What Now

(photo by Scott Edwards)

Unless you consider losses to Cal and Ole Miss as unexplained, a Pat Hill coached team is still good for a few "unexplained" losses each season notwithstanding at least two WAC losses Fresno State has endured every year since entering the conference in 1992…

‘Dogs off to 2-3 start

With Fresno State trailing by seven and Ole Miss facing a third-and-goal from five-yard line, fans began exiting Bulldog Stadium in droves. There was 4:35 remaining in the game.

We know fickle Bulldog fans love to beat the traffic. But they did give up on Derek Carr and his ability to lead a comeback?

Or did those fans come to the realization that the 2011 Fresno State football team may not be that good?

Let's face the facts. Cal is not a great team. The Bears will struggle to reach .500 this season. And Ole Miss – for as well as they played Saturday at Bulldog Stadium – may only win one more game this season that being a home contest with WAC foe Louisiana Tech.

Furthermore, the top 10 Nebraska team Fresno State nearly upset was routed 48-17 at Wisconsin on Saturday night. The Cornhuskers are looking more like a middle of the road Big Ten team rather than the national championship contender some expected before the season began.

Three double-digit losses to BCS schools that will be no closer to playing in a BCS bowl than Fresno State.

Now, the road gets tougher.

Bulldog head coach Pat Hill says Friday's matchup with No. 5 Boise State will be the "toughest" opponent in his 15 years at Bulldog Stadium. "That will be a great challenge for our football team," Hill said after the Bulldogs 38-28 loss to Mississippi.

Fresno State was 1-9 versus the Broncos as members of the WAC, including a 1-4 record at Bulldog Stadium. While this is the best Boise State team football team to enter Bulldog Stadium, there were lesser talented ones that beat good Fresno State teams on the road.

The 2001 team immediately comes to mind.

It has been 10 years since 6-0 and then-No. 8 ranked Fresno State hosted a 3-3 Boise State team five years removed from I-AA status in a Friday night nationally televised matchup on ESPN. With FS entering this week's game with three losses and off to a poor start, the roles are reversed.

No one gave Boise State a shot to win in 2001 and no one will give Fresno State a shot to win this week even inside Bulldog Stadium.

The Broncos are coming off a lackluster performance Saturday versus Nevada. Despite a subpar game by All-American quarterback Kellen Moore, who completed just 19-of-33 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, Boise State won by 20 points after leading 30-0 at the end of the third quarter – uninspiring nonetheless.

The Bulldogs play uninspired football and need a fourth quarter touchdown to beat FCS North Dakota.

Through the first four weeks of the season, the Bulldogs had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona. But after Saturday's loss to Ole Miss, it's hard to describe this team.

If the Rebels had entered the game 4-0, ranked in the top 25, and considered a contender for the SEC West, it would've been a great effort and a sign the young ‘Dogs are continuing to move forward. But Ole Miss is not that good. And the Bulldogs don't look anything more than a seven-win team in a very weak WAC.

It wasn't the coaching that failed the ‘Dogs on Saturday. It was the turnovers, costly penalties, and mental mistakes. FS outgained the Rebels 444-430 yards, however, the Bulldogs gained only 49 yards in the fourth quarter mostly on the final drive when Ole Miss was in prevent defense.

The game plan was solid. The execution was not.

Ole Miss on the other hand, arguably played its best game of the season. Nevertheless, the Rebels struggled to sustain drives without big plays given up the Fresno State defense. Quarterback Randall Mackey made his first career start – the third different Ole Miss quarterback to start a game this season. He completed just 8-of-18 passes but for 214 yards with three completions of 40 yards or more. He added 35 yards on the ground but was most effective evading the Bulldog pass rush for no sacks.

Fresno State will face a more conventional passer – maybe the best pure passer in college football history – in Moore. He doesn't have the elusiveness of Mackey, but unlike Mackey, he can read defenses and pick apart a very suspect Bulldog secondary.

Even if Moore has another subpar game, Fresno State's real worry is bullish running back Doug Martin. Coach Hill has harped on the Bulldogs defense against the run (minus the big plays). However, Fresno State has not faced a running back like Martin.

Ole Miss' big, bruising running back Brandon Bolden rushed six times for 43 yards and two touchdowns versus the Bulldogs. He's still not 100% but was able to shred the defense the little time he had the ball in his hands. Martin should see at least 25 carries against Fresno State with each one pounding the interior of the defense.

Moore will not have a second consecutive bad game, and the Bulldogs will not be able to slow down Martin. Fresno State's best shot is to match Boise State punch for punch. But the ‘Dogs couldn't do that against an Ole Miss team that was run over by Georgia. The same Georgia team the Broncos ran over.

Boise State won't beat Fresno State by 51 points, but if the Bulldogs execute as poorly as they did Saturday, fans will have a good reason to leave early in the fourth quarter.

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