Fresno State battles the Horned Frogs for the upper hand in the conference race Sat. at 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium.
Sept. 28, 1999
FRESNO, Calif. -
The Bulldogs return home after a grueling three game road trip. Fresno State opens WAC play hosting TCU this week at Bulldog Stadium. This will be a match-up of the two teams who were selected to finish 1-2 in the WAC Preseason Media poll. TCU, coming off a 7-5 record and win over USC in the Sun Bowl, collected 13 first place votes and 139 total points. The Bulldogs claimed the five remaining first place points and 121 total points.
After a difficult week that saw two starting offensive lineman injured and lost for the rest of the season, the Bulldogs were forced on a tough road trip to a place where they hadn't won since before the invention of color television. Despite those obstacles, Fresno State ruined Nevada's homecoming with a 49-24 victory. The Bulldogs jumped to an early 20-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back.The first three scores came courtesy of freshman fullback Derrick Ward, who ran for two touchdowns and blocked a punt that was recovered for another score. Fresno State rolled up 348 rushing yards in the victory.
Head Coach Pat Hill
Pat Hill is in his third season at Fresno State but is no stranger to Bulldog football, having spent six seasons as an assistant coach (1984-89) under Jim Sweeney when the Bulldogs were among the nation's most successful teams. Fresno State posted a 53-16-1 overall record during those six seasons, won three league titles and three bowl games. Hill was Fresno State's offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Hill became a hot young assistant coach and left FSU to become offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at Arizona (1991-92). After two seasons in Tucson, he left for the NFL where he spent five seasons (1992-96) as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens franchise. In addition, Hill was the offensive coordinator for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL (1983), offensive coordinator/offensive line/recruiting coordinator at UNLV (1981-82), recruiting coordinator/offensive line coach at Utah (1977-80) and offensive line coach at L.A. Valley College (1974-76).
PAT HILL YEAR BY YEAR
Overall Pct WAC Pct Home Road
1997 6-6 .500 5-3 .625 4-2 2-4
1998 5-6 .454 5-3 .625 4-1 1-5
1999 2-2 .500 0-0 .000 1-0 1-2
Totals 13-14 .481 10-6 .625 9-3 4-11
'Dogs vs. Frogs
These two teams have only played once before - last season, a 21-10 TCU victory.
Last Time vs. TCU
TCU and Fresno State met for the first time Oct. 10, 1998. The Bulldogs held a 10-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter but TCU rallied with two touchdowns for a come from behind 21-10 victory over Fresno State at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard first when Billy Volek hit Atnaf Harris for a 47-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The Horned Frogs answered on a Patrick Batteaux 3-yard run. Jeff Hanna kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the third quarter. LaDanian Tomlinson gave TCU the lead for good with a 33-yard touchdown run. The Horned Frogs added a fumble recovery for a touchdown later in the fourth quarter. Volek finished 15-20 for 195 yards but was sacked six times.
The Bulldogs have not fared well against teams from the Lone Star State, posting a 9-12-1 all-time record against schools from Texas. Six of those wins have come against one school - UTEP. The Bulldogs have only beaten two other schools from Texas and neither are current Division I-A program (Abiline Christian and West Texas State). Last season, Fresno State was 1-2 vs. teams from Texas, losing to Texas Tech 34-28 and TCU 21-10, both on the road and beating UTEP at home 32-6.
In Case You Missed It
The Bulldog's 348 rushing yards against Nevadawere the most since Nov. 20, 1993, when they had 424 yards against San Diego State in a 63-37 victory. . .Derrick Ward's (Moreno Valley, Calif.) 176 rushing yards were the most by a Bulldog freshman and tied for the 18th best rushing day in school history. The previous best freshman performance was by Ted Torosian who had 155 yards on 27 carries vs. Idaho in 1978. Ward's 86-yard touchdown run was the third longest in school history. He also got his second blocked punt of the season. . .Fresno State snapped a three-game road losing streak. . .The 49 points were the most scored on the road since Nov. 1, 1997, vs. San Jose State, when the Bulldogs scored 53. . .The victory was the largest margin on the road since that San Jose State game (53-12). . .Tight end Vince Branstetter (Anaheim, Calif.) had a career-high five receptions against Nevada. . .Paris Gaines (Vista, Calif.) had his best day on the ground with 89 yards, including a career-best 35-yard TD run. . .Billy Volek has attempted 39 consecutive passes without an interception. He has also not been sacked in consecutive games. . .Senior offensive tackle Chad Ede (Clovis, Calif.) made his first career start last weekend against Nevada.
"V" is for Valley
Fresno State prides itself on being the "Valley's team." This pride can be seen in the form of a large green V on the back of the Bulldog helmets as a symbol to the Central Valley.
Of the 101 student-athletes listed on the roster, 41 are freshman, 23 are sophomores, 20 are juniors and only 17 are seniors. Of the 44 players on the depth chart, exactly half are either freshmen or sophomores. The youth is evident in the skilled positions. Of the 14 offensive players who have all-purpose yards this season, only three of them are seniors - quarterback Billy Volek, tight end Vince Branstetter and fullback Jeromy Blackwell.
Fresno State wrapped up its three game road trip with a 1-2 record. It was the first time since 1973 that the Bulldogs were on the road for that long. Since the 1994 season, FSU has won just eight road games (8-19-1).
Isn't That Special?
With all due respect to Dana Carvey, the Bulldogs have something special going on with their special teams. Fresno State has blocked a kick in four of the last five games dating back to last season, including two blocked punts for touchdowns in two of the last three games. Both blocks came from Derrick Ward, who set up Tierre Sams for the touchdown against Oregon State and Rodney Wright for a score against Nevada. Fresno State also tipped another punt in the Nevada game. The Bulldogs have limited their opponents to just three punt returns for 15 yards this season, less than four yards per game. Fresno State's net punting average is a respectable 38.5 but the opponents are averaging just 27.6 net punting yards. Last weekend, the Bulldog special teams limited Nevada to just 24.8 net punting yards. That's the lowest output of the season for a Fresno State opponent.
Senior quarterback Billy Volek (Fresno, Calif.) received the WAC's offensive player-of-the-week honors for his four-touchdown performance against Portland State(Sept. 5). A three-year starter, Volek passed for 1,973 yards last year, finishing second in the WAC in passing efficiency with a rating of 131.7. Volek was the preseason selection for WAC Offensive Player of the Year. This season, Volek continues to impress, completing a career-best 63 percent of his passes while throwing 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions. For his career he has an impressive TD-Interception ratio of 38:11.
Volek's Career Passing Statistics
Year G-GS Att Comp Int Yds Pct TD LG
1997 12-12 318 178 6 1,853 .560 17 47
1998 11-11 261 151 3 1,973 .579 10 63
1999 4-4 114 71 2 793 .623 11 45
Totals 27-27 693 400 11 4,619 .577 38 63
Volek on the Charts
Quarterback Billy Volek has moved into seventh place in Fresno State history in career passing yards. This week, Volek could move up a couple more notches. He needs 36 yards for sixth place and 245 for fifth place. In addition, he became just the seventh player in Bulldog history to surpass 4,000 total yards in a career (4,088). He is tied for fourth in touchdowns (35). Here's where he stands on the FSU career record books.
Total Offense Plays Pass Rush Yards Yds to Pass
3. Trent Dilfer (1991-93) 1016 7,631 154 7,785 3,295
4. Jeff Tedford (1981-82} 720 4,872 -58 4,814 325
5. Danny Robinson (1965-67) 979 4,258 329 4,588 99
6. Richie Donati (1993-96] 654 4,467 101 4,568 79
7. Billy Volek (1996-] 813 4,420 -129 4,490
Passing Yards A-C-I Pct Yards Yds to Pass
3. Trent Dilfer (1991-93] 865-511-22 .591 7,631 3,013
4. Jeff Tedford (1981-82} 598-316-33 .528 4,872 254
5. Billy Volek (1996-) 693-400-11 .577 4,619
Touchdown Passes TDs Needs to Pass
3. Mark Barsotti (1988-91] 50 13
4. Billy Volek (1996-) 38
The Bulldogs continue to dominate the WAC stats in third down conversions, converting 28-58 attempts for a league-best .483 percentage, nearly 10 percentage points higher than San Jose State, which is second place (22-56, .393).
Senior cornerback Payton Williams (Moreno Valley, Calif.) is considered one the top players at his position in the nation. In addition to his work on the Bulldog special teams, Williams is ranked third in the WAC this week in punt returns with an average of 8.4 per return. He is one of the premier student-athletes on the FSU campus, earning GTE Academic All-District honors last season and should be an academic All-America candidate this year. A sociology major, Williams represented Fresno State at the NCAA Leadership Conference last spring. Through the first four games of his senior season, he has 23 total tackles, fourth best on the team, and has four pass break-ups.
Sophomore safety Curtis Edwards (Riverside, Calif.) ranks second in the WAC in interceptions. Edwards has a WAC-best 89 return yards after the interception. . . .Sophomore receiver Rodney Wright (Bakersfield, Calif.) has 20 receptions for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Wright's 62.5-yard per game average ranks fourth in the WAC. He is also leading Fresno State in kick-off returns with an average of 25.6 yards per return. For his two-year career, he is averaging 15.5 yards per reception and has four touchdowns on just 26 career receptions for an average of one TD every 6.5 receptions. . .Freshman SAM Nick Burley (East Palo Alto, Calif.) had his best game with seven tackles and two quarterback sacks. . .Defensive tackle Alan Harper (Fontana, Calif.) was nominated for WAC defensive player of the week after recording six tackles, three tackles for losses and three quarterback hurries against Nevada.
"Wide Receiver U"
Fresno State used to be called "Wide Receiver U" with players like Stephen Baker, Stephone Page, Henry Ellard, and Charlie Jones helping Fresno State reach greatness plateaus in the 80s and early 90s . This year's young crop of receivers are bringing back memories of those former Bulldog greats. Of the 13 listed on the roster, eight are freshman or sophomores, including the two starters, sophomore Charles Smith (Union City, California) and Wright. Of the four receivers who have caught passes this season, only one, Saleem Mahdi (Pittsburg, California) is older than a sophomore. Mahdi is a junior.
Fresno State continues to give more than receive in the turnover department. Although they threw no interceptions last weekend, the Bulldogs lost three fumbles and were minus-two in the turnover margin in the game. For the season, Fresno State has four takeaways and seven giveways for a negative three turnover margin.
Little Big Man
Junior middle linebacker Tim Skipper (Kenner, La.), a 1999 Preseason Street & Smith and Walter Camp All-American Honorable Mention, continues to be FSU's leader on defense. Despite being only 5-7, short by middle linebacker standards, Skipper continues to play very large. He is on pace for his second consecutive 100-tackle season. Skipper was a first-team All-WAC selection as a sophomore. He had a season-high 13 tackles in the season opener vs. Portland State and has led the Bulldogs in tackles in each game this season.
In the Zone
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has the Bulldogs ready to score when they get in the red zone (opponent's 25-yard line). Fresno State was perfect in the red zone last weekend against Nevada going three for three with three touchdowns. For the season, the Bulldogs have scored points on 12-of-14 red zone opportunities for a percentage of .857, including 11-of-14 for touchdowns (.786). That's the main reason kicker Jeff Hanna only has two field goal attempts this season.
'Dogs in NCAA Stats
Here's how the Bulldogs rank in the NCAA statisics this week. Only the top 50 players are ranked.
Player Category NCAA Rank Avg
Rodney Wright All-Purpose Yardage 23 146.0
Kick Returns 28 25.6
Receptions/Game 31 6.3
Billy Volek Passing Effeciency 15 149.0
Total Offense 49 195.25
Curtis Edwards Interceptions T43 0.67
The Bulldogs lost two starters prior to last weekend's game with Nevada when freshman left tackle Joe Schey (Diamond Bar, Calif.) suffered a broken ankle and senior right guard Ahmad Bahtti (Santa Clara, Calif.) broke a finger. Both players were injured during practice on Sept. 21, and underwent surgery. Both players will miss the rest of the season according to head athletic trainer Paul Schechter. The Bulldogs did not suffer any serious injuries in the Nevada game and should be in good health for the TCU game.
The Bulldogs remain home for a non-conference game with Colorado State Sat., Oct. 9. The Rams, who enter this week with a 2-1 record, spent time in the Top 25 earlier this season after a commanding 41-18 victory over then-No. 14 Colorado. The Rams lost to BYU 31-13 two weeks later and fell out of the national rankings. CSU hosts New Mexico State this weekend.The Bulldogs are back on the road Thu., Oct. 14, in a national Fox SportsNet TV showdown at SMU.