November 23, 2007

Five Keys to Victory: K-State at Fresno State

When: Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. (CDT)
Location: Fresno, Calif.
Venue: Bulldog Stadium (41,031)

This is where the Kansas State Wildcats have landed thanks to a three-game losing streak. Beat Fresno State and the Wildcats have a chance at a bowl bid, most likely a trip to Shreveport for the Independence Bowl. Lose and call it a season. It's pretty simple to spell out the stakes, isn't it?

"Everybody has to be feeling a little pressure. If we win, there is a chance we get a bowl game. If we lose, our season is over," sophomore quarterback Josh Freeman said. "I don't think anybody wants to let the seniors down. I sure don't. I think this team still has fight in them. I feel like if the season ends it will be too soon. We just have to go out and play. Everything is on the line right now."

The 5-6 Wildcats will take on a 6-4 Fresno State team that thrives on games such as this. In 2004, the Bulldogs came to Manhattan and bit Coach Bill Snyder's Wildcats on the rear with a 45-21 whipping. Some have not forgotten, but three seasons later, the memories of that demoralizing day that many mark as the beginning of the end for Snyder's tenure as head coach are fading in the minds of the players.

"I was kind of young," senior defensive tackle Steven Cline said. "They were a well coached team, and they had a really good offensive line. It's going to be the same way this year, great offensive line, probably doing a lot of the same things. All I remember is it was a big loss, but they were a great team."

Coach Pat Hill's Fresno State team is known for many things, but in the mind of K-State coach Ron Prince, the Bulldogs' persistence stands out the most.

"They don't flinch. They keep battling," Prince said. "They are very calloused and they have had this kind of approach for many years. They go play anybody, anytime. That is coach (Pat Hill's) mantra. That's how they live, that's what they do. That is how they respond."

Proof of what Prince said is proven by Hill's team coming off a 37-30 loss at Hawaii after trailing 31-7 in the game.

"I couldn't be more proud of a team," Hill said. "We played so well defensively in the second half. To hold Hawaii to three points at Aloha Stadium in that environment is a great accomplishment by this young team. We grew up a lot tonight and this is a game we can learn from. We need to put together a four-quarter game."

The stakes are simple, but it will take a strong Wildcat effort to pull out the win at Bulldog Stadium. The Cats may be in a tailspin, but there are some simple keys to leaving with a 6-6 record and a shot at a bowl game.


First the bad news. K-State has struggled to stop good running offenses and that's the strength of the Bulldogs this season. Fresno enters the game averaging nearly 200 yards of rushing per contest, led by the 83.4 average of freshman Ryan Matthews.

"They have a running back that is a dynamo. A lot of people have good running backs, but this guy here is special. It will take all of our best efforts to defend this guy," Prince said.

Prince may shuffle his defensive personnel in this game to give Fresno a different look, and bounce between three- and four-man fronts to keep the Bulldogs guessing.

No matter what he does, the K-State coaching staff better find something to slow down this running game. It's not awesome, but Fresno's ground game is good enough to control the Cats.

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