BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
Big-time quarterbacks usually play their best in important games. You can put Tom Brandstater in that elite class.
Brandstater enjoyed three of his best games of the season when he led Fresno State to wins over New Mexico State, Kansas State and Georgia Tech to finish the 2007 season with a flourish and a 9-4 overall record.
All Brandstater did was complete 56 of 78 passes for 803 yards, two scores and no interceptions. Unless you are running the option, few quarterbacks can go three games without throwing an interception.
The senior-to-be ended 2007 with 2,654 yards and 15 scores with just five interceptions. His QB rating went from 135.5 in 2006 to 204.2 in 2007.
His improvement has been noticeable since coming to Fresno State in 2004.
"We (the team) want to build off last year," Brandstater said at the recent WAC Football Preview. "We played very well at the end of the season, including the bowl game (40-28 win over Georgia Tech).
"It's been night and day. The first couple of years I wasn't ready to play. I needed to have some struggles to find myself. I'm glad I went through it. I'm better for it."
Brandstater saw limited action as a redshirt freshman in 2005, seeing action in eight games and throwing only 13 passes. He took over the starting job in 2006, but that turned out to be a season he would love to forget.
After leading the Bulldogs to a season-opening win over Nevada, the season started going south a couple of weeks later. Injuries took away his three top receivers, and the Bulldogs slipped to a 4-8 record, the worst in Pat Hill's tenure.
Brandstater did complete 54.5 percent of his passes, but threw for only 1,490 yards and 13 TDs. He threw 14 interceptions.
"That is a distant memory," Brandstater said. "Everything we tried blew up in our faces. It was tough to get through. We had a lot of young players that had to play because of injuries."
According to Hill, that season may have matured Brandstater.
"He didn't point fingers, and he could have," Hill said. "He kept trying out there. A quarterback has to have a supporting cast. He lost his top three receivers. The only weapon we had was Dwayne Wright."
After blowout losses to Hawaii, LSU and Boise State, the offense started to improve. Brandstater guided the young Bulldogs to wins over New Mexico State, Idaho and Louisiana Tech before San Jose State dealt FSU a loss in the final game of the season.
What made Brandstater's job easier in 2007 is the Bulldogs' strong running game led by Ryan Mathews, Anthony Harding and Lonyae Miller. Their ability to run and Brandstater's accuracy (63 percent last year) keep defenses on their heels.
Obviously the Bulldogs hope that trend continues this year, and if it does the Bulldogs could win their first-ever outright WAC title and go to a BCS game.
- Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281
THE BRANDSTATER FILE
Hometown: Turlock, Calif.
Year in school: Starting graduate school