A Confident Realization
We are all familiar with the offensive problems that the Bulldogs suffered throughout the 2006 football season. We are all also very familiar with the offensive improvement that was shown on the football field in 2007. Tom Brandstater looked like the QB we all hoped he would turn into. Our running game once again dominated nearly every game as the Bulldogs averaged over 200 yards on the ground per game. Receivers such as Marlon Moore, Seyi Ajirotutu, and Jason Crawley showed they can be the go to guy when the game is on the line. Fresno State raised their points per game average nearly ten points from 23 to 33 and showed the ability to not only hit on big plays but to control the clock for the entirety of a game. While it would be nice to credit the players for this improvement the fact is their offensive coordinator is the reason the Bulldogs changed their fortune during the course of the season. Many may have forgotten that this Bulldog team began the season just as the 2006 team did: 1-2 with a close loss to a top twenty five team. In 2006 the Bulldogs came unglued faltering in their next six games following their hard fought loss to Oregon. When 2007 began in the same manner with a hard fought loss at Texas A&M many worried that the Dogs would fall apart once again. However, J-Mac would not let the 2007 Bulldogs suffer the same fate as the team of year's past had experienced.
It would be unfair to credit only the offense for the 9-4 record the Bulldogs achieved in 2007. But to ignore what J-Mac did for this offense would be naive in every sense of the imagination. J-Mac took an offense with little direction and turned them into a powerful unit that would be capable of scoring each time they had the ball. In 2006 Fresno State often led with the run because the creative side of the Dogs offense had disappeared. No longer did the Dogs rely on passing the ball to gain yardage. Many Bulldog fans were left wondering if the coaches had any faith in the Fresno State offense. Steve Hagen (one of the single worst offensive coordinators to ever set foot at Fresno State) let this team fall apart right in front of our very eyes. The offensive woes culminated with one of the single most embarrassing defeats in Fresno State history: A 13-12 defeat at the hands of winless Utah State. The Aggies would go on to finish with one win in 2006 and Fresno State would be the lone victim. During their loss to Utah State it became apparent that the Bulldogs lacked any type of downfield threat. The reason for the lack of passing however did not lay in the hands of the players themselves. Fresno State had receivers capable of making plays but the offensive coordinator did not allow the Bulldogs to exploit Utah State and their horrendous pass defense. Instead Hagen chose to allow Utah State to remain in the game by constantly running the ball between the tackles. That was an experience that no Bulldog coach, player, or fan ever wanted to experience again. J-Mac made sure this became a realization in 2007.
In 2007 the Bulldogs opened the season just as they had in 2006: Leading with the run. However, something was different about the 2007 Bulldogs offense. Instead of calling 60% run plays the passing game began to make an appearance on the football field. J-Mac showed that he was the type of coach that not only would pass the ball, but if the defense allowed him to J-Mac would direct the offense to throw the ball often. The first sign of the passing game occurred against the Aggies of Texas A&M. In a game Fresno State trailed 19-0 at halftime the Bulldogs opened the second half allowing Brandstater to open the offense up. That was exactly what Brandstater did as the Dogs scored 45 points over the span of the second half and three overtimes. While the Dogs offense did not explode after this game it was only a short period of time before Fresno State fans were able to see what J-Mac could truly direct this offense to do. Three weeks later Fresno State traveled to Nevada and scored 49 followed by 37 at Idaho and 30 against San Jose State. In eight of their last nine games the Bulldogs scored at least 30 points in each game. The offense had arrived and the fans in Fresno finally were able to see what this team was capable of on the field of play.
As I stated earlier it would be foolish to think that J-Mac had little to do with the improvement the offense showed in 2007. So it should have come as no surprise that J-Mac immediately became a hot commodity to the rest of the college football world. His alma mater Eastern Washington offered him the head coaching position. While the decision was tough for J-Mac he realized that Fresno is where he wants to be for now. Once the Bulldogs offense heard the news that J-Mac was staying they exhaled and were able to breathe fresh air once again. Players such as Tom Brandstater, Ryan Matthews, and Marlon Moore know this offense is because of J-Mac's creativity. Without J-Mac these players would not show the level of confidence that they do on the football field today. it is because of J-Mac's creativity that the Bulldogs feel they can score on anyone anytime they take the field. While the Bulldogs may not be able to hold on to J-Mac for many more years into the future they seem intent on doing their best to take full advantage of his creative mind sooner than later. It is J-Mac that allows the Bulldogs to confidently realize that in 2008 they may just become the type offense that no team can shut down regardless of what conference they play in.