Bulldogs won’t back down
Fresno State has another kill or be killed nonconference schedule to open the season; games against Rutgers, Wisconsin, Toledo and UCLA.
Bulldogs coach Pat Hill still prescribes to the philosophy of anyone, anywhere when it comes to matchmaking. But Hill has also learned the hard way that the emotional highs and lows of such undertakings can destroy a team's psychological underpinnings. There are some who say Fresno State never recovered from its near upset of USC in 2005, after which the 'Dogs tailspinned.
If Fresno State comes out of the preconference games in the proper frame of mind, many see no reason whiy it shouldn't win the WAC. The Bulldogs open league play hosting Hawaii Oct. 4 in a game that will almost surely knock one or the other out of conference championship contention.
In 2001, the David Carr led team started out by knocking off the big names from the big conferences, but on its way to national prominence forgot to win the WAC as Boise State and then UH blindsided the Bulldogs.
Hill looks to the on-field leadership of quarterback Tom Brandstater and 15 other returning starters to avoid the same fate.
FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS
Coach: Pat Hill (85-55)
2007 record: 9-4, 6-2 WAC (tied for 3rd)
Hawaii series: FSU leads 20-19-1
"We have to look at it maintaining the same level of focus week to week, regardless of who we are playing," Hill said.
But he added that he doesn't plan on watering down the schedule in the future.
"That's our niche."
Brandstater said he wouldn't prefer to have a warm-up game against an FCS team rather than traveling across the country to take on a rising power such as Rutgers (this game, by the way, was an ESPN-brokered replacement for a late pullout by Kansas State from the Fresno State schedule).
"I wouldn't have it any other way," he said. "When I look back on my college career, I want to know that I played the best teams possible. The best way to gauge yourself and figure out where you're at is to play against the best. That's a barometer for college football. So I wouldn't change it at all."
Brandstater finished well last season, earning MVP honors at the Humanitarian Bowl, where the Dogs beat Georgia Tech 40-28, finishing the season with nine wins.
Brandstater, who passed for 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions last year, has plenty of top-notch weapons to work with, including running backs Lonyae Miller and Ryan Matthews and tight end Bear Pascoe.
The defense has plenty of experience, with tacke Jon Monga plugging holes and creating havoc to set the tone.