Trouble Brewing In Fresno For UH

Bobby Curran
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Friday - October 13, 2006
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The message boards and chat rooms are brutal. The coach is stubborn, arrogant and he does-n’t know how to win. He’s playing the wrong people. His ego is out of control. It’s time for a change, and soon. The critics are having a field day.

Sound familiar?

The coach in question is Fresno State’s Pat Hill. Despite having put the Bulldogs on the college football map and having won 72 games in nine years, Hill is 1-4 this year, and the Bulldogs’ coach is feeling the heat. After a home loss to Colorado State two weeks ago, the fans booed the Bulldogs as they left the field. Last week, FSU suffered a humiliating loss to previously winless Utah State.

The UH Warriors won’t have to wait long to feel - and hear - the frustration level at Fresno State. They’ll see it up close and personal this Saturday, as they are the Bulldogs’ homecoming opponent. And regardless of their record, Fresno players and fans will get up for the Warriors. There is too much history, too much muscle memory between these programs: the Dan Robinson-led double overtime win in 1999, the Fresno State smack down in 2000, the last-second Ashley Lelie TD in 2001, the Timmy Chang-led comeback win at Fresno in 2002, the 70-14 run by Fresno in 2004 when the Bulldogs had 500 yards rushing.

That’s way too much water over the dam for this game to lack intensity.

More important for Hawaii, Fresno State will be trying to reestablish its football identity on Saturday. Pat Hill will remind his team they have only one conference loss and are still in the race.

The Warriors, meanwhile, need to prove they can win on the road, having fallen at Alabama and Boise State.

Hawaii has it together on offense, that much is obvious to even the most casual observer. The defense surrendered 472 yards to Nevada, but redeemed itself with a goal-line stand with less than three minutes remaining to seal the deal. You expect Colt Brennan and company to move the ball and score points. The challenge will be to stop Dwayne Wright and the physical offensive line of FSU. They play like Pat Hill looks - scowling chin thrust forward, Mr. Smash Mouth Football. Hawaii will have to give a great effort against the run.

Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater has been inconsistent, managing only five touch-down passes against six interceptions. He’s completed less than 50 per cent of his throws in three of the last four games, despite having three talented receivers in Paul Williams, Joe Fernandez and Chastin West.

The Fresno faithful are clamoring for back-up Sean Norton, a high school Parade All-American, to get on the field. But the fans’most popular player on any losing team is always the No. 2 QB.

Another element to watch closely is the kicking game. FSU’s Clint Stitser missed field goals against Washington and Utah State that could have won both games. Hawaii’s Dan Kelly has been very good when the hold is down and the line blocks. Fresno is down to its third-string punter because of injury. The Warriors have shown great improvement on punt and kickoff coverage, and are better than average in the return game.

Still, the X factor will be the Fresno crowd. Expect them to be right behind their team, at least until a wheel falls off. It’ll be up to the Warriors to make that happen. As June Jones said, maybe the Bulldog fans will throw screwdrivers at their own team instead of at him.

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