Overall, though, this performance changes the outlook for Fresno State's season, because - if the ‘Dogs continue to play like this - there will be a lot more wins, down the road this year, than it appeared after the Cal game. All of which points us to another episode of, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
1. The Team
What a huge turnaround! The team that took the field against Nebraska bore very little resemblance to the squad that trotted out to play Cal at the ‘Stick. Massive difference, this game seemed to prove the adage that the biggest improvement, for a young team, comes between the first and second game of the season.
At Nebraska, the defense was fired up, determined and focused (except, maybe, some of the DBs). The offense, especially the offensive line, was superb (see below). Derek Carr, Robbie Rouse and Devon Wylie played amazing, but their success was owed to the play of the Bulldog o-line, who took on a vaunted Husker d-line, including an All-American and knocked them on their butts! That was something to see!
2. Derek Carr
Maybe DC2 does walk on water! Wow. What a performance. This was the guy we expected to see at Candlestick. Glad he arrived on the scene at Nebraska. Bulldog fans finally got a look at the star they knew was emerging. He really is a special talent. Best passer on the run the ‘Dogs have ever had, great "reader" of the shifting defensive situation, quickest release, nimble footed, gutsy, aggressive, and seems to have his head in the game.
Hope he stays healthy, because he is going to bring a lot of grief to Bulldog foes!
3. Robbie Rouse
Nebraska simply did not have an answer to the problem of Rouse. He gave them hell. Mostly, up the middle hell. By the way, he owes kudos to the Bulldog o-line for several holes blasted in the Husker D. And brother, Mr. Rouse doesn't need a very big hole - and it doesn't need to be open long. He wiggles through, somehow – amazing.
It appears that he is much stronger than the defenders expect. He is also much quicker. His high-end speed may not be that great, but his first two steps are blazing. And he jukes and dodges at mach 1 speed.
By the way, the criticisms some of us opinion-spouters wrote about Rouse's size and durability as an "every down back" were effectively disproved in Lincoln. Rouse had 36 carries for 169 yards - against Nebraska. That was studly. The Bulldogs have no running back controversy. Rouse is the man!
4. Devon Wylie
Huge, signature game of his career, just demonstrated himself to be a seriously dangerous threat. (Does he look more "durable" than he was?) He may be the "most improved" wide receiver on the team. He always had speed, but his catching, route running, and heads-up play are much upgraded. He had a monster game. That punt return for six caused me to damage my throat, screaming...
5. The Deadly Serious O-Line
Watching the Bulldog o-line at Lincoln was a "Holy Crap!" moment. Here they were, up against a nationally-respected Cornhusker d-line, including All-American Jared Crick, and the ‘Dogs o-linemen just tore into 'em. They opened a LOT of holes for Rouse and protected Derek Carr fiercely, all afternoon. Carr was never sacked, not once. The Bulldogs actually pushed the Nebraska D line around, a little! It was a shockingly sweet surprise. Kudos, gentlemen. Well done.
Not much to say, really, except for one serious, nagging problem.
The tackling was actually a little better. The actual pass defense, when DBs were in position, was quite good, with a couple of interceptions as a result. It was the blown assignments, however, that let big Husker plays happen - and that may have cost Fresno State the game. (That was actually a winnable game - bizarre as that may sound.) When you saw the Nebraska receivers running WIDE OPEN, sometimes by eight or nine yards - that was a blown assignment - and that happened multiple times, and ultimately brought on defeat. That has to be addressed. Is this a coaching problem? Mr. Alba needs to face up to this obvious problem in the Bulldogs defensive performance.
I never thought I would see Pat Hill surrender. I saw it happen, Saturday afternoon. Yeah, it was fourth down. Yeah, the ‘Dogs were backed up, deep in their own territory. But the game was not over! Not, that is, until Pat threw in the towel and punted, effectively ending the game.
I went over to the Nebraska board and lurked around, for a while, after the game. THEY were shocked when Coach Hill punted. THEY saw it as a surrender.
It was ugly. To the fans. To the broadcasters. To the Nebraska players - and - most damaging, I believe, to the Bulldogs. Whatever was actually in Pat Hill's mind - it looked like he was afraid. Afraid that the ‘Dogs would fail on fourth down, and afraid that Nebraska would then run up the score, even more. Playing to make it look closer, rather than playing to WIN. I say again. It was ugly.
Note: Special condolences go out to the thousands of our countrymen who suffered inconsolable losses, 10 years ago, today.
Looking forward, with much more enthusiasm, to the games ahead.
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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