By Jason Clay
By Jason Clay
FRESNO, Calif. - The Fresno State football team is five practices into its prep for the 2012 Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl where the Bulldogs will face SMU on Christmas Eve.
Although this is his first bowl game as head coach of the Bulldogs, Tim DeRuyter said Monday at his weekly press conference that there is a lot he can draw from his bowl experience last season.
DeRuyter was the interim head coach at Texas A&M for the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, where he led the Aggies to a 33-22 victory over Northwestern on New Year's Eve.
"Going through that process and having a plan for how you manage final schedules, recruiting, practice, get your work in and still manage the time to where your guys aren't just totally getting ground into the dust. I think we had a pretty good handle of it a year ago and we finished the season right," DeRuyter said. "I think we gained confidence knowing that kind of a plan would work, so that's kind of how we set our practice plan for this year."
The Bulldogs hold two more practices - Monday and Tuesday evenings - before departing for Honolulu on Wednesday. Once in Hawai'i, Fresno State will have four more practices to tune up for the Christmas Eve game.
Asides from that bowl experience, DeRuyter can also draw from another experience last year at Texas A&M. The Aggies opened up the 2011 campaign with a 46-14 win over the Mustangs.
"Luckily, a year ago defensively we played against SMU so we have a general feeling for what SMU is trying to accomplish offensively," said DeRuyter, whose Aggie squad picked off two passes in that 32-point victory. "They are a spread offense, very explosive and they do a great job with it."
Intercepting more passes this year against SMU is another key DeRuyter mentioned was necessary if Fresno State wants to get its 10th victory of the season. Both the Bulldogs and Mustangs are tied for third nationally in turnovers gained this year.
"They are similar to us in that they have forced 33 take-aways," DeRuyter said. "They got nine defensive touchdowns. Whoever is going to take care of the ball the best or force the most take-aways is probably going to win this football game."
Having won their last five games of the regular season when they averaged 47 points and 515 yards of offense in those victories, the Bulldogs look forward to playing on the national stage.
ESPN is televising the game and there is no other college football, NFL or NBA game that day. The national broadcast will allow Fresno State to show the east-coast its exciting brand of football and DeRuyter hopes to take advantage of that.
"When you play in a bowl game and you're the only game that is going to be on TV that day, I think there is a great opportunity for Fresno State - from an image standpoint, from a branding standpoint - and if you can go out there and look good on TV, it's prime-time on the east coast and five-o'clock local, I think it is very important to win a football game.
"Our guys have been charged with two missions going there. Number one mission is to win a football game and we've got to get work in to do that. But the second mission is to have fun. You don't want it to be drudgery, that's not the goal. The goal is to be able to have a reward, but still remain focused on winning a football game."
The itinerary for the trip has allotted for an equal mixture of both fun and game prep. The Bulldogs have a host of activities planned, including a trip to Pearl Harbor, before meeting SMU for a 5:01 p.m. PT kickoff on Monday, Dec. 24.
"Discover Fresno State Football" - The flagship radio station of Fresno State Football is KMJ 580 AM and the Spanish Flagship is KGST-AM "ESPN Deportes".
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