QB Paul Pinegar (PHOTO - Cary Edmondson)

2004 Statistics

Coach: Pat Hill
64-38, 8 years
2004 Record: 9-3
at Washington WON 35-16
at Kansas State WON 45-21
at Louisiana Tech LOST 21-28
at Boise State LOST 16-33
SMU WON 42-0
at Rice WON 52-21
at San Jose State WON 62-28
vs. Virginia WON 37-34

2004 Final Rankings
AP-22, Coaches-22, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

Despite an early-season three-game skid that proved to be their only three losses of the 2004 season, the Bulldogs became a complete team in many ways. By closing with six wins in a row and finishing ranked 22nd in the final AP poll, State springboards into a top 25 ranking for the coming season, no small achievement for this western perennial. Everything is in place with such confidence and character already rolling.

The coaching staff returns for a ninth season. Some 17 starters return, with QB Pinegar the solid field general they need. The offensive line is a well-constructed young wall, and even when the wall crumbles occasionally there are running backs and fullbacks who pass-block with the best. But if the offense doesn't air it out more often, those quality foes will exploit this with even tighter coverage and more men in the box. Fresno State's own lock-down corners and outstanding linebackers do this to other teams, so the writing is on the wall here. There is depth virtually everywhere except the defensive line, and even there the available talent is good enough to hold its own.

There is also national respect (thanks to Lee Corso) for a program that has consistently beaten BCSers, or "big name" teams. The Bulldogs are a mid-major that doesn't shy away from such big boys. Toledo, Oregon, and Southern Cal make this season one that isn't just given to them, and this is the only way to become the feared powerhouse all programs long to be.

Yet, strangely, Fresno State is really fighting mostly for respect in its own conference. Frankly, a victory in the ninth game against Boise State is their biggest game of the slate. For four consecutive years the Bulldogs have lost to Boise State and finished as the bridesmaid in the WAC. There is no question that this is the most complete Fresno State team in the school's history, but this one match-up will again define their season. Bulldog Stadium will probably be deflated after this one, but this squad will keep advancing as it has regardless. There will be nothing to be ashamed of if there are three losses again. So, give respect to a program willing to do what it takes to truly make men out of boys - put them through adversity, and, no matter what the results, learn and move ahead. We do.

Projected 2005 record: 8-3
QB - 4 DL - 3
RB - 4.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 3 DB - 4
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Paul Pinegar, 292-173-15, 2099 yds., 23 TD

Rushing: Bryson Sumlin, 191 att., 1104 yds., 13 TD

Receiving: Joe Fernandez, 38 rec., 546 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: Bryson Sumlin, 13 TD, 78 pts.

Punting: Mike Lingua, 49 punts, 36.3 avg.

Kicking: None

Tackles: Dwayne Andrews, 66 tot., 27 solo

Sacks: Garrett McIntyre, 7 sacks

Interceptions: Marcus McCauley, 3 for 78 yds., 1 TD; James Sanders, 3 for 60 yds., 1 TD; Richard Marshall, 3 for 205 yds., 2 TD

Kickoff returns: Adam Jennings, 26 ret., 25.3 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Adam Jennings, 35 ret., 4.3 avg., 0 TD


C Kyle Young (PHOTO CREDIT - Adam Hardtke)
OFFENSE: Stephen Spach-TE/H, Logan Mankins-OT, Duncan Reid-TE, Brett Visintainer-K
DEFENSE: Brian Morris-DE, Donyell Booker-NT, Claude Sanders-DE, Todd Garcia-OLB, Nate Ray-SS, James Sanders-SS (NFL)

Paul Pinegar won't be flying under the radar any longer after he finished 32nd-ranked for all I-A QBs for efficiency. Although he and the Bulldogs don't fling the ball around like the school once did (with David Carr), Pinegar has earned the starting nod for three years with his knowledge and execution. He fine-tuned his touch from 2003 to 2004, learning when to fire and when to finesse, and completed almost 60% of his passes. But Pinegar now must fine-tune his decision-making (15 INTs). Pinegar has some quick feet, but only enough to get him free when needed (18 sacks). The bottom line on the kid is that he's 24-8 as a starter, including 6-3 against schools from BCS-member conferences, and 3-0 in bowl game (UCLA, Georgia Tech and Virginia). Local-product (Corvis HS) RS Junior backup Jordan Christensen is another prototypical drop-back guy with good speed to go with his strong, accurate arm, and what he lacks in experience would be made up within the fact that this offense need not change when he is inserted. If inserted, the offense would miss a beat, but not for long.

Ugh. Fresno State's top two receivers from 2004 are returning, but that isn't saying much. Joe Fernandez led the team with the lowest total by a team leader in 14 years. Not one player in this group had a 100-yard receiving game last year. The problem is this: while head coach Pat Hill may have liked the idea of the small, smurf-like receivers (save Jamison) who can catch a short pass and turn it into a big gain, that didn't happen. Fernandez doesn't produce the yards-after-catch and Jamison needs to shake a continued case of the drops. That's why we'll see some of the freshmen that Hill brought in. "I wouldn't say we're targeting receivers," he said, "but I'm real happy with the skill guys we're getting. No. 1, they can run. And they have size." To be sure, there's something to be said for the confidence and chemistry that Paul Pinegar has built with Fernandez, Jamison and Adam Jennings. There's also something to be said for having a game-breaker on the field.

Running Back
This is the one of the deepest units in the nation, and that's not hyperbole. Bryson Sumlin and UCLA transfer Wendell Mathis were five measly yards from giving Fresno State two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time in school history. Now Dwayne Wright (1,000-yard back in 2003) returns (season-ending knee surgery) after playing in only four games. This is clearly a problem coaches love to have. It creates competition, but, more importantly, since the Bulldogs are a run-oriented team (63% running plays in 2004), they throw a variety of different looks that send defenses scurrying. Sumlin and Wright are bruisers with decent hands, while Mathis jukes his way with 10.47-sec 100 meter speed. In addition, fullback Matt Rivera is a viable ball-carrier (6.9 yards per carry) often found in the flat, while starter Roshon Vercher is huge in size and at picking up the blitz.

Tight End
Smallish Devyn McDonald is the only returner with experience here. This position is invaluable to Fresno State's short yardage offense. The TEs are utilized not only in run-blocking support, but as receivers in quick outs. Fresno State would be better served here by letting McDonald try to bolster the wide receiver corps and using Jesus Tapia as the starting tight end. Tapia is far more physical - he's a former high school offensive lineman - and at 6-6 he's also a more inviting target for each game's two or three throws this way. The Bulldogs should also take a long look at Bear Pascoe, a 6-foot-5, 252-pounder who played QB in high school but will make the move to TE.

Offensive Line
The departure of all-American (LT) Logan Mankins has created a domino effect here. Here's what will happen for 2005: Though Hill probably prefers for Dartangon Shack to remain at right guard, Shack is the best of the returning linemen and will take over the LT spot vacated by Mankins. Ryan Wendell, a frosh all-American at left guard, goes to right guard. Sophomore Cole Popovich, who started at LG last year before injuring his arm, will return there. NC.net all-American (Honorable Mention) Kyle Young stays at center. Chris Denman or Matt Stevenson (lingering shoulder problem) takes over the other tackle spot. Got all that? Good, because despite all the position changes, this is a strong, experienced unit that pulls well (moving pocket) with its mix of size and svelte. In the bowl win, they did not yield a single sack to Virginia, and the Bulldogs will give up less than the 18 they surrendered last season.

You have to love what this team can do. They run from the I-formation; they can also run out of a three-back set; they can go power, between the tackles; or they can go wide, behind a fullback and a blocking tight end; they can swing the ball out to their running backs; or they can utilize the tight ends in short yardage; heck, they can even show you a variation of a west coast offense with quick, three-step drops and short passes. They only thing they can't do, seemingly, is effectively spreading the field by throwing the ball deep (the longest completion was 61 yards, with only two other catches over 50). Once foes saw this loophole, they adjusted for wins over the Bulldogs. But you have to figure Hill will remedy that situation. The Bulldogs improved from 350 yards a game on offense in 2003 to 404, a number that will continue to climb. Utilizing the running game to force defenses to load the box is important, and to then air it out regularly to keep safeties thinking deep just requires the tight execution already established. This "next level" will be needed if State is to improve its record.


RB Bryson Sumlin (PHOTO CREDIT - Justin Kase Conder)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Paul Pinegar-Sr (6-4, 220) Tom Brandstater-Fr (6-5, 210)
RB Bryson Sumlin-Sr (5-10, 200) Wendell Mathis-Sr (5-11, 191)
Dwayne Wright-Jr (6-0, 205)
FB Roshon Vercher-Jr (5-11, 245) Robbie Dubois-Jr (5-11, 220)
WR Joe Fernandez-Jr (5-10, 175) Paul Williams-Jr (6-2, 200)
Jermaine Jamison-Sr (6-3, 200)
WR Adam Jennings-Jr (5-10, 175) Jaron Fairman-Jr (6-1, 185)
TE Jesus Tapia-So (6-6, 215) Drew Lubinsky-Fr (6-6, 230)
OT Dartangon Shack-Jr (6-2, 300) Chris Piligian-Sr (6-4, 285)
Bobby Lepori-Fr (6-4, 285)
OG Cole Popovich-Fr (6-2, 275) Sean Finnerty-Sr (6-3, 285)
C Kyle Young-Jr (6-5, 330) Robin Kezerian-Jr (6-3, 300)
OG Ryan Wendell-So (6-2, 260) Kurt Walton-Sr (6-5, 345)
OT Chris Denman-Jr (6-6, 260) Adam Messick-Jr (6-7, 290)
K Clint Stitser-So (6-0, 197) Kyle Zimmerman-So (5-11, 200)



Defensive Line
Once again, this is a unit that has issues. A year ago it was depth, and this year it will be experience. DT Garrett McIntyre will move back to fill one of the vacant DE spots, and his size/speed says this move works well. Jason Shirley and Louis Leonard will end up playing in the middle of the front four, two huge guys that penetrate. But that still leaves the Bulldogs without a playmaking DE on the other side. Junior Marlon Brisco and converted-LB Tyler Clutts have the rushing skills needed here, and both have shown such off in their limited exposure(s). QB-pressure won't be much better (than 2004's 27 sacks), putting more responsibility on the back seven. But with such a weak run-stopping effort (ranked 70th, allowing 164 yards per game) this unit had best learn to walk (plug) before it runs (QB-rush which, if undisciplined, often leads to over-pursuit), so to speak. Such adjustments would actually increase win totals.

Swift, strong, and merciless, the best linebacking corps in the WAC returns virtually intact on the two-deep, with starters/subs that are all clones physically (though RS soph Marcus Riley comes in under 200). They're all run-stoppers with a nose for the ball, but none is bigger than 240, a sure factor for the marginal ranking in this area. Sanchez is particularly impressive (10 TFLs) and it wouldn't be surprising to see him as a down lineman to stop any initial rush. But this crew hasn't produced overall as a unit the way it should with so many run-stopping duties, so the line's improvement will allow them to focus more on underneath coverages. Put it this way: teams don't have to throw much if they can run well, so one step at a time will help to improve this unit's overall production and impact.

Defensive Back
Though handicapped as stated, three of the four starters return from the nation's third-best pass efficiency defense. CBs Marcus McCauley and Richard Marshall are strong in both coverage and open-field tackling. Tyrone Culver is the mainstay at FS, and the well-sized depth is strong here, too. Key stat to remember: teams threw only nine touchdown passes (T-5th in all I-A). This unit will benefit from the line's improvements, making Fresno's pass defense, an already-established strength, into a vice-grip that can save/win a game (3 TDs) with its smothering abilities and strong run-support.

Traditionally, Hill has used a 4-3 set in the pass-happy WAC. But, with experience and momentum, there will be some mixing, matching, and stunting so that run-stopping dilemmas eventually solve themselves. Accordingly, the code word this year will be 'disguise.' Now, this is not a smoke-and-mirrors type of thing. There's a lot of talent to achieve such new approaches. But to hide the deficiencies of the line, at least until it can gel, Hill and defensive coordinator Dan Brown will rely on different eight-man fronts and dare foes to throw the ball against these corners. A lot of chances should equal the proper yardage-limiting rewards. Even if the line again struggles, the back seven are good enough to carry the load. Ala Boise State's offensive moves that got them so far in 2004, instilling balance will be the main element if/when this crew improves its unworthy 36th total defensive ranking and therefore allowing the entire team to move to the "next level". Tuesday September 27th, Toledo will let them know if this is feasible/achievable, or if another revamping is needed before the Broncos and Trojans.


DE Garrett McIntyre (PHOTO CREDIT - Justin Kase Conder)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Garrett McIntyre-Sr (6-3, 260) Adam McDowell-Fr (6-4, 245)
DT Louis Leonard-Jr (6-4, 330) Charles Tolbert-So (5-11, 260)
NT Jason Shirley-So (6-5, 295) Jon Monga-Fr (6-2, 280)
DE Marlon Brisco-Jr (6-3, 240) Tyler Clutts-So (6-2, 220)
OLB Alan Goodwin-Jr (6-2, 220) Ahijah Lane-So (6-1, 185)
MLB Dwayne Andrews-Jr (6-0, 240) Kyle Goodman-Sr (6-0, 230)
OLB Marcus Riley-So (6-0, 190) Manuel Sanchez-Jr (6-1, 215)
CB Richard Marshall-Jr (5-11, 170) Elgin Simmons-So (5-9, 155)
CB Marcus McCauley-Jr (6-1, 190) Ray Washington-Sr (6-0, 190)
SS Awan Diles-Sr (5-9, 180) Vincent Mays-Jr (5-11, 205)
FS Tyrone Culver-Sr (6-1, 200) Josh Sherley-Jr (6-0, 185)
P Mike Lingua-Jr (6-0, 190) ..




It's up to Clint Stitser (passed on both Michigan State and Oregon). Stitser was a high school all-American (four from 50+ yards, including one from 57) who also played strong safety, so when he doesn't kick it through the endzone, he is another hat for which foes have to account. The Bulldogs allowed only 18 per return, and the improved D will bolster this area.

Mike Lingua needs to improve on his 36.3 yard average, though his hangtime is strong, so coverage is too. Fresno obviously does a nice job on their end (blocked five kicks), so field-position battles will be won.

Return Game
Clifton Smith gets first crack after the total return yards for his three PRs came within 15 yards of Adam Jennings 37 returns (152-137). That, along with the one he brought all the way, give him the nod here, though Jennings will assuredly keep his KO return status by finishing 19th in all of I-A for that.