Head Coach Pat Hill held his weekly press conference on Monday, previewing the upcoming game against Cal
Aug. 29, 2011
"Welcome to the start of what I think is going to a great football season for our fans and our players and our community. We've had a great response to our game with Cal that is close to... 13,000 tickets though our ticket department. What I believe that says is there's a lot of people who are excited about these young men here at Fresno State. It should be a great game at Candlestick Park, there will be a little change in weather. They say it's going to be 68 degrees. It's going to be cool, it's going to be great. It should be a great, great game on September 3."
What do you know about Cal and its personnel?
"Looking through their depth chart, it's pretty interesting 10 of their 22 starters come from out of state. There are a lot of people on their team that I don't know a lot about. I know about them from watching film, but not much about them from high school. That's the hardest thing about opening up games, is not always knowing their different types of personnel. We'll be ready to adjust on both sides of the ball. Opening games are always tough, I think, and it will be tough for people against us in opening games because there are things that Derek Carr can do that we haven't been able to do. Both teams will have to adjust and opening games are always like that."
How much have you talked to your players about the new rule of no celebrating before they score a touchdown?
"We've talked about that a lot. We've talked to it in length to the offense and we've really gone over it with the defense because the first time a big defensive lineman gets the ball and starts rolling down the field, and he holds it up at the 5-yard line, it's no touchdown and 15 yards back from the five. Then it's first-and-10 from the 20.
How has the team done preparing for the crowd noise at Candlestick?
Have you had to temper the excitement from your players?
"We've had a couple practices preparing for it. I don't think it will be as big at Candlestick as we will at Nebraska. We've had our noise days out there and it was fine."
"Naw, they're really focused. There are a lot of guys in the room that have played at UCLA, have played at Wisconsin. There are a lot of newcomers. This team is sort of a transitional team. There is a lot of young players, but they're a very calm group. They're not giddy or anything, they're looking forward to getting this season started."
What kind of shape is your team in?
"As of right now, with this week of practice still ahead of us, we are in great physical shape. I think that is a great tribute to how they handled themselves in the offseason. We've had good contact in the fall. I think we totaled it up the other day and we had 402 live snaps in fall camp. I think they are really ready to go physically. Their shoulders are ready, their bodies are hardened and I think they are ready to roll. I think you got to bang them."
What are some of the keys to victory?
"It all comes down to execution. The kicking game is going to be huge. They got a big-time punter. Field position will be very big in this game and it will come down to a lot of special teams and substitutions. First games, you always worry about having the right personnel on the field and guys getting in and out. Special teams I think will be a big part of this football game and it always comes down to execution. Both teams will be very emotionally ready to go. Cal's going to be ready to go and it is a big game for both teams."
Is this a game that you would like to be played again soon?
"Yeah, absolutely, I think it's a game we should play. UCLA, USC, Stanford and Cal, those games we should play. Now, getting these games set up is not easy. Hopefully, it's a success, and what I mean by success is monetary success, for most schools, I know it is for Fresno State. It's an extra game that we wouldn't have had, but we took it because we are playing at Hawai'i, so it is an influx of at least $900 thousand into our budget and that is a great boost for any company. If Cal feels the same thing from it, they might want to play the game at home from now on, but it doesn't make any difference to me. I'd like to keep playing these games because I think we should be playing UCLA. Go back and check the attendances except for the USC game, Fresno State's one of the biggest crowds that has been in the rose bowl for a long time. You know we were sold out for USC, so we travel well. Our fans obviously like those venues, they like those teams and they will pay those prices. It's good and hopefully we will keep playing them."
How do you feel about your offensive line going into the first game?
"I feel good. I feel a lot better than I did going into the start of fall camp. The great thing is they have been together for the whole camp. That five have been together every practice, which has really solidified that group. It is a good group. It is a physical group and they are starting to work really well together. If we can keep that group intact throughout the entire season, they will really grow."
Talk about the schedule this year as a whole...
"It's a very challenging schedule, but that's why (the student-athletes) come here. They come here because of the schedule. It's all about exposure and who you play. That's what kids really look at. Conference affiliation is No. 1, but they want to know who you are playing and if you are going to be on TV, that's what kids are interested in. So, these young men came here to play the schedule we play."
What do you expect running back-wise in this game and how you rotate your guys?
"Robbie Rouse is our starter. That's clear cut. He's an every-down back. A.J. Ellis has had a good camp, Milton (Knox) has had a good camp and Michael Harris is starting to come on. We feel we have four really good backs and any of them can play, but Robbie Rouse is definitely our starter. If one gets a hot hand, we'll roll with them for a while. It's not running back by committee, but we got good running backs and hopefully they'll all get their shots. It's good to have a stable of running backs as we've found out here in the past. We've got a good group."