Fresno State actually handled Diondre Borel quite effectively. In spite of the fact that he is extremely difficult to corner, defending headhunters Chris Carter, Chris Lewis, Logan Harrell, Donnie Pritchett and Mark Roberts - with able assists from Travis Brown and both Phillip and Jermaine Thomas - well, they just chased him to a frazzle. They wore him out and, effectively, shut him down.
1. The game's MVP is not A.J. Ellis.
In spite of the fact that Ellis had an excellent game (more on that below), that honor must go to true freshman, wide receiver and kick returner Jalen Saunders.
Consider the facts.
Saunders had five kickoff returns for 110 yards, two punt returns for another 21 yards, AND two receptions as a wideout for another 14 yards. That's 145 all-purpose yards, for a true freshman, who was also the real spark of the special teams - the unit that probably won the game.
Yeah, yeah, I hear you. A.J. was awesome (true), and Jamel Hamler had the play of the game (also true), and Ryan Colburn is starting to look like he has ice water in his veins (agreed) - but my vote (if I could only get one) would still go to Saunders.
This kid is Devon Wylie fast and (best of all) he runs straight into traffic. There are no stutter steps, just an igniting of the afterburners. He is going to be FUN to watch, this year.
2. Welcome back, O-line, good to see you again!
My favorite quote of the night? After the game, A.J. Ellis said, "The offensive line was playing angry..." Yesss! I hope that they will stay angry for the rest of the season!
All of Bulldog Nation felt a chill when All-American candidate right guard Andrew Jackson went down, early in the game. It now appears to be a high ankle sprain. Out for a week, maybe more.
That hurt, but it did give Leslie Cooper, a junior playing backup to a great talent, a real chance to step up. He did. Nice job, sir. The O-line protected Colburn and bulldozed plenty of holes for Mr. Ellis, who scampered though very effectively, indeed. The Dogs had 230 yards rushing for the night. Very well done.
3. A.J. Ellis has exploded onto the field...
...in more ways than one.
Here is the latest new star to appear in a Bulldog uniform. Last game, against the Bearcats, it was defensive tackle Logan Harrell. Saturday night it was A.J. Ellis, and it didn't take him long to make his presence known.
One of the indelible images from that game was Ellis hurdling a defender, a la Ryan Mathews at the Rose Bowl, before breaking off a huge gain, down the right sideline.
Ellis is not big - maybe 180 lbs - but he is quick and shifty. He is also tough, courageous, and determined. Oh, and this, also…he is humble and appreciative of those around him. Class act. Effective player.
Ellis had 165 yards on 29 carries. That's about 5.7 yards per carry. Nice. He also rushed for two touchdowns and caught a 10-yard pass for a third score. Wow. Great counter argument for POTG, right there.
4. Matt Darr? Who?
I'm not really calling Matt out, but I guess we can stop worrying about the fact that an all-world recruit left us (when Coach Baxter departed for USC) taking his punting skills with him to Tennessee. Turns out Fresno State had a man with a golden leg, right here, all along. Heh, heh. TWO punts for 55 yards each? Really? Wow. Nailed the coffin corner? Backed Utah State up inside their 10 on two occasions? Sweet.
The name of the new stud punter, by the way, is Andrew Shapiro. We are going to hear a lot more about this guy's value, as the year moves along.
5. Jamel Hamler is butter...
This player is rapidly becoming Ryan Colburn's "go to guy" in the clutch (although he does have to fight off the pesky Rashad Evans, in that regard). Hamler, a 6'2" receiver is really showing us what a potent weapon a sure handed, athletic receiver can be. He is fast enough, a good route runner, and a "heads up" player who is paying attention.
His greatest attribute? He catches the ball. That may sound simplistic, but not if you follow our receiving corps, over the last couple of years. He snags 'em. He holds onto 'em. He doesn't have even a mild case of the "dropsies.” That, alone, makes him golden.
Jamel also had the play of the game - not on offense, but as a special teams missile, homing in on the punter. That blocked punt was monster. Big momentum shift. It also says something about the desire and the "fire in the belly" attitude in this young man. He loves to play football. We got something special, in No. 17. I am so glad he decided not to go to Oregon...
6. The pass rush is still potent.
Just remember, this was yet another athletic, highly mobile quarterback the ‘Dogs faced - and they STILL got two sacks, thanks to d-linemen Mark Roberts and Donnie Pritchett.
However, if you asked Mr. Borel, I bet he would tell you that Chris Carter gave him the most grief in that game. Carter was relentless, all night long. He might not have actually sacked Borel, but every time the Aggie QB looked up, Carter was about to lower the boom. Borel juked and dodged, faked, flipped, flopped, and wiggled all over the backfield. Sometimes it looked hilarious. Here's the bottom line. He got 66 yards on the ground - about HALF of what he got last year against Fresno State.
Borel was also frustrated by cornerbacks Desia Dunn and Jermaine Thomas, and safety Philip Thomas. There was a lot of work going on in the defensive backfield, adding to Borel's headaches.
7. Ryan Colburn continues to shine.
He did another solid job. He looked very confident and in control. He seemed unfazed when the ‘Dogs were behind - as if he knew what was coming. That play, where he avoided a sack by shovel passing it out-of-bounds - that was insight into Colburn's maturity. He is making better decisions, this year. His passing seems much more authoritative. He puts a lot more zip on the ball. No, he is not a highly accurate passer, but he is respectable, significantly better than last year.
Ryan was 15 of 23 for 149 yards, with touchdown and one int. That's a 65% completion rate. Not bad. In addition, he made a couple of ballsy runs, himself, when he needed to. One of them looked like a designed play. Then, that touchdown run was very nice. He is a courageous, aggressive, smart QB - with reasonable athleticism. I like him. I hope he stays healthy.
8. Travis Brown is emerging.
This is a nice story, unfolding before us. The son of a much-loved defensive coordinator at Fresno State, Coach Dan Brown, who courageously fought brain cancer - literally to the end - OLB Travis Brown is, quite literally, "coming into his own" as a Bulldog defender.
He really is a "dyed in the wool", "Bulldog born, Bulldog bred" kind of a player - and he is quickly developing into a very serious outside linebacker.
Travis put a lot of pressure on the QB and the Aggie backfield. I think he ended up with a couple of tackles for a loss. He is fast enough and crafty - and he likes to hit. Keep your eye on No. 9. Greatness developing.
9. Pat Hill and his staff...
...deserve serious kudo's for making crucial adjustments to coverage and defensive (and offensive) schemes. Don't know what Pat tells 'em, but it certainly works. The second half saw the Aggies shut down and steamrolled by our O Line. Nice coaching, gentlemen.
10. Next week...
Is the big SEC game against Ole Miss, in Oxford, Saturday afternoon, Sept. 25. Not sure what to expect. They are hurting from another loss - this time to the Commodores of Vanderbilt. Does that mean they will be fighting mad? Or depressed and fatalistic? They do have another active, athletic QB. Can the D handle him? We shall see.
Redroadster is highly regarded attorney in the Central Valley, a loyal Bulldog fan, and a regular poster/contributor on BarkBoard.com. Check in time to time for his take on games and other Bulldog athletic events in his View from the Roadster.
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