|Press Conferece Interviews|
|Head Coach Tim DeRuyter
Fresno State is set to open its 93rd season of football and third under head coach Tim DeRuyter on Saturday when it travels down south to face No. 15 Southern California at 4:30 p.m. in the LA Coliseum ... the game is being televised nationally on FOX with the broadcast team of Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analyst) and Molly McGrath (sideline) ... fans can also listen to the game on the official home of the Fresno State Bulldogs, 940 AM ESPN radio, with `Voice of the Bulldogs' Paul Loeffler, former Bulldog and NFL safety Cameron Worrell as the analyst and former Bulldog and four-time NFL Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal ... 16 starters return from a team that last year went 11-2, tying the school record for wins in a season and winning a second-straight Mountain West championship - the school's first back-to-back conference titles since 1992 and 1993 ... last season did not end the way the `Dogs wanted it to, falling 45-20 to USC in the 2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, setting up the stage for round two against the Trojans in LA this Saturday ... after three years, 12,842 yards and 113 touchdown passes with Derek Carr as the starting quarterback, Fresno State enters this season without naming its starter - that will be a game-time decision between junior Brian Burrell and senior Brandon Connette ... Bulldog captains Josh Harper (Biletnikoff Award candidate) and Derron Smith (preseason All-American) look to lead Fresno State this year, as the `Dogs seek a third-straight Mountain West Championship. TCU (2009-11) is the only MW team that has won three consecutive conference championships in the league's 15-year history ... when the BCS era was intact from 1998-2013, Fresno State won 19 games against teams from the major conferences, including wins over Pac-12 schools, California, Colorado, Oregon State (twice), UCLA (twice) and Washington.
This game marks the sixth time in school history Fresno State will be opening up the season against a ranked opponent. The last time came in 2003 when the Bulldogs played at No. 12 Tennessee to start the 2003 season. Fresno State fell in that game, 24-6. That is the highest-ranked opponent Fresno State has faced in a season opener. The `Dogs are 0-5 vs. ranked opponents in season openers.
Fresno State has won nine out of its last 10 season openers.
This is the first time in three seasons under head coach Tim DeRuyter that the Bulldogs open the season on the road.
Preseason Favorite to Win the West
For the second consecutive season the Fresno State football team was selected to finish atop the West Division standings in the Mountain West, as voted upon by the media in the preseason poll. Additionally, the conference announced five Bulldogs to its 2014 Preseason All-MW football team, highlighted by senior free safety Derron Smith who was named the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. The five Bulldogs on the preseason All-MW team is the most from any school in the conference.
Program on the Rise
Tim DeRuyter has led Fresno State to back-to-back conference championships and a 20-6 overall record in his two seasons at the school. In year one, he guided the Bulldogs to a 9-4 record after the team went 4-9 the previous season, and won the school's first conference championship since 1999 - ending a 13-year drought. He followed that up with an 11-2 season last year, matching the school record for victories in a season and winning the outright conference championship. Now DeRuyter looks continue to build upon those successes in year three with a squad, that despite losing six players to the NFL, still returns 16 starters and the talent to compete for a third-straight conference championship.
Fresno State vs. Southern California - The Series
Saturday's game will be Fresno State's second-straight game vs. USC, as the Trojans defeated the Bulldogs 45-20 in the 2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. This is just the fourth overall meeting between USC and Fresno State with Troy leading the series 2-1. The first meeting between the schools was in the 1992 Freedom Bowl played in Anaheim, which is considered the biggest victory in Fresno State history. The Bulldogs dominated the Trojans in that game, holding a 405-183 advantage in total offense behind game MVP Lorenzo Neal (now Fresno State's sideline reporte) and QB Trent Dilfer. The second meeting was at the LA Coliseum on Nov. 19, 2005 when the 'Dogs were ranked No. 16 and gave No. 1-ranked USC all it could handle. Fresno State led 21-13 at halftime and rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to take a late 42-41 lead with 9:47 to play. In the end, Reggie Bush ran for a career-high 294 yards on 23 carries and scored twice, leading the Trojans to a wild 50-42 victory. That USC win was later vacated due to an NCAA penalty.
Scouting Southern California
USC is set to enter its first season under new head coach Steve Sarkisian and the Trojans begin the season ranked No. 15 nationally in both official polls. Eighteen starters (eight each on offense and defense, along with the kicker and punter) return from 2013 for Sarkisian's debut season. In all, 76 squadmen are back, including 51 who saw action in 2013 and 49 who lettered. The Trojans were picked second in the South Division of the Pac-12 Preseason Poll.
Back-to-Back Against the Trojans
Fresno State is set to face USC in consecutive games, marking the first time since 1985 that the `Dogs have played a team in back-to-back games. This also marks just the ninth such occasion in school history. Troy defeated the Bulldogs in the 2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl to close last season. In the eight previous occasions when the `Dogs played a team in consecutive games, Fresno State won game No. 2 seven out of eight times. The one loss came in the 1936 season opener against San Francisco and that was after Fresno State lost to USF to end the 1935 season.
Looking across the entire Football Bowl Subdivision, the last time two teams played each other in consecutive games was just last year and it also centered around the Las Vegas Bowl. Boise State and Washington met in the 2012 Las Vegas Bowl, with Boise State coming out on top. The two teams then faced each other in their 2013 season openers, with Washington coming out on top 38-6 in Seattle. Can this happen again between Pac-12 and MW schools? Yes if Colorado and Hawai'i meet in a bowl game to end this season along with Washington and Boise State - those teams open up the 2015 season against each other.
Fresno State is one of nine schools from the Group of 5 that will be playing three or more teams from the Power 5 in non-conference play. Two of Fresno State's three opponents - No. 15 Southern California and No. 22 Nebraska - enter the season ranked in the top 25. Eastern Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, Memphis, Louisiana Tech, Rice, SMU, UL-Monroe and Wyoming join Fresno State as other Group of 5 schools set to face two preseason top 25 teams during non-conference play. Here is a look at the Group of 5 schools set to face three or more Power 5 teams this fall.
The 2014 schedule is Fresno State's toughest to open a season since 2001 when the `Dogs played at Colorado, hosted No. 10 Oregon State and at No. 23 Wisconsin, which were all Fresno State victories. The Bulldogs finished that season 11-3 overall, falling to Michigan State in the Silicon Valley Football Classic, which was the fourth BCS team the `Dogs faced in 2001.
Fresno State in Season Openers
Fresno State is 54-34-4 (.587) all-time in 92 season openers dating back to 1921. The Bulldogs have won nine out of their last 10 season openers and are 23-11 in season openers since 1980. USC has also been very good in its first game of the season, winning 15-straight season openers which is the fourth longest active streak in the FBS. Its last loss was in the 1997 season opener to Florida State, 14-7.
Fresno State vs. the Pac-12
Fresno State is 25-40 all-time against Pac-12 teams. The Bulldogs were supposed to play Colorado last season, but the Sept. 14 game in Boulder was canceled due to the devastating flooding in Colorado. The `Dogs then faced USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. Fresno State will face two Pac-12 teams to open the 2014 season, both on the road. After USC, the Bulldogs travel to face Utah on Sept. 6. Since 2000, Fresno State has squared off against seven of the teams that make up the Pac-12. The `Dogs have a win against each school except for Stanford and Arizona State, schools the Bulldogs have not played since 1928 and 1941, respectively. The last time Fresno State played a game in Los Angeles, it defeated UCLA 36-31 at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 27, 2008.
Highly Decorated Derron Smith Enters Senior Season
Fresno State free safety Derron Smith is back for his senior season, and has a wave of hype riding behind his name entering the year. He has been named to six preseason watch lists for national awards, four preseason All-America teams and for the second year in a row was voted as the Mountain West's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Smith was the only player not from a Power 5 conference to make CBSSports.com's preseason All-America team that consisted of 27 players.
Smith enters 2014 as the national leader in career interceptions with 14. His last pick came off of USC's Cody Kessler and he returned it 41 yards for a touchdown in the 2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. Smith enters the season needing four more interceptions to set a new Fresno State career record and surpass Rob Webster who set the school mark that has stood since 1987. If the last two seasons are any indication, Smith should get that this year. He tied for second in the FBS last year with seven picks and ranked in a tie for fifth in 2012 with six interceptions. For his career, he has 211 tackles, 11.0 tackles for a loss, four sacks, 11 pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He set a new career-high with 18 tackles in the bowl game against USC last December.
After three prosperous seasons with Derek Carr as the teams starting quarterback, Fresno State now moves on with a new starter. Carr set 27 school records and 41 Mountain West records in his career, and with his success, none of the quarterbacks behind him got much experience. Fresno State opens the 2014 season without naming a starting quarterback - it will be a game-time decision between Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette.
Burrell, a junior college transfer who came to Fresno State in January 2013, backed up Carr last season. He saw action in five games, completing 7-of-12 passes for 51 yards with no TDs and no interceptions. At Bakersfield College in 2012, he led his team to an 11-2 record and the CCCAA State Championship by throwing for 2,555 yards and 27 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Connette is a graduate transfer from Duke who arrived in Fresno the first of June and is eligible to play immediately since he obtained his undergraduate degree in economics from Duke last December. He has the most experience, and like Burrell has proven record leading a team to a championship (ACC Coastal Division title in 2013). Connette played in 39 games with four starts at Duke. He threw for 1,410 yards and 16 TDs while also rushing for 31 touchdowns, which set a new Blue Devil school record for career rushing touchdowns.
Home Opener A Sellout
Fresno State opens the season with two straight road games, giving the majority of the Red Wave a long two weeks before they can catch their team in person. Week 3 on Sept. 13 against Nebraska is when the `Dogs play their first game at Bulldog Stadium, and the ticket sales are at a point they have never been at in Fresno State history. Entering the fourth and final week of August, Fresno State is approaching a sellout three weeks in advance of its first home game. The Bulldog ticket office is expecting the Nebraska game to be sold out before Fresno State even steps foot on the field for its first game, as there is a very limited number of tickets remaining for the home opener.
→ The earliest sellout of a game in Bulldog Stadium history happened last season, when the `Dogs sold out their Nov. 2, 2013 game against Nevada four days in advance.
→ The last home opener to sellout came back in 2008, when the `Dogs hosted a 10th-
ranked Wisconsin team in the second week of the season. Fresno State opened 2008 with a road win at Rutgers.
→ Last year Fresno State led the Mountain West in attendance with an average of 36,917 fans over seven home games. That was the highest per game average since 2008 when the `Dogs drew 37,864 fans.
→ Fresno State has added over 5,200 new season ticket holders and retained in the ball park of 85 percent of its 2013 season ticket holders. Fresno State has added over 9,000 new season ticket holders over the last two seasons behind head coach Tim DeRuyter.
→ Fresno State had the No. 9 overall per game attendance increase in the FBS from 2012 to 2013 (up 6,002 per game). Went from 30, 915 to 36,917 per game.
Looking To End Slide vs. Top 25
Fresno State has lost 16-straight games to ranked opponents. That streak started back in 2005 when the Bulldogs held a fourth-quarter lead over the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans, but could not hold on for the victory and fell 50-42. Since that loss, Fresno State has not defeated another ranked team. Its last win over a ranked opponent was an overtime victory over No. 18 Virginia in the 2004 MPC Computers Bowl. Saturday's game vs. USC will be the 36th game against a ranked opponent in the last 20 years. Fresno State has won just five of the previous 35.
Josh Harper Leads Wide Receiver Corps
Bulldog Josh Harper enters his senior season ranked fifth nationally in career touchdown receptions with 22. He is the only returning receiver from last years three headed monster that also included Davante Adams (second round pick of the Packers) and Isaiah Burse (now with the Broncos). All three of those receivers posted 1,000-yard seasons last year, marking just the fifth time in FBS history a team had three receivers go over 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. Harper has 138 career receptions for 1,841 yards and the 22 TDs in 27 games played in. The rest of the returning Bulldog receivers have combined for 57 catches for 672 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Greg Watson, who converted from QB to WR late in 2012, has 30 career receptions for 383 yards and one TD. Aaron Peck came on strong at the end of last season and had six catches for 47 yards while starting the bowl game vs. USC.
Depth at Running Back
Fresno State returns its top two rushers from last season in senior Josh Quezada and junior Marteze Waller. The duo combined for 1,453 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. That total nearly matched the 1,490 yards that Robbie Rouse - the school's all-time leading rusher and only tailback ever at Fresno State to run for over 1,000 yards in three separate seasons - accumulated in 2012. Along with Quezada and Waller, look to see redshirt freshman Dontel James set up into the rotation and senior Malique Micenheimer. The tailbacks also serve a big role in the passing game - not just in protection where Fresno State ranked sixth in the nation last year by allowing just 11 sacks in 13 games - but by catching the ball out of the backfield. Quezada and Waller combined for 74 catches for 463 yards and one touchdown last year. `Juice', as Quezada likes to be called, had 51 catches, which was the second-most by a running back in a single season, 12 off of the 63 that Rouse caught the year before in 2012 during offensive coordinator Dave Schramm's first season.
Paving the Way
Fresno State returns three starters on its offensive line that allowed only 11 sacks in 13 games last year. The `Dogs ranked sixth in the FBS last year for fewest sacks allowed, doing so while throwing the ball 675 times. That was 246 more pass attempts than any of the teams ranked ahead of the Bulldogs in fewest sacks allowed. Joining the starting unit this year is left guard Sean Rubalcava and left tackle Alex Fifita, who takes over for Austin Wentworth who is now with the Minnesota Vikings after being named an All-American last season. Fifita is no stranger to playing time, as he has made 11 career starts between left guard and right tackle in his career. In all, Fresno State's line has 67 starts under its belt, 36 by right guard Cody Wichmann (he has made 28 consecutive starts). Wichmann is one of the nation's most experienced players, having played in the third-most snaps of any offensive linemen in the FBS.
Fresno State has won 13-straight games at home, which is the fifth-longest active streak in the country.
Fresno State has 36 players, or 35 percent of its roster, that are originally from the LA area, and that does not include another dozen or so who are from the San Diego area. Key Bulldog contributors from LA include:
CB Jamal Ellis - Riverside
WR Aaron Peck - Moreno Valley
WR Greg Watson - Rancho Cucamonga
FS Derron Smith - Banning
QB Brandon Connette - Corona
RB Josh Quezada - La Habra
CB Brian Harper - Rialto
SS - Charles Washington - Encino
OLB Ejiro Ederaine - Corona
RT Justin Northern - Buena Park
LG Sean Rubalcava - La Mirada
Also, head coach Tim DeRuyter is a Long Beach native who played in high school at St. John Bosco. Running backs coach Joe Wade is also from Los Angeles and strength and condition coach Joey Boese, a Irvine native, prepped at Mater Dei High School.