Closing time


POSTED: Friday, October 09, 2009

A few plays here, a few more plays there, and the Fresno State football team could've enjoyed its past bye week with a 4-0 record and likely spot in the Top 25 national rankings.

That's what Fresno State players and coaches believe.

If only they hadn't lost.

To Wisconsin 34-31. To Boise State 51-34. To Cincinnati 28-20.

Three emotional defeats for Fresno State. All were decided down the stretch when the Bulldogs failed to come up with big plays and instead made crucial mistakes.

“;I've liked the way we've played, but we haven't played well enough to win against these good teams,”; coach Pat Hill said. “;You've got to make more plays to win these games and you can't make mistakes against these types of teams. These aren't softies we're playing.”;

Fresno State (1-3), whose lone win came against season-opening opponent UC Davis, will try to end its three-game slide at Hawaii (2-2) on Saturday in what typically is a heated Western Athletic Conference rivalry. Except it hasn't been much of a rivalry when the game is played on Oahu, where Fresno State is 1-4 under Hill.

The last time Fresno State played at Aloha Stadium, then-Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan was knocked out of the game on a play that some Hawaii fans felt was a dirty hit by Bulldogs linebacker Marcus Riley. Still, the Warriors won that 2007 game 37-30.

“;They're going to write all about it, that Fresno State hasn't had much success on the island,”; Hill said. “;We need to turn that around. What we need to do is get back on track. These kids deserve to get in the win column. We've got to earn it. Doing it in Hawaii, that's a great setting.”;

Fresno State is not expected to make dramatic changes, even with some Bulldogs fans clamoring for a quarterback shuffling.

Junior first-year starting quarterback Ryan Colburn has completed 57 of 101 passes for 790 yards and seven touchdowns to seven interceptions.

But with Fresno State on a three-game slide, more fans have called for true freshman Derek Carr, the younger brother of former Fresno State great David Carr. He has played in only garbage time when Fresno State was handily beating UC Davis.

In addition, a growing number of Fresno State fans want to see what sophomore quarterback Ebahn Feathers can do with more playing time. Considered the fastest quarterback in Fresno State history, Feathers has been used in a change-of-pace role and for special packages.

Still, Colburn remains Fresno State's starter, Hill reiterated last week during Fresno State's bye.

“;He's doing fine,”; Hill said. “;He's done a lot of good things and a lot of what we've asked. But the interceptions have got to stop. Seven interceptions is far too many. He just needs to take the progression and stick with it.”;

Despite his interceptions, Colburn has brought a missing threat back to the Bulldogs offense in the deep ball, which is a reason Fresno State ranks seventh in the nation with 482.25 total yards per game and 24th at 34 points per game.

But the main factor to the Bulldogs' success on offense has been a ground game that ranks third in the nation at 274.75 yards a game.

Running back Ryan Mathews ranks second in the nation at 148 rushing yards per game. He has 87 carries for 592 yards and five touchdowns, including touchdown runs of 69, 60 and 68 yards.

“;He's a big-time running back,”; Hill said. “;We've got a big-time running back sitting right here in our program. He's running the ball well. And give some credit to the offensive line.”;

But Fresno State's slow start remains tied to Colburn's interceptions and an inconsistent defense that has yet come up with a key stop or key play.

In Fresno State's loss to Wisconsin, Colburn was intercepted three times.

The following week Colburn had an interception returned for a touchdown on Fresno State's opening drive. That same game, after Fresno State rallied to come within a touchdown of Boise State, the Bulldogs defense dropped a sure interception in the fourth quarter that could have swayed momentum in their favor.

Then, the week after in a loss to Cincinnati, Colburn was intercepted 6 yards from the end zone on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter. Had Colburn connected with his pass to the flat, Fresno State would have tied the game.

And through it all, the Bulldogs defense has yet to make a difference. The unit is tied for last in the nation with just two forced turnovers.

Fresno State ranks 74th with 370.25 total yards allowed per game and 87th with 28.25 points allowed per game.


Other stats

First Downs
» Rushing4118
» Passing3940
» Penalty73
» Penalties-yards21-18223-207 
» Avg. per game45.551.8
Total offense
» Total plays295226
» Avg. per play6.56.6
» Avg. per game482.2370.2
» Attempts187104
» Avg. per rush5.95.6
» Avg. per game274.8146.8
» Att.-Comp.-Int.108-60-7122-72-1
» Avg. per pass7.77.3
» Avg. per catch13.812.4
» Avg. per game207.5223.5

2009 individual leaders

Ryan Matthews487612205926.8569148.0
Ryan Colburn4131.157-101-756.4790792197.5
Seyi Ajirotutu41318314.123045.8
» Fresno State 246624157136
» Opponents 2438103110113