‘Dogs Chances Hinge on Run Game, Turnovers

Ryan Colburn

With a daunting road trip at No. 17 Cincinnati looming, Fresno State's focus is solely on the 10th ranked Boise State Broncos. With just win in the last eight tries against BSU, in many eyes, the ‘Dogs can't afford to drop another game to their WAC nemesis…

Where can one begin?

Boise State is loaded at every spot on the field. They return a plethora of starters from the 2008 team that finished 12-1 and beat Fresno State handily, 61-10.

The Bulldogs start Ryan Colburn under center for just the third time and are expected to play without one of their top defenders Lorne Bell. Add in the fact that Fresno State has not come within 13 points of the Broncos in the last three games, it makes perfect sense to chalk this one up to Boise State.

But somebody must know something in Vegas.

What started as a -10 Boise State line has dropped to -7.5.

Does someone actually think Fresno State can stay within a touchdown or so of the mighty Broncos?

The ‘Dogs have only been able to do that twice in the eight years since BSU has been a member of the WAC, losing 35-30 in 2001 and winning 27-7 in 2005.

FS is going to have a chance of staying with seven or eight points of the Broncos; they must score more than 10 points. For that to happen, it will start with a supposedly improved and diverse Fresno State offense that is averaging nearly 500 yards of total offense through two games to rank second in the WAC.

Colburn completed 22-of-36 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns last week at Wisconsin but also threw three interceptions. Boise State is notorious for stacking eight in the box when facing the Bulldogs. The Badgers tried to do the same last week and Colburn burned them for it. Can he have the same success against BSU?

Regardless of what the Bulldog passing game will produce versus the Broncos stellar secondary led by All-American cornerback Kyle Wilson, the team that establishes a run game will have an upper hand in this contest.

Two years ago, with starting running back Ian Johnson nursing an injury, Bronco freshmen backs Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper shredded an over pursuing Bulldog defense. But this season BSU is only averaging 150 yards per game on the ground through two games. While the ‘Dogs lead the WAC with 244.5 yards rushing per game.

The winner of the last seven meetings has won the rushing battle. But the Bulldogs have had little success on the ground against the Broncos in six of the last seven contests.

From 2006-2008, Fresno State has averaged only 91 yards rushing per game against BSU, while the Broncos have averaged 276 yards on the ground against the ‘Dogs. Going back further, FS gained only 17 yards rushing in 2004, 48 in 2003, and 36 in 2002. In those years, BSU averaged 155 yards rushing against the ‘Dogs. The lone Fresno win came when the ‘Dogs out-rushed BSU, 206-104 in 2005. This year will be no different unless FS can keep the defense honest with a respectable pass game.

Colburn and Fresno State may have more success with the pass in this Friday, but it will be moot if the ‘Dogs are playing catch up.

Boise State has allowed only eight points on the season. They held Fresno State and seven other teams on their schedule last season to 10 points or less while averaging 37.6. Only Oregon, 37-32 loss, scored more than 17 points against the Broncos in 2008.

After witnessing the Bulldogs lose in double-overtime to Wisconsin, there were many positives to take away from the contest. They did a great job protecting Ryan Colburn and run blocking. But it will need to improve this week against a better defensive front.

Bulldog head coach Pat Hill says the Bronco defensive line is the most physical one his team will see this season. After watching film, Hill describes the Bronco d-line better than the Badgers' Big 10 front.

Last week, Colburn got away with floating a few balls, save the interception on his final throw, but against the Bronco secondary, he can't make the same throws and expect to get away with them. The BSU defensive backs unit is arguably one of the best in the nation.

If he improves on his velocity and touch from a week ago, he'll have an advantage Fresno has not had since 2005 – a healthy experienced receiving corps.

Last year, Fresno State was down to it's last leg of receivers. The 2007 corps was minus Chastin West and lacked experienced go-to targets. The 2006 unit had nothing but redshirt freshmen. Furthermore, as fans have seen the previous two games, the Bulldog wideouts are getting open, catching the football with their hands, and making plays.

The Bulldog defense has to pressure Bronco quarterback Kellen Moore. They did an adequate job of pressuring Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien last week, but Moore is a far more accurate and experienced quarterback. He'll pick apart an opposing defense if given time.

Above all, the offense cannot afford to make mistakes, and the defense must create turnovers.

FS is -4 on the season, giving up four interceptions and a fumble while intercepting just one pass. If the Bulldogs continue that trend against BSU, it will be a long night.

Just to review, Fresno State must:

  • Establish a run game.
  • Protect the football.
  • Protect Ryan Colburn.
  • Pressure Kellen Moore.
  • Create turnovers.

    If the ‘Dogs can accomplish all five objectives, they just might stay within eight points maybe even pull off the upset.

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