Football Continues Practices as Las Vegas Bowl Nears

Up Next
The Bulldogs, WAC tri-champions, will take on Mountain West Conference tri-champion Utah in the EA Sports Las Vegas Bowl VIII Dec. 18 at Sam Boyd Stadium. It is the fourth bowl for Fresno State in the 1990s but the first since the 1993 Jeep Eagle Aloha Bowl, a 41-30 loss to Colorado. Utah's last bowl appearance was in 1996 at the Copper Bowl in Tucson, which the Utes lost to Wisconsin 38-10.

Ticket and Travel Packages
The Fresno State Athletic Department has tickets for sale for the EA Sports Las Vegas Bowl for $45 and $125. The athletic department is also offering complete travel packages for fans, which will include transportation, hotel accomodations, tailgating and game tickets. For information and reservations call (559) 278-4033.

Head Coach Pat Hill
Pat Hill, in his third season at Fresno State, is leading the Bulldogs to their first bowl game in five years. Hill is no stranger to Bulldog football or success, 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).

       Overall   Pct    WAC     Pct   Home   Away
1997     6-6    .500    5-3    .625    4-2    2-4
1998     5-6    .454    5-3    .625    4-1    1-5
1999     8-4    .666    5-2    .714    6-0    2-4
TOTALS  19-16   .543   15-8    .652   14-3    5-13

All-Time vs. Utah
The EA Sports Las Vegas Bowl will be the ninth meeting all-time between Utah and Fresno State, the series having been split 4-4. The two last met Oct. 17, 1998, when the Utes snuck by FS 24-16 in Salt Lake City. The series between Utah and Fresno State has at times been heated, but never more so than in 1992, when the Utes and Bulldogs were involved in a bench-clearing brawl at the conclusion of a 41-15 Fresno State victory. Under current Pat Hill, the Bulldogs are 1-1 against Utah. The one victory was perhaps the biggest victory of Hill?s first season at Fresno State and his first career WAC win. With a national television audience watching on ESPN, the Bulldogs defeated the Utes 27-13.

Fresno State vs. the Mountain West Conference
Fresno State has taken on one other team this year from the Mountain West Conference ? Colorado State. In one of the season?s most impressive performances, Fresno State drubbed the Rams 44-13 at Bulldog Stadium. Derrick Ward rushed for 156 yards and Billy Volek was 15-21 with two touchdowns in the victory.

Hey, We Know You
Because it was a former member of the Western Athletic Conference, Fresno State is familiar with Utah. The same cannot be said of many of the Bulldogs? opponents from this year, however. FS played three teams for the first time this year ? SMU, Tulsa and Rice.

WAC Coaching Leader
Pat Hill is the active WAC coaching leader with a record of 15-8 (.652), just ahead Rice's Ken Hatfield, who owns a record of 14-9 (.609).

Best in the West
Fresno State continues to be one of hottest teams in the West, having won 12 of its last 17 games. Of the Division I-A schools located in the Mountain, Pacific and Hawaiian time zones, no other school has a better record than the Bulldogs. Utah one one of the teams with a 12-5 record in the last 17 games.

1.  Fresno State         12-5
    Air Force            12-5
    Utah                 12-5
    BYU                  12-5
5.  Arizona              11-6
    Oregon               11-6
    Colorado State       11-6
    Wyoming              11-6
9.  Colorado             10-7
    Stanford             10-7

Family Ties
Fresno State associate head coach John Baxter will be seeing a familiar face across the field in the EA Sports Las Vegas Bowl. Baxter's father-in-law is Utah head coach Ron McBride. Baxter is married to the former Jill McBride and the couple have two of McBride's granddaughters, Kelly and McKenzie.

In Case You Missed It
Fresno State's 63-12 win over San Jose State was the largest margin of victory of the 64 games played in the great rivalry. . .The Bulldogs finished the season perfect at home with a 6-0 record. . .Freshman quarterback Jeff Grady's first college completion was for a touchdown, a 23-yarder to Atnaf Harris, who caught his first career TD. . .Fourth-team running back Josh Levi had a school record 94-yard run late in the game. He finished as the team's leading rusher with 123 yards. . .Fresno State's 685 total yards vs. San Jose State was the most since the 1991 season when the Bulldogs had school-record 757 vs. New Mexico. . .The Bulldogs were penalized just four times in the game, the fewest in a game this season. . .Fresno State's 1999 average home attendance of 37,231 is the third-best attendance figure in school history. . .With their 8-4 record, the Bulldogs have their best record since 1993, also an 8-4 campaign. . .Fresno State's six touchdown passes vs. San Jose State equals the school record set vs. Long Beach State in 1978.

Volek Breaks Two NCAA Records
Billy Volek's accuracy as a passer has earned him a couple places in the NCAA record book. Volek set an NCAA career record for lowest percentage of passes interception in a season and career. Volek's career percentage of 1.3 (12 interceptions in 954 attempts) is better than the previous record of 2.4 percent set by Utah State's Anthony Calvillo (1992-93), who threw 19 interceptions in 829 attempts. For a season his percentage was 0.8 (3 in 355), breaking the previous record of 1.1% shared by Heisman Trophy winners Tennessee's Peyton Manning and Charlie Ward of Florida State, who each threw four interceptions in 380 attempts. Manning set his record in 1995 and Ward set his in 1993.

Who's Hotter?
Can there be any quarterback in the nation hotter than Billy Volek? Not only did he set an NCAA record for having the lowest pass interception pecentage in history, Volek threw his 30th touchdown over the weekend, giving him more TD passes than some of the nation's leading Heisman Trophy candidates, including: Kevin Feterik, BYU (25), Drew Brees, Purdue (21), Doug Johnson, Florida (20), Chris Weinke, Florida State (25) and Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech (25). What's most impressive is that he thrown just three interceptions the entire season in 355 attempts, an average of one for every 118 attempts. He as a current streak of 178 pass attempts without an interception. For his career, Volek has thrown 12 interceptions in 938 attempts for an average of one every 78 attempts. His touchdown-interception ratio for the season is 30:3 and for his career is 57:12. Volek's focus this season has been amazing when you factor into the equation that he and his wife Kerri were expecting their first child, a daughter, Morgan, born Nov. 24.

Valuable Volek
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 57:12. Volek is leading the WAC and ranks sixth in the NCAA in pass efficiency with a 147.2 rating.

Year    G-GS    Att    Comp    Int    Yards    Pct    TD   Long
1997    12-12   318     178     6     1,853   .560    17    47
1998    11-11   261     151     3     1,973   .579    10    63
1999    12-12   355     235     3     2,559   .662    30    83
TOTALS  35-35   934     564    12     6,385   .604    57    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   
3. Trent Dilfer (1991-93)  1,106    7,631    154    7,785   
4. Billy Volek (1996-)       928    6,385   -178    6,207

Passing Yards A-C-I Pct Yards 3. Trent Dilfer (1991-93) 865-511-22 .591 7,631 4. Billy Volek (1996-) 934-564-12 .604 6,385
Touchdown Passes TDs 1. Kevin Sweeney (1991-93) 66 2. Billy Volek (1996-) 57
In Sync
Billy Volek has just one interception in the last nine games. In fact, he has just one in the last 38 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 and currently owns another 100-plus streak (178). He broke his own WAC record for lowest interception percentage for a season and a career. Volek has just three interceptions in 355 attempts this season (0.84) breaking the record he set last season of 1.15 (3-261) and 12 picks in 954 career attempts for an NCAA all-time best percentage of 1.28, bettering his previous WAC record of 1.55.

Payton's Place
Senior cornerback Payton Williams (Moreno Valley, Calif.), considered one of the top players at his position in the nation, was selected to the GTE CoSIDA Academic All-America second team this season. He is the first Bulldog player ever to achieve that honor. Each of the past two years, he earned GTE Academic All-District honors. A sociology major, Williams represented Fresno State at the NCAA Leadership Conference last spring. He maintains 3.60 GPA. Despite being hampered with a strained hamstring over the last six games, Williams has been Fresno State's leader in the secondary. He has two interceptions in his final game at Bulldog Stadium. Not only was he the only player from the WAC to make either the first or second team, he joined Stanford receiver Troy Walters (first team) and USC running back Chad Morton (second team) as the only players from the state of California on the squad.

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. Despite missing those two games, he is second on the team in tackles with 78.

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 46 times and scored on 40 of those opportunities for a pertcentage of .870. Thirty of those scores have been touchdowns, for a red zone TD percentage of .652. The Bulldogs were 5-5 in the red zone vs. San Jose State with five touchdowns.

No Holding Harper
Sophomore defensive tackle Alan Harper (Fontana, Calif.), a first team All-WAC selection, has been a one-man wrecking crew on the Bulldog defensive front. He is fourth on the team in tackles with 74 and leads the team with 14 tackles for losses for 41 yards. In addition, he leads Fresno State in quarterback hurries with nine and has four sacks for 18 yards. He also leads the team in forced fumbles with two. He was Fresno State's nominee for WAC Defensive Player of the Year.

1,000 Club
Sophomore receiver Rodney Wright became just the sixth receiver in Bulldog history to reach 1,000 yards. The last 1,000-yard receiver was Brian Roberson, who had 1,248 yards in 1996. Wright needed 132 yards in his final game to reach 1,000 yards and he finished with 139 for a season total of 68 receptions for 1,007 yards and seven touchdowns.

Bulldogs 1,000-yard Receivers
Year     Player                Rec.   Yards
1982     Henry Ellard          62     1,510
1984     Larry Willis          79     1,251
1996     Brian Roberson        78     1,248
1995     Charlie Jones         71     1,171
1983     Larry Willis          63     1,009
1999     Rodney Wright         68     1,007

"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 San Joaquin Valley of central California.

Wake Up the Scoreboard Operator
The Utah-Fresno State game features the best scoring offense from the WAC (33.1 per game) versus the best scoring offense in the Mountain West Conference (33.0). The Bulldogs have the slight advantage, however, in the NCAA standings, coming in with the 14th best scoring offense in the nation. Utah is tied for 15th.

The Defenses Aren?t Bad, Either
In addition to explosive offenses, both teams possess excellent defenses. Fresno State finished second in the WAC and 35th in the nation in scoring defense (22.1 per game). Utah comes in first in the Mountain West and 11th in the nation, allowing 17.6 points per game. If the defenses are to dominate the game, however, they will have to buck the trend of offensive games the Las Vegas Bowl has had in its seven-year history. The average score of the seven games has been 35-24.

This Streak Was Kept Alive
For the eighth consecutive year, Fresno State had either a receiving or a rusher go over 1,000 yards. This season, it was sophomore wide receiver Rodney Wright who broke the 1,000-yard barrier, corralling 1,007 receiving yards. Following is a list of the Bulldogs that have gone over 1,000 yards in the past eight seasons:

Year    Pos    Player           Yards
1999    WR     Rodney Wright    1,007
1998    RB     Jaime Kimbrough  1,168
1997    RB     Michael Pittman  1,057
1996    RB     Michael Pittman  1,132
        WR     Brian Roberson   1,248
1995    WR     Charlie Jones    1,171
1994    RB     Jerome Oliver    1,106
1993    RB     Ron Rivers       1,477
1992    RB     Ron Rivers       1,007
Fabulous in the Fourth
Here are some fourth quarter Bulldog bullets for 1999:
---- Shutout the opponents in three of the last five games
---- Allowed just 17 points in the last four games (4.3 per game)
---- Allowed just 23 points in the last six games (3.8 per game)
---- Outscored the opponent 102-46 this season
---- Outscored the opponent 48-14 in the last five games
---- Outscored the opponent 81-26 in the last eight games

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. Earlier this season,the Bulldogs had a streak of blocking 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:
---- Fresno State has four blocked punts
---- Derrick Ward has two blocked punts for touchdowns
---- Opponents are averaging 34.1 net yards punting
---- Opponents have just 78 total punt return yards for a 4.2 average
---- Fresno State has downed 33% (18 of 55) of its punts inside the 20-yard line
---- Fresno State is 10-13 in field goals
---- The 'Dogs average drive start after a kickoff is the 29-yard line
---- Opponent's kick return average is 20.2 yards

WAC Leaders
Fresno State led the WAC in several categories, including scoring and third down conversions, two offensive areas they led virtually all season. Fresno State was the WAC leader in the following areas: scoring (33.1), third down conversions (.500), and turnover margin (+4).

Sam Boyd Stadium Success
The Bulldogs earned their 14th bowl berth and the fourth of this decade by claiming a share of the 1999 WAC championship and the accompanying EA Sports Las Vegas Bowl invitation.The Bulldogs are no strangers to playing in Las Vegas, having been in the same conference with UNLV for several years. Fresno State has a 5-2 record in Sam Boyd Stadium, all vs. UNLV. The Bulldogs have won the last four times they have played in Las Vegas, including most recently a 34-23 win over UNLV in 1996. Fresno State is averaging 27.8 points per game in Sam Boyd Stadium and has scored 30 points or more in each of the last four games.
Bulldogs in Sam Boyd Stadium
1980    UNLV 35, Fresno State 6
1982    Fresno State 35, UNLV 28
1984    UNLV 27, Fresno State 13
1986    Fresno State 36, UNLV 6
1988    Fresno State 31, UNLV 14
1990    Fresno State 45, UNLV 18
1996    Fresno State 34, UNLV 23

Young Pups
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.

Ward Watch
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 824 yards and a 6.2 per carry average, he also leads the team with six 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.

WAC Awards
The Bulldogs were well represented on the All-WAC team with six first-team selections, three each on offense and defense. Hawai'i and Fresno State each had six players on the first team. Making the first team offense were quarterback Billy Volek, receiver Rodney Wright and kicker Jeff Hanna. On defesne, Fresno State was represented by defensive tackle Alan Harper, linebacker Orlando Huff and Anthony Limbrick.

'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               152.9
                 Total Offense              39th              208.7

Rodney Wright All-Purpose Yardage 30th 135.33 Receptions Per Game 38th 5.67 Receiving Yards 45th 83.92
Charles Smith Punt Returns 36th 10.3



 Email this article   Printer-friendly format