A Primer on Fresno State Football

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Anyone, anytime, anywhere.

I'm a fan of Pat Hill's famous refrain.  Those three words entered the college football vernacular when the Fresno State Bulldogs made a habit of tilting at and ocassionally knocking down BCS windmills ten years ago and, as Hill enters his 15th season as head coach, they still go a long way toward defining the era.  However, with the team transitioning into the Mountain West Conference for the 2012-13 academic year, I thought it'd be worth the time to help Mountain West fans catch up with the 'Dogs.

Everyone remembers 2001, when the team climbed to 8th in the national polls and were a serious threat to be the first BCS buster.  Ten years later, the 'Dogs are still chasing that dream having been overshadowed by the likes of Utah, TCU and Boise State, fellow mid-majors who were able to finish the job we as a community have long desired to do ourselves.  This is not to say that Fresno State hasn't done well for itself.  Players like David Carr, Bernard Berrian and Richard Marshall have gone on to have varying degrees of success in the NFL.  Unlike the men's basketball team, there have been no glaring character or academic issues.  The special teams have long played like Virginia Tech West, with a knack for blocking kicks and punts rivaled only by the Hokies. The team has gone to a bowl game every season save for one since 1999, and they've won at least eight games in 8 of Hill's 14 seasons.

More than that, Pat Hill has won and stayed to win some more:  His 108 wins at Fresno State puts him on a short list of active FBS coaches to rack up at least a hundred wins with only one stop on his resume (bonus points if you can name the others).  He willingly took a paycut when the university faced a serious financial crunch a couple years ago and, more recently, spearheaded the fundraising to install new turf into Bulldog Stadium.

And yet...

"Where's the consistency?!"  The Bulldogs have a maddening tendency to play up or down to their opponent's level.  Wins are either a pleasant surprise or simply expected, and the losses are often agonizing or befuddling.

"Bowl games don't matter unless you win them!"  Fresno State hasn't done that since 2007.  Fans of Wyoming and Colorado State might recall Austyn Carta-Samuels and Gartrell Johnson having field days against Bulldogs defenses helpless to stop them.

"What's the point of playing everywhere if you can't win everywhere?"  The 'Dogs last big road win, at least in my opinion, was their 2008 season opener against Rutgers.

"Fire Pat Hill!  He hasn't won a WAC title since he shared one in 1999.  We need someone else to take us to the next level!"

Fans here in the Central Valley, myself included, have placed a special kind of pressure on the Bulldogs that doesn't exist anywhere else in college football's ranks.  It's the curse of great expectations, but with a twist.  It was supposed to be us, you know?  If it wasn't Ryan Dinwiddie or Kellen Moore standing in the way, it was Colt Brennan.  Or Timmy Chang.  Or Colin Kaepernick.  Now, though, with the Broncos residing in the Mountain West -- not an obstacle, hallelujah -- and Nevada settling in with a new quarterback, there is cautious optimism that this may finally be the year they break through, this their last as a part of the Western Athetlic Conference.

And why not?  Derek Carr, brother of former Fresno State signal-caller David, has been handed the keys to the offense.  Robbie Rouse figures to be healthy and productive at running back, and the wide receiver corps is plenty deep.  WAC Defensive Player of the Year Chris Carter may be gone, but if the defense could just cut down a little on giving up big plays...

Hey, I'm an optimist.  In 2011 and beyond, anything is possible.  Anytime, anywhere.

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