Shaking Senior QB Bowl Jinx

Ryan Colburn

Since Fresno State started playing D1 football at the FBS level in 1969, the Bulldogs have played in 18 bowl games. In those 18 bowls, starting senior quarterbacks have fared just 1-5, including 0-4 under head coach Pat Hill…

"What?" Ryan Colburn responded surprisingly Tuesday morning when told the last senior quarterback to win a bowl game was Jeff Tedford in 1982.

"Well, we go out and win then."

Fresno State senior quarterbacks are 0-5 in their last five bowl games dating back to former head coach Jim Sweeney's tenure. Kevin Sweeney didn't play in bowl game his senior year in 1986. As a senior in 1991, Mark Barsotti started the bowl game, after missing the previous five games with an injury. It was his only loss as a starter that season. Trent Dilfer did not play as senior, but he did lose his final bowl game as junior before declaring for the NFL Draft.

The Bulldogs missed bowl games the next five seasons until senior Billy Volek led FS to the 1999 Las Vegas Bowl. Two years later, David Carr – who lost both of his bowl games – couldn't end his senior year with a win. Paul Pinegar was on the cusp of being the first quarterback in NCAA history to win four bowl games as a starter. But he lost his final bowl game in 2005. And Tom Brandstater couldn't buck the trend in 2008 losing in the New Mexico Bowl.

"You got to enjoy these bowl games but you also have to remember you're there to go win a football game," said Colburn.

Under Pat Hill, the Bulldogs have not done well in bowl games versus non-BCS schools. Hill is 0-5 in those games, including back-to-back losses to 6-6 Mountain West programs the last two seasons. Of the five bowl games versus non-BCS opponents, Fresno State was favored in all of them, save the 1999 Las Vegas Bowl vs. Utah.

The ‘Dogs are a three-point underdog this week against 10-3 Northern Illinois in the UDrove Humanitarian Bowl. However, with the Huskies losing head coach Jerry Kill, as well as both coordinators, to Minnesota, NIU is somewhat reeling. Add in the fact NIU playing on the Bronco Stadium blue turf for the first time can be a disadvantage, many Fresno State fans assume the Bulldogs will win on Saturday.

"We got to come in and not underestimate our opponent," said Colburn. "They are going to be a good challenge, and we must prepare the same as for any opponent."

"I wouldn't compare [Northern Illinois] to some one specifically [on our schedule]. They want to stop the run, and they want to be very aggressive on defense. That's their strength and we'll do our best to match that and take what they give us.

"There's a big difference between 8-5 and 9-4. NIU is going to be a good challenge. I'm excited about it, but I think we are going to go out there and get a victory."

Last year, the Bulldogs were embarrassed at Nevada, 52-14. They rebounded to beat Louisiana Tech on a last second field goal and finished the season with a thrilling one-point win over Illinois. They entered the New Mexico Bowl in 2009 with some momentum, built an 11-point lead against Wyoming, but lost in double-overtime.

This year, the ‘Dogs were embarrassed at Boise State, 51-0. They struggled the next week versus Idaho, needing a last second touchdown to pull out the victory, and held on to cap another thrilling win over Illinois to end the season. Now, the ‘Dogs enter the Humanitarian Bowl facing similar circumstances.

"The [bowl games] are very similar because we ended on a couple of big victories to end the season last year – a couple of close games – the same as this year," said Colburn.

"This year, we just got to do a better job of coming in and finishing this team off. We got to come in and start fast early and finish them off. Last year, we started start great, but we just didn't finish strong against Wyoming."

Fresno State Senior QB Bowl Results

1982 – Jeff Tedford, 29-28 win over Bowling Green in California Bowl
1991 – Mark Barsotti, 28-21 loss to Bowling Green in California Bowl
1999 – Billy Volek, 17-16 loss to Utah in Las Vegas Bowl
2001- David Carr. 44-35 loss to Michigan State in Silicon Valley Classic
2005 – Paul Pinegar, 31-24 loss to Tulsa in Liberty Bowl
2008 – Tom Brandstater, 40-35 loss to Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl

Hill vs. Non-BCS teams in Bowl Games

1999 – 16-17 vs. Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl
2000 – 34-37 vs. Air Force in the Silicon Valley Classic
2005 – 24-31 vs. Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl
2008 – 35-40 vs. Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl
2009 – 28-35 vs. Wyoming in New Mexico Bowl

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