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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Third Time’s a Trend

Three years, three bowls, three disappointing, distressing losses. What do Colorado State, Wyoming and Northern Illinois have in common? All three entered bowl play against Fresno State as underdogs, if not in the point spread at least in national perception; all three dictated the tempo on the ground; and all three pushed around a Fresno State team that seemed unready for any semblance of resistance. Eight wins is great, but the Bulldogs cannot afford to continue to head into the winter with an ugly bowl performance as its lasting memory.

This latest loss, a 40-17 decision to Northern Illinois, might very well go down as the foulest bowl performance of the season. The early rundown: N.I.U. was without its head coach, Jerry Kill, nor its coordinators, both of whom joined Kill at Minnesota. Fresno State ended its regular season with a fine win over Illinois, supposedly giving the Bulldogs a sense of momentum heading into bowl play.

Not so much. Well, the Bulldogs did strike first, to be fair, taking a 7-0 lead after converting on a failed N.I.U. fourth down conversion. It was all Huskies from there: 13-7, 16-7, 23-10 at the half; 26-10, 33-10, 40-10 before a late Fresno touchdown made the final result only slightly more palatable for those in the San Joaquin Valley.

What’s wrong with this picture? How could Fresno State ever lose, let alone lose by such a significant margin, against a team lacking leadership from its coaching staff? It’s almost mind-boggling, in fact, especially when considering the ease with which N.I.U. dismantled an eight-win team from the WAC.

It’s almost as if — and bear with me here — the Huskies are more than just one coach, even three coaches. Maybe the Huskies are just this good, good enough to end the regular season 10-3, 8-0 in the MAC. On the other hand, questions must be raised about the leadership present at Fresno State.

This loss was dreadful. If anything, the final score doesn’t do Fresno’s humiliating performance justice. N.I.U. totaled 503 yards of total offense, 300 through the air and 203 on the ground. The Huskies were forced into only six third down situations all game, which is a damning statistic for the Fresno defense. The Bulldogs averaged only 2.1 yards per carry, which should indicate just how forcefully N.I.U. controlled the line of scrimmage.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve heard it before: Colorado State pummeled Fresno on the ground in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl, and Wyoming did much of the same in that same bowl a season ago. New venue, new opponent, same story.

This time, as in 2008 and 2009, there was no excuse for such a flat showing. Once? Random. Twice? Concerning. Three times? It’s officially a trend, these pitiful bowl losses, and Pat Hill must find a way to clean up his team’s act before the spotlight gets aimed in his direction.

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  1. Zaboo says:

    Such a shame… Pat Hill is a classy coach with a great attitude.

  2. huskienation says:

    Couldn’t of said it better right here:
    “It’s almost as if — and bear with me here — the Huskies are more than just one coach, even three coaches. Maybe the Huskies are just this good”
    It doesn’t matter who coaches this team, they are a top 25 team this year and should be again next year. Unfortunately Coach Kill lost the game for NIU against Iowa St by starting the 3rd string QB and lost the MACC by thinking about his Minnesota money and not coming up with a gameplan. Even with Coach Kill and the coordinators abandoning this team they still stuck together and showed the world just how good they are. Couldn’t be me proud of this team and look forward to next year.

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