Fresno State’s Three Headed RB Attack
Since Pat Hill took over the Fresno State Bulldogs in 1997 one aspect of Bulldog football has remained constant: The running game. Fresno State in 1997 was a team that led with the run and in 2008 will be a team that operates in the same manner. With running backs Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller, and Anthony Harding opposing teams are going to have their hands full trying to stop the rushing machine that is located in Fresno, CA.
In 2007, Mathews rushed for over 800 yards and 14 touchdowns despite missing a handful of games due to injury. Miller will split carries with Mathews this season. Miller and Mathews have both conditioned well this offseason as both have been clocked at better than 4.5 in the forty yard dash. Miller has also worked on his style of carrying the ball hoping that it will allow him to be more of a force when in the game. The wild card at RB is Harding.
Bulldog RB Lonyae Miller
Last season, Harding did not rack up the same amount of yards that both Mathews and Miller did but Harding took care of the tough yards. If the Bulldogs needed one yard for a first down Harding was the back to step in and make it happen. Harding was called on at various times throughout 2007 (Texas A&M and Georgia Tech) and was able to contribute in a big way each time he stepped onto the field for the Bulldogs.
If the Bulldogs rushing attack is able to control the tempo of the game against Rutgers it could be a long day for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers may do everything in their power to make sure Fresno State does not beat them with the run. The problem Rutgers will deal with is the fact that the Bulldogs' offensive line has been outstanding at opening up holes for their running backs. With the entire offensive line gaining experience last season look for Fresno State to hold their own in the rushing department.
Ray Rice’s Replacements
Rutgers begins a new era with respect to their running game. For the past two seasons Ray Rice had been the constant in the backfield for the Scarlet Knights. Rice rushed for over 3,800 yards and 44 touchdowns in two seasons for Rutgers. Needless to say replacing a running back who rushed for over 2000 yards in one season is easier said than done.
Rutgers will start the season with Mason Robinson and Kordell Young as their backs. With an offensive line still learning the ropes there is a chance that the Scarlet Knights running game will suffer if only because there is a lack of experience on the field.
Both Robinson and Young have some experience from 2007 as they stepped in to back up Rice. In limited time Robinson averaged over five yards a carry showing what he is capable of when given the chance to carry the ball. Young did not have many chances to carry the ball last season but will be looking to make a name for himself throughout the course of 2008.
Rutgers may look to their passing game far more than their running game early in the season forcing the Fresno State secondary to make plays early and often. However, to think Rutgers will not attempt to run the ball at all would be foolish. Rutgers is a hard nosed football team much in the same mold that Fresno State is. Head coach Greg Schiano knows that the way to win in college is to control the tempo of the game. In other words expect Rutgers at times to try and establish a successful running game.
If the Scarlet Knights are able to do so they will have the opportunity to use play action to their advantage. Unfortunately for Rutgers this task will be tough due to lack of experience both on the offensive line and in the backfield.
Which Bulldog Receiver Will Step Up?
Fresno State enters the 2008 season with more experience at wide receiver than ever before. Receivers such as Marlon Moore, Chastin West, Seyi Ajirotutu, Jason Crawley, and Devon Wylie all bring game experience to the field.
In 2007, Moore became the Bulldogs go to threat. One season earlier, Chastin West had established himself as the go to receiver for the Bulldogs before a nasty injury kept him out during the 2007 season. The big question that the Bulldogs must answer on offense is which receiver will become a big game receiver?
Bulldog WR Marlon Moore
Moore and Ajirotutu have the ability to take over the game with their speed and hands. West is a tough wide receiver with great hands. Crawley is physical and will block on the outside as well as any receiver on the Dogs. Wylie could be the surprise of the group as he has had quite possibly the best fall camp of the group.
Tom Brandstater will have plenty of targets to get the ball to throughout the game. If the above mentioned five receivers do not step up the Bulldogs can also look to both Darren Newborne (who was awarded a scholarship to play this season) and Matt Lindsey. Look for Fresno State to try and control the game with the run. However, the Bulldogs coaching staff knows they can trust their QB to get the ball to his receivers. If Fresno State is forced to throw Bulldog fans will have very little to worry about.
Rutger’s Dynamic Duo
Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood both topped the 1,000 yard mark receiving in 2007. There is no reason to think that both of these receivers will not do the same thing in 2008. Britt stands at 6’4” while Underwood sits at 6’2” meaning that the Bulldogs corners will have their work cut out for them. Both receivers have speed, great hands, and run the type of routes that make it easy for a quarterback to find them during the course of the game.
If these two receivers are able to get the ball in their hands early and often this game could become very tough for the Bulldogs to win. Last season, the Fresno State secondary did a poor job of creating turnovers which in turn led to the defense being on the field far more than Coach Pat Hill would have liked them to be.
Scarlet Knight WR Tiquan Underwood
If the Bulldogs are going to win this game they are going to have to try and find a way to make one of the two receivers a non factor. That may be near impossible to do considering that these two receivers combined for over 2300 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns this past season. In other words Mike Teel has two wide receivers he absolutely loves to throw the football to.
Keys to the Game
Control the line of scrimmage.
Open holes for the running backs to run through
Allow Brandstater time to throw the football
The Bulldogs wide receivers must show good hands and run clean routes
Limit the amount of mistakes made by either the RB’s, WR’s, and QB
Make key third down conversions to keep the drives alive
Control the line of scrimmage as well
Allow Teel plenty of time to survey the field for his two talented receivers
Maintain some resemblance of a running game in order to keep the defense honest
Limit the amount of mistakes made on offense
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