Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, September 13, 2012

2012 Fresno St Football Preview: Eating your vegetables

Only two weeks into the season, and Buffs football has already hit the "eat your vegetables" stage.  I don't want to watch Buffs football, but I "have" to.  I just couldn't live with myself skipping a game, so there I'll be Saturday evening, reluctantly watching whatever Coach Embree and crew can throw together.

It's not the losing. Teams lose all the time, afterall. It's the utter futility that's getting to me.  Despite protestations to the contrary, the program isn't even close to respectability right now.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still a die-hard, and will ride off the cliff hand-in-hand with whoever is donning the Black-and-Gold, but it's so damn frustrating to go through seven consecutive years of losing football.  (...57 days...)


Kickoff for Buffs v Bulldogs is set for 6pm MT.  Televised coverage can be seen on CBS Sports Network.  Since you've probably never had reason to tune to that channel before, I'll help you out by noting that it can be found on channels 412/846 (Comcast), 158 (Dish), and 613 (DirecTV).

As for radio coverage, each of the first two games has seen 850 KOA's feed preempted during critical 4th quarter drives by bullshit Rockies coverage.  Last I checked, the Rockies are over 20 games out of 1st, and I'm thinking we can sacrifice a little Rox pregame to cover THE LAST GODDAMN DRIVES OF THE GAME.  Get your shit together, KOA.  Just to spite 850 for that, and other things, I'm boycotting them this week.  Don't listen to their coverage, they don't deserve BuffNation's patronage.

 Click below for the preview...

Confession time: I was cheering for Fresno St in 2001.
Look, I was young, and stupid; you cant trust a 17-year old to do anything right.  In my defense, I hadn't yet committed to Dear Old CU, and was distracted by the underdog nature of the Fightin' David Carr's.  Later that fall, after accepting CU's enrollment offer, I whole-heartedly regretted my momentary treason against BuffNation.

Of course, that loss (and some unfathomable BCS math) eventually cost CU a shot at getting their ass kicked in the '01 national title game.  11 years later, the Buffs owe them some payback.

Opponents season so far - 

Fresno St comes in at a logical 1-1, having easily won the game they were supposed to, and been summarily crushed the following week against a vastly superior opponent.

The Bulldogs managed what CU could not in week one: beat a visiting FCS school.  Their 31-10 win over Weber St on Sept 1st was what you want out of a check-cashing game.  From the opening kick Fresno St was in control, rolling a 24-3 halftime lead into an easy second half cruise to victory  The FSU offense churned out 515 yards, averaging nearly 8 yards per offensive play.  Since the defense never allowed Weber St to smell the Red Zone, that was more than enough to get the win.
The Bulldogs and their new coach got an easy win in week one.
Last week was a different story, but of course it always is when you play the Oregon Ducks.  Staring the defending Pac-12 champions in the face, the Bulldogs got trampled en route to a 42-25 loss in Eugene.  You might be saying "17 points isn't all that bad."  Heh. The margin was only that close because Oregon coach Chip Kelly allowed it to be. 
When Oregon was playing hard, they were cruising.
After FSU got a game-opening field goal, the Ducks boat-raced the Bulldogs with five unanswered touchdowns before halftime. The Ducks did their damage on scoring drives of 68, 73, 85, 69, and 98 yards, with four of the five taking less than three minutes to complete; such is life in Eugene.  At that point, the game was effectively over, and Oregon turned the jets off during intermission.  Of the 532 total yards racked up by Oregon in the game, all but 139 came in the first half, and all on those scoring drives.  I'm actually surprised by Coach Kelly's modesty, and I can't help but wonder who taught him such human-like compassion.
Chip has apparently installed "Awkward Smile v. 3.0" into his operating system
Regardless, the Oregon game is effectively a wash, as is the win over FCS Weber St.  There's really no way to understand how good the Bulldogs are until they face a team more in line with the FBS average.  Not that it will matter much this week, because the Buffs have a long way to go to even sniff average.

Offense & Defense -
NCAA statistics report here.

Helped by a cadre of returning veterans, the Bulldog offense is playing pretty well in the early going.  They've cracked off an average of 440 yards of offense through two games, and do a good job of balancing the passing and running attacks. They're running a traditional spread this season, with Utah's former assistant OC Dave Schramm running things from the box.

Because of the defensive background of their new head coach (I'll get to him in a minute), the Bulldogs are switching to a 3-4 scheme this season.  The new scheme has been paying off as, true to form, the DeRuyter defense is leading the conference (this time the MWC) in sacks and tackles for loss.  They even seemed to do a good job in the second half against Oregon last week, causing turnovers, and making the Duck offense sputter.  However, as I said earlier, that had a lot to do with the Ducks staring out into space out of boredom.  Ripped by Oregon, the rush defensive stats looks bad (216.5 yards per contest), but that number will go down as the season progresses.

Star Players - 

You have to start with QB Derek Carr.  The little brother of David, Carr the younger threw for 3,544 yards last season, good enough for 3rd in program history (guess who's #1).  The 6-3 junior is a superb talent, highlighted by his inclusion on nearly every pre-season award watch list.  So far this year, he's thrown for 532 yards with three TDs and no INTs.  I hope the freshman DBs are ready...
The young Carr is in the same mold as his BCS-busting older brother.
While Carr gets much of the offensive headlines, senior running back Robbie Rouse provides the fuel which sustains the FSU attack. His 2,678 rushing yards over the past two years are the most ever in consecutive seasons in Fresno, and he's only 79 yards short of the all-time program rushing record.  Expect the diminutive (listed at 5-7) rusher to get it Saturday.
With Carr stealing headlines, Rouse finds plenty of big holes to run through.
The defense is lead by sophomore safety Derron Smith.  He only played in three games last season, suffering a broken arm early in the season.  He's back now, and is already giving opposing offenses fits as he's recorded 18 tackles in only two games.  Re-joining him in the backfield is senior safety Phillip Thomas; he was also injured last season.  With that pair back to patrolling the top of the Bulldog defense, it's going to be hard to beat them deep.
Smith did his best against Oregon last week.
Junior linebacker Patrick Su'a is also off to a strong start in 2012.

Coaching -  

I didn't think it was possible, but the Bulldogs finally fired Pat Hill.  Through 15 seasons in the Valley, the mustachioed legend racked up 112 wins and 11 bowl appearances.  Surprisingly, he only won one single WAC title (Nope, not in '01.  They won it in '99) while at FSU, and hadn't had a 9-win season since '07.  Things were starting to slip, and last year's 4-9 finish was the final straw.  He's now a part of the Atlanta Falcons staff.
Coach DeRuyter is replacing a legend.  The question remains, can he grow a mustache?
Replacing Hill is former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter.  A graduate of the Air Force Academy, DeRuyter hopes to bring a strong defensive mindset to Fresno.  It's worked at his last two stops, as both AF and A&M greatly improved under his tutelage.  At A&M especially, he helped the Aggies finish second in the Big XII in rush defense and at the top of the nation in sacks last season.  He was given the task of leading the Aggies into their bowl game after head coach Mike Sherman was fired, and helped the team to a 33-22 win.  A solid hire, it'll be interesting to see his progression as the Bulldogs get used to life in the Mountain West.

He brings with him an almost entirely new staff, only retaining running backs coach Joe Wade, who has proven capable coaching NFL star Ryan Matthews and current Bulldog back Robbie Rouse.

Prediction -

The tongue-in-cheek talking point this week is that the Buffs are currently riding a road winning streak.  The win at Utah last November was certainly liberating, and succeeded in letting a generation of players experience their first road victory.  It does not, however, count as a streak.  There's got to be more than one.  What's more, I'm not entirely sure one game gifted due to a terrible kicking performance expunges all of the road game voodoo from the program.  The team is still under-talented and mentally fragile.  Would it really surprise anyone to see the program drop another 5-10 straight road games?

Any chance of a win?  I just don't see it.  Maybe if CU had jumped out to two straight wins this season, but not after the loses to CSU and Sac St.  Carr will have a nice day against CU's youthful defensive backfield, the Buff offense will continue it's muted success, and I wouldn't be surprised to see another special teams letdown.  There's a reason that CU has been installed as 15 1/2 point road dogs this week, after all.

I had predicted victory in the fist two weeks, mostly out of cock-sure bravado.  This time, I'm forcing myself to think realistically.  The oft quoted colloquial definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.  Luckily, I'm avoiding that trap this week.  Fool me once, Buffs, and shame on you.  Fool me twice, and OH MY GOD WE LOST TO A LOUSY FCS TEAM.  Fool me a third time... well shame on ... shame on you. Fool me ... You can't get fooled again (YEAHHHHHHHHHHH).

Whatever, Buffs lose.

Fresno St 38 - CU 20


No comments: