David White

David White: Pat Hill is worth hearing on Fresno State game days

Pat Hill is bringing the same fervor he displayed as Fresno State coach to the radio booth in his role as color commentator.
Pat Hill is bringing the same fervor he displayed as Fresno State coach to the radio booth in his role as color commentator. Fresno Bee file

Seeing that most of you can’t bear the in-person sight of Fresno State football these days – and how else to explain all the unwarmed seats at Bulldog Stadium? – we have some audio-tastic news: Pat Hill is on the radio dial, and man, he talks a mean game.

That’s right. Why make your eyes bleed at this 2-5 spectacle, when the old Fresno State coach is willing to stare down the Bulldogs’ goings and comings through his own wiry spectacles and Kong-sized binoculars, then describe the action to you in a flurry of heckuvas and fist pumps?

“I’ll tell you what, we’re going to get after them tonight!” Hill says from his press box perch next to Paul Loeffler before his former Bulldogs faced the UNLV Rebels on Friday.

Hill has no business being this excited about a Fresno State football game. He gave 15 years of his life head-coaching this program to national attention. He sold used cars for this football team. He treasure-hunted the Valley for the next David Carr or Logan Mankins. Hill begged and complained his way to laying down that FieldTurf.

I’ll tell you what, we’re going to get after them tonight!

Pat Hill

How does he just sit there and take his Bulldogs, his midlife’s work, down the drainage pipe with remarkably unremarkable ease?

“Good play call by the coaching staff,” Hill says after a downhill run play for a first down – and be sure, every downhill run play is a good play call by Hill’s estimation.

You know Hill must want to leap out of the press box and paraglide to the sideline to warn the Bulldogs the Bad Guys are overloading the left side for a punt block (they did, just like he warned two games ago).

You better believe he’d kill to go to the locker room to kick butts and take away scholarships when the Bulldogs are playing like they’re New Mexico State or something.

But then, we don’t know any of that, because Hill is No More Mr. Not Nice Guy when the headset is live.

“Very good job by Coach (Tim) DeRuyter on that,” he says after his replacement successfully challenged the spotting of UNLV’s ball. “We’ve got them where we want them.”

No public criticism of the present coaching staff. No calling out players for lousy play. No telling everyone what he would do if he was in the coach’s booth next door (answer: run the ball).

What Hill does do is take a radio audience and teach them football, even if this spread offense isn’t his brand of tea. He talks about field pressure and corner routes with trips, 3-3 stack looks and 10 personnel, soft Cover-2s and zone keeps.

What Hill does do is take a radio audience and teach them football, even if this spread offense isn’t his brand of tea. He talks about field pressure and corner routes with trips, 3-3 stack looks and 10 personnel, soft Cover-2s and zone keeps.

With Hill, it’s never They and Them; it’s only We and Us, because he’s Bulldog bred until he’s dead. He shouts over Loeffler’s play-by-play call of touchdowns. He claps his hands when the running back reaches the second level.

“Oh! Go! Touchdown! Whew!”

Hill cheers without apology, encourages without reservation and hurts like a father watching his son get his bones crunched by a linebacker.

He hates arm tacklers, despises third-and-short passes and just loathes ball carriers who run out of bounds short of the first-down marker. When it’s time to give Boise State score updates, Hill insists on having the honors when they’re losing.

“I just want wins,” Hill says during a break. “It’s a lot easier when they win.”

Friday provided Hill a rare chance to enjoy the ride, as he would say. He sounded miserable when Fresno State got out-Fresno State’d by San Jose State, and clinically depressed when the Bulldogs got run out of the building by Utah State.

You better believe, then, he had the time of his life when the Bulldogs came back to beat the Rebels 31-28. Hill still cares so much, he even changed his lucky tie Friday – seeing the first lucky tie wasn’t as lucky as its name would indicate.

Who else could care so much about a place that pink-slipped them four years earlier?

“Woohoohoohoohoo!” Hill said on the game-ending sack to cap the win. “That’s awesome! We got a win over Vegas, baby! I like it, that’s great …

“All right, ’Dogs!”

The columnist can be reached at bydw@sbcglobal.net and on Twitter @bydavidwhite.

David White’s Three-Point Stance

  • 1. One of us picked the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the 2015 World Series. One of us said there is no way they lose a best-of-five series if Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke started four games. One of us has never been so happy to be so fantastically wrong.
  • 2. Way to go, Kilton Anderson. So what if he ignored too many single-coverage shots over the top of the defense for my aerodynamic taste? Lousy opponent or not, the redshirt freshman Fresno State quarterback stuck to the game plan and played under control. Well played.
  • 3. Sign of the year, at Saturday’s Michigan college football game: “THANK YOU JED YORK.” Oh, the delicious gift that keeps on giving.
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