Fresno St. vs. Cincinnati: 10 Things We Learned in Bulldogs' Comeback Win
Fresno State came up with a victory they badly needed, especially after how this game started.
Their offense was flat, their defense was tired, and Cincinnati had capitalized on Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn's interception and took a 14-0 lead on the Bulldogs.
After that, Fresno State finally woke up, and so did their quarterback. After putting up just eight total yards in the entire first quarter, the Bulldog offense exploded and scored 28 unanswered points including a 59-yard strike to Rashad Evans to start the fourth quarter.
This was a win Fresno State, and head coach Pat Hill, desperately needed and it gives them a ton of confidence heading into two tough road games against Utah State, who gave Oklahoma a run for its money, and Ole Miss, who was upset by Jacksonville State earlier in the day.
Here are 10 observations from Saturday's huge Fresno State win.
Fresno State Now a Pass Heavy Team
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Fresno State, for the most part, has always been known as a smash mouth, run the ball, football team.
However, Saturday was a different story against Cincinnati. With Ryan Mathews moving on to the NFL and sophomore running back Robbie Rouse taking over, the Bulldogs had just 35 rushing yards in comparison to 242 yards through the air.
Quarterback Ryan Colburn finished the night 18-of-24 for 247 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception.
Seven Sacks on the Night For the Bulldog Defense
Chris Carter and Logan Harrell were absolute beasts on the defensive line for Fresno State.
The Bulldogs had just nine sacks the entire 2009 season. On Saturday night against Cincinnati, the Bulldogs racked up seven. Most of which came from Carter and Harrell.
Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros was able to stand in the pocket and deliver passes in the first half, but the Bulldog defensive line was not going to let him do that any longer. They hounded Collaros to the tune of three straight sacks during a fourth quarter Cincinnati drive.
Cincinnati Wide Receiver Vidal Hazelton Held In Check
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USC transfer, Vidal Hazelton, was held in check by the Fresno State secondary, though he was carted off the field after an injury.
Hazelton finished the game with six catches for 63 yards, but did not have a single touchdown catch.
Limited Carries For Robbie Rouse
Sophomore running back Robbie Rouse was supposed to be that next featured back, the next star at Fresno State, after All-American Ryan Mathews moved on to the NFL.
However, Rouse didn't have the kind of game he was hoping for in his starting debut. He carried the ball 20 times, but only gained 36 yards on the night, an average of less than two yards per carry.
If he wants to prove that he can be a threat out of the backfield, those numbers will need to improve.
Cincinnati Offensive Line Was Shaky at Best
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At first, it seemed as if the Cincinnati offensive line was going to keep Fresno State's defense at bay. As the game wore on, however, that began to change, especially in the third quarter.
Fresno State's defensive line had not had a lot of success getting to Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros until late in the third quarter, when it seemed as if the Bearcat offensive line couldn't stop the Bulldogs.
They gave up five sacks in the second half, three of which came in succession in one drive.
They are going to need a lot of work if Collaros is going to stay on his feet instead of on his back.
D.J. Woods Is a Solid Target at Wide Receiver
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Even though Hazelton didn't see the end zone, one guy that seemed to be a favorite target of Zach Collaros was wide receiver D.J. Woods.
Woods had six catches for 72 yards and a touchdown as well as one kick return for 37 yards. He has tremendous speed and if he gets a hole big enough to get through, he's going to be tough for any special teams' defense to stop.
If Hazelton's injury is going to keep him out for any length of time, Woods is going to get plenty of opportunities to be the No. 1 receiver for the Bearcats.
Ryan Colburn Impressive After Early Struggles
After a first quarter that was anything but pretty, Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn had enough and decided to take the game over on his own.
After just five yards passing in the first quarter, not to mention an interception that led to a Cincinnati touchdown, Colburn racked up 237 yards and four touchdowns, including a 59-yard strike to Rashad Evans in the fourth quarter that put the game on ice.
That's exactly the quarterback that Fresno State fans have been waiting to see. Trent Dilfer, the ESPN analyst during tonight's game, ranted and raved about working with Colburn during the off-season and how much better this young quarterback had gotten.
It didn't seem that way through the Bulldogs' first four possessions, gaining just a single first down.
But over the next three quarters, Colburn proved a lot of his doubters wrong.
Zach Collaros Will Be a Quarterback To Watch This Season
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Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros will be someone to watch this season for the defending Big East Champions.
Though he didn't have the kind of game that Cincinnati fans were hoping he would have, he's still someone that has game experience after filling in for Tony Pike last season when Pike went down with an injury.
His numbers were impressive last season, and he has the arm to beat you deep and the speed to beat a cornerback around the corner to pick up a big first down.
It's a tough loss for the Bearcats, but Collaros is someone to watch as this season rolls on.
Deep Corps of Receivers For Fresno State
Fresno State showed Saturday that they have a list of receivers that can be a target for Ryan Colburn at any given time.
Talk about veteran guys like Devon Wylie, Jamel Hamler, and Rashad Evans, and newcomers like Jalen Saunders not to mention a few other freshmen wide receivers who didn't see time tonight, and you have a talented list of guys who will make a huge impact for Fresno State this season.
Rashad Evans was hit on a deep ball for a touchdown, and Devon Wylie and Jamel Hamler both made leaping grabs on two different touchdown passes These guys are talented athletes, who can make big-time catches when the situation warrants.
A Much Needed Win at the Right Time For Fresno State
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The "Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime" mantra was starting to wear thin for Fresno State head coach Pat Hill. Fans were questioning why the Bulldogs still scheduled teams like Cincinnati if they couldn't win those games.
On Saturday night, Fresno State pulled out a win that they desperately needed. It was a win they couldn't come up with last year. It was a win that they could have had, but missed the opportunities that would have made the biggest difference.
This year was a different story. They made the plays on both sides of the ball. They took advantage of turnovers and good field positions, and they limited their own mistakes to a single turnover in the first quarter of the game.
It's a win that will send them to a bye week, and give them time to get ready for two very tough road games in back-to-back weeks against Utah State and Ole Miss, who was shocked earlier tonight by Jacksonville State, so you know they're going to want to take out their frustrations on someone.