FRESNO ST/UTEP

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ProInfoSports

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Sep 20, 2004
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Fresno State -20.5 over UTEP

The Fresno State Bulldogs, still alive for a bowl berth, roll into El Paso on Saturday to take on the UTEP Miners at the Sun Bowl. With a WAC record of 5-2 this year, the Bulldogs are currently tied for third place in the conference with Hawaii. Fresno had won four straight games before suffering a rare home loss against Boise State last Friday night. The loss broke a string of 14 straight regular-season wins for the Bulldogs during the months of November and December. As for the Miners, they have just 2 SU wins this season, and one of those came against a non Division I-A program, Sam Houston State, while the other was a victory over a winless SMU squad by just two points nearly 2 months ago. Since then its been one loss after the next for UTEP, as their losing skid has now reached 6 games. Last week the team was blown out by the Rice Owls on the road by a score of 45-14.

FSU quarterback Paul Pinegar did his best to keep his team in the game against Boise, but it wasn't enough, as he was under pressure the entire night, getting sacked five times and picked off once while completing 28-of-51 for 290 yards and a score. The ever-dangerous Bernard Berrian had perhaps his best game of the season with 13 catches for 122 yards, while also returning a punt 68 yards for a touchdown late in the game. Dwayne Wright was shut down by the Broncos, but he leads the team in rushing with 883 yards this season, and we look for the entire offense to get into gear against the Miners. Like most opponents this season, the Bulldogs could not find the answer to how to stop Boise State. The squad did limit the third-best scoring team in the nation well below it's average of 43 ppg, as the defense managed to hold Boise to just 90 yards rushing on 35 attempts. Fresno State has the second-best scoring defense in the conference at 24 ppg, trailing only the Boise State.

During the UTEP losing streak, every opponent has scored at least 31 points against the Miners, outscoring the unit by a combined 290-154. Last week, Orlando Cruz converted 11-of-21 pass attempts for 174 yards and one interception against the Rice Owls, in what turned into a 31-point blowout in Houston. Howard Jackson gained a team-best 80 yards rushing on 19 attempts, but his and the team's efforts on the ground were dwarfed by the 450 yards rushing that the UTEP defense permitted. The Miners didn't score until the final quarter of play. Howard Jackson has been about the only constant in the UTEP offense this season, leading the offense with 1,080 yards rushing and six touchdowns, averaging almost six yards per carry as well. The quarterback position has been a revolving door of who might be effective on any given Saturday. Cruz leads the team with 1,236 yards passing, leading to five touchdowns, but he also has 10 interceptions, while backup signal-caller Jordan Palmer, younger brother of former Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, has seen some playing time as well. UTEP's run defense has been hemorrhaging, giving up 193 ypg, and has already surrendered a whopping 36 touchdowns on the ground, but far the highest total in the WAC. In giving up nearly 40 ppg the Miners are ranked 116th out of the 117 Division I-A programs in points allowed.

With the apple of a bowl invitation dangling in front of them, Fresno State has far too much to fight for in this contest to let up at all. Look for Pat Hill's boys to focus on running the ball and setting up some big Pinegar-to-Berrian passing plays. The defense will also, no doubt, contribute to the cause by forcing some turnovers. The Bulldogs will also be in an ornery mood after the home to the Broncos and will take out their frustrations on the Miners who have simply given up, allowing 56, 69, 51, and 45 points in the last 4 weeks alone. This game may be close for a quarter, but look for the Bulldogs to pull away and bury the Miners.

PROJECTED FINAL SCORE: FRESNO STATE 44 UTEP 17
 

jgerson

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Sep 21, 2004
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348
Nice write up! I was looking at Fresno on a lean but I will definitely look quite a bit closer. Good luck.
 

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