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Uphill Battle: Fresno State Faces Life Without Ryan Mathews

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer INovember 21, 2009

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Ryan Matthews #21 of the Frenso State Bulldogs runs with the ball during the game against the UCLA Bruins on September 27, 2008 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews will miss his first game all season this weekend against Louisiana Tech after suffering a concussion against Nevada.

You could hear the air come out of the collective breaths of the Fresno State fans. Star running back Ryan Mathews took a hard hit from a Nevada defensive player, then didn't get up.

You could feel every fan's heart drop and the possibilities of a winning season come into question, all with one play.

For the Bulldogs, life with Ryan Mathews had been easy. The nation's leading rusher was making defensive backs look foolish and was putting up Heisman like numbers through nine games. He was every coaches dream.

Now, Fresno State will have to play their final home game of the season on Saturday afternoon without their best player, without their star and without the guy that fans flock to Bulldog Stadium just to see what he'll do next.

But, maybe this is a blessing in disguise for this football team. After relying so heavily on one guy, they'll now have to rely on each other to defeat Louisiana Tech on Saturday afternoon. They'll have to pull together to show their fans that they can win without Mathews. They can still be the same explosive offense without their explosive running back.

To do that, they'll have to rely on a freshman. But he's not just any freshman. He already has fans talking about him as the heir to the proverbial running back throne at Fresno State.

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That player is freshman running back Robbie Rouse, or as the fans and his teammates call him, "Mighty Mouse."

Just because he may be a tad on the small side for a running back, 5'6", his size didn't keep him from putting up big numbers in his senior season at Madison High School in San Diego, rushing for 2,632 yards and an astounding 38 touchdowns.

The Bulldogs are in good hands with Rouse, but the team needs to trust itself. They need to pull together as a team and show the fans they can win big games.

They'll need to do just that against a Louisiana Tech team that gave both LSU and Boise State fits, losing both games by a combined 18 points.

Even though the other "Bulldogs" don't have the greatest record (3-7, 2-4) and have lost five of their last six including four straight, it doesn't mean that they can be taken lightly.

Life without Ryan Mathews will be tough, but put the ball in the hands of Rouse as well as senior running back Lonyae Miller and the combination of the two will more than make up for their star's absence.

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