WAC notebook: Fresno State turns it around
Appeal Sports Writer
One of the feel good stories in the Western Athletic Conference this year is the turnaround shown by Fresno State.
The Bulldogs went 4-8 last season, and already are 5-2 this season heading into Friday’s ESPN showdown against 6-1 Boise State. Both of Fresno’s losses came in nonconference games to Oregon and Texas A & M.
“We’re still a work in progress,” coach Pat Hill said during the WAC’s weekly teleconference. “We’re improving. This is a team that has lost nine starters due to season-ending injuries (from last year). This is a very resilient group.
“They are playing hard and with passion. We talked about getting better as a football team. We didn’t talk about wins and losses. We talked about Bulldog football.”
And, despite injuries on the offensive line, Fresno State has performed well on offense with Lonyae Miller and the ever-dangerous Ryan Mathews, who has already scored nine times this season. Tom Brandstater has been efficient at quarterback, and when you run the ball as well as Fresno State does, it’s all that you need.
“The change is in the results,” SJSU coach Dick Tomey said. “The kids are playing a lot harder, and Pat (Hill) is getting a lot out of them. The players are playing their butts off. The difference is they believe they can win.
“They have gotten confidence and they believe in each other. The differences I see are more emotional and mental.”
Tomey is one frustrated football coach, and you can’t blame him.
The Spartans have been one-dimensional the entire season with the loss of running backs Patrick Perry and Yonus Davis, and unless you are Hawaii, you won’t win a lot of football games if you can’t run the ball.
“I’ve never been in a game like that before,” Tomey said, referring to the Spartans’ 30-0 loss to San Jose State. “We had 36 snaps inside their 40 and didn’t score a point. From that standpoint, it was very frustrating.
“It was 6-0 at the half and the defense was terrific. We were driving the ball, but hadn’t taken advantage of opportunities.”
San Jose State rushed for around 140 yards, and 97 came from quarterback Adam Tafralis, who had some success scrambling and running some option.
Tomey said he welcomes the bye week. He said he and his staff will take a long look at what the Spartans are doing. No doubt you may see some wrinkles on both sides of the ball when San Jose State returns to action Nov. 3 at Boise State.
Apparently Ian Johnson, or somebody on the Boise State coaching staff felt that Nevada purposely went after Johnson during the recent four-overtime game on ESPN.
An item on the Idaho Statesman’s Web-site from a BSU fan said, “I was just wondering if anyone is going to look into the fact that Ian said that someone was taking cheap shots at him during the Nevada game. If it was the same person on every play, sounds like the coaches gave someone the charge to take out Ian. This is not part of any sport. If you are trying to hurt someone and not play the ball, NCAA should step in, kick this person off the team and never play football ever again.”
There was more, but this gives you readers a general idea. Obviously from a guy who only bleeds Boise State blue and nothing else.
In covering the Wolf Pack, not once have I ever heard the words cheap shot come out of Chris Ault’s mouth when a Wolf Pack player has been injured.
If Johnson or one of the coaches did indeed say something, it’s wrong. Don’t talk to the media about it. You have a gripe, send the tape to the league office, or if you are going to go public, name names.
If you can’t do that, keep your mouths closed, and that goes for writers and fans alike.
ALMOST MIRROR IMAGES CLASH
Expect to see at least 100 passes this week when undefeated Hawaii and New Mexico State collide.
Both schools employ spread offenses led by their quarterbacks (Colt Brennan of Hawaii and Chase Holbrook of New Mexico State), and both teams rely on the pass to set up any running opportunities.
“We both throw the ball well,” Hawaii coach June Jones said. “It’s two different schemes, but similar. They use a little more tight end and two-back sets. We use the tight end occasionally, but not very often.”
“We’re probably more similar than different,” NMSU coach Hal Mumme said. “We mix up sets more. We don’t roll the quarterback quite as much.”
Mumme added that Hawaii’s vertical game was probably better, but that his team’s horizontal package was a little bigger.
NMSU LOSES WEAPON
New Mexico State, which has been ravaged by injuries this season, lost star receiver/kick returner Chris Williams to a broken right collarbone in the first half of the win over Idaho.
Williams finished the season with 56 catches for 772 yards and 11 scores. Kenneth Buckley stepped in and caught two TD passes of 19 and 14 yards, respectively.
“Buckley stepped up and had some good catches,” Mumme said.
Davon House made his first start for New Mexico State a good one.
The freshman from Palmdale, Calif. , who was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Week, intercepted two passes and returned one of them 100 yards for a score in the Aggies’ 45-31 win over Idaho. He also had a 64-yard interception return.
Idaho trailed just 17-14 and had the ball at NMSU’s 6-yard line when House picked off a pass and brought it back for the score.
Fresno State punter Kyle Zimmerman was named the WAC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Zimmerman punted four times for a 49.8 average, including a career-high kick of 61 yards. San Jose State was ranked 10th nationally in punt returns entering the game, and the Spartans were unable to get a single return against the Bulldogs.