WAC notebook: Fresno State is the pick of coaches

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY " Save for an ugly 2006 season, the Fresno State Bulldogs have been one of the best football programs in the Western Athletic Conference.

The only thing missing since the new millenium is a WAC football title. In fact, the Bulldogs have not won an outright title in coach Pat Hill's 11-year tenure as head coach, though the Bulldgs did tie for the WAC title in 1999 with Hawaii and TCU.

The wait may be over for the Bulldogs, who were tabbed by the WAC coaches as the preseason favorite. The results of the poll were announced on the first day of the WAC Media Day festivities.

Fresno State received seven of the nine first-place votes and a total of 63 votes. Boise State received the other two first-place votes and 57 total points.

Nevada (43), Hawaii (41), Louisiana Tech (33), San Jose State (33), New Mexico State (26), Idaho (15) and Utah State (13) round out the selections by the conference coaches.

Converseley, the 45 media members have the Bulldogs in second behind Boise State, which was dethroned by Hawaii last season and lost nearly all of its starting offensive linemen.

Boise State received 25 first-place votes from the media and 383 points, while FSU garnered 20 first-place votes and 379 points. Nevada (296), Hawaii (243), Louisiana Tech (209), San Jose State (183), New Mexico State (167), Idaho (87) and Utah State (78) round out the media's poll.

It's hard not to like Fresno State, which has gone to eight bowl games in Hill's previous 11 years. The Bulldogs return QB Tom Brandstater (2,654 yards, 15 TDs) as well as running backs Ryan Mathews (868 yards, 14 TDs) and Lonyae Miller (609-7) plus tight end Bear Pascoe (553-4). Also, the Bulldogs lost just one starter from a talented offensive line.

"I think about it some, but it doesn't really mean anything," Brandstater said.

JOHNSON, ELIMIMIAN HONORED

Boise State running back Ian Johnson and Hawaii linebacker Solomon Elimimian were named the WAC's preseason offensive and defensive players of the year by the media covering the WAC.

Johnson, a senior, is the top returning running back in the country with 3,417 career rushing yards and 46 touchdowns. He ran for 1,041 yards and 16 scores last year. Johnson is 12 scores short of the all-time record held by Marshall Faulk of San Diego State.

Elimimian was a first-team all-WAC performer last year and a key figure in the Warriors' run to the WAC title.

He led the team with 141 stops, including 12 behind the line of scrimmage. His 313 career stops are the seventh-most in WAC history and 130 shy of tying ex-UTEP star Robert Roriguez.

BOWL REPS IN THE HOUSE

Members of the Rose, Fiesta, Orange, New Mexico and Roadys bowl committees are in attendance.

"It gives us a chance to meet the coaches (and others) from the conference," said Steve Horrell, a member of the Fiesta Bowl.

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