1. The Head Coach
Pat Hill has just finished 14 years at Fresno State and in those years, he has taken the Bulldogs to 11 bowl games. He has also lost seven of them. That's a loss rate of about 64%. In other words, Fresno State has lost two thirds of its bowl games during Hill's tenure.
Boasting about the number of bowl games the ‘Dogs "qualified" for, over the years, rings pretty hollow when you consider that FS has lost the vast majority of them – including the last three in a row, to Colorado State, Wyoming, and Northern Illinois – legendary powerhouses all!!!!
There is also the unfortunate truth that, once again, a Pat Hill team has confirmed expectations.
During his time as head coach, Hill has averaged a win/lose record of almost exactly 8-5, each year. So, losing the Humanitarian Bowl to finish this season... 8-5...well, that's hardly a surprise. My wife WAS surprised, however, to see her husband get out of his Lazy Boy, while the game was still in the 4th quarter, to start getting dressed for a Christmas party.
I walked out of the TV room because of one play. Behind by 30 points, with less than 10 minutes to go in the game, Fresno State ran the ball up the middle and was stopped for no gain. Something snapped in my brain. I heard the ESPN announcers, an ex-Oregon head coach and another guy who had some NFL experience saying, basically - "HUH...?"
As we drove to the party, my wife asked, "Don't you want to listen to the end of the game on KMJ?" A withering look was, evidently, a sufficient answer.
2. Let the humiliation continue.
The entire country, on national television, has now seen the Dogs very publicly dominated, whipped, and beaten on the Boise blue rug, not just once, but twice – this year alone. FS gave up ninety-one (91) points in two games. Both in Boise. Both on national television. Hill said Boise State and NIU both played at "a very high level,” and that's why they won those games.
Hmmmm... What level were the Bulldogs playing, on, Coach Hill? In those two games, FS was beaten by an average of 45-9. What level is that?
Here's the sad part. While Boise State was clearly a superior team (not excusing a 51-0 blowout), Northern Illinois was not.
If the Bulldogs had played NIU like they played Nevada, or Illinois, the ‘Dogs would have seen a radically different bowl game. Losing that badly to a second place MAC team, which has just lost their head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator is not a sign of coaching excellence.
Bulldog fans are approaching "fed up" status. Seeing their team decisively whipped by Ole Miss, Hawaii, Boise State, and NIU, all in one year, does not sit well in this hotbed of football. Fresno fans like to win. Losing five times a year is way too much to be digested.
3. What happened to the FS Offensive Line?
This has to be squarely confronted. Both in pass protection and in terms of run blocking, the Bulldog offensive line failed miserably.
Robbie Rouse played hard and struggled mightily, but – due to the inability of his o-line – he failed, as well. Rouse did gain 32 yards on 14 carries, but 21 of those yards came on one play! The rest of the night, he averaged LESS than 1 yd per carry! Again, that is an o-line stat, sad to say. The only real running game came from a freshman wide receiver and kick returner, Jalen Saunders, who rushed for more yards (58) on razzle-dazzle and reverses than all the true running backs did!
The o-line problem has to be addressed. Last year, the defensive line was suspect, and they did step up this year. Same thing now applies to the offensive line – time to revamp and upgrade.
4. What happened to the entire FS Defense?
Wow! Defensive end Chris Carter (the WAC Defensive Player of the year and the No. 6 sack-master in the nation) had no sacks and no tackles, all night.... What? That, unfortunately, is true. His d-line brethren did not do much better. In fact, the whole defense stank up the joint, pretty bad.
Fresno State, basically, surrendered. The defense surrendered 503 yards to NIU. When the Huskies threw the ball, they AVERAGED a gain of 17.6 yards per catch. Ouch. NIU scored at will, it seemed. It seemed like it was 40-10 forever. Fresno finally scored their last touchdown with five minutes left, when the contest was already over.
Acknowledgement should be made of the absence of two important defensive starters. OLB Kyle Knox was suspended. He did not make the trip at all, due to discipline handed down for violating school policy.
Safety Philip Thomas missed the first quarter, due to being late for a team meeting. They were missed. However, stupid is as stupid does.
5. What happens now?
Now, we all wait for next spring, and the emergence of the most anticipated quarterback in school history – at least for the 24 years I have been going to games – the Golden Child and the Last Great Hope for Pat Hill's career – Derek Carr. Devastatingly powerful cannon arm, superbly nimble footed and supremely football savvy... yada, yada, yada. We shall see. My Missouri blood cries out, SHOW MEEEEE!
Carr will have the benefit of a shockingly talented bunch of young receivers, slots, and slash/hound/hybrid players. He will also benefit, I believe, from the arrival of running back Milton Knox, cleared now to play after sitting a year since transferring from UCLA. Knox was a storied high school legend in SoCal. Whether he retains his much-hyped awesomeness will have to be demonstrated. Again, we shall see.
6. Jerry Jones
Not one of my favorite people, but a man who deserves to be quoted again. In finally deciding to get rid of Wade Phillips, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, the flamboyant owner of America's team said, "We need a new culture..."
Amen, Jerry. John Welty and Tommy Boeh – take note.
See you next year, Bulldog Nation.
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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