Jul 09, 2020

Home opener provides spark for players

Bulldog Stadium sold out for first time since 2006 for Big Ten Conference power

It’s been about 10 months since the Bulldogs’ last home game, but there’s going to be an aura of excitement returning to a sold-out Bulldog Stadium Saturday night.

After dispatching Big East powerhouse Rutgers on Labor Day, the Bulldogs now welcome perhaps their toughest foe this season – the No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers in their home opener.

Coach Pat Hill has ensured that his team will be focused this week in practice.

“It’s always focused. It’s never loose around here,” Hill said.

The 12-year coaching veteran will have his team play in the 18th sellout in Bulldog Stadium since 2000. The previous sellout crowd came in 2006 when Pac-10 power Oregon made its visit to the Valley.

“This is going to be a heck of a week here in Fresno,” Hill said. “I’m very excited for our fans to finally being able to get a game of this caliber going against Wisconsin, a school rich in tradition and coming in with a No. 10 ranking. It’s great for our fans to see a team like Wisconsin coming in here with so much on the line.”

Powerful players, formidable opponents

Fresno State became nationally ranked after its 24-7 victory over the Scarlet Knights. Their No. 21 ranking will be put to the test against the powerful Badgers.

“They will be a great challenge for us, especially the running game,” Hill said.

Wisconsin has been picked by many college football experts to challenge the Ohio State Buckeyes for the conference title and make a run at the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship Game.

The rich football history at the University of Wisconsin includes conference championships, Rose Bowl victories and former Badgers becoming high NFL draft picks.

Some ex-Badgers playing in the pros include Lee Evans, Chris Chambers, Brooks Bollinger, Mark Tauscher and pro-bowler Joe Thomas.

The 2008 Badgers feature All-American tight end Travis Beckum, quarterback Allan Evridge, Heisman Trophy hopeful P.J. Hill and a massive offensive line averaging out at 6-foot-6, 319 pounds.

The 5-foot-11, 236-pound Hill leads the Big Ten Conference in yards on the ground and ran all over Akron in week one with 210 yards rushing, making him one of seven players in the nation to reach the 200-yard barrier.

Bulldogs ready for ‘very physical game’

Bulldog linebacker Ben Jacobs believes that the defense will have more than just P.J. Hill to focus on.
“They have a lot of good players out there,” Jacobs said. “They do a lot of talented things.”

Defensively, the Badgers have allowed just 72.5 rushing yards per game this season, but they will be dealing with another running back getting Heisman recognition, sophomore Ryan Mathews.

Mathews punished Rutgers with 163 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.

There will be several key matchups heading into this huge game that involves early- season BCS implications.

P.J. Hill will be going against a relatively young Bulldog defense that stifled the Scarlet Knights’ running attack in their season opener.

“You got to stop their offense to get your offense on the field,” Jacobs said. “It comes down to defense.”
Pat Hill compared P.J. Hill with a former famous Bulldog he once coached.

“He’s a Dwayne Wright with speed,” Pat Hill said. “He’s a downhill, north-south runner. I love those kinds of runners.”

The offensive line will also have to play a crucial role in getting the passing game going, especially with their success against the Scarlet Knights’ secondary.

Quarterback Tom Brandstater was able to utilize one of his many receiving options thanks to stellar blocking up front in the last game.

Wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu torched the Scarlet Knights with 116 yards receiving on just three catches.
Fresno State fans have been waiting for this game since 2002, when the Badgers held off the Bulldogs, 23-21, in retribution of a 32-20 loss the previous year.

This will be the first time the Badgers have visited the Central Valley, where the Bulldogs are 10-1 in home openers under Pat Hill.

“Were going to have to play a very physical game,” Pat Hill said. “This is our toughest opponent this week.”

No more tickets

The Wisconsin game is officially sold out, according to the Fresno State ticket office.

Bulldog Foundation were put on public sale Monday, but have been sold out as well.

Student section tickets, as well as student guest tickets, are sold out for Saturday’s game.

The ticket office will be offering standing room only tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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