A week ago, before Fresno State boarded a flight to Nebraska, ticket sales for the Bulldogs’ home opener Saturday against Sacramento State were not tracking well.
The potential was there for the smallest opening crowd at Bulldog Stadium.
But after the Bulldogs piqued curiosity, punching back for three quarters when popped by the Cornhuskers, there has been a solid run on tickets this week.
It’s a positive development for an athletic department that last year had to cover an $800,000 budget shortfall from football ticket sales and this year started slowly with its season-plan renewals.
Fresno State had an announced crowd of 37,238 at its home opener in 2010 against Cincinnati, only 27,542 the following year against North Dakota and over the past four seasons has averaged 33,584 at home.
“Every day, this week and a little bit last week, we’ve seen more and more tickets going,” said Franklin Alegria, senior associate athletics director for external development.
“I’m excited at the response we’ve seen in the last couple of days especially. I stopped by the ticket office (Wednesday), and I knew it was good because all of the kids that work on the floor were on the phone, the two ticket managers were on the phone and – you never want people backed up in line – but there was like 15 people in line between the three (ticket windows).”
Alegria said with all day Friday to sell tickets and a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday, attendance could reach the low 30,000s for the game against Sacramento State.
Since Bulldog Stadium was expanded to 41,031 seats in 1991, the smallest home-opening crowd is 27,542 against North Dakota in 2011.
Last season, the Bulldogs had an announced crowd of 32,547 at home in the season opener against Abilene Christian, and attendance dipped considerably as they endured a 3-9 season. The average attendance at the final three home games against UNLV, Nevada and Colorado State was 25,818.
I think our guys are definitely dialed in and focused. When you go out on the road and you lose, you have an extra sense of urgency coming home.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter
“I think maybe we’d get a little bit of a bump after the way we played at times on Saturday,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “I think people realize that this is a very different team than 2015. It’s a group that plays with a ton of passion and a ton of energy, and I think it’s an exciting brand of football to come watch.
“Hopefully, they’ll fill up Bulldog Stadium and be that intimidating factor that we love to play in front of. We’ve got a great record at home – we’re 19-6 over the last four years – and in large part that’s due to our crowd here that can make this a very difficult place for opponents to come. We’ve got to give them a reason to come. I really appreciate the efforts of our administration getting the word out and getting people excited about things, but ultimately they’re going to be excited about the brand of football they play and by guys going out and playing with passion.”
Scott to sit – Wideout Da’Mari Scott, who did not play at Nebraska because of an academics issue, will not play against Sacramento State and likely will miss the season.
“Right now, we’re anticipating he won’t play this year,” DeRuyter said. “He’ll redshirt and play next year. It’s not 100 percent, but that’s what we’re anticipating.”
I’d like to try to get him in this week. I think he’s starting to show that burst that we know he has.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter on the possible return from injury this week of freshman running back Saevion Johnson
Scott, who was in the 2013 recruiting class, left briefly after his sophomore season and was to take a redshirt season last year before being pressed onto the field because of injuries in the position group. He played 11 of 12 games with nine starts, catching 24 passes for 364 yards, ranking second on the team in receiving yards and first in yards per catch among those with more than five receptions.
Johnson closer – Freshman running back Saevion Johnson, out since the middle of fall camp with a hamstring injury, could get some reps against the Hornets.
“He has been getting better,” DeRuyter said. “I’ve seen some flashes. Right now he’s probably running with our third group, but we’ll see how the game goes. I’d like to try to get him in this week. I think he’s starting to show that burst that we know he has, but we want to make sure that he’s fully ready to go and not put him in a position where he’s 90 percent there and ends up pulling it again.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. SACRAMENTO STATE
- Saturday: 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium
- Records: Bulldogs 0-1, Hornets 0-1
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: Sacramento State opened with 38-30 home loss to Western Oregon. … Fresno State leads series 2-0, including 24-3 win in 2007 in most recent meeting.