TE Bear Pascoe (PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Kountz)

2007 Statistics

Coach: Pat Hill
85-55, 11 years
2007 Record: 9-4
at Texas A&M LOST 45-47 (3OT)
at Oregon LOST 21-52
at Nevada WON 49-41
at Idaho WON 37-24
at Hawai'i LOST 30-37
at New Mexico State WON 30-23
Georgia Tech WON 40-28

2007 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-31, BCS-UR

2008 Outlook

Head man Pat Hill enters his 12th season with high expectations after 2007 saw his team turn around their 4-8 record from the previous year into a 9-4 bowl-winning effort. Before ’06, he had reeled off seven .500-or-above campaigns to bring the Bulldogs back to prominence. But for a smaller, non-BCS-aligned school, one losing year is enough to knock itself from the national spotlight and therefore many pollsters’ minds. Ergo, many thought Fresno’s recent run was done and Hill’s squad had fallen back into WAC mediocrity as Boise and Hawai’i took any national attention away.

We see Hill has his guys back to basics and at No.23 in our preseason poll. The five-game turnaround from the previous year was due to Tom Brandstater, a decent, hard-to-bring-down hurler who manages his skills well now…a trend that should continue with new coordinator Doug Nussmeier calling the plays/shots. Nussmeier has never led an offense as a coach (great QB career at Idaho – one of only three QBs to throw for 10,000 yards and run for 1,000 in his career), but his prowess as a QB coach should keep Brandstater on the learning track and the offense humming. To trade up from the coordinator who made last year’s poignant adjustments (McElwain) must mean Hill believes strongly in the change. RB Ryan Matthews’ good health guarantees enough ground production to keep opposing back-sevens honest, and the line back in full has Bulldog fans chomping already.

The defense has its work cut out - allowing 27 and 28 points per game in ’07 and ’06, respectively, after only allowing around 21-22 points per game from 2003-05, signals what needs the most attention for State to continue its upward trend. It all starts up front (after allowing five yards per carry). The line has well-sized bodies, led by Jon Monga, that can shuffle into many different looks just before the snap to confuse blocking schemes. Already better in coverage as a team, almost every DB is back to improve its decent 56th ranking. This defense will be solid by November, but that doesn’t mean much when three tough BCS-caliber teams are up for September. What happens on defense will directly dictate how far Fresno is capable of going.

There is some solace in knowing that the best of the non-cons – Wisconsin – doesn’t travel west so well and they come into Bulldog Stadium. So does new-look Hawai’i, and with Boise as the last regular season tilt, Fresno will know its status heading into the game…if this a game is for the WAC title, the momentum from a strong campaign will assure they are playing top ball by then. The conference is winnable with BSU also retooling its offense (new QB). The time is now for Hill & Co. to retake the top spot and reestablish itself as a power in the west that even the biggest schools dread facing.

Projected 2008 record: 9-3
QB - 4 DL - 2.5
RB - 4 LB - 3
WR - 3.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 4 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Tom Brandstater, 211-337-5, 2654 yds., 15 TD

Rushing: Ryan Mathews, 145 att., 866 yds., 14 TD

Receiving: Marlon Moore, 48 rec., 694 yds., 5 TD

Scoring: Ryan Mathews, 14 TD, 84 pts.

Punting: Robert Malone, 2 punts, 36.0 avg.

Kicking: None

Tackles: Ben Jacobs, 81 tot., 33 solo

Sacks: Jon Monga, 6.5 sacks

Interceptions: Moses Harris, Damion Owens, Jake Jorde - 1 each

Kickoff returns: A.J. Jefferson, 26 ret., 35.8 avg., 2 TD

Punt returns: Marlon Moore, 2 ret., 8.0 avg., 0 TD


CB/KR A.J. Jefferson (PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Kountz)
OFFENSE: Nate Adams-FB, Clifton Smith-TB, Ryan Wendell-C, Clint Stitser-K
DEFENSE: Charles Tolbert-NT, Tyler Clutts-DE, Marcus Riley-OLB, Trevor Shamblee-OLB, Damon Jenkins-CB, Kyle Zimmerman-P

The turnaround of senior quarterback Tom Brandstater was the primary reason Fresno was able to turn itself around. The Turlock-product went from throwing 13 INTs in ’06 to only five last year, and that increased his yards-per-attempt from 5.6 to 7.9 over the same span. Defensive back sevens have to respect his abilities, which gives the RBs that extra second to find more open ground. Ergo, ground production also increased (by 30 yards per game) from two years ago to last year. We feel it is unfortunate that Jim McElwain leaves after only one season as OC after getting such great results, but four years have seen four different coordinators, so Doug Nussmeier’s hire becomes a critical pivot for State to keep its momentum on this side of scrimmage. The offense has worked out of basic, traditional formations since coach Hill is an OL specialist and has yet to need much of the new-fangled looks to get results. He worked in both the NFL and over his entire coaching career as a line coach, so we expect his blocking schemes will take precedence to keep the offense from changing much. Brandstater knows it and should have more improvements for ’08 with Nussmeier’s tutelage.

Still, this is a run-first offense, and Ryan Matthews will show the nation his full arsenal of talents as the starter behind Brandstater. This former national prep rushing champ will still share the load with Lonyae Miller but will also be hard to take out after he scorches foes with his moves. Look for Matthews to sneak over sometimes to take the snap directly, something he did with great success in high school and a technique that can work when defenses are caught napping on who is behind center (ala Darren McFadden). The third back getting carries will be fullback Anthony Harding, the junior who expanded this position’s role by getting over 100 carries and scoring four TDs. But Harding isn’t as bruising as now-departed Nate Adams, paving the way for either of the two other FBs on the roster (Reynard Camp and Vince Pascoe) to see the field in short-yardage/goal-line situations.

The WRs are one year older, an important fact when considering that the entire four-deep were all underclassmen in ’07. Marlon Moore is impressive in the open field and will move past Crawley and/or Ajirotutu after leading the Bulldogs in receptions. Tight End Bear Pascoe is the All-WAC senior leader who switched from QB as a freshman and can block as well as he runs his routes to occupy over-matched safeties. There was a bit more balance in 2007, a trend that needs to continue if Hill is to make production equal more wins.

This was the 14th-ranked rushing team in 2007, and all five starters back from the line will mean just as strong of a showing this time around. The senior bookends are California City’s Kenny Avon and Bobby Lepori, and classmate Cole Popovich is on the inside at LG. Andrew Jackson, a special two-way player out of Sacramento, was pretty amazing in his freshman campaign, enough so that he earned the start and gives promise to the youth movement that will need to be ready when the three seniors leave after ’08. Also emerging will be well-groomed center Joe Bernardi. The OL starters are mostly athletic and mobile, as is most of the two-deep, and only allowing 18 sacks proves what they give up in bulk translates in pass protection.


OG Cole Popovich (PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Kountz)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Tom Brandstater-Sr (6-5, 220) Ryan Colburn-So (6-3, 220)
FB Anthony Harding-Jr (6-0, 215) Vince Pascoe-So (6-0, 230)
TB Ryan Mathews-So (5-11, 205) Lonyae Miller-Jr (6-0, 215)
WR Jason Crawley-Jr (6-1, 185) Chastin West-Jr (6-1, 210)
WR Marlon Moore-Jr (6-1, 185) Seyi Ajirotutu-Jr (6-3, 205)
TE Bear Pascoe-Sr (6-5, 260) Isaac Kinter-Jr (6-2, 245)
OT Bobby Lepori-Sr (6-5, 285) Kenny Wiggins-So (6-6, 310)
OG Cole Popovich-Sr (6-3, 285) Pierce Masse-Sr (6-4, 285)
C Joe Bernardi-So (6-4, 285) Richard Pacheco-Sr (6-2, 285)
OG Andrew Jackson-So (6-5, 290) Adam McDowell-Sr (6-4, 285)
OT Kenny Avon-Sr (6-3, 285) Devan Cunningham-So (6-5, 315)
K Kevin Goessling-Fr (5-10, 180) ..



Struggles to find consistency plagued Fresno on defense, so rotating in some new starters will hopefully supply needed fresh attitudes and better stopping results. Senior Joe Monga will lead the line’s attempt to pare down the Bulldog’s 85th ranking in run stopping. Monga produced 11 TFLs from his DT spot, 6.5 of which were sacks (second on the team in each category). His girth isn’t found in many other tackles on the roster; not-so-green first-time starter Cornell Banks should work at NT versus most smaller WAC squads, but those first three BCS foes should handle him more easily. End Wilson Ramos is the incumbent on the outside, but he will have to stay on his game to hold off emerging talents Mike Cheese and Kenny Borg. Borg is slated to start, but look for senior Wazzu-transfer Jason Roberts to get into the game early and often. All of these linemen are around 250-280lbs, allowing shifts on the line (to find the optimal gaps) to help the D keep its sack total high (36). But a few of those sacks should be sacrificed – rushing the passer in contained lanes instead of all-out bull rushing is important so opponents don’t again get five yards per carry.

The LBs are less without Riley, but the talent is there for the group to play well enough together to compensate for his lost contributions. Ben Jacobs played well enough as a backup in ’07 to earn the starting role in the middle. This ex-wrestler is the top returning tackler. Quaadir Brown bounced back after missing all of 2006; he finished as the third-best LB (tackles) playing behind Riley, evidently learning well from him. Walk-on Nick Bates is another guy who played over his head to take the inside track for the other outside start. Super-fast Todd Chisom and senior leader Mark McKinley bolster this unit, but behind them, inexperience abounds. This LB group is the jumping off point for the whole defense to come together as one unit.

The DBs get the job done, though it isn’t always pretty and more INTs are needed. Without top corner Jenkins, Damion Owens and new starter Sharrod Davis will lead a game group that features All-WAC nickel A.J. Jefferson (how an all-conference selection doesn’t get an open starting slot proves the talent level back here). These guys are big enough to handle the three sets of BCS non-con WRs that are soon to come. SS Moses Harris seems to be as strong in coverage as he is at run-stopping, and local FS product Marv Haynes is a heady ex-RB who needs to hit his upside for this defense to take another step. Ex-WR Lorne Bell is solid at nickel, and more depth exists that just needs reps to prove their worth.

Dan Brown (coordinator) saw his squad allow 45 more yards per game yet finish higher in the defensive rankings (from 86th to 73rd), and though, the offense rolled to increase the win total higher by five games, experience has to pay off if this group is to help Fresno to even more wins…watch the third-down conversion percentage (40% in ’07) to see if the D is holding its own or not.


DT Jon Monga (PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Kountz)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Ikenna Ike-Sr (6-3, 245) Chris Carter-So (6-2, 220)
NT Cornell Banks-So (6-3, 285) Mark Roberts-So (6-4, 290)
DT Jon Monga-Sr (6-2, 280) Bryce Harris-Fr (6-6, 280)
DE Wilson Ramos-Jr (6-5, 265) Kenny Borg-So (6-3, 245)
OLB Nico Herron-So (6-2, 235) Kyle Knox-Fr (6-2, 220)
MLB Ben Jacobs-So (6-3, 225) Austin Raphael-Fr (6-2, 220)
OLB Quaadir Brown-Jr (6-2, 215) Nick Bates-So (6-1, 210)
CB Sharrod Davis-Sr (6-0, 185) Will Harding-Sr (6-0, 195)
CB Damion Owens-Jr (6-1, 185) A.J. Jefferson-Jr (6-1, 190)
SS Moses Harris-Jr (6-1, 200) Jake Jorde-Sr (6-1, 195)
FS Marvin Haynes-Jr (6-1, 205) Lorne Bell-So (5-10, 195)
P Robert Malone-So (6-2, 215) ..




The punting game needs help. Robert Malone proved in his two tries of ’07 that he can place kicks well – both landed inside the 20. Malone had 20 tries as the starter in 2006 before an injury knocked him onto the second-team for all of 2007. Kevin Goessling looks like the same kind of guy…a solid prospect who needs help to get his game up to the highest of college standards. All of these iffy unknowns are offset by Jefferson still here to return kicks. Two of his 26 from last year were good for six as, overall, he led the nation in kick runbacks (35.8 per return). Finding a compliment for PRs could be a short search (Marlon Moore) or one that becomes a work-in-progress throughout the fall. The talent is here to get the needed results, even if Jefferson has to do this, too.