The Fresno State Bulldogs are set to open its 91st season of football and first year under new head coach Tim DeRuyter on Saturday, Sept. 1 against Weber State ... Kickoff at Bulldog Stadium slated for 7 p.m. ... There is no television for the season opener, but video streaming of the game is available at gobulldogs.com ... Fans can listen to the game on the radio at KMJ 580 AM with the Bulldog Sports Network team of Paul Loeffler (play-by-play), Jordan Christensen (analyst) and Ralph Wood (sideline reporter). Bulldog Live begins at 5 p.m. and the pregame show starts at 6:30 ... Tim DeRuyter's first Bulldog team is set to debut Saturday night with its new spread offense and attacking 3-4 defense ... The Bulldogs were selected to finish third in the 2012 Mountain West preseason poll, as Fresno State is entering its first year in the conference ... Bulldog quarterback Derek Carr was selected as the preseason MW Offensive Player of the Year while senior running back Robbie Rouse and senior linebacker Travis Brown were also named to the preseason All-Conference team ... The 'Dogs have won seven of their past eight season openers, the one loss coming last year to Cal at Candlestick Park ... Saturday's game is Fresno State's 10th against a school from the Football Championship Subdivision in the last 16 years. The Bulldogs have won their nine previous meetings by an average of 25 points.
Head coach Tim DeRuyter is making his coaching debut on Saturday. He won his only game as a head coach, when he served as interim head coach at Texas A&M in its 2011 bowl victory over Northwestern.
Fresno State is set to debut its new spread offense and attacking 3-4, both new systems from what the 'Dogs have run in the past.
Fresno State in Season Openers
Fresno State is 52-34-4 (.578) all-time in 90 season openers dating back to 1921. The Bulldogs had won seven-straight season openers before falling 36-21 to California last season at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Fresno State has gone 21-11 in season openers since 1980. Of those past 32 season openers since 1980, 17 of them have been home games and the Bulldogs won 15 times in those 17 games.
The Bulldogs Against FCS Schools
Saturday's game will be Fresno State's 10th against a FCS school in the last 16 years and all 10 have been played at home. The Bulldogs have won the previous nine meetings against FCS opponents and done so by an average margin of victory of 25 points. Last season, Fresno State defeated North Dakota 27-22 in the home opener. Seven of the nine games against FCS opponents have been the home opener for the Bulldogs and five of them have come on the first game of the year.
Scouting Weber State
Weber State, coming off a 5-6 record in 2011 where it finished 5-3 in conference play, enters its first season under head coach Jody Sears. Sears joined the WSU staff in January as the defensive coordinator and was named head coach in April, replacing John L. Smith after he departed for Arkansas without ever coaching a game for the Wildcats. Weber State returns 36 lettermen and 14 starters off last year's team. A total of 10 players that earned Big Sky All-Conference honors last season also return, including sophomore fullback Tevia Tolutau who was named to the first team. Junior running back Josh Booker, senior defensive end Trevor Pletcher and senior offensive lineman Tytan Timoteo all return after earning second team All-Conference honors a year ago.
Tim DeRuyter Era Begins
Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter, who was hired as the 17th head coach in Bulldog history on Dec. 14, 2011, enters his first season at the helm of Fresno State football. DeRuyter becomes just the third Bulldog coach since 1980 and comes to Fresno State with 22 years of experience as a college coach, 16 of which have been spent as a defensive coordinator. He spent the previous two seasons as the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator at Texas A&M. DeRuyter was the interim head coach for the Aggies in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas against Northwestern on Dec. 31, 2011, leading A&M to a 33-22 victory. His vision at Fresno State is to build a championship football team, recapturing the Red Wave (Fresno State's fan base) and becoming a player once again on the national stage. The three characteristics you are going to see from his teams is that they are going to play fast, physical and with a fanatical effort.
New Brand of Football
DeRuyter hired Dave Schramm as the Bulldogs' offensive coordinator to run an up-tempo spread offense. The Bulldogs plan to stress opposing defense's with their tempo, as they are going no-huddle and plan on running upwards of 80-90 plays per game. The goal of Schramm's offense is to stretch the field vertically and horizontally and getting the ball in the hands of the team's playmakers.
On defense, DeRuyter hired Nick Toth as the defensive coordinator to come in and run his 3-4 defense that he has been so successful with at previous coaching stops. Toth coached with DeRuyter at Texas A&M and played in his system when DeRuyter was the defensive coordinator at Ohio. Last year at Texas A&M, DeRuyter's and Toth's defense led the nation with 51 sacks. Fresno State ranked 77th nationally last year with 22 sacks in the 4-3 that was previously run. The goal of this defense is to stop the run, attack the quarterback and force turnovers.
Inaugural Season in the Mountain West
Fresno State enters its first season as a member of the Mountain West, officially joining the conference on July 1, 2012. The Bulldogs were picked to finish third in their first year in the league in the preseason poll. The two previous times a new school joined the Mountain West (TCU in 2005 and Boise State in 2011), the new league member won the conference title.
An interesting note about Fresno State joining a new conference is the success it has achieved during its first season in the league. Fresno State joined the WAC in 1992 and after going 6-2 in conference play that year, claimed a share of the league title. In 1988, the year the Pacific Coast Athletic Association became the Big West, the Bulldogs went a perfect 7-0 in Big West play to win the conference championship (although it technically was the same conference, just with a new name). Fresno State went 6-4 overall in 1969, its first season in the PCAA. In 1939, Fresno State's first year in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, the 'Dogs finished with a 9-1 record and its only loss came to league champion San Jose State. SJSU finished with a 7-0-2 record in 1939.
Three Bulldogs Named to Preseason All-Mountain West Team
Junior quarterback Derek Carr was named the 2012 Mountain West Preseason Offensive Player of the Year at the Mountain West Media Days that were held in Las Vegas, July 24-25. Carr was joined by running back Robbie Rouse and linebacker Travis Brown on the preseason all-conference team.
Rouse Eying School Rushing Record
Robbie Rouse is set to embark on his quest to become the school's all-time leading rusher. With 3,157 career rushing yards in his first three seasons, he enters his senior year 317 yards away from breaking Ron Rivers' school record that has stood since 1993. Rouse also needs 124 yards to move ahead of Ryan Mathews for second place on the school's all-time rushing list. The 5-7, 190-pounder has rushed for 1,129 (2010) and 1,549 (2011) the last two years and if he gets another 1,000 yard season this year, Rouse will become the first tailback in school history to post three 1,000-yard seasons. He enters the year on the preseason watch lists for the Walter Camp (national player of the year), Maxwell (American's outstanding football player), Doak Walker (nation's premiere running back) and the CFPA All-Purpose Trophy Awards.
Carr Looks To Build On 2011 Season
Junior quarterback Derek Carr returns for his second season under center. His first year as a starter was better than any other first-year starter in program history. Carr ranked 15th nationally and set a new Bulldog record for a sophomore by throwing for 3,544 yards in 2011. That total was the third-highest overall in program history. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes and had 26 touchdowns against nine interceptions. Of all the quarterbacks returning in 2012, Carr's 2011 passing yardage ranks as the eighth-highest among returnees. He is on the preseason watch lists for the Dave O'Brien Award, the Maxwell Award and the CFPA Quarterback Trophy Award in addition to being named the Preseason Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year.
This year in the spread, and with the talent surrounding him, it wouldn't be all that far fetched to think that Carr could put up bigger numbers. In addition to slinging the ball over the field, you'll see Carr running with it more as well in the new scheme. He is well equipped to do so, as he holds the Fresno State record for fastest time in the 40-yard dash by a quarterback at 4.56, which he ran this summer.
Experienced Squad Returning in 2012
Fresno State returns 15 starters and 37 lettermen from its 2011 team. The Bulldogs' 2012 roster features 21 seniors that have combined to make 145 starts and play in 446 games. Of the 21 seniors, six of them (Travis Brown, Rashad Evans, Michael Harris, Shawn Plummer, Robbie Rouse and Andrew Shapiro) have all played in 35 or more games in their careers. Travis Brown and Shawn Plummer have both played in 39 games. Brown has been in every single game since he arrived on campus as a true freshman in 2009. Plummer did the same as a true freshman in 2008 through 2010, but missed all of last season with injuries that caused him to redshirt. Brown's 26 starts are the most on the team and Robbie Rouse is second with 22.
Deep Receiving Corps
Fresno State and Oregon State were the only teams in the nation in 2011 that had six players catch 30 or more passes. This year, Fresno State returns four of its six that hauled in 30 or more receptions. That number ties for the national lead of returning players with 30-plus catches in 2011. Joining Fresno State on that list with four is Clemson, Oregon State, San Jose State and Tulsa.
Leading the group of returning receivers is senior Rashad Evans. Evans caught at least one pass in all 13 games last year and finished 2011 with 44 receptions for 351 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Josh Harper caught 35 passes for 497 yards and five touchdowns in 2011 - the most by a Bulldog freshman in the last 10 seasons. Isaiah Burse added 40 catches for 436 yards and one TD while Robbie Rouse had 32 catches for 228 yards and one touchdown. In addition to those four, quarterback Derek Carr also has more weapons to throw to. Add in 6-6 sophomore receiver Victor Dean, who ran a 4.39 40-yard dash in the off-season, redshirt freshman Davante Adams and junior A.J. Johnson to the players you'll see significant contributions from. Dean caught two passes in 2011, both for touchdowns, as his height gives the 'Dogs a valuable weapon in the red zone. Johnson started seven games as a freshman in 2010 when he caught 20 passes. He only caught eight passes in 2011, but those went for 154 yards (a 19.2 average). Adams has the potential to be a star and had an impressive spring. He is the one redshirt freshman coaches have pointed out about having the ability to make the biggest impact in 2012.
The Turnover Game
With the new 3-4 defense the Bulldogs will be running this year, a benchmark has been set by the coaching staff to force 30 or more turnovers every season. They plan on doing that by blitzing the quarterback and playing with a fanatical effort. An increase in turnovers forced will be a welcome site in the Valley. In each of the past six years, Fresno State has ranked 111th or worse nationally in turnovers gained and that is out of 120 FBS teams. In fact, the Bulldogs have not forced over 15 turnovers in each of the past five seasons. The nine turnovers the 2011 team forced tied for the fewest in the nation with Minnesota. Changing the history in the turnover department is one key towards winning more games.
Bulldog Secondary Prime For Big Season
Fresno State has both senior Phillip Thomas and redshirt sophomore Derron Smith back anchoring the secondary from the safety positions. Thomas, widely regarded as Fresno State's most valuable defensive player, returns after missing all of 2011 with a broken leg. Smith played in three games last year before a broken arm caused him to miss the rest of the season. Smith showed the ability to make big plays in his limited action last year, as he intercepted a pass and forced a fumble at No. 10 Nebraska and had eight tackles against Cal. In addition to the two safeties, cornerback L.J. Jones returns after starting all 13 games last year. Jones had three of Fresno State's five interceptions on the year, which tied for the most by a Bulldog in the last eight seasons. Thomas picked off three passes in 2010 when he also recorded 64 tackles. The one newcomer to the group is cornerback Sean Alston, who is set to man the other corner spot. Alston has never started a game. Last year in nine games he had three tackles. Senior Cristin Wilson, who started seven games last season in place of the injured Thomas and Smith, provides experience and speed in the secondary. He is the fastest player on the team and will be used a lot in nickle situations as well.
Last season, the Bulldogs allowed nearly 270 yards passing per game and 21 total passing touchdowns. Fresno State's five interceptions tied for 112th nationally out of 120 Division I teams. The last time Fresno State intercepted 10 or more passes in a season was in 2004 when the 'Dogs picked off 16 passes. Look for all those numbers to improve this season under defensive coordinator Nick Toth.
Fresno State enters its first game week with the competition still on-going as to who will be the Bulldogs' kicker this year. Entering the week, senior Andrew Shapiro is listed atop the depth chart above Quentin Breshears. However, nothing is set and stone and the coaching staff will continue to grade the kickers all week before deciding who will handle field goal and PAT duties come game time.
Seniors Awarded Scholarships
Head coach Tim DeRuyter awarded four seniors with scholarships this season - receiver Matthew De Los Santos, cornerback Beau Fryer, receiver Gerome Surrell and safety Cristin Wilson. All four were walk-ons to the program and were awarded with the scholarships for doing well in the classroom, being good team players and for all the hard work they have put in.
2005 Remarkably Similar to 2012
This 2012 season is very similar to how the 2005 season started. In 2005, Fresno State opened up with a home game against Weber State and in week two traveled to Oregon. The Bulldogs defeated Weber State 55-17 at home in the 2005 opener, but fell 37-34 at Oregon the next weekend. Fresno State entered that Oregon game ranked No. 23 nationally and was led by 418 yards passing from quarterback Paul Pinegar. The Bulldogs finished the 2005 season 8-5 and played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, where they fell 31-24 to Tulsa. Fresno State and Tulsa are set to meet again this season on Sept. 22, 2012.