Joe Jaszewski / McClatchy Tribune
Heading into their next conference showdown this Saturday against Idaho, Pat Hill and the Bulldogs will be turning to security this week â€” ball security.
â€œIt was very hard for us to overcome the six turnovers,â€ Hill said about the teamâ€™s performance against Hawaii. â€œThat is not very characteristic of our team; we work on ball security everyday.â€
The Bulldogs lost three fumbles and quarterback Tom Brandstater was picked off three times in the overtime loss to the Hawaii Warriors last Saturday in their Western Athletic Conference (WAC) opener.
â€œObviously, last week was a letdown for us,â€ Brandstater said. â€œWe preach ball security every day since day one. Those six turnovers, you canâ€™t do that again.â€
Along with Hill, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is the other Bulldog coach stressing not turning the ball over.
â€œBall security is the number one most important thing,â€ Nussmeier said. â€œWe got to get back to playing no turnover football. If you win the turnover margin, youâ€™ll win a good majority of your games.â€
Hawaii fumbles “inexcusable”
Fresno Stateâ€™s WAC opener at Bulldog Stadium saw a large crowd for the second time this season, but the â€™Dogs dropped to 0-2 at home after Saturday night.
â€œWe had a great atmosphere for Hawaii, but we were in a race to catch up,â€ Hill said. â€œOur players played hard. Give Hawaii credit for knocking the ball out.â€
One of the fumbles Hawaii jumped on was a quarterback and center mishap early in the game, which disappointed Hill.
â€œThe fumble from the center and quarterback exchange is just inexcusable, so our center and quarterback exchange has to be perfect,â€ Hill said.
Center Joe Bernardi also realized how important ball control on offense is this week.
â€œSix turnovers lost the ballgame,â€ Bernardi said. â€œWe got to work on getting ourselves better.â€
Bernardi and the rest of the offensive line did pave the way for the Bulldog offense to amass a season-high 522 total yards against Hawaiiâ€™s defense, which included a 157-yard performance from Anthony Harding.
Harding is another Bulldog who knows that turning the ball over is a topic of discussion at practice, with the subject being brought up this week.
â€œWeâ€™re preaching ball security every week,â€ Harding said. â€œEverything coach Hill and coach Nussmeier talk about is ball security.â€
Win against Idaho important for supporters
Fresno State heads into Bulldog Stadium with a 3-2 record, and 0-1 in conference play.
The Bulldogs will face off against an Idaho squad that is 1-5 on the year and 0-2 versus WAC opponents. Fresno State is 3-0 against the Vandals in the Pat Hill era, which includes last seasonâ€™s 37-24 victory in Moscow, Idaho.
Hill believes that despite past success against the Vandals, the Bulldogs will be tested again.
â€œIdaho plays very hard,â€ Hill said. â€œHawaii came in with a mindset to win, so will Idaho. When we play, theyâ€™re going to be highly competitive.â€
One Bulldog very familiar with Idaho is offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who was once a starting quarterback for the Vandals.
â€œIts going to be an exciting time,â€ Nussmeier said. â€œIt was a great experience when I was there. I have a lot of respect for that program, a lot of the people who were there helped mold me as a person and player.â€
Hill still believes in his team despite two home losses, losing their WAC opener and losing a shot at making a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game in January.
â€œWinning the conference title is still in our hands,â€ Hill said. â€œWeâ€™ve played hard for five straight weeks. We havenâ€™t had a letdown game. Whoever is out there is playing at a high level for us.â€
Brandstater feels that the â€™Dogs winning at home this weekend will be a way to win back support from the Red Wave crowd.
â€œObviously, the Fresno fans around here are hard to please sometimes,â€ Brandstater said. â€œWe might be out there with 5,000 people, but that doesnâ€™t matter. We want to get out there and get a win.â€
Getting to know the Idaho Vandals…
2007 Record: 1-11 (0-8 in WAC play)
The story so far: The Vandals have had another slow start to their season. Idaho is 1-5 with losses to Arizona, Western Michigan, San Diego State and Nevada and its lone win came over Football Championship Subdivision team Idaho State. Idaho had a program overhaul two years ago with the hiring of head coach Rob Akey and is still in the middle of the rebuilding process.
Impact Players: Offense – Tailback Deonte Jackson – The senior has been one of the bright spots for the struggling Vandal offense. Jackson has rushed for 353 yards and two touchdowns this season, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Last season against Fresno State, Jackson ran for 108 yards.
Defense – Free safety Virdell Larkins – The junior college transfer has been able to make an immediate impact in his fist year in the program. Larkins has 46 tackles and an interception on the season.
The Buzz: The Bulldogs are 0-2 at home this season and cannot afford to disappoint the home crowd again, especially on homecoming weekend. The Vandals are 33.5-point underdogs this week, but should be able to keep it closer than that. The Bowl Championship Series dreams are gone for Fresno State, but the Bulldogs still have a conference title to play for.