Robbie Rouse is going back home.
And the Fresno State running back is expected to have about 150 family members and friends cheering him during the season finale Saturday night against San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium.
Rouse, one of four Fresno State players who grew up in San Diego, said he's been waiting for this game since the Aztecs were placed on the Bulldogs' schedule a year ago.
"It's always been a dream, growing up, having the opportunity to play in a home game," said Rouse as Fresno State (4-8) prepares to play San Diego State (7-4) for the first time since 2002.
"I've got a lot of family and friends there. I've been waiting for this game."
Not that Rouse really needed extra motivation.
The junior has been the Bulldogs' most consistent player in a season full of inconsistencies, rushing 309 times (second in the nation) for 1,493 yards (fifth).
In addition to trying to perform well before his hometown crowd, Rouse will have some competition as the game's best running back. San Diego State sophomore Ronnie Hillman ranks just behind Rouse with 1,478 yards.
San Diego State and Fresno State each tried to get both players in their 2009 recruiting classes.
At the time, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Hillman was given a three-star rating (on a five-star scale) compared to the two-star status for the 5-7, 170-pound Rouse, according to rivals.com.
Hillman was listed as an "athlete" (or college position to be determined), and Fresno State tried to recruit him as a receiver. Rouse always was considered a running back.
Rouse, who went to Madison High, said he has no regrets – even with the Bulldogs enduring one of the worst seasons in school history and the Aztecs set to play in a bowl for a second straight year.
"I could have gone to San Diego State out of high school, but I just wanted to get away and things like that," Rouse said. "I'm happy for them. They've been doing great things.
"I'm just the one that got away. A lot of guys come from San Diego and a lot of us get away and some of us stay, but I'm happy with my choice coming to Fresno and everything like that. I made my decision, but I am excited for this game, though."
Rouse has an outside shot at breaking Ryan Mathews' school single-season rushing record (1,808) but would need 316 yards. The Bulldogs' single-game record is 295 by Dwayne Wright in 2006.
With a big enough game, though, Rouse could move into second on the career rushing list. Rouse is third with 3,101 yards, trailing Mathews, who had 3,280 from 2007-09.
"I'm just going to continue to give this team everything I can and try to get us a win," Rouse said. "If there could be a way [to end a season], this would be the way. I'd rather prepare for a bowl. But to end it at home is great. I just want to get the victory, as well. Can't wait."
Other Bulldogs from San Diego are receiver Victor Dean (Lincoln), cornerback Davon Dunn (Lincoln) and linebacker Karl Mickelsen (Morse), all freshmen who have been used in reserve roles most of this season.
It has taken awhile for Dunn to get the hang of running backward instead of forward, but the Fresno State receiver turned cornerback appears ready to take the next step into the starting lineup Saturday.
"I know it's a big game and I want to make sure I'm prepared for it," Dunn said. "I've been preparing to get more time all year, so now that it's here and I've got an opportunity I'm going to take advantage of it."
Dunn has been in on 19 tackles but has yet to make a start. The difference in his play lately has been improved technique – faster footwork, staying low and coming out of breaks.
"I'm an athlete and everything – it comes kind of natural. But I just had to really pound my technique this year. That's what the coaches have been getting into me about and that's all I've been doing," he said. "I made that transition from receiver so I didn't have my DB technique down, but since I got over here they've made sure I had that first before I got out on the field.
"It took a long time, but I'm here now and ready to go."
San Diego State has four players with Fresno roots: defensive lineman Chris Hokokian (Clovis High), defensive back Romeo Horn (Edison), linebacker Christian Parra (Buchanan) and receiver Marcus Russell (Buchanan/Fresno City).
Russell has appeared in 10 games and made seven catches for 73 yards.