Bulldogs 1-0, Targetting Oregon State
Sept. 6, 1999
Fresno - Fresno State Takes on Oregon State Head coach Pat Hill will take his 'Dogs to Corvallis Saturday and try to reverse his last two years of road opener losses (1997: Baylor (24-27) and 1998: Colorado (21-29))... Oregon State beat Nevada in its road opener, 28-13 under first-year head coach Dennis Erickson ... Fresno State is 13-19 all-time against Pac 10 teams, but has amassed its best Pac-10 record against Oregon State (6-3).
Updating the Bulldogs: Fresno State is under the direction of third-year head coach Pat Hill who is now 12-12 as the 'Dogs leader. Fresno State takes a 1-0 record to Corvallis, their last meeting was in 1994 in Bulldog Stadium where the 'Dogs prevailed, 24-14. Fresno State traveled to Corvallis in 1992 but lost 36-46. The Bulldogs are 0-2 in openers on the road under Hill and had a 1-5 road record last season. Saturday's game against Oregon State will begin a tough three-game road stint for the 'Dogs, who will travel to UCLA on Sept. 18, followed with Nevada on the 25th. Fresno State is predicted to finish 1st in the WAC by Lindy's, Sporting News and Street & Smith preseason publications and is ranked 42nd in the nation in Sports Illustrated's preseason preview. Of the 11 losses suffered during Hill's first two years, nine have come in the final three minutes. Fresno State sold 26,707 season tickets for the 1999 campaign. 25 Bulldog players suited up for their first collegiate game against PSU
Last Week: At Fresno State 34, Portland State 6: Fresno State scored two touchdowns in its first two possesions, one coming off a Curtis Edwards 54 yard Interception. Against Portland State, the 'Dogs showed a balanced offensive attack with 200 passing yards and 184 rushing yards. Senior QB Billy Volek threw for a career-high 4 TDs with no interceptions. The 'Dogs had no turnovers in the game and one blocked punt. Sophomore defensive back Vernon Fox led the 'Dogs with 9 tackles. The 'Dogs had four different receivers score four touchdowns against Portland State. Freshman running back Marcellus Armstrong led the 'Dogs with 49 yards on 11 carries. The 'Dogs ruled the possession clock in the first half (18:57) but gave way to the Vikings in the second (only owned 12:29). Fresno State's was up to its usual pesky special team ways when sophomore defensive lineman blocked Portland State's 29 yard field goal attempt with 2 minutes left in the first half. PSU returned Fresno State's kickoff past the 40 yard line five times during the game.
The Valley's Team: The Bulldogs, along with sporting new uniforms this season, is also sporting the green "V" on the back of their helmets symbolizing the program's commitment toward the Central Valley.
Quoting Pat Hill on Portland State Game: "I've coached football for a lot of years and I have never had a game where we had five kickoff returns past the 30-yard line in one game, let alone one return in a game, so we have some areas to work on and tighten up rather than have that happen again. The good thing is we got out of there with a win. I don't think the score really dictates the way the game was. I think Portland State really played a well-rounded game. We're going to be a good football team, but we've got some big-time games coming up. Oregon State next week in Corvallis is going to be a great football game. On the Bulldogs' running game: "I thought the running game went well. We had the chance to look at a lot of backs tonight. Three freshmen (Derrick Ward, Marcellus Armstrong, James Tillman) played their first game ever in college. I thought Ward showed a lot of power up inside. We didn't do much for our screen game, we were very basic tonight. I thought Billy (Volek) really executed the offense well tonight. I thought he threw the ball on target, and even though there were a couple big plays that were missed, generally I feel good about where we are offensively. This was a good game for us from an offensive standpoint. For how many people we had playing in their first collegiate game, we did very well. We were very close to executing well and we got a chance to execute a lot tonight, some things that down the line are really going to help us. We've got some very talented and skilled guys out there. We've got some really explosive players."
Offensive Notes: Quarterback: Senior Quarterback Billy Volek turned in an impressive performance throwing for a career-high four touchdowns ... Volek connected with senior tight end Vince Branstetter (Anaheim, Calif) on the 'Dogs first possession with a 10 yard TD pass, then followed with a 39 yard TD pass to sophomore wide receiver Rodney Wright (Bakersfield, Calif.) on the very next possession ... in the second-half, Volek threw a five-yard TD to sophomore tight end Billy Jack Pierce (Clovis, Calif), then threw a 45 yard TD to sophomore WR Charles Smith (Union City, Calif), effectively utilizing his receiving corps ... Volek was 13-of- 20 for 200 yards moving him up in Fresno State's record books with 31 career TDs (No. 5) ... he needs only six more to surpass No. 4 Jeff Tedford (1981-82) ... Volek was the WAC's preseason pick for offensive player of the year.
Running Back: Freshman Marcellus Armstrong (Fresno, Calif), the Central Valley player of the year in 1997, played in his first collegiate game against Portland State and finished as the top back with 49 yards on 11 carries ... another freshman, Derrick Ward (Moreno Valley) upped his stock with 32 yards on 7 carries ...sophomore running back Paris Gaines (Vista, Calif.) also had 32 yards and was the only back to score a TD (1 yard run) ... the 'Dogs averaged 4.2 yards on 41 carries for 184 total rushing yards.
Wide Receiver: What was a question mark going into the game, turned into a promising foreshadowing of the future: Charles Smith and Rodney Wright combined for 148 of the 200 receiving yards and both scored on strikes of 45 and 39 yards ... Smith, a Sporting News Freshman All-American in 1998 had 2 catches for 54 yards ... Wright showcasing his speed, had six catches for 94 yards ... true freshman Bernard Berrian (who caught 53 passes for 1,276 yards and 16 touchdowns, including a 168-yard performance in the Division 1 finals his senior year) and Marque Davis two promising wide receiversdid see action in the PSU game, but did not receive any passes.
Tight End: Senior Vince Branstetter scored the first touchdown of the game on a 10 yard flip from Volek and sophomore Billy Jack Pierce , in his debut as a tight end (saw only special team action last year) also scored on a five-yard pass from Volek in the second quarter. Offensive Line: Lone returner Rob Gatrell (Brentwood, Calif.) the only player on the line this year that started every game last season and has more starts than all the other linemen combined anchored the offensive line ... right guard Ahmad Bhatti (Santa Clara, Calif.), the senior who filled in throughout the year in 98 and ended the season by starting against Hawaii and San Jose State got his first start in 1999 ..making his collegiate debut at center was freshman Rodney Michael (Tehachapi, Calif.) ...holding down the left side of the line along with Gatrell was freshman Joe Schey (Diamond Bar, Calif.) ...balancing out Schey on the right side of the line was Kevin Jordan (Los Angeles, Calif.) making the move to offense this season ... freshmen DeJon Kelly (Clovis, Calif.), is out for the season with a torn tricep he suffered the first week of practice.
Defensive Notes: Defensive Line: Frank Battle (Elm City, N.C.), Alan Harper (Fontana, Calif.), Thabiti Lockhart (Oakland, Calif.), and Giachino Chiaramonte (Santa Cruz, Calif.) all made starts for the 'Dogs ... Seandale Jackson (San Diego, Calif), who suffering from a pulled hamstring last week also saw playing time ... Brock Torresdal missed the game due to an ankle sprain and Jake Probst was also missing ... he continues to suffer from a hamstring injury and is more than likely probable for the OSU game ...the Bulldogs finished the 1998 season ranked 33rd in scoring defense, a definite improvement after being ranked 54th two years ago ... credit third year defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle for inspiring the '98 'Dogs to allow only 23 touchdowns passes and only 16.7 points per game ... the defense was one of only 16 teams in the country to give up nine or fewer touchdown passes in 1998.
Secondary: Senior cornerback Payton Williams (Moreno Valley, Calif.) proved why he is arguably one of the best corners in the nation with five tackles and one pass break-up ...but sophomore Vernon Fox (Las Vegas, Nev.), who made a start at free safety ended the game with nine tackles and one pass break-up ...also showing some moxy was sophomore strong safety Curtis Edwards who intercepted a PSU pass and returned it for 54 yards ... he finished the game with four tackles ... Anthony Limbrick made his start at free safety and finished with nine tackles.
Linebacker: Junior middle linebacker Tim Skipper, a 1999 Preseason Street & Smith and Walter Camp All-American Honorable Mention, started at middle linebacker with Justin Johnson and Rasheed Saafir to his sides ...Skipper led the team with 13 tackes senior Allan Nicholas (Bronx, N.Y.), back after missing all of last season with an injury had four tackles ... Tyrell Grayson (Fresno, Calif.) didn't suit up ... he had a strained trap and is probable for the OSU game.
Special Teams: Hill praised the efforts of unknown Joel Comfort (Hughson, Calif.) after Comfort turned a disasterous low snap into a running punt of 41 yards ... Comfort had four punts for a 41.5 yard average ... Jeff Hanna's only field goal attempt turned into a pooch kick to pin PSU back behind the five yard line (he just missed) ... defensive lineman Alan Harper blocked PSU's 29-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter.
Notes: Fresno State committed too many penalties in the game (16 for 141 yards) ... punt returner Payton Williams returned three for 36 yards and Rodney Wright returned two kick-offs for 65 yards.
A Quick Look at Oregon State The Beavers had 445 total yards against Nevada last week in a 28-13 win ... it was Dennis Erickson's first game with the Beavers ... Erickson, who led the Univerisity of Miami to two national championships, was hired by Oregon State last year after four years with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks ... Erickson's collegiate record is now 114-40 (he has coached at five different universities in his career) ...sophomore Jonathan Smith passed for 257 yards and one touchdown (21-of-43) ... the 'Dogs must key in on running back Ken Simonton who gained 199 yards on 35 carries and scored three touchdowns ... he rushed for 1,028 yards as a freshman ... this is OSU home opener ...OSU's defensive coordinator Willy Robinson is a former Fresno State assistant coach (1978 and 1980-93) who coached under Jim Sweeney and current head coach Pat Hill.