After finding out that they will play in the Hawaii Sheraton Bowl against Conference USA opponent Southern Methodist University, the ‘Dogs really want to finish their season with 10 wins.
If Fresno State wins this bowl game, it will be the first time that the Bulldogs finished a season with 10 or more wins since 2001 when they went 11-3 and played in the Silicon Valley Classic.
“To have a 10-win season hasn’t been done here since 2001,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “And everyone always talks about that team. So if we can get anywhere close to that and get a 10-win season, they may talk about us.”
With accolades continuing to roll in for Fresno State players such as safety Phillip Thomas and Carr, Fresno State will be constantly honoring its seniors in the offseason.
Thomas and Carr have recently been named the defensive and offensive players of the year, respectively, in the Mountain West Conference. More honors continue to be awarded to other Fresno State players. However, the Bulldogs choose to remain humble while hungry for a bowl win.
For both running back Robbie Rouse and Carr, it’s been two years since they last played in a bowl game. Both players are excited to finish their remarkable season playing in a game that will take place on national television on Christmas Eve. Although they must travel away from Fresno, the Bulldogs will still be happy to play in such a prestigious bowl and hope that the Red Wave will be in Hawaii in full force.
“I just know as far as me, personally, and a lot of my teammates and just for the Red Wave, we know we would’ve gotten a lot of fan support in Las Vegas. But if we can’t go to Vegas, I would love to go to Hawaii,” Rouse said.
“It’s not a bad place. There are worse places to go for a bowl game. But it’s going to be a great experience. I’m sure there’s going to be a great turnout,” Carr added.
Fresno State will graduate 22 seniors in the spring, so for many of them, this bowl game will be their last. The ‘Dogs plan to make this matchup a competition as preparations against SMU have immediately commenced.
“Like you guys know, I take pride in my preparations. And so I got three weeks to prepare for them, and I’m going to get the film in and start grinding on that (film),” Carr said.
In a season that has been highlighted by so many amazing turnarounds, the Bulldogs have taken one thing to heart from what head coach Tim DeRuyter has preached. And that one thing was to win a conference championship, which Fresno State searched out and accomplished with determination and heart.
Rouse, who leaves Fresno State holding all the rushing records in school history, has been the ‘Dogs’ core leader, not only offensively but defensively and special teams as well. Rouse is grateful that he was able to have such a spectacular season and will definitely remember 2012 for the rest of his life.
“This has been a great year, great career and a great team. I would not have rather come to any other school and play with any other teammates. I just want to leave on a good note with a championship (the Mountain West), and get this bowl game. That would be another check for Carr to lead them next year,” Rouse said.
“He’s the best running back that has ever played here. It’s going to be tough not having this guy by my side. But it’s his last go at it and they (the fans) can expect a show,” Carr said.
However, Rouse remains focused as Fresno State prepares to face a tough opponent in SMU. Rouse knows that SMU’s (6-6) record is not a true indication of how good the Mustangs are, and Rouse says that the team will practice extra hard to achieve a final season victory.
“From what I’ve heard, SMU is a good team. And I saw that they beat Tulsa, a team that beat us this year. So they have a good program,” Rouse said.
Carr added, “We definitely got to key in on that (a good program) and don’t really key in on the fact that they only have six wins because they’re a good football team.”
Carr hopes that the entire team is just as focused as he and Rouse are in trying to win their first bowl game since 2007.
In anticipating its matchup against SMU, Fresno State will be in high gear and will watch other bowl games for further study. Being sport fanatics, both Carr and Rouse will prepare for SMU by watching as much film, both on television and in the locker, as Fresno State gears up for the Mustangs.
“I’m going to try to watch all the bowl games and try to see all the great matchups,” Rouse said.
“We love watching football,” Carr added.
Carr’s and Rouse’s personal relationship throughout the three years they have played together has been an interesting ride. Under former coach Pat Hill’s guidance, the two players have grown and matured in each other’s presence, and the departure of Rouse will be bittersweet.
“I don’t like thinking about it. It’s not fun to think, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s given everything he’s got to go out with a bang,” Carr said. “Personally, the guy was in my wedding, and that should hit it right on the head of what he means to me in our relationship and what it’s been like and so much that we’ve been through. Those memories will never die.”
Yet, if the Bulldogs do prove victorious, a bowl win will make the 2012 season extra special. It will be one to remember for the ages. The 22 seniors on the team will be able to look back and remember with pride knowing that they accomplished everything that DeRuyter and his staff requested last spring.
Carr said, “We’re really focused on winning this bowl game. And I know he (DeRuyter) is, too. And we’re really excited about the legacy that Robbie, Phillip, and Travis (Brown) have brought to what we can do next year.”