the ball to in this game, as Devon Wylie remains out and Rashad Evans is doubtful for this game. Colburn is also facing a defense that has struggled defending the big play at times, and like the Bulldogs defense, has yet to intercept a pass this season.

Jermaine Thomas and/or Desia Dunn: Thomas and Dunn are each responsible for their respective sides of the field, so whomever receives the assignment of the Rebels' Markeith Summers has his work cut out. Summers is a 6'3" big-play receiver who has 10 catches for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns this season.

Fresno State offensive line: Ole Miss is giving up more than 140 rushing yards per game, an average accumulated by the trio of Jacksonville State, Tulane and Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs have yet to have true success running the ball in their previous SEC meetings, and will need to do so this game to keep the defense fresh and out of the humidity, maintain possession and provide the option for big plays in the run game should Colburn fail to find suitable receiving options. The Bulldogs will also plug in Leslie Cooper — who is replacing All-American Andrew Jackson — at right guard for his first start of the 2010 season. Those nervous about Cooper's performance need not worry, you don't name a man Leslie unless you know he can physically dominate other humans or that he'll be the future star of The Naked Gun series.

*Wildcard pick — Derron Smith: Fresno State strong safety Lorne Bell practiced all week, but without contact. His status is still unknown for this game and his replacement is a true freshman in Derron Smith. Smith is faster than Bell and a better defender against the pass, but he has never seen game action for the Bulldogs as a safety. If Smith's first plays at SS come on the road in an SEC venue, his performance will be something to keep an eye on.

Intangible factors

Some of the intangible factors for a Fresno State game are constants, but the significance of their role varies from game to game and opponent to opponent. Come to think of it, that's probably the reason they're called intangibles.

Fresno State players live for games like this. Fans like me live for every game, meaning I also live for games like this. What does that mean? It means I, along with however many Fresno State players, coaches and fans in Mrs. Sippi, will be oozing with the bravado and machismo Fresno State is known for. Fear, confidence and effort will not be a factor. That can't be a bad thing right?

Both Fresno State and Ole Miss combine for a grand total of 0 interceptions through five games. However, Ryan Colburn and Jeremiah Masoli have combined to throw 6 this season. A struggling Rebels team could use the extra possessions to get right and a resurgent Bulldogs defense could use the turnovers to get over a major turnover hurdle. Does this stat even matter? And if so, who needs it more?

On offense and defense, Fresno State's strengths and weaknesses have been the exact inverse of the Ole Miss strengths and weaknesses. The Rebels have been stronger in the first half on all accounts, while Fresno State has largely been a second half team. This trend offers an interesting contrast in styles. 

The Ole Miss tangible factor

Jonathan Cornell: The senior from California has been a one man wrecking crew on defense. How the Bulldogs handle him could determine how well-oiled the offense can be. So far this season, Cornell has  collected 27 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 pass break ups and 1 forced fumble. 

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium: Home of the Rebels

Ole Miss is best known for having the best tailgating experience around in The Grove. Fans dress up and congregate in huge numbers, in a nice setting, doing fun things, apparently. 

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium seats 60,580 fans. According to Phil Steele's 2010 homefield advantage formula, that number is part of what makes up a 3.75 point homefield advantage for the Rebels, good for 62nd-best in the country.
In contrast, Fresno State's Bulldog Stadium is credited with a 4 point homefield advantage by Steele, 46th-best in the country.

The stadium does, however, possess a 48 ft x 84 ft video board, a $6 million dollar gem that should provide great high-definition replays of the SEC officiating crew's homer-jobs. The Rebels also play on an artificial FieldTurf surface, one of the few teams in the SEC to do so.

Bottom line: Fresno State has played in the toughest stadium's in the country, and Vaught-Hemingway isn't one of them. Noise won't be a factor, and intimidation won't be a factor. But at least the Fresno State fans making the trip to Oxford have a nice place tailgate right outside of it.

Injuries Schminjuries

  • Devon Wylie: Wylie injured his foot in the opener, and has since had surgery to correct the problem.
  • Andrew Jackson: Jack suffered a high ankle sprain against utah state and also had minor surgery.
  • Rashad Evans: Shad has been nursing a hamstring injury all week. He's been practicing this week, but only minimally, and hasn't tested it with the same explosiveness he uses in games quite yet.
  • Lorne Bell: Bell appears to be making a quick recovery from a shoulder injury, also against the aggies. He says he'll be good to go, but coaches haven't confirmed it quite yet. He'll be evaluated in Mississippi when the team arrives to see if he's a go.
  • Robbie Rouse: Mighty Mouse has been practicing at full speed after taking much of the last two weeks off to recover from shoulder and ankle injuries. Rouse will be ready to go, and at best will share carries with A.J. Ellis and Tracy Slocum.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

FRESNO STATE (1-0) at Utah State (1-1)

Bulldogs at Aggies
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Romney Stadium (25,513)

It’s far too early to talk about national stats leaders, but Fresno State senior QB Ryan Colburn (6-3, 220) leads the WAC and is second in the NCAA with a 208.1 passer rating after one game. It was well documented during fall camp that Colburn looked different — improved passer with more command — in practice and if the season-opening 28-14 win over two-time defending Big East champ Cincinnati is any indication, those observations were correct. Colburn was 18 of 24 for 247 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception. Last year he was a manageable QB – this year he might be the type of QB who can carry a team to victory.

It’s widely known by now how lethal senior Diondre Borel (6-0, 190) can be, especially for a defense like Fresno State’s that has traditionally struggled against mobile QBs. And Borel is as mobile as they come – even on a ‘Dogs schedule that also includes Zach Collaros (Cincinnati), Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss) and Colin Kaepernick (Nevada). But Borel can also throw it, as his 596 yards and 3 touchdowns in two games this year shows. He’s completed 61% of his passes, but has tossed 3 picks. The Bulldogs’ defense is familiar with what Borel can do (he’s caused it fits two straight years) and have a lot of respect for his ability. Last year against the ‘Dogs, Borel threw for 240 yards and ran for 105. This game will go a long way toward determining which school has the better QB.
Edge: Even

Running Backs
The Bulldogs endured some tough-to-swallow news this week when Pat Hill announced starting RB sophomore Robbie Rouse (5-7, 185) won’t play on Saturday because of injury. Rouse had a disappointing opener, averaging just 2 yards per carry, but that may have been more the fault of the offensive line than Rouse. With one elusive sophomore sidelined, another elusive sophomore gets his first career start in A.J. Ellis (5-11, 180). Ellis had 1 carry for 6 yards out of the “hound” formation (Fresno State’s wildcat) in the opener, and has just 3 runs for 13 yards in his career. He spent most of camp as the fourth-string back, but is a danger in the passing game, especially out of shotgun formation. Thanks to being healthier than his teammates on the unit, he’s shot up the depth chart and will have a chance to emerge as an every-down runner. That said, expect senior Tracy Slocum (5-10, 205), a Fresno native who transferred from Cal, to get his first action in Bulldog Red. He sat out the opener with turf toe but is expected back for Utah State. Slocum rushed for 125 yards in 2008 for Cal. Slocum’s power running game should be the perfect ingredient to mix in with Ellis’ speed. Sophomore Michael Harris (5-10, 200) is the other back to keep an eye on. He’s been a stud the past two years in scrimmages, and should see his most significant playing time. Harris had 11 carries for 26 yards against UC Davis last year.

Utah State also has been hit hard by injury at RB, as returning 1,000-yard rusher Robert Turbin (138 yards against the ‘Dogs last year) is out for the season. There’s no doubt the Aggies would like to establish the run on Saturday, something they haven’t been as successful with as they’d like. But the cupboard’s not empty – in fact, it’s running back by committee. Senior starter Michael Smith (5-9, 195) leads the team with 134 yards rushing (6.7 per carry) and senior Derrvin Speight (5-9, 209) isn’t far behind with 121 yards (4.2 per carry). Second-string sophomore Kerwynn Williams (5-9, 185) has just 32 yards on 7 rushes.
Edge: Even

The injury bug hit Fresno State even harder at WR, though there’s more depth. Senior Devon Wylie (5-9, 185), the fastest WR in school history with a 4.25 40-yard dash, had foot surgery and could miss half or all of the season. Wylie made two spectacular catches in the opener, including a 28-yard, leaping touchdown in double coverage. The most comparable replacement option, as far as skill set, is true freshman Jalen Saunders (5-9, 160), who had an 18-yard grab in his first college game. Saunders doesn’t quite have Wylie speed (in the 40 at least), but he’ll be one of the school’s fastest ever by the time his career is over, and is already a major deep threat. Redshirt freshman A.J. Johnson (6-0, 180) and junior J.J. Stallworth (5-11, 185) are the other options. Neither has a college catch yet, but Hill is very high on Johnson’s potential and Stallworth has the bloodlines (younger brother of NFL’s Donte Stallworth). The two sure things for the ‘Dogs will be junior Jamel Hamler (6-2, 195) and sophomore Rashad Evans (5-9, 180). Hamler had a highlight touchdown grab in the opener, jumping backward in traffic in the corner of the end zone, and Evans sprinted up the seam for a 59-yard score of his own. The two combined for 9 catches and 124 yards. Hamler was second on the team with 503 yards and 5 touchdowns last season.

Junior Utah State WR Matt Austin (6-2, 198) was expected to be Borel’s top target this season but was lost to a knee injury against Oklahoma after making 1 catch for 59 yards. Austin was predicted as WAC newcomer of the year by Blue Ribbon’s preseason magazine. Now, the Aggies will roll with sophomore Dontel Watkins (6-2, 193) and junior Xavier Martin (5-11, 195), who lead the team with 139 and 114 yards respectively. Each had a touchdown. Watch also for freshman Travis Reynolds (6-0, 169) who has 7 catches for 70 yards. This group came up with some big catches against Oklahoma’s secondary, but may have tougher sledding against a Bulldogs unit that looks much improved in press coverage and tackling.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
The biggest shock of the opener was the line’s poor performance in the running game, allowing the team to rush for just 1.6 yards per carry – when’s the last time that happened? With five returning starters, and a boatload of depth returning, don’t expect to see that again. The line has three legit first-team All-WAC candidates in RG Andrew Jackson (6-6, 295), RT Kenny Wiggins (6-7, 315) and C Joey Bernardi (6-2, 285). Jackson was a first-team honoree last season and is an All-America candidate, while Wiggins earned second-team All-WAC.

Utah State’s line is holding up well after two games, helping the rushing attack average 4.2 yards per carry and allowing just 4 sacks. And that’s with two seniors, two juniors and a freshman, Tyler Larsen (6-4, 298), starting at center. The biggest question is whether the Aggies tackles can slow Fresno State’s edge pass rush. And Larsen will have his hands full with the Bulldogs’ big, veteran interior linemen.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
If the defensive front continues to play with the type of tenacity it had against Cincinnati, the Bulldogs are on their way to a big, big season. Junior DT Logan Harrell (6-2, 275) had one of the most unsuspected breakout performances in Hill’s tenure, recording 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss against mobile Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros. Senior DE Chris Carter (6-2, 240) was just as ruthless with 3 sacks and 3 tackles for loss. Both also forced fumbles. Carter will be a mismatch for his counterpart all season with his speed off the edge, and Harrell should have opportunities with the amount of attention senior DT Cornell Banks (6-3, 310) will command at scrimmage. And if senior DE Chris Lewis (6-3, 260) plays with a high motor, this front four will rival Boise State’s for best in the WAC. A leaner Lewis added 0.5 sacks and 3 tackles in the opener.

To put into perspective how well the Bulldogs front four played in their opener, Utah State’s front four combines for just 1.5 sacks – less than two individual Bulldogs have on their own in one game. Though senior DT Sean Enesi (5-11, 286) is a team captain, his battery mate senior DT Daniel Gurrola (6-1, 282) has been the most impressive so far with 8 tackles and a sack. Enesi has four tackles, but will try to clog the middle against a Bulldogs’ offensive line that owns a tremendous size advantage.
Edge: Bulldogs

Another breakout occurred at LB with a speedier, lean sophomore SLB Travis Brown (6-2, 235), a former four-star recruit who played as a reserve as a true freshman last season. Brown was second on the team with 8 tackles in the opener, including a sack for an 8-yard loss out of zone coverage. His closing speed in reacting to developing plays is night-and-day from last season. And, of course, Utah State will have to deal with returning first-team All-WAC senior MLB Ben Jacobs (6-4, 240), who had 7 tackles against Cincinnati and has more than 300 in his career.

Another hard-hit injury position could be LB for the Aggies, with standout junior Junior Keiaho (6-3, 243) in doubt for Saturday. Keiaho has 5 tackles, a sack and a pick this year. Junior rover Bobby Wagner (6-1, 230) leads the team with 18 tackles and junior Kyle Gallagher (6-0, 214) is tied for second with 13 stops.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Backs
Another position, another breakout performance – and this one was predicted many months ago by The Bounce. Sophomore CB Jermaine Thomas (5-11, 190) emerged as the team’s first true lockdown corner in years. He’s strong enough to play physical, press coverage that ‘Dogs fans aren’t used to seeing and had 5 tackles in his first career start. When his man makes a catch, Thomas makes the tackle – and quick. His own team often avoided throwing his way throughout fall camp scrimmage situations. And how ‘bout senior CB Desia Dunn (5-9, 195) showing he could get up to scrimmage and play physical at times too? Dunn led the team with 11 tackles and delivered the biggest hit of the night, popping his own helmet off in the process. The ‘Dogs are very strong at safety as well, with the run stuffer and hardest hitter in senior FS Lorne Bell (5-10, 210) and sophomore SS Phillip Thomas (6-1, 205), who has good enough coverage skills to play nickelback. Thomas is an upgrade over the departed Moses Harris, who was a two-time All-WAC honoree.

A local native has emerged as one of Utah State’s top CBs in senior Curtis Marsh (6-1, 193) of Golden Valley High-Merced. He has 8 tackles along with senior CB Chris Randle (5-11, 187), who also has 0.5 sacks and an interception. The Aggies have 4 picks on the young season. Junior SS Walter McClenton (5-11, 193) is tied for second on the team with 13 tackles. The Aggies like to play physical, pressure defense against the pass, a characteristic of coach Gary Andersen, and will challenge the Bulldogs wideouts early.
Edge: Bulldogs

Special Teams
With Wylie out in the return game, true freshman WR Isaiah Burse (5-11, 180) is listed as kick returner along with Hamler. Hamler is likely to be used as a blocker. Evans will assume punt return duties (as he should have in the first place). After one game, the ‘Dogs have to be pleased with P Andrew Shapiro, who averaged 40 yards on 8 punts, including 2 inside the 20. It was also encouraging to see LB Kyle Knox flying downfield in kick coverage and making big tackles. That enthusiasm is contagious. Junior K Kevin Goessling didn’t attempt a field goal in the opener, but Utah State fans remember him well for nailing a game-winning 58-yarder (Fresno State all-time record) in the Bulldogs’ last trip to Logan in 2008. Goessling is up for the Lou Groza Award once again this year as the nation’s top kicker.

Utah State boasts perhaps the WAC’s most powerful punter in senior Peter Caldwell (6-4, 228), who averages 46.3 yards per attempt and has booted 4 of 9 punts more than 50 yards and placed 4 inside the 20. Caldwell is 2 of 4 on field goals, with a long of 40 yards. Kerwynn Williams averages 28.7 yards per kick return, and 11 yards per punt return. It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on him as the Bulldogs shut down Cincinnati in kick and punt coverage. If the game comes down to a field goal, it’ll be the Bulldogs’ advantage.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State coach Pat Hill is the grandfather of WAC coaches in his 14th season at Fresno State, and has won 101 games. He has a ton of respect for Utah State after seeing them play the ‘Dogs so closely the past two seasons and should have the team amped up for the game. Utah State coach Gary Andersen has this program looking better than it ever has in the WAC – which has never been good – in just his second season. His a defensive-minded coach and nearly led the Aggies to a season-opening win at Oklahoma.
Edge: Bulldogs

If ever there were some intangibles to talk about – whew! With Fresno State accepting an offer to join the Mountain West Conference, Utah State and the other remaining WAC schools feel betrayed. And the ‘Dogs better believe they’ll use it for motivation, and the fans will feed off it in Logan. Romney Stadium seats only 25,513, but the students are great fans at Utah State and will make plenty of noise to create a hostile road environment. That said, Fresno State is well aware of how dangerous the Aggies’ offense can be, and won’t be caught off guard. There’s a lot on the line for the Bulldogs, who could very well move into the Top 25 with a win (they’re currently 27th in the AP poll).
Edge: Aggies
**Photos by Cary Edmondson

Ryan Mathews is the next American Idol

With this sterling rendition of "Fight Varsity," the storied Fresno State fight song, how could he not be!? Fast forward to 1:16 to see Mathews and avoid the sucky parts of the video.

Now, strike up the music:

Utah State Film Room

OK, so it's always tough to get a true feel for a game based on one team's highlight package, but take a gander at Utah State in its opener at No. 7 Oklahoma to get an idea for what the Aggies do:

Then take a look at the highlight package from the Oklahoma perspective to get an idea of how Utah State is vulnerable:

Then take a look at this distraught Oklahoma fan after the game (I don't advise watching more than a few seconds) for kicks and giggles:

Sunday, September 12, 2010


With heartbreaking news reported by The Fresno Bee tonight that senior WR Devon Wylie's foot bone bruise might be a whole lot more serious, the Bulldogs have to prepare for Saturday's huge WAC opener at Utah State without the fastest player in school history.

Wylie had 2 catches for 39 yards, including a 28-yard leaping touchdown between two defenders (pictured above courtesy of our Cary Edmondson) in the Bulldogs' 28-14 victory over Cincinnati.

The injury is not a good sign for an offense with just two other experienced WRs -- Jamel Hamler and Rashad Evans -- but if there's any position on the field positioned with enough depth to make up for injury, wideout might be the one. Speed wise, true freshman Jalen Saunders is the first thought in mind, but he's only played one college game.

Do you think someone can step in and fill Wylie's shoes? If so, who? If not, what's your prediction for Saturday's game?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Grading the 'Dogs (1-0) vs. Cincinnati (0-1)

FRESNO STATE 28, Cincinnati 14

Quarterbacks: B+
Overall a great game for Ryan Colburn, but a couple poor decisions keep the performance from being an A, namely when Colburn tried to throw under pressure near his own goal line and fumbled. If Cincinnati would have recovered -- tragic. But Colburn gave fans a taste of what he'll be capable of this season, throwing for 247 yards, 4 TDs and 1 interception on 18 of 24 passing. The 'Dogs can rely on their QB to lead them to victory again. As soon as the coaching staff stopped calling for short, quick passing plays and spread the defense, Colburn took over.

Running Backs: C-
It's difficult to even give a grade here. The numbers were abysmal, as Robbie Rouse averaged just 2 yards per carry in his first game as full-time starter (20 carries, 40 yards) with a long of 5. But Rouse never really had a chance to run in space with multiple defenders all over him everywhere he went (he did score the first TD with a 20-yard catch). It'll help the 'Dogs to get Tracy Slocum back from injury, and get A.J. Ellis and Michael Harris more involved to give the defense different looks. Don't count on the running game struggling again like this unless it's against Boise State.

Receivers: A
Lose 3 WRs to the NFL? Eh, no problem. The 'Dogs got some help from Colburn's accuracy, but both Jamel Hamler and Devon Wylie made outrageous leaping TD catches in traffic. And Rashad Evans led the corps with 4 catches for 71 yards, including a 59-yard TD up the seam. Shout out to true freshman Jalen Saunders with an 18-yard diving catch to jump-start his career.

Offensive Line: C-
The biggest shocker of the game had to be the o-line, considered hands down the strength of the team with all five starters returning. But the left side had a particularly bad day with Devan Cunningham and Bryce Harris struggling to handle their counterparts. The run blocking was non-existent, but the pass blocking was solid (2 sacks), making for a slightly below average game. Another performance like that and we might see Matt Hunt starting sooner than later.

Defensive Line: A+
Who woulda thunk it!? The defense, by far the team's biggest concern the past three seasons, answers 2010 questions with a statement game. It was led by constant pressure -- on a no-huddle spread offense by the way -- predominantly using a four-man rush. DT Logan Harrell had twice as many sacks (4) as he had all last season. Chris Carter added 3, Chris Lewis 1 and the team had 8 total, after recording just 11 last year. And don't forget Carter's forced fumble, recovered by Donnie Pritchett in his first game as a 'Dog.

Linebackers: A
Standing out above all else at the position was Travis Brown, who showed newfound speed and recorded his first career sack. Brown was second on the team with 8 tackles, followed by Ben Jacobs' 7 and Kyle Knox's 5 (most came on special teams). The athleticism is much improved here, especially when considering the second team reserves.

Defensive Backs: A-
Cincinnati's two first-half TDs probably had more to do with a tired Bulldogs defense (because the offense couldn't move the ball early) than anything else. S Lorne Bell was fooled on a route to the end zone, but the game was full of highlights. None stood out more than CB Desia Dunn's helmet-popper-offer hit on a receiver as soon as the ball was delivered. And while Dunn led the team with 11 tackles, first-time starter CB Jermaine Thomas showed why we've been hyping him since last season. He was locked on receivers all evening. And don't forget about the big upgrade at safety with Phillip Thomas in the starting role.

Special Teams: B+
Converted P Andrew Shapiro was flatout robbed of WAC player of the week honors. The guy was a walk-on, backup kicker thrust into the starting punter role when Matt Darr bailed on his committment. All Shapiro did was average 40 yards on 8 punts, pinning 2 inside the 20. Knox was a tackling demon (love him in that role) and Pat Su'a was a gut-buster.

Friday, September 10, 2010

WAC Rundown Week 2

Hawaii (0-1) @ Army (1-0)
Saturday, 9 a.m., CBSCS
Last week: USC 49, Hawaii 36 / Army 31, Eastern Michigan 27
This ain't (is that a word?) the same Bryant Moniz we saw last year QBin' Hawaii. He was well on pace to throw for 300 yards against USC in a 13-point loss last week before getting hurt. The question is, will he play this week? Strangely, there's no word one way or another on Hawaii's game notes (seems suspicious). Last time Army faced the Warriors, Hawaii set a school record for yardage in a blowout win in 2003. This time it's in the eastern time zone, the farthest from home Hawaii has been since 1975. But something tells me even if backup QBs Brent Rausch or Shane Austin have to play, the Warriors' offense will be too much.
Prediction: Hawaii

San Jose State (0-1) @ No. 11 Wisconsin (1-0)
Saturday, 9 a.m., ESPN
Last week: No. 1 Alabama 48, San Jose State 3 / No. 12 Wisconsin 41, UNLV 21
Credit San Jose State for playing a mighty tough non-conference schedule, but this is different than Fresno State scheduling tough early-season games -- for the Spartans they're body-baggers. San Jose State has lost 13 straight games against ranked opponents, and the closest its come in its last six road games against Top 25 teams was a 42-7 loss at then-No. 21 Boise State in 2007. We still don't know if Wisconsin is for real this year, but it's definitely for real enough to brutalize San Jose State at Camp Randall.
Prediction: Wisconsin

Idaho (1-0) @ No. 6 Nebraska (1-0)
Saturday, 9:30 a.m., FSNPPV
Last week
: Idaho 45, North Dakota 0 / No. 8 Nebraska 49, Western Kentucky 10
Don't be overly fooled by Idaho's beatdown of a non-FBS team last week. The Vandals won't have as good a record as they did last season, even though they've got similar talent (sans first-round pick Mike Iupati of the 49ers). Nebraska has its most hype in about a decade and will overwhelm Idaho in Lincoln.
Prediction: Nebraska

Louisiana Tech (1-0) @ Texas A&M (1-0)
Saturday, 6 p.m., None
Last week
: Louisiana Tech 20, Grambling State 6 / Texas A&M 48, Stephen F. Austin 7
The Male Techsters are still trying to figure out their own offense under first-year coach Sonny Dykes, who aims to spread it out more than his predecessor (he is a disciple of Mike Leach after all). With transfers all over the offense at skill positions, La Tech didn't have much to show for it against weak competition in its opener. And starting QB Ross Jenkins threw for just 101 yards, though he was efficient going 15 of 19. It'd be a shocker if this Tech team was up to par for a game in College Station. Oh, and Texas A&M is 9-0 all-time against the Dude Techsters, including a 45-14 beating in 2006.
Prediction: Texas A&M

San Diego State (1-0) @ New Mexico State (0-0)
Saturday, 5 p.m., AggieVision/Altitude 2/ESPN GamePlan
Last week
: San Diego State 47, Nicholls State 0 / New Mexico State bye
Get ready to rub your eyes, wait for the blurriness to subside and repeat. San Diego State is about to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 1994. New Mexico State is one of just three FBS teams that didn't play last week, so we don't really know what to expect -- well, besides its usual loss in a football game.
Prediction: San Diego State

Idaho State (1-0) @ Utah State (1-0)
Saturday, 5 p.m., None
Last week
: Idaho State 32, Montana-Western 3 / No. 7 Oklahoma 31, Utah State 24
If this game were on TV, I'd say tune in Fresno State fans. But it's not so I can't. The Bulldogs play the Aggies in Logan next week -- the same Aggies team that darn near pulled off its greatest win ever at Oklahoma last week. But they didn't. And now they go to the other side of the college football spectrum to play Idaho State. The only way Idaho State slows QB Diondre Borel enough to win this one is if the Aggies look real, real quick at the ISU logo (depicting a tiger) and mistake it for LSU (you know, because lower case 'l' looks like upper case "I"). Let's see how this strategy works out for them ...
Prediction: Utah State

Colorado State (0-1) @ Nevada (1-0)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU
Last week
: Colorado 24, Colorado State 3 / Nevada 49, Eastern Washington 24
A rough, rather embarrassing start for Colorado State last week heading into a game against arguably a better team in Nevada. But the Rams beat Nevada last season (somehow). Wolf Pack QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Vai Taua had better not slip up again this season. With Kaepernick departing, who knows when the Wolf Pack will have another chance to compete for a conference crown? The Rams are starting true freshman QB Pete Thomas, and have lost 10 straight since beating Nevada last season.
Prediction: Nevada

Bye: Fresno State, Boise State

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fresno State GameDay: Week 1

September 4, 2010
Fresno State (0-0) vs. cincinnati (0-0)
Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
Fresno, Ca
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: KMJ 580 AM and Sports USA Radio Network