Fresno State

Call to action: Injuries have forced Fresno State's pups into big-dog roles

FRESNO -- Fresno State was supposed to get older as the season progressed -- not younger.

The Bulldogs (1-2) are coming off consecutive losses

to Bowl Championship Series opponents, and injuries to starters are making the team more inexperienced.

"We're going through some growing pains right now,"

coach Pat Hill said, "but our expectation is still to win."

During training camp, the Bulldogs lost senior middle linebacker Ahijah Lane and leading receiver Chastin West for the season.

On Saturday, junior defensive end Jason Roberts broke his right leg, ending his season, while offensive linemen Cole Popovich (knee) and

Adam McDowell (foot) did not play in the Oregon game due to injury; Hill said, without giving specifics, that both will be out for some time.

Popovich was scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.

"The lineup is getting younger by the day," Hill said. "That (Oregon game) was a good experience for a lot of the young players on the team.

"The outcome wasn't a good experience, but the type of game, the atmosphere ... they got to see a lot of good football up close and personal."

Yes, the youngsters gaining experience is a positive for them and future teams, but what about this season?

Against Oregon, nine of 22 starters were redshirt freshmen or sophomores and

22 of the 66 Bulldogs who traveled were freshmen or redshirt freshmen. The number of younger players on the field is only going up. Junior Ikenna Ike takes Roberts' place, but freshmen Chris Carter and Kenny Borg should play more.

The offensive line was dominated by Oregon with Popovich and McDowell replaced by redshirt freshman Andrew Jackson and junior Pierce Masse, both of whom were receiving their first starts.

The offense rushed for 60 yards on 36 carries and quarterback Tom Brandstater was under constant pressure. The Ducks had six quarterback hurries and two sacks.

"We had some holes close fast and we had a couple missed assignments. That's the kind of stuff that will kill you," offensive line coach Derek Frazier said after the Oregon game. "We had some mistakes on technical blocks, some assignment mistakes, and it can't happen, especially against these guys."

Hill said he plans to quicken the pace of practice.

"(The younger players) still need more reps of highly competitive plays to get us in position to improve ourselves," Hill said. "I don't think we'll improve ourselves by going half-speed or walk-throughs right now.

"We're gonna get as much fast movement as we can."

This bye week -- the Bulldogs next play Louisiana Tech on Sept. 29 -- has become that much more crucial.

"The growth process for them has to be sped up and this week is going to be very, very important for their development," Hill said.

  Comments