Last Saturday night, just three days shy of the two-year anniversary of the Utah State debacle, the Bulldogs hit another low. The 32-29 loss to defending WAC champion Hawaii does not look as bad as what happened in Logan initially, but considering the circumstances surround the loss, it is extremely tough to muster any sort of an excuse.
"I don't think there has ever been a game with someone turned the ball over six times and won," said Tom Brandstater. "There shouldn't be any other excuse made. Obviously, a few other things that contributed, but the main thing was the six turnovers and you can't do that again."
Fresno State had finished a tough slate of four games in September, that saw the Bulldogs travel east twice, play at top 10 team at home, and play another road game at a venue where they had never won. The ‘Dogs 3-1 start was forgiving despite the fact FS could have easily been 0-4. Nonetheless, FS was in position to be 4-0 falling only to No. 10 Wisconsin, 13-10, at home, which makes the loss to the Warriors much harder to swallow.
At 3-2 and 0-1 in the WAC, the ‘Dogs still control their own destiny in conference. Hawaii has a loss, and Fresno State still has the ability and talent to win out and give everyone else in conference a defeat.
"It's about us," said Brandstater. "Obviously, last week was a let down for us. It happened, nothing you can do about it now. If we play our style [of football] and play to our abilities, we shouldn't lose to anybody else."
Coming off a 36-31 road win over UCLA at the Rose Bowl, the last thing anyone expected was for Fresno State to lose at home to rival Hawaii. The Warriors are a shade of the team that played in the Sugar Bowl last season. Moreover, they were an abysmal 1-3 coming into last week's game, beating only FCS team Weber State.
Brandstater finished 12-of-24 passes for 204 yards and three costly interceptions. It was his worst performance on the year. He did make his share of good passes on the evening, and the Bulldogs were in position to win the game behind his arm. But Coach Pat Hill decided not to pass late in the final drive and settled for the field goal attempt, which was ultimately blocked by Hawaii.
"We just didn't make plays, even watching the film going back looking at my three interceptions, I was more mad after the game then Sunday morning when I watched it," said Brandstater.
"There were some fluke things that happened, they were all good throws. Just some kind of weird things happened, sometimes in football the ball doesn't bounce your way. On those three picks, I definitely got unlucky. People are going to talk but I'm real close to doing well and this team is close to doing well. We just have to keep the focus on ourselves."
One thing going well was the run game. If the ‘Dog continue to run as well as they did, and protect the football. Brandstater may hold true on this statement that FS will not lose another game in 2008.
"Our run blocking was unbelievable," said Brandstater. "We were averaging seven yards a carry. It's just another indicator that [Hawaii] was crazy; you never would think that we would lose that game but we did. That game happened, I will remember it for a long time, but there is nothing I can do about it now.
With Idaho up next, the ‘Dogs must dig deep and find a way to get up for the Vandals. Last week, most believed there would be no way Fresno State could lose at home to Hawaii. Unless, FS turn the ball over six times. Idaho is a far worse team than the Warriors, but it does not mean the ‘Dogs can expect to roll. Protecting the football has been the topic in offensive meetings this week.
Injuries have also taken their toll on Fresno State. The Bulldogs played without two of its biggest offensive standouts, Ryan Mathews and Marlon Moore. Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding stepped up and combined for over 300 yards rushing and three touchdowns last Saturday. However, without Moore, the Bulldog receiving corps loses its only true speed threat.
"We got to find ways to make plays when our good players go down," said Brandstater. "We got good players across the board. There is really no excuse. It looks worse on paper when you lose a guy (Moore) like that. When you are playing a game the next guy steps up and you shouldn't skip a beat."
Mathews and Moore are questionable this week, but the receiving corps should get a boost from Devon Wylie, who is expected to return this week. The next two games should not be an issue for this team. If they continue to struggle with injuries and protecting the football, it will be tough, but the season is far from over.
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