Editor's note: This is the eighth in a series of 12 articles on Hawaii's opponents for the 2005 football season. Tomorrow: Nevada.
The "Red Mile" isn't quite a mile, but it seems like one for football teams visiting Fresno State. They negotiate it to get into Bulldog Stadium, all along the way absorbing taunts from the FSU faithful.
Or maybe not so faithful.
"You think that's bad, you should see how it is on the way out for us after a home loss," Bulldogs coach Pat Hill quipped at the Western Athletic Conference media day last month.
Hill and his team have dealt with that rarely, losing just once a year at home the past four seasons; UTEP in 2004, Boise State in 2003, Hawaii in 2002 and Boise State in 2001.
The 2005 WAC championship may well be determined at Bulldog Stadium; the Broncos, favored to win the league a fourth straight time, travel to Fresno for a Thursday game Nov. 10. Boise State starts the season ranked 18th and Fresno State 24th in the Associated Press poll.
As far as Hill is concerned, though, this is just one of 12 of what he calls "Game Sevens" on his 2005 regular-season schedule; in his mind, home against Utah State is as challenging as on the road at USC. He's taking this approach because of midseason letdowns in recent seasons.
After opening 2004 with big nonconference wins on the road that resulted in climbing the polls, FSU lost three in a row before winning its last six. Despite all the national attention, upsets and rankings, Fresno State hasn't won the WAC since 1999. And that was a shared experience with TCU and Hawaii.
The Bulldogs certainly have the talent to be on the same field as Oregon, Boise State and USC, the three toughest opponents this year by far.
Nearly the entire offense returns, including fourth-year starting quarterback Paul Pinegar, 80 percent of the line, three running backs who have rushed for at least 995 yards in a season (Bryson Sumlin, Wendell Mathis and Rodney Wright) and two of the top three receivers (Joe Fernandez and Adam Jennings).
Wright might not be back until midseason because of last year's knee injury, but Sumlin and Mathis proved last year they are more than capable.
They run behind a line featuring center Kyle Young (6-feet-5, 320 pounds) and left tackle Dartangon Shack (6-2, 280).
Pinegar hasn't always been appreciated by the Fresno State fans, but he is 3-0 in bowl games, including an MVP performance as FSU beat Virginia 37-34 in last year's MPC Computers Bowl. He passed for five touchdowns and no interceptions.
The seven returning starters on defense are led by lineman Garrett McIntyre (6-foot-3, 260), who will be moved to end so he can make more big plays. Cornerback Richard Marshall intercepted three passes last fall, taking two back for TDs.
Safety James Sanders left early for the NFL, but Tyrone Culver is back after finishing second on the team with 65 tackles.
Sophomore Clint Stitser is projected to replace departed Brett Visintainer at kicker, with Mike Lingua returning to punt.
Fresno State Bulldogs
9-3 (5-3 WAC)
Pat Hill (64-38)
||San Jose State
||W, 37-34 (OT)
||at New Mexico State
||San Jose State