Rivals Clash!

Boise State has to venture from home for the first time this college football season, taking on Fresno State tonight in the WAC opener for both teams. The Bulldogs are ready and waiting to pull off the upset.

Boise State faces off tonight against its top rival in the Western Athletic Conference, Fresno State in a nationally-televised WAC showdown beginning at 7 p.m. Mountain time.

Eight starters return on the Fresno State defense including end Chris Carter, linebacker Ben Jacobs and safety Moses Harris.  

New defensive line coach Will Plemons has instilled aggressive play into the unit.  Eight of the nine linemen have experience and six have started games in their career.  Carter had 88 tackles to lead the group last fall.  Sophomore Kenny Borg will also start at end.  Borg had 2.5 sacks as a true freshman in 2007 and has gained 25 pounds since then.  Borg has a great motor and comes off the ball well.  Sophomores Chase McEntee (6-3, 285) and Logan Harrell (6-2, 275) will start in the middle of the "Dawg" defense.  

The entire Bulldog linebacking unit returns intact.  Jacobs (6-5, 250, Jr.) had 113 tackles last season and has started every game since being called upon against #23 Texas A & M his freshman year.  Jacobs is a hard-hitter that reads offenses and swarms to the ball.  Kyle Knox is explosive and requires constant attention from opposing offenses.  Knox had eight tackles for losses last season.  Nico Herron also has great playmaking ability. 

Harris is in his fourth year as a fixture in the Fresno secondary.  Lorne Bell is his safety mate, but a knee injury has jeopardized his status.  Freshman Phillip Thomas is Bell 's backup, but Hill believes Thomas is the best safety he's ever coached.  The Bulldog coaches have high hopes for cornerback A.J. Jefferson, who had 31 tackles and four pass deflections last season.  Desia Dunn and Damion Owens also have starting experience.   

Offensively, Fresno State comes into the game as the top scoring team in the WAC, averaging 41 points per game.  Fresno ranks right behind Hawai'i in total offense with a whopping 489.5 yards per game.  Fresno State is averaging 244.5 yards a game on the ground, which beats Boise State 's production by over 100 yards per game.  What has Bulldog fans excited is the fact that their passing (245 yards per game) is less than 10 yards a game behind mighty Kellen Moore of Boise State .  

The Bulldogs have four linemen with starting experience and all of their skill players return with the exception of quarterback Tom Brandstater.  Ryan Matthews, Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding combined for over 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns last season and form a potent running game.   

Matthews already ranks 21st in the nation with 213 yards and a touchdown and will be by far the best running back the Broncos have faced this season.  Miller has good speed and ability to hit a hole while Harding is a bruising back who blocks well and can play slot receiver as well.  All shifty Robbie Rouse (5-7, 185) has done is carry 16 times for 121 yards (7.6 avg.) and a touchdown as a true freshman.  Rouse was ninth in the state of California high school ranks in rushing last season.  

The Bulldogs feature speed and experience at the receiver spots with three seniors who have led the team in receiving the last three years.  Seyi Ajirotutu (6-4, 210) topped the Bulldogs last fall with 47 receptions for 795 yards (16.9 average) and five touchdowns.   Ajirotutu is a deep threat but also is dangerous with his height and the ability to go up and get the ball.  Fresno likes to use him over the middle.  Ajirotutu is off to a good start--nine receptions for 220 yards and two touchdowns this season, making some tough catches vs. Wisconsin last week.  Marlon Moore (6-0, 190) led the team in receiving in 2007 (48 for 694 and five TD's) but missed five games last year with injuries, when he had 20 catches for 233 yards.  Moore did set a career-high against Boise State last season with nine catches.  

Chastin West (6-1, 215), meanwhile, led Fresno State with 33 catches for 365 yards and three touchdowns in '06.   West has also battled back from injuries and is a big, fast receiver that will also return punts (he has two for touchdowns in his career.)  Devon Wylie (5-9, 170, Jr.) stepped in last year for the Bulldogs and performed well (21-271 and two touchdowns).  Wylie set a school record of 4.25 in the 40 during the summer.   

The Fresno State receivers got open in the Wisconsin secondary often, and deep pass plays stretched the Badger defense.  

Junior quarterback Ryan Colburn (6-3, 220) is intelligent, poised and works hard in the weight room.  Colburn is 27-45 (60%) for 450 yards and five scores in the young season but has four interceptions.  Colburn's passing efficiency (162.9) is right behind Moore 's (170.1) for third in the WAC.  

All-Western Athletic Conference guard Andrew Jackson returns (6-5, 295, Jr.), along with center Joe Bernardi (6-2, 280, Jr.) and Devan Cunningham (6-6, 350, Jr.), who moves from guard to right tackle.  Kenny Wiggins (6-7, 310) has emerged as the force at right tackle, however.  Bryce Harris (6-6, 295, So.) gets the nod at left tackle and freshman Matt Hunt (6-2, 315) has earned the starting job at left guard.  The Bulldogs ranked in the top 25 in the country last year for the fewest sacks allowed and will have to provide protection for Colburn if they are to avoid the heavy rush of the Broncos.  

As improved as Fresno State is on both sides of the ball, they excel at special teams.  

Jefferson is the NCAA active leader in kickoff return average at just under 30 yards per return.  Rashad Evans, West and Moore all averaged more than 13 yards per punt return.  

Fresno State leads the nation with the most blocks since 2002 and they'll be looking for every opportunity.  

Junior Robert Malone was second in the WAC and ranked in the top 20 in the country with a 42.8 punting average.  Malone had 12 punts of over 50 yards last year.  Sophomore Kevin Goessling led the conference in field goals and drilled a game-winning 58-yard field goal against Utah State last year.

Fresno State presents a formidable challenge for Boise State and one of their biggest road tests of the year.  The Bulldogs are quick, talented and hungry.  It will take nothing less than the Broncos' best effort to pull off the win in Fresno.

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