Ryan Colburn's Fresno State Football Career Full of Missed Opportunities

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IDecember 3, 2010

BOISE, ID - NOVEMBER 19:  Ryan Colburn #15 of the Fresno State Bulldogs looks for the handoff against the Boise State Broncos at Bronco Stadium on November 19, 2010 in Boise, Idaho.  (Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images)
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn has just two games left in his career as a Bulldog before he either goes on to the NFL or wherever his path takes him.

On Friday night, he'll play his final game in front of the home fans at Bulldog Stadium. The final time he'll get to see the Red Wave, and the last time he'll get to walk down the ramp into the stadium.

It's been an up and down career for Colburn since he became the quarterback at Fresno State. He's been beloved by some and questioned by others. He's had his great moments and he's had moments that make you shake your head and wonder what he's thinking.

I will admit that I haven't been his biggest fan. In fact, I've probably knocked on him more than I've supported him. Not saying it's right, but I never believed he was the right guy for Fresno State. Here are some of his numbers to show you a few of the reasons why I wasn't ever sold on him as a starter.

Two years as a starter (2009-2010)

Games: 24 (through 12/3/2010)

Overall Record: 15-9

Combined record against non-conference opponents: 4-4

Combined record against top teams in the WAC (Nevada, Hawaii, Boise State): 1-5

Touchdowns: 37

Interceptions: 20

The biggest stat that will, and should, stand out to Bulldog fans is Colburn's combined record against the top teams in the Western Athletic Conference. Through his two years as a starter, he is 0-4 against Nevada and Boise State and 1-1 against Hawaii.

Not that losing to those three teams is anything Fresno State hasn't gotten used to in the past, but it's the reason they haven't been able to get over the hump and keep themselves looking a little bit respectable.

I remember writing something about him some time last year for another site and getting raked over the coals for it. Apparently there are some people that don't want you to write, or say, what you believe. If it's not a popular opinion, they'll let you know about it.

When I returned back to my hometown this past Thanksgiving holiday, a family friend of mine told me that he didn't like how negative Fresno Bee columnist Matt James had been about the football program. While I know Bulldog fans get tired of seeing the same blasts against the program, it's hard to find anything positive after the 2001 season.

What do the Bulldogs have to hang their hat on? A shared conference title 11 years ago? Impressive wins and an eighth ranking in the national polls nine years ago?

Pat Hill has gained a lot of respect around the country because of his willingness to go anywhere and play anyone. He's well known for his "Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime," mantra. However, that mantra seems to have gotten lost with fans as well as foes because they haven't exactly been winning a lot of those games.

So, no matter how positive you want to be, it's hard for me to sit back and tell people what they want to hear. It's hard to sit here and find any kind of silver lining, especially over the last two seasons.

The 2009 season could have gone a lot better. After a 51-0 win over UC Davis to start the season, the Bulldogs dropped each of the next three games against Wisconsin (34-31), Boise State (51-34) and Cincinnati (28-20).

The Wisconsin game was one that the Bulldogs looked like they were going to run away with. After jumping out to a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter, missed opportunities gave the Badgers all they needed to run off a 27-10 run to win, 34-31.

Colburn was intercepted three times including back-to-back possessions in the third quarter. The final interception led to Wisconsin's game-winning field goal in the second overtime.

Against Cincinnati, two games later, it was another missed opportunity deep in Bearcat territory that did the Bulldogs in again.

Fresno State trailed 21-17 in the fourth quarter and had driven inside the Cincinnati 10-yard line. The first play of the quarter, on a 4th-and-2, Colburn was intercepted. The Bearcats used that turnover to go more than 70 yards on just six plays to put the game away on a Tony Pike 23-yard touchdown pass.

It's been those missed opportunities that have cost Fresno State more than just those two games.

Nowhere was that more evident than their bowl game against a less than mediocre Wyoming team last year.

The Cowboys came into the game with a 6-6 record and were appearing in a bowl game for the first time in five years, while the Bulldogs were 8-4 and had won seven of their final eight games.

Not only did Fresno State give up an 11-point fourth quarter lead, but it was stopped on four straight running plays in the first overtime at the Wyoming one-yard line.

The Cowboys would take the lead on a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. The Bulldogs had their shot at tying the game but, after an incomplete pass on third down, Colburn was sacked on fourth down, giving Wyoming a win no one thought they would get.

So, with two games left, Colburn has a chance to go out as a winner. He may not have a conference championship to hang on his belt, but a win over Illinois on Friday night and a win in a bowl game to end the season is exactly how he would love to end his career at Fresno State.

While I may be hard on him and may not be his biggest fan, he still has a chance to lead the Bulldogs to a nine-win season. Something they couldn't get done last year.

That is definitely something he can hang his hat on.


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