|"Oregon State is going to challenge USC for the Pac-10 championship" - FSU head coach Pat Hill|
Quickly the media mentioned the revenge factor going into Friday's game. In 2001, when the Beavers traveled to Fresno with high expectations, the Bulldogs pulled off a 44-24 victory in front of a rambunctious crowd. The following year Fresno State visited Corvallis where the Beavers thrashed the Bulldogs 49-19 in front of an equally spirited crowd. This year head coach Pat Hill does not see revenge as a factor in this years game.
"Everybody talks about the revenge factor," Hill said. "Obviously, Oregon State was very primed for us last year. I don't see the same motivation for this game for us. Maybe we would have seen it if it was the opener. But after the Tennessee game, I think the only motivation for us is to get back on track and get a win."
Although revenge will not be at the forefront of Friday's game, Hill implored Bulldog fans around the area to make a statement to the national audience watching on ESPN by showing their support at the game.
"We've got a big game Friday night against Oregon State. Hopefully our fans will be there," Hill said. "[Oregon State] had 36,000 for a Thursday night against Sacramento State. This is a chance for our community to show what it's all about. We've got to send a big message as a football team and as a community."
One of the concerns during the Tennessee game was the Bulldog offense which only managed to produce 117 total yards and zero points. "What we lacked against Tennessee was the ability to make big plays. We felt we had seven opportunities to make plays, and we didn't do it. Early on, there were a couple of plays that just took simple execution to make."
"We had a 24-6 final. Basically, it was based on the defense playing hard and some good special teams play. On offense, we've got to improve this week."
Hill's attention soon turned to the 2003 version of the Oregon State football team which according to Hill will compete for the Pac-10 championship. "They are as big and physical. They run very well. [Richard] Siegler is as good as any linebacker we'll play. They are similar to Tennessee in that they can really run on defense. Oregon State is going to challenge USC for the Pac-10 championship."
"They are not in school, so they've had a lot of time to focus on this game. I know this is a very big game for them. They've got tools Ð a good offensive line, a good quarterback, good receivers and a big-time running back. And they can really run on defense. They've got all the ingredients to be successful. This is as good a team that we've seen come in here."
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs have suffered a rash of injuries that will keep four starters out the game: quarterback Paul Pinegar, offensive tackle Logan Mankins, left guard Dartagnon Shack, and middle line backer Marc Dailey.
"Shack practiced yesterday, and we're hoping to have him back. We're not sure where we are going to play him, if he can even play. But there was no contact in last night's practice, so that's a big difference. Paul [Pinegar] will be ready when he's ready. We aren't going to rush him. We need him back for Louisiana Tech. Winning the conference is what's important. We need a healthy Paul Pinegar to do that."
The most important aspect for the Fresno State football team is constant improvement. The Bulldogs must improve from last week's performance to win Friday's game. "Our team has to improve," Hill said. "Every section of the game has chances to look good every week, and has chances to be exposed every week."
Oregon State head coach talked to the media Tuesday where he stated he liked the foundation the Beavers started on Thursday, but the Beavers need to improve "dramatically" in order to beat Fresno State.
|"Pat has done an outstanding job over the years he's been there in building back that program to one that is respected nationally and has won a lot of big games." - OSU head coch Mike Riley|
"I think Pat (Hill, Fresno State head coach) has done an outstanding job over the years he's been there in building back that program to one that is respected nationally and has won a lot of big games," Riley said. "They have, it sounds like, a particularly good homefield advantage going down there."
The Beavers' coach was surprised with the new rivalry between FSU and OSU, but thinks it is good for the program, the players, and the fans. He later addressed the issue of controlling their emotions in an emotionally charged game.
"It kind of surprised me, because I didn't know much about the meetings that have taken place in the last couple years. But it sounds like a game that has added importance from what would be a typical non-league game," Riley said. "I think that's good. I think this will be a great opportunity and challenge for our football team, playing early in the season in a place that has a distinct homefield advantage."
With the new rivalry it is easy for players, and fans, to get emotionally involved in the game. Keeping the player's emotions in check will be important, but not limiting the player's emotions is also important.
"The control of emotions is always a big part of playing a good, focused football game. There will be, obviously, added distractions because of the homefield and home stadium advantage that Fresno State has, and because of the rivalry that's built up," Riley said. "Our team is a very spirited team, and I don't want to break the spirit of this team in any fashion. But the control of emotions is huge in playing football, and so we're going to be in a tough football game and we can't do anything that will hurt ourselves, and that's the message for the week."
Riley next turned his attention to Fresno State's offense. Although the Bulldog "O" was inept against Tennessee, Fresno State has several talented players that the Beavers have to play special attention to.
"I think the first thing you look at is (Bernard) Barrian, the receiver - he is an outstanding football player," Riley said. "He can beat you catching the ball, and running a reverse, and running kicks back. He's a major factor in this ballgame."
He also credited special teams as a strong part of the Bulldog system along with their running back Rodney Davis whom the Beavers must do a good job of wrapping up. The key to the game is stopping their skill players. Riley also emphasized the importance of special teams play for both teams.
"I think special teams will play a major role in who wins this ballgame. I think we have to improve dramatically, particularly our kickoff coverage; our kickoff team was a little overzealous. We had great effort, but not many good choices when it came to defeating blockers down field," Riley said. "I think our punt team has got to do a great job of protection, then coverage - they'll have the whole picture, because Fresno State is a good pressure team. And they do a good job overall in special teams. We're going to have to definitely step up our game there this week."
Riley was pleased with quarterback Derek Anderson's progress in the season opener and looks forward to seeing the hard working player improve throughout the course of the season.
"This is a process for him, and he missed some throws in the game the other night I know he'd like to have back. The location wasn't far off, but it was a little off and perhaps we could have caught four or five other balls for him pretty easily that would have increased his percentage," Riley said. "He's doing a nice job with his knowledge of the offense, which gives him a chance to maybe not throw to one guy because he's covered, and come back and find somebody else pretty easily. I think he's getting better all the time."
The Beavers been hit by injuries. Cole Clasen, after taking a vicious, illegal hit to the chin on Thursday, is practicing with the Beavers all week and will return punts. James Newson is back to the delight of the coaches and players, but others are still out of action. Sir Henry Anderson is back practicing but will not play against Fresno State. Chaz Scott is out four to five weeks with a knee injury.
The Fresno State game is an excellent place to see how good the Beavers are as a team. It is the first test of the season, and not an easy one at that. " I think it's a great opportunity for our team to really have to go and focus on playing good football and not being distracted, and being able to handle the noise and the crowd, and also the passion of the rivalry - all those things together," Riley said. "It will be a good test for our team, for sure."