Disappointing season has Hill on the hot seat
Fresno State coach Pat Hill has dealt with criticism throughout his 15-year tenure with the Bulldogs. But with Fresno State struggling through a 3-6 season and on the verge of a losing season, Hill and Fresno State are dealing with a new level of scrutiny.
"It's a feeding frenzy. I just told the team (to) let the fingers all go to me. It's my fault," Hill said during his weekly press conference two days after the Bulldogs home loss to Louisiana Tech.
Hill has taken the Bulldogs to 11 bowl games in his 14 seasons, but Fresno State needs to win its final four games in order to make it 12. Despite Hill's 111-77 record, fans have not been satisfied with a program that has not won an outright WAC title (one shared crown in 1999) or finished a season with less than two conference losses or played in a BCS bowl like conference mates Boise State and Hawaii.
Fresno State is 4-21 against teams .500 or better since 2008 and 0-5 against such teams this year. Hill is under contract through the 2013 season and Fresno State is preparing to move to the Mountain West next season. He said he does not intend to resign.
"Hey, listen. I'm not dumb. There's a lot of Pat Hill haters. There's a lot of venom that spills all the time. I can't worry about that," he said in his weekly presser. "I don't know what I've done to make them mad."
The Bulldogs have suffered in comparison to Boise State, which surpassed Fresno State as a conference power and then became a national power as the Bulldogs played in a series of middle-tier (and lower) bowl games. The constant comparisons between the programs -- often made by Hill -- have not helped Fresno State.
Now fans have started to show their displeasure by not coming to games. The Bulldogs have drawn fewer than 30,000 fans for a home game three times this season. The largest home crowd this season for Fresno State is 33,871 against Boise State. Bulldog Stadium holds 41,031.
Fresno State needs to win out -- with victories against New Mexico State, Hawaii, San Jose State and San Diego State -- to make a bowl game. The Bulldogs have been to 11 bowl games in 14 seasons under coach Pat Hill. Three of the games (New Mexico State, Hawaii and San Jose State) are on the road. The Bulldogs are 1-3 away from Bulldog Stadium this season.
In its last two games, Fresno State has surrendered 10.8 and 12.0 yards per play on first down. Nevada averaged 10.8 yards and Louisiana Tech averaged 12.0 yards per first-down play. In those two games, the Bulldogs have allowed 45 and 41 points, respectively.
Fresno State has scored on 22 of 26 possessions in the red zone, including each of its last nine visits inside the 20-yard line. Of the 22 scores, 19 have been touchdowns.
SERIES HISTORY: Fresno State leads New Mexico State 17-0 (last meeting, 2010, 33-10 Fresno State).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Six different Fresno State players have at least 20 catches on the season, tying the Bulldogs with five others for the most players with at least 20 catches. Fourteen different players have caught at least one pass. WR Jalen Saunders has seven touchdown receptions on the season. The last Fresno State players to have 10 or more TD catches in a season are Bernard Berrian (13) and Rodney Wright (11) in 2001. Saunders has 34 catches and 669 yards receiving this season. Of his 34 catches, 25 have been for a first down. K Kevin Goessling needs 16 points to tie Derek Mahoney as the school's all-time scoring leader. Goessling, a senior, has 348 points in his career.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Sophomore CB L.J. Jones has a team-high two interceptions and is tied for the league lead with 11 passes defended this season. LB Patrick Su'a has 11 special teams tackles this season. Ten of his 11 tackles have come on kickoff coverage. Senior DL Logan Harrell has a career-high 57 tackles, including 13 for loss and five sacks.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like I'm the best guy for the job at Fresno State. There's no doubt in my mind. With everything that goes on, I feel like I'm the best guy. I understand it very well. I understand this job. I get it. And you know what, I like it. And I'm going to do everything I can to make this team better." -- Fresno State coach Pat Hill said in his weekly press conference.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Fresno State at New Mexico State, Nov. 12 -- Fresno State has won all 17 of its meetings with New Mexico State. The last nine have been decided by an average of 23 points, including last year's 33-10 decision. Fresno State has scored 30 or more points in 13 of its 17 games against New Mexico State.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Limit the turnovers. Fresno State is 117th in the nation in turnover margin, having turned the ball over 18 times in eight games. The Bulldogs have forced six turnovers. New Mexico State is even in turnover margin, having forced 15 turnovers and turned it over 15 times.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Robbie Rouse -- The junior needs 256 rushing yards to tie the school record for rushing yards in back-to-back seasons. Rouse rushed for 1,126 yards last year and has 1,080 yards rushing this season. He is just the fourth player in Fresno State history with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Rouse has six 100-yard games this season.
QB Derek Carr -- The sophomore is on pace for 3,279 passing yards, which would make him just the fifth quarterback in school history to eclipse the 3,000-yard mark in a season. Carr completed 39-of-49 passes against Louisiana Tech, falling one completion short of the school record, set in 1987 by Dave Telford. In his last three games, Carr has completed 65.5 percent of his passes.
WR Devon Wylie -- The senior set a career-high with 13 catches for 149 yards and one touchdown against Louisiana Tech. Wylie is just the fifth Fresno State player with at least 10 catches since 2000 and the first one with at least 10 catches since 2005. Wylie's 13 catches are the most since Bernard Berrian had 13 in 2003. Wylie has back-to-back 100-yard games on the season.
FB Austin Raphael returned to the starting lineup against Louisiana Tech. Raphael had missed the previous two games with a bruised kidney.
For the second straight game, the Bulldogs started their opening game offensive line. The unit has played just three games together this season. That unit change again, however, as starting center Richard Helepiko and left guard Matt Hunt are suspended for Saturday’s game.
Senior weak side linebacker Kyle Knox is suspended for Saturday’s game and next week’s game at Hawaii.