The fear arrived (a stomach churning, "oh no, here we go again" kind of fear), when Colburn threw that very early interception. Thought I was going to barf. Then the relief and excitement arrived with the performance of Logan Harrell and Chris Carter, et al, and the resurrected Bulldog D.
1. There were rumblings from the get-go.
Logan Harrell served notice on the Bearcats that trouble was brewing, well before he sacked QB Zack Collaros for the first time, dropping him for a 20-yard loss in the 2nd quarter.
In fact, all during the FIRST quarter, Harrell had harried Collaros, getting in his face, forcing him to rush his passes and knocking him down, a couple times, just as he released passes. He even batted down at least one pass, before things got serious.
That first sack was a thing of beauty. Here was a Fresno State interior defensive lineman (not a DE – mind you), sprinting after – and catching – a much-heralded, highly mobile BCS QB. Huh? Excuse me? What? Are we still in Kansas, Toto?
Is this the same team that finished in the cellar of the national rankings on sacks (11 total), just last year? Yes, Dorothy, it is. The ‘Dogs ended up the night with eight (8) sacks, and a complete domination of the two-time defending Big East champs.
2. A defensive unit awakened from its slumber.
And leading that unit was All-WAC DE Chris Carter and Fresno's latest hero, DT Logan Harrell. FS also had serious contributions from a wide variety of defensive starters.
Consider the following, CB Desia Dunn looked like a stud all night long – 11 tackles for the evening, 10 of them solo. This guy means business. (I may be getting ahead of myself, a little, here, but I actually thought I saw a little "swagger" from the corners, Saturday night...)
OLB Travis Brown was flying around everywhere, multiple tackles and one sack. Monster DE Donovan Pritchett (though not a starter) looked very good for his first game. He was very active, recovered a fumble, and brought heat on the Cincy QB.
Let me also brag on CB Jermaine Thomas.
This player looked confident, polished, and FAST. He is definitely a keeper. He may have been injured, late in the game, so send up a prayer in his behalf. Safety Philip Thomas also looked good, as did Lorne Bell (of course).
Before we leave the defense, consider this. In addition to the eight sacks, there were MULTIPLE other tackles for loss, by several of the players, in the Bearcat backfield. The Bulldog D was headhunting, Saturday night. It was a sight to warm the cockles of your heart (whatever the hell "cockles" are - mine are warm!)
3. A new QB star may be shimmering in the Fresno sky...
Senior QB Ryan Colburn has endured a significant amount of crap hurled his way, over the last year. Some of it was deserved, some wasn't. He worked very hard this summer, had a great fall camp, and kept the starting job.
Mr. Colburn clearly stepped up to the next level, however, Saturday night. Consider the fact that he completed 18-of-24 for 247 yards – a nifty 75% – at nearly 14 yards per catch. Consider also that almost all of that was done in three quarters! Tack on four touchdowns and one int. That's a lot better than "not bad," which was where he lived, last year.
In addition, it is pretty clear that this team has "bought into" Ryan Colburn as the undisputed leader of the football club. You can see it in the huddle. This guy is running the show. He is confident. They guys believe in him. He appears to be taking it all in stride. A wonderful thing.
Let me say this, as well.
The highlight of the game, for me, was the amazing throw by Colburn, to begin the fourth quarter, and to just NAIL Rashad Evans – IN STRIDE – (something we didn't see much, last year) racing up the middle of the field, for a 59-yard touchdown. It just looked like Evans was running as fast as he could (which is pretty damn fast), and Colburn fired this rocket – it was not that old, tired, lazy, high-arched, "throw it up for grabs" pass he threw a lot last year – this was a bullet – thrown low, with little arch and a lot of HEAT. It hit Evans IN STRIDE (I say it again) and the Cincy DB's simply could not defend the pass or keep up with the receiver. SIX BABY...! SIX...! I don't know that Colburn could have thrown that pass, last year.
That pass said a lot about the QB the ‘Dogs appear to have inherited, this year. I know, I know, the season is young. But that QB performance looked pretty damned impressive, you have to admit. Ryan Colburn... next Bulldog QB in the NFL? We shall see. I know this much. Nobody – but nobody – is hollering for Derek Carr to start playing QB, after last night!
4. Here is the question - "Who is responsible?"
And the question relates to the ballsy calls – specifically – going for it on 4th-and-2 – and nailing the play – i.e., the perfect little toss the unpronounceable TE Kulitapa Taumoepeau,. Eight yards and a first down. Yes!!!
By the way, I got the sneaking suspicion that Hill was letting Grady have a lot more say regarding the play calling, last night. Any truth to that? I wonder.
5. Here is a fundamental of great value.
This was not a figment of my imagination. I know this is true. The defense HIT people last night. Creating an environment of hitting – a mindset of hitting – this is a huge prerequisite for effective defenses.
There was an atmosphere of Bulldog hitting, injected early into the game, last night. In fact, the two funniest incidents, of the entire game, occurred in relation to hits.
One was the tooth-rattling, head-snapping block, delivered by WR Jamal Hamler on a Bearcat strong safety Cameron Cheatham. Wow! It was so violent, and Hamler was so unaffected by the impact, that it was funny – impressive, but funny.
The other incident was hilarious. When Logan Harrell DECKED Collaros, thinking he had thrown the ball – and he hadn't – the way he just FLOORED him and walked off, like "Meh! So much for you!" I laughed so hard; I thought I might hurt myself.
6. One sour note.
I have to say this. The Bulldog running game was lousy. It looked inept, ineffective, and incapable of advancing the ball on the ground. The rushing attack needs a complete overhaul.
Also, I have to say that the "hound" formation, or "wild dog" formation, or "mangy mutt" formation, or whatever the hell it is – that idea needs to be flushed. It smells like my granddaughter's pampers. OK? Bad. Flush it.
7. MWC realignment?
Not much to say here – except – survival trumps everything. If I have to kill you to save my wife, kids, and grandbabies to survive? You are dead meat.
Fresno State's football program faced annihilation if Boise & Nevada left and stayed in the doomed WAC.
A school has to do what a school has to do. All is fair in love & war & football conference survival.
See you in two weeks.
Redroadster is highly regarded attorney in the Central Valley, a loyal Bulldog fan, and a regular poster/contributor on BarkBoard.com. Check in time to time for his take on games and other Bulldog athletic events in his View from the Roadster.
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