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.

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