“We’ve had two games where big plays have made the difference,” said Fresno State head coach Pat Hill.
Those games Hill is referring to are the 55-38 loss at Ole Miss on Sept. 25 and the 49-27 loss at home to Hawaii on Oct. 9.
“The two games, we had to throw it a lot, we’ve lost because we weren’t able to establish the run,” said Hill. “Run consistency has not been where we need it to be successful.”
Robbie Rouse got on track last week versus New Mexico State gaining 150 yards on 16 carries with two long touchdown runs of 57 and 38 yards. However, the Bulldog offense is far from a fluid machine gaining 168 yards on four big plays versus the Aggies and 186 on the remaining 53 plays.
The passing game was put on the shelf by design Hill said after the 33-10 win over NMSU. This week, Hill expects to have six healthy receivers to practice with compared to as little as two last week when Jalen Saunders, A.J. Johnson, Rashad Evans, and Matt Lindsey missed part or all of practice.
“If we can get all the moving parts together and practicing that will bode well going into the second half of the season,” said Hill.
Center Joe Bernardi suffered an ankle injury against New Mexico State. He is wearing a protective walking boot, and he may miss practice this week. But Hill says the sixth year veteran is one of those players that has logged enough practice hours that missing a few days of practice won’t impact him. If Bernardi is healthy enough to play against SJSU, he will play. Hill does expect him to play this week.
Matt Lindsey suffered a concussion against Hawaii and missed practice and the game versus the Aggies last week. Lindsey is expected to practice Tuesday and play this week.
Rashad Evans, Jalen Saunders, and A.J. Johnson suffered hamstring injuries last week in practice. While all three played against NMSU, the trio missed valuable practice time.
Jamel Hamler hasn’t been 100% since suffering a shoulder tweak against Ole Miss. While he’s played the last two games, he’s hasn’t practice an entire week and his production has fallen on the field.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a full week out of [Jalen] Saunders, A.J. Johnson, and [Rashad] Evans,” said Hill.
“Getting Rashad Evans and Jamel Hamler back to full speed is very important. You got to practice to improve. With good practice, it will help us offensively.”
Starting strong safety Phillip Thomas is also expected back at practice Tuesday after suffering a shoulder injury that kept him out of the NMSU game.
Wide receivers Devon Wylie, Jevon Stallworth, and offensive guard Andrew Jackson remain out.
San Jose State Matchup
The Spartans have suffered 12 season-ending injuries and added two more in their loss vs. No. 2 Boise State. With less than 50 healthy scholarship players, SJSU is feeling the effects of playing a brutal non-league schedule.
SJSU opened at then No. 1 Alabama and then played at No. 11 Wisconsin. Home games against FCS foes Southern Utah – the Spartans only win – and UC Davis surrounded a third road game versus at top 15 team in Utah. And the Spartans didn’t receive any help in the WAC schedule opening up at then No. 21 Nevada before hosting the Broncos.
Regardless, Hill believes Saturday’s game will be tough matchup – a game his players will not overlook.
“They play very hard,” Hill said of San Jose State. “Whenever you have a new coach, teams tend to play very hard.”
“If we go over there thinking this is going be not a physical football game, we’re wrong.”
The Bulldogs are a heavy favorite, and are expected to beat their long-time rival for the 13th of 14th time as WAC members. However, this game is an opportunity for Fresno State to build some confidence before embarking on the toughest sled of the 2010 schedule starting with a Nov. 6 game at Louisiana Tech. Hill sees this game as an opportunity to work on the offensive woes the ‘Dogs have suffered the last few weeks.
“We would still like to put together a complete game,” Hill said of the team’s lack of four-quarter execution this season in all phases of the game.
The Spartans are the lowest scoring team in the nation averaging less than nine points per game.
“They are trying to be a lot like Nevada,” Hill said of the SJSU’s use of the pistol offense. “The option is not as big of phase as it is with Nevada because they don’t have run threat at quarterback.”
The Spartans backup quarterback is former Bulldog Matt Faulkner, who has played in all seven games for SJSU. He’s 13-of-25 for 163 yards with one touchdown and one interception on the season.
Hill says he expects to see the Spartans continue to push the ball up field with their quarterbacks. Jordan La Secla has thrown for 954 yards this season but has thrown only two touchdowns against six picks.
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