First place in the WAC is on the line at Bulldog Stadium Sat. at 2 p.m. when the Bulldogs take on the Owls.
Nov. 1, 1999
FRESNO, Calif. - This Week
Bulldog Stadium will host one of the biggest WAC games of the season Sat., Nov. 6, when Fresno State hosts Rice. The Owls, 5-4 overall, enter the game with a 4-1 WAC record while the Bulldogs are 3-1 in the league and 6-3 overall. Approximately 5,000 tickets remain and a capacity crowd is expected at Bulldog Stadium, which would be the first sellout since 1994.
WAC Championship Scenario
The stakes for both teams are high with the winner gaining the inside track on the WAC title that comes with an invitational to the Las Vegas Bowl. Fresno State would win the WAC outright with wins in each of its last three games (vs. Rice, Nov. 6, at Hawai'i, Nov. 13, vs. San Jose State, Nov. 20). Rice will win the WAC with wins in its last two games. The Owls host UTEP next week in their final game of the year.
Despite trailing Tulsa 14-0 after the first quarter, Fresno State rallied with 28 unanswered points and shutout the Golden Hurricane for the final three quarters for a 28-14 WAC road victory. The Bulldogs improved to 6-3 on the season, their best start since the 1993 season.
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
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 6-3 .667 3-1 .750 4-0 2-3
TOTALS 17-15 .531 13-7 .632 12-3 5-12
'Dogs vs. Rice
For the third time in its last four games, Fresno State will be playing an opponent for the first time this season. The 1999 campaign has also seen the Bulldogs play SMU and Tulsa for the first time.
vs. Texas Schools
The Bulldogs have played their share of teams from Texas this year. Rice will be the Bulldogs' fourth opponent from the state of Texas in 1999. They currently hold a 2-1 record against Texas schools, defeating TCU in overtime 26-19 on Oct. 2, losing at SMU 24-14 on Oct. 14 then beating UTEP 24-23 in overtime on Oct. 23. Fresno State is 11-11-1 all-time against teams from Texas.
Saturday's game features the WAC's two top coaches over the last three years. Rice coach Ken Hatfield owns a 14-7 (.667) WAC record over the last three years with Fresno State's Pat Hill right behind at 13-7 (.650). TCU's Dennis Franchione is third at 13-8 (.619).
Climbing the Hill
Last week's victory over Tulsa ran Pat Hill's record to 17-15, the first time he has been two games over .500 since coming to Fresno State in 1997. This is also the first time the Bulldogs have been three games over .500 in the short time Hill has been head coach. A win against Rice would guarantee Fresno State's first winning season since 1993, when the Bulldogs were 8-4 and went to the Aloha Bowl.
In Case You Missed It
Fresno State won despite its second-worst total offense performance (272 yards) of the and worst passing yardage (160) output of the season. . .The Bulldogs are 3-0 this season when they don't commit a turnover. . .Fresno State's special team got its eighth blocked kick of the season, four of which have been punts. . .Derrick Ward's 20 carries vs. Tulsa were the most in a game for his career. . .Eight of Fresno State's 11 interceptions this season have come in the last four games, including three last weekend against Tulsa. The Bulldogs have also returned three interceptions for touchdowns in the last four games, including two vs. Tulsa. . .Anthony Limbrick's two interceptions were the most for his career and he scored his first career touchdown on a 76-yard return last week. . .Joel Comfort has downed six punts inside the 20-yard line in the last two games. . .Pat Hill has won 13 of 20 WAC games in his coaching career. . .For the second consecutive week, the Bulldogs are playing an opponent for the first time in history. . .Fresno State has allowed 40 more first downs than it has gained this season. . .Curtis Edwards leads the WAC in interception return yardage with 141. . .Despite suffering a separated shoulder making a tackle on the opening kickoff against Tulsa, kicker Jeff Hanna returned to the game and kicked two field goals (35, 31 yards) and two PATs. Hanna remains perfect (9-9) on field goals under 40 yards.
"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.
Can there be any quarterback in the nation hotter than Billy Volek? Volek threw his 21st touchdown over the weekend, giving him more TD passes than some of the nation's leading Heisman Trophy candidates including: Drew Brees, Purdue (20), Doug Johnson, Florida (18), Chris Weinke, Florida State (17) and Joe Hamilton, Ga. Tech (15). What's most impressive is that he thrown just three interceptions the entire season in 258 attempts, an average of one for every 86 attempts. He as a current streak of 79 pass attempts without an interception. For his career, Volek has thrown 12 interceptions in 837 attempts for an average of one every 69.8 attempts. His touchdown-interception ratio for the season is 21:3 and for his career is 48:12.
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 65 percent of his passes while throwing 21 touchdowns to just three interceptions. For his career he has an impressive TD-Interception ratio of 48:12. Volek is leading the WAC and ranks fourth in the NCAA in pass efficiency with a 149.8 rating.
Volek's Career Passing Statistics
Year G-GS Att Comp Int Yards 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 9-9 258 167 3 1,858 .647 21 83
TOTALS 32-32 837 496 12 5,684 .593 48 83
Volek on the Charts
Quarterback Billy Volek has moved into fourth place in Fresno State history in career passing yards and total offense. In addition, he became just the fourth player in Bulldog history to throw more than 40 touchdowns and have 5,000 yards in his career. Here's where he stands in the FS career record books:
Total Offense Plays Pass Rush Yards Needed to Pass
3. Trent Dilfer (1991-93) 1016 7,631 154 7,785 2,252
4. Billy Volek (1996-) 854 5,684 -150 5,534
Passing Yards A-C-I Pct Yards Needed to Pass
3. Trent Dilfer (1991-93) 865-511-22 .591 7,631 1,947
4. Billy Volek (1996-) 837-496-12 .593 5,684
Touchdown Passes TDs Needed to Pass
3. Mark Barsotti (1988-91) 50 3
4. Billy Volek (1996-) 48
Billy Volek has just one interception in the last six games. In fact, he has just one in the last 26 quarters. He had a streak of 111 passes without an interception that was snapped with his third interception of the season Oct. 14 against SMU. He is on pace to break the school's single season record for completion percentage. He is currently completing .647 of his attempts. The Fresno State record is .644 by Mark Barsotti in 1991.
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 Fresno State 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 five games of his senior season, he has 23 total tackles, fourth-best on the team, and has four pass break-ups. He missed most of the TCU game and all of the CSU game with a strained hamstring. He returned to starting line-up against SMU but reinjured his hamstring late in the game and missed the Oct. 23 game vs. UTEP. He reinjured his hamstring last week and is questionable this week.
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 Fresno State's leader on defense. Despite being only 5-7, short by middle linebacker standards, Skipper continues to play very large. Skipper was a first-team All-WAC selection as a sophomore. He missed his first start in 27 consecutive games vs. Colorado State with a knee injury. After missing two games, he returned to action against UTEP.
Isn't That Special?
The Bulldogs continue to dominate the opponents in special teams. Fresno State has a season total of seven blocked kicks, three punts, three field goals and one PAT. The Bulldogs had blocked a kick in three consecutive games before failing to get one against SMU. Of the Bulldogs three blocked punts, two have been returned for touchdowns. Here are a few other Fresno State special teams highlights this season:
o Fresno State has four blocked punts
o Derrick Ward has two blocked punts for touchdowns
o Opponents are averaging 31.0 net yards punting
o Opponents have just 72 total punt return yards for a 4.2 average
o Fresno State has downed 16 of its 49 punts inside the 20-yard line
Freshman running back Derrick Ward (Moreno Valley, Calif.) has been a big part of Fresno State's success this season. Not only is he leading the team in rushing with 621 yards and a 6.7 per carry average, he also leads the team with five touchdowns and has been a special teams demon with two blocked punts for touchdowns. Ward scored two touchdowns and rushed for 156 yards in the victory over Colorado State. His 75-yard touchdown run against Colorado State was the seventh-longest in school history. He now owns two of the top seven longest runs, including the third-longest, an 86-yarder against Nevada. Ward also has the top two rushing games by a freshman in school history, 176 yards vs. Nevada and 156 yards vs. Colorado State. Ward needs to average 126 yards per game over the last three games to reach 1,000 for the season. He would become the first freshman in school history to accomplish that.
In the Zone
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has the Bulldogs ready to score when they get in the red zone (opponent's 20-yard line). The Bulldogs have been in the red zone 34 times and scored on 29 of those opportunities for a pertcentage of .853. Twenty of those scores have been touchdowns, for a red zone TD percentage of .588. The Bulldogs were 3-3 in the red zone last week with one touchdown and two field goals.
Kicker Jeff Hanna had an eventful day last week against Tulsa. He dislocated his right shoulder on the first play of the game trying to make a tackle on Tulsa kickoff returner John Mosley. After receiving treatment on the injury, he came back to kick field goals of 31 and 35 yards and two extra points. On the year, Hanna is 9-11 in field goals, including a perfect 9-9 inside 40 yards. He currently ranks eighth on Fresno State's all-time scoring list with 189 points and needs only four to pass former running back Michael Pittman (1993-97) for seventh place.
No Passing? No Problem
Last weekend's 28-14 victory over Tulsa came despite Fresno State throwing for only 160 yards. The Bulldogs have proven adept at being able to compensate when they don't light it up through the air. In the last two years, Fresno State has won six times when it compiles less than 200 yards passing.
'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.
Billy Volek Passing Efficiency 4th 149.8
Total Offense 40th 202.78
Rodney Wright All-Purpose Yardage 31st 132.11
Kickoff Returns 38th 23.0
Receiving Yards 40th 82.11
Receptions Per Game 49th 5.22
Joel Comfort Net Punting 46th 41.3
Jeff Hanna Field Goals Per Game 49th 1.0