Apr 25, 2019

Run game could face brick wall at California

Fresno State’s offense will face a stiff California defense on Saturday that was the Pac-10’s best a season ago

With the California game less than a week away, the ‘Dogs are tightening up some loose ends before they travel to Candlestick Park in San Francisco on Sept. 3.

One key battle that will take place every time the Bulldogs are on the offensive side of the ball is Fresno State’s potent run game against the Golden Bears’ 2010 Pacific-10-best defense.

Fresno State has four veteran running backs that could contribute against California, but the most notable is junior speedster Robbie Rouse.

Rouse is coming off a 1,129-yard season in his first year as a full-time starter. Now, the target is on his back to deliver a big game on a big stage. He talked about what he and his teammates need to do to get the job done.

“Just keep coming with what we’ve been working on,” Rouse said. “We just got to execute. If our big men, our receivers and [us running backs] do what we got to do, I feel we should have good success.”

One of the running backs that will be counted on to contribute is junior A.J. Ellis, who is back on the field after showing glimpses of greatness fizzle because of injuries in 2010. He could provide the Bulldog offense with a different look.

Junior Michael Harris should see some playing time after battling injuries last season. He has been in the rotation with Rouse and Ellis for playing time.

The final contributor could be UCLA transfer Milton Knox, who could give the ‘Dogs a nice dose between the tackles to spell Rouse’s speed.

The California defense will feature a former local player manning the middle linebacker position.

Mychal Kendricks is a Hoover High School graduate who has been nominated by numerous preseason watch lists. Head coach Pat Hill talked about the former San Joaquin Valley standout.

“He was a great player coming out of high school,” Hill said. “He’s a great young man. I really liked him as a high school player. Watched him a lot. We tried to recruit him coming out of high school, but he chose California and he’s been a great player for them.”

California lead the Pacific-10 in total defense a season ago stifling offenses to just 319 yards per game. The Golden Bears held the nation’s most prolific offense in Oregon to a season-low in yards (317) and points (15). Kendricks showed versatility from the linebacker position, getting to the quarterback 8.5 times to go along with 66 tackles. Hill described what may go into the game plan to neutralize Kendricks.

“We’ll run the ball like we always do,” Hill said. “There will be a man always accountable for the middle linebacker, whoever it is. So there will be somebody accounting for him every play.”

The Bulldogs run game could be key to be successful if they want to take the pressure off of sophomore quarterback Derek Carr, who will be making his first start of the season.

Now, with over 10,000 fans reportedly attending the game, Hill talked about what it will take for Fresno State to get the win in front of the Red Wave.

“We’ve just got to go execute,” Hill said. “If we execute at a high level, we have enough athletes to win.”

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