Back to the east

Brianna Campbell / The Collegian Online

While everyone else was spending Thanksgiving eating turkey and stuffing, the Bulldogs’ football team spent their week off getting rejuvenated mentally and physically in time for their final game of the season against Illinois.

After their last-minute win against Louisiana Tech, two of the Bulldogs players were given the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) players of the week award. Linebacker Ben Jacobs was the Nov. 23-29 defensive player of the week and kicker Kevin Goessling was named the special team player of the week.

This was Goessling’s third time receiving the award after he kicked a 35-yard field goal that gave them the win, 30-28.

Head coach Pat Hill said during that game he was confident that Goessling could give them the win even from a further standpoint. “I was willing to give Kevin at least a 55-yard kick but we got the opportunity to go closer and we went for it,” Hill said.

Jacobs tied an NCAA record after forcing three fumbles in their game against Louisiana Tech. On one of those fumbles, he retrieved the ball and ran for a 21-yard touchdown.

“I’ve never had this award before. And I worked hard in defense so I’m very excited to get it,” Jacobs said.

As they return from a bye week, the Bulldogs are preparing themselves to face against the Fighting Illini on the road. The upcoming road game will total their travel miles to almost 23,000 overall this season.

Matt Weir / The Collegian Online

Quarterback Ryan Colburn said that although the trips are long, travel was never an issue for the team.

“From my mindset and from what our coaches tell us, ‘it is what it is,’” Colburn said. “I think we do a good job with our preparation. We do morning meetings, we prep for the cold weather, we do everything we can to not let travel be an issue.”

Other than traveling, the Bulldogs don’t let the hostile environment of road stadiums be a factor in their games. Jacobs said he feeds off the crowd’s energy whenever they play on the road.

“I love to be hated on away games,” Jacobs said. “You got to get you going and enthuse you. If the crowd boos you, you got to love it.”

The Bulldogs record in road games has not always had a positive outlook, but Hill said that the team proved they can still win on the road.

“We had seven road games on the road last year. We were 2-5 last year and we’re 3-3 right now on the road,” Hill said. “We haven’t had a winning road record yet, but we’re getting closer.”

One thing that the Bulldogs can look forward to is the return of the nation’s leading rusher, Ryan Mathews. Mathews hasn’t played since he suffered a concussion in the Bulldogs’ game against Nevada but according to Bulldogs’ spokesperson Steve Weakland, Mathews has been cleared by the medical staff to start training this week and play against Illinois.

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