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Looking at Fresno State every which way

Looking at Fresno State every which way

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on October 10, 2012 at 7:31 AM

Wednesday, October 10, 2012.

You’re going to get sick and tired of hearing all about Fresno State this week, but there’s a lot to talk about this year.  New Bulldog coach Tim DeRuyter may have fans jazzed with the success of a new spread offense.  But DeRuyter made his mark as a defensive coordinator, the post he held at Texas A&M before heading for the San Joaquin Valley.  And defense has played no small part in Fresno State’s turnaround.  One area of it in particular.  The Bulldogs forced two more turnovers in their 28-7 win at Colorado State last week to maintain their national lead in that category with 18 total takeaways.  What’s even more remarkable is the fact Fresno State forced only nine turnovers in 13 games last season.

Narrow it down, and you find the stamp of Phillip Thomas all over the Bulldogs’ defensive accomplishments.  A year ago, Fresno State had just five interceptions in 13 games.  Thomas already has six picks of his own this year and leads the nation.  He took two back for touchdowns in the 69-14 trouncing of Colorado four weeks ago.  The senior safety is doing it all—he added a sack and a forced fumble to his latest interception in the victory at CSU to earn Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week honors.  Both turnovers he created last week led to Bulldog TDs.

Fresno State linebacker Patrick Su’a, who has an interception and fumble recovery himself this season, recites the Bulldog party line going into Saturday’s game at Bronco Stadium.  "I'm tired of it," Su'a said of the Broncos' winning ways in the Fresno Bee. "They're a great team.  They've got a good program.  But it's the new 2012 Bulldogs football team here.  We've got a new strategy, new plays, new players, same players with new abilities.  I want it done.  We're going to go get it."

Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick obviously has to avoid turnovers at all costs Saturday.  Southwick has thrown three interceptions in five games, and all of them have come early—the first two in the end zone and the third last Saturday in Southern Miss territory.  What pleases Chris Petersen is Southwick’s ability to put that behind him, especially in Hattiesburg, where he went on to throw three touchdown passes.  “That was really good to see,” said the coach.  But Petersen still rues the opportunity missed on that pick.  “We could have had a really big play on our end,” he said.  “The plan is still to hang onto the ball.”

Fresno State has seen that nifty inside reverse Boise State scored on last week.  It was five years ago, and I’ll be darned if the guy who got the touchdown on the play at Southern Miss, D.J. Harper, wasn’t involved in that one, too.  It was during a 34-21 win at Bulldog Stadium and was one of the first times the Broncos unveiled the play.  With Tanyon Bissell running the wildcat, Harper took the first handoff and gave it inside to Jeremy Avery, who ran into the end zone untouched from 10 yards out.  So file that one away, because Boise State probably is, too.  As you recall, Harper was a true freshman in that 2007 season, and he rushed for 153 yards against the Bulldogs while Ian Johnson was out with a bruised kidney.  Avery added 124.

Little-known fact: Boise State’s win at Southern Miss last week was the 150th of what we sometimes call the Golden Era, which began back in 1999.  That’s 150 victories against 23 losses.  And the Broncos’ October winning streak is intact at 45 in a row dating back to 2001.  But man, is talk of BCS-busting this year premature, or what?  Jerry Palm of CBS was on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday predicting that Boise State will make a BCS bowl.  Interesting, considering Palm’s opinions on IST in recent years.  But really now, sports fans, the Broncos still have a long way to go and are worried only about beating Fresno State Saturday.

Twelve months ago we were wondering what Boise State would get from TCU quarterback Casey Pachall.  Well, the Broncos got a 473-yard passing day and five touchdowns pinned on them by Pachall in a 36-35 loss to the Horned Frogs.  Now Pachall isn’t even a student at TCU anymore.  Five days after a suspension for a drunken driving arrest, Pachall has left school for the rest of the semester to go into rehab.  He could re-enroll next spring.  The Frogs played their first game without Pachall last Saturday and suffered their first loss of the season, 37-23 to Iowa State.  It looks like there’ll be a lot more L’s where that came from.

Idaho goes into an interesting atmosphere Saturday at Texas State.  It’s the Bobcats’ first conference game as an FBS school, and it’s homecoming in San Marcos.  You’re never sure what you’re going to get from Dennis Franchione’s 2-3 team.  Texas State lost 35-14 at New Mexico last week and fell 58-10 at Texas Tech but played Nevada relatively tough at home before falling by 13.  The milestone moment for TSU was the 30-13 upset of Houston, a 13-win team last year, in the season opener.  The Bobcats had been 36½-point underdogs—it’s believed only Stanford's 2007 upset of USC overcame a larger Las Vegas point spread.

With the additions of Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield, the WAC will have six members in 2013-14.  That will allow the conference to retain its automatic bid in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, among other things.  But will that be enough to keep Idaho and New Mexico State?  Maybe for a year, as there’s no one left to share football revenue with, and the Vandals and Aggies will reap the benefits.  But Idaho and New Mexico State have to decide what’s best for their non-football sports.  Geographically and competitively, the Big Sky still looks like a much better fit for the Vandals.  Stability goes without saying.  And it sounds like NMSU athletic director McKinley Boston may have something in the works somewhere else. 

With the Idaho Steelheads receiving two goaltenders from the influx of AHL assignments the past few days, Ryan Zapolski has been released by the club.  That came three days after Zaploski started last Saturday’s exhibition game in CenturyLink Arena and stopped 36 of 37 shots in Idaho’s 3-1 win over Utah.  Going into Friday night’s season opener, it’s a two-headed netminding crew between Tyler Beskorowany and Josh Robinson, who both came down from the Texas Stars.  Beskorowany was an ECHL All Star two seasons ago and the ECHL Goaltender of the Month with the Steelies in January, 2011, before spending all of last season in the AHL with Texas.  It did not go well there for Beskorowany—he’s in comeback mode as he returns to Boise.

This Day In Sports…October 10, 1923:

In one of baseball’s great ironies, the first World Series home run in Yankee Stadium history is a ninth-inning, game-winning, inside-the-park clout by Casey Stengel, giving the New York Giants a 5-4 win over the Yankees in Game 1.  The future Yankee manager would hit another game-winning homer in Game 3, but the Yankees went on to win their first Fall Classic in six games, celebrating their first season in “The House That Ruth Built”.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket.  He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)