Coach Jeff Chudy blamed himself for last season's results in which the Renegades lost many close contests. He stated that it was a lack of chemistry and an inefficient passing game that spelled their demise last season, and wanted a more cohesive unit this year. This season's edition did not disappoint him from the very start. "Our defense played with more intensity and were swarming to the ball much better than last year."
Emmanuel Lewis, the elusive athletic QB for the Rams who hurt the Renegades last season with his feet and his arm in a 31-25 win, could not overcome a blitzing defense led by returning all conference DL's Maurice Hayes and Tyrone Crawford. The two biggest questions for Bakersfield would be how the offensive line and a QB who only threw 10 passes in high school would perform against a front seven Rams coach Tony Caviglia called the best he has had in his eleven years as head coach. That queston was answered as the Gades piled up 457 yards of offense to the Rams 188.
QB Logan Kilgore, in his debut, played efficiently enough with a 11/20 night for 140 yards. But make no mistake, it is the ground game that is the strength of Bakersfield. Andre Smith had 177 yards on 18 carries, including an electrfying 79 yard TD, and backup Ben Estill added another 95 yards. This was not a case where the Rams front was overrated, because they do have a very solid front line. But if Smith got into the secondary, he left a slew of Ram defenders in his wake as he juked his way to the endzone.
Bakersfield built up a 21-0 half time lead mostly on the legs of it's running backs, but they also showed that they have a much better passing game than last year. WR Rishard Matthews showed that he will be huge in this offense not only with his size and moves, but his savvy on the field. He did some little things that most fans don't notice like calling a fair catch on a punt near the endzone, then putting his body in the way of a tackler so he couldn't down it at the one. Bakersfield also has a very solid Tight End in Vince Misa-Amituanai who opened the scoring with a short TD reception.
The Renegades did get a scare when Andre Smith was helped off the field. At only 178 lbs, his strength and determination can put him into dangerous situations, and sure enough he twisted his ankle. He assured me that it was only a slight sprain, and that he would certainly be back for next week's game. The Renegades will play host to L.A. Valley, who will try to rebound from a 35-13 loss to Ventura. It will not get any easier for Fresno as they have to travel to the Bay area and play City College of San Francisco, who put up 54 points against Gavilan.
Post game congratulatory fans of Smith came to the sideline to see how he was doing, but can't be blamed for being a little distracted by the appearance of Miami Dolphin All Pro LB Joey Porter, a native of Bakersfield. Joey was once called the meanest man in the NFL., and is renowned for his smack talk. But at heart, Porter is a very good man who always takes the time to sign autographs, take photos, and to give back to his community. Smith sat on the trainer's table, probably dreaming of his chance at stardom. At 178 pounds, it is improbable that Smith is big enough to play in the NFL., but his heart certainly is.