Fresno State Football

Fresno State GameDay vs. USC: Keys to game, notes

FRESNO STATE VS. NO 15 USC

Saturday:

Records:


TV/radio:

Kickoff forecast:

History:

KEY TO SUCCESS

For Fresno State:

For USC:

TAILGATING

Secondary's status:

Bryan Harper, the Arizona transfer, will start on one side. Curtis Riley, who started 11 games last season, will get the call on the other side. Both have been taking the reps with the No. 1 defense through game week practices.

But Ferguson's dismissal could impact the use of strong safety Charles Washington, who also is the No. 1 nickel back and last week in practice started to take reps at cornerback.

"He's going to play nickel, he's going to play safety, and we'll see," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "He'll have to be in the rotation, and we feel good about his knowledge playing all three positions."

Washington was moved to corner last season for the Mountain West Conference championship against Utah State and stayed there for the Las Vegas Bowl. But he went back to strong safety and picked up nickel during spring practices, the cornerback spot presumably behind him.

"I told the coaches the same thing as last year -- wherever they need me, I'll play," Washington said. "It was kind of a late adjustment last year. The week of the championship game, I had to learn a lot of new techniques for the cornerback position. It's kind of the same here in camp. But I think our cornerbacks are doing a good job of holding it down. Curt and Bryan are doing an outstanding job right now."

The reps at corner helped Washington with his overall knowledge of the defense, as well as his technique and coverage skills. Whether or not he plays at corner against the Trojans, he will be busy. Washington also is on three special teams units: punt, kickoff and the onside kick team.

"Coach (Jordan) Peterson, he asked me the other day if it was too much, but ... no," Washington said. "Three positions is not enough. ... I mean not too much for me."

Stingy pass defense:

Running deep:

James has had a strong camp and at 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds has a little more behind his pads.

"Any one of those three guys I feel real good with," DeRuyter said. "Juice has more experience, but Dontel has had a heck of a camp and he's a different sized back than what those other guys are and I think he brings something that maybe we don't have with those other guys."

Young and ready:

If both start, it will mark the first time in the post-World War II era that the Trojans have had two true freshmen start an opener on the offensive line.

USC has had only three true freshmen offensive linemen start the opening game of a season: Brad Budde at guard in 1976 against Missouri, Travis Claridge at guard in 1996 against Penn State and Kristofer O'Dowd at center in 2007 against Idaho.

First tastes:

There are four redshirt freshmen -- Allen Gonzalez at right guard, David Patterson at right tackle, Delvon Hardaway as an outside receiver and Nate Madsen at defensive end. And there are three junior college transfers -- Jacob Vazquez at center, Claudell Louis at defensive end and Stratton Brown at cornerback.

The Bulldogs were expected to travel about seven of their true freshmen.

"When you have that many young players, it means you either like them a lot or you're headed for a train wreck," DeRuyter joked. "I like our players a lot."

Power streak:

Numbers watch:

Marque Davis (1999-2003) is in ninth place with 139 career receptions and Larry Willis (1983-'84) is in eighth with 142.

The career leader is Davante Adams, who grabbed 233 passes in just two seasons.

Free safety Derron Smith, in seventh place on the Fresno State career interceptions list, enters the game just three behind all-time leader Rod Webster (1984-'87) with 17.

Home opener tickets:

Those seats in the north end zone as well as a limited number throughout the season are for sale through www.gobulldogs.com, over the phone at (559) 278-DOGS or at the Fresno State ticket office.

THIS DATE IN BULLDOGS HISTORY

Aug. 30, 1997, vs. Portland State

For the first time in 19 years, Fresno State played a football game without Jim Sweeney as head coach.

And 17 years ago, Pat Hill came away with a resounding victory against Portland State -- but it was a debut that didn't quite go the way Hill had thought it would.

Veteran Bee reporter Andy Boogaard provided the details:

This wasn't included in Pat's Plan.

Never could Pat Hill have dreamed he would have to suspend his best player the night before his debut as Fresno State football coach.

The loss of senior tailback Michael Pittman didn't matter in the Bulldogs' 35-7 pasting of Division 1-AA Portland State Saturday night before 33,114 at Bulldog Stadium.

But next week could be a different story when Baylor of the Big 12 Conference follows the Vikings into town -- if Pittman remains suspended.

"We're going to need every threat against Baylor," said Bulldogs sophomore quarterback Billy Volek, who passed for 144 yards and two touchdowns in a solid debut.

Without Pittman (who was reinstated two days later), Hill turned to sophomore Joe Turner -- a McLane High grad known in his prep days as Joe Oliver and who played one season at Sacramento State as a defensive back before transferring as a walk-on to Fresno State.

"Well, I was really nervous going down that ramp because I had to suspend my best player the night before the game," Hill told Paul Loeffler, the Voice of Bulldogs football, on Thursday when they called the San Jose State-North Dakota game for ESPN3.com.

Turner responded in a big way, rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.

"That sort of relieved a lot of the pressure I felt going down that ramp," Hill said.

Learn more about the game -- and hear more from Hill, including about the Bulldogs' near-miss in their last visit to the Coliseum, in 2005 against the then No. 1-ranked Trojans -- while listening to Loeffler on "Gameday Live" on KFIG (AM 940) starting at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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