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Spaulding Roundup: Poor Fresno State

It’s Fresno State week. That means in addition to getting ready for Pat Hill’s team we also have to brace for flooding of 20,000+ Bull Dogs fans down the I-5. Apparently Fresno State has sold out its entire allotment of tickets for 9,000 fans. Yet I think the actual number is going to be lot bigger because those guys know they will never have a better opportunity for taking their best shot against the Bruins (and unload decades of inferiority complex) against UCLA on our home turf. So they are going to be out in force, while Pat Hill is being coy:

Pat Hill and about 20,000 of his friends will drop by the Rose Bowl on Saturday, and the Fresno State football coach won't have any sympathy for a UCLA team that has been outscored 90-10 the last two games.

"There is no reason to feel sorry for UCLA," Hill said. "They have very, very good players on their roster. There is not one guy on that roster that would take a [recruiting] visit to Fresno State. We know they've got great players."

Uh hum. I am sure he really means that (just like Lou Holtz meant what he said when he made the Midshipmen sound like bunch of world beaters as ND during Navy week in South Bend).

Anyway, to build up the Bruins’ chances more, Pat Hill is crying about the extensive travel Fresno State has had to do last three weeks due to their wacky scheduling:

While one might wonder whether Hill has seen game film of the Bruins' 59-0 debacle against Brigham Young or their 31-10 loss to Arizona, Hill can be forgiven if he's a little edgy.

The Bulldogs anyone-anywhere scheduling philosophy has earned them loads of frequent-flier miles this month. They opened the season by beating Rutgers in New Jersey, then, after an intense 13-10 home loss to No. 9 Wisconsin, played a double-overtime thriller at Toledo, winning 55-54.

"It's not easy getting home at 5 a.m. after two of our first three games, then going right to work and get the team going again," Hill said. "For us to travel three times zones twice in 21 days is a lot, but it's what we have to go through to get these type of games."

Yeah, I am sure all that traveling will dampen Fresno State’s enthusiasm and adrenaline for what they really think they can do to UCLA this weekend at the Rose Bowl.

So speaking of Bruins, Brian Dohn reports on our QB situation is precarious. Apparently CRN had Kevin Prince warming up last weekend at the Rose Bowl:

After Arizona took a two-touchdown lead early in the fourth quarter, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel told true freshman quarterback Kevin Prince to warm up as the Bruins toyed with the idea of replacing starter Kevin Craft.

However, Neuheisel said Monday offensive coordinator Norm Chow elected to remain with Craft, a decision he supported.

"I told (Prince) to warm up in the event we were going to make a change," Neuheisel said. "But Norm decided that it was probably not prudent, and I thought Norm's idea was the right one."

So why did Neuheisel instruct Prince, a Crespi of Encino product, to get loose?

"I thought the outcome was no longer in question, and maybe it was a good time to get some young guys some reps," Neuheisel said. "But I think it was probably the wise thing not to do it."

Neuheisel said Craft is the starter as the Bruins prepare for Saturday's final non-conference opponent, No. 25 Fresno State, at the Rose Bowl.

The pressure is on Craft. I think he has to come out next Saturday and put together an above average first half against Fresno State. Just being average is not going to cut it (although arguably his performance last weekend was well below average). Craft will have to come out, play in rhythm, make smart decisions, and lead the offense to some point producing drives. Otherwise, if the end result is the same as last weekend (when defense scored more TD than the O), I would have to think CRN and Chow will ask Prince to warm up again.

Speaking of another player, who needs to get better in a hurry is Terrence Austin:

For Austin, not hanging onto punts has been a recurring problem dating back to last season, though he said his error on Saturday was the result of not having good technique.

The ball was several yards in front of Austin and instead of letting it bounce, he tried to charge it and scoop it up just before it hit the ground. It quickly shot out of his hands and was recovered by the Wildcats.

Austin said that he estimated he fumbled only one punt last season and did not see this as a long-term problem. But a review of the box scores from the 2007 season showed he fumbled punt returns against Washington, Cal, USC and BYU.

This season, he fumbled a kickoff return against BYU and then was credited with the fumble on the muffed punt in the Arizona loss.

Austin averaged 10 yards on 31 punt returns last season and said he set the goal of 16 yards per return this year. But through three games and seven returns this season, he is averaging 5.3 yards with a season long of 9 yards.

"Other than the muffed punt this week, everything else was fine," Austin said. "Looking at film, it's almost there. There are just one or two blocks that need to be made, or I need to fake one way to get to the other way. It's just a few things that need to be done and then big plays will be made."

Well, TA and his team-mates in the special teams will need to get their issues resolved this week. 

I hope coaches have a Plan B in place in case TA continues his performance from last two weekends because we can’t let our special teams continue to put our defense in such precarious short field positions game after game. Otherwise it will be those poor Fresno State Bulldogs, who will be making big plays at the expense of our mistakes.