Fresno State Bulldogs football
|Fresno State Bulldogs football|
|Athletic director||Thomas Boeh|
|Head coach||Tim DeRuyter
2nd year, 17–4 (.810)
|Home stadium||Bulldog Stadium|
|Field||Jim Sweeney Field|
|Past conferences||California Coast Conference (1922–1924)
Northern California Athletic Conference (1925–1940)
California Collegiate Athletic Association (1939–1950, 1953–1968)
Big West Conference (1969–1991)
Western Athletic Conference (1992–2012)
|All-time record||565–387–27 (.591)|
|Postseason bowl record||12–12|
|Fight song||Fight Varsity
Troopers Battle Hymn
|Marching band||Fresno State Bulldog Marching Band|
|Rivals||Boise State Broncos
San Diego State Aztecs
San Jose State Spartans
The Fresno State Bulldogs football team represents California State University, Fresno in NCAA Division I FBS college football as a member of the Mountain West Conference. The green “V” on the Bulldogs' helmets, uniforms, field symbolize California Central Valley, specifically the San Joaquin Valley, the agricultural valley from which they draw their support. The current head coach is Tim DeRuyter, who was hired to replace Pat Hill on December 14, 2011.
Football was first played on the Fresno campus in 1921, and for its first year it played as an independent. The Bulldogs joined the California Coast Conference which included several regional opponents the next year, and moved to the Northern California Athletic Conference of which it was among the charter schools in 1925. These early years laid the foundations of rivalries to come, with games against San Jose State and Pacific in the first year, and adding UC Davis, Nevada, and San Diego State in the following years of NCAC play. The NCAA began classifying schools into University Division and College Division groups in 1937, and the Bulldogs, along with the other major college schools in the conference, broke off into the California Collegiate Athletic Association in 1939, a conference it remained in until joining the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, later known as the Big West Conference, in 1969. Notable coaches during this period include Cecil Coleman, who during his five years at Fresno State had a .76 winning percentage, and took the 1961 team to an undefeated season capped by a 36-6 Mercy Bowl victory over Bowling Green. Fresno State football experienced a stretch of seasons hovering around the .500 mark during the later 1960s and 70s. Yet despite also having a number of winning seasons, including two where the Bulldogs went undefeated, they only participated in two university division bowl games before the 1980s.
The Sweeney era
In 1976, Jim Sweeney took over a Bulldog squad that had had 8 winning seasons since its last bowl bid, and promptly took the 1977 squad to a 9-2 record in his second year as head coach. The Sweeney era bristled with confidence as the Bulldogs became, along with rival San Jose State, the class of the Big West, earning postseason bowl berths four times in the 1980s. Sweeney’s 1985 squad is particularly memorable for Bulldog fans, as the team finished as the only unbeaten Division I-A team in the country, ranked 16th in the coaches poll. The 1985 squad did not, however, finish untied, after a 24-24 tie at home against the Rainbow clad Warriors of Hawaii. The lone blemish to a perfect season, coupled with the difficulty either team has had in winning in the other’s home stadium, has led the Warriors and Bulldogs to contend for one of the WAC’s fiercest rivalries.
The face of Fresno State football changed with the construction of a university football stadium for the team for the 1980 season. Before then, the Bulldogs played their home games in Fresno City College’s Ratcliffe Stadium, which seated approximately 13,000 fans. The construction of a modern new stadium which held over 30,000 in attendance was an outstanding improvement for the Bulldogs, who saw drastic increases in attendance and alumni support. The new stadium brought with it a renewed success for the football team, as they enjoyed four Big West championships in the new stadium which took them to five California Bowl appearances against opponents from the Mid-American Conference. During the Sweeney era, the Bulldogs posted nine consecutive winning seasons, a run which included five double-digit win seasons. 1994, however, marked the beginning of three consecutive losing seasons which ended the Sweeney era and brought in Pat Hill, who had worked both in the NFL and colleges for the past several decades.
The Hill era
Fresno State began a renaissance under Hill, who continued the advances the program had made during the Sweeney era. Noted for playing particularly difficult non-conference schedules, Hill’s teams routinely played elite, highly ranked teams. The Bulldogs have also been the only non-BCS school to record three consecutive bowl victories over schools from BCS conferences.
In 2001, the Bulldogs, under Hill and quarterback David Carr, began their season with several remarkable upsets of ranked teams. The Bulldogs opened the season in Boulder against the Colorado Buffaloes, leaving with a 24-22 win over the eventual Big 12 champions. The next game of the 2001 season was at home against the Oregon State Beavers, the team that Sports Illustrated had picked as its preseason #1. In an electric game at Bulldog Stadium, the Bulldogs outplayed the Beavers in a 44-24 rout. Fresno State then headed to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers, winners of the Sun Bowl over UCLA the previous year. The Bulldogs also topped the Badgers by a score of 32-20. These victories, followed by wins over Tulsa, Louisiana Tech, and Colorado State led the Bulldogs to a ranking of #8 in the polls, the highest for a mid-major team since(BYU was ranked #5 in 1996), and earned the Bulldogs a degree of prestige not usually afforded a mid-major program. This changed abruptly, however, when the Boise State Broncos and Hawaii Rainbows upset the Bulldogs in Fresno and Honolulu respectively to smash the Bulldogs’ hopes of playing in a BCS bowl. The defeats led the team instead the Silicon Valley Classic against Michigan State, a game which was taken by the Spartans by a score of 44-35. Nonetheless, the impressive performances of the regular season earned Fresno State its first number one overall NFL draft choice in David Carr, picked first by the expansion Houston Texans.
The 2002 squad, which had difficulty opening the season with a 1-3 record, finished strong to finish the regular season 8-5 and earning another bid to the Silicon Valley Classic against Georgia Tech. This resulted in a win for the Bulldogs, who beat the Yellow Jackets 30-21.
The 2003 squad earned a spot in the Silicon Valley Classic for the third year in a row, this time facing UCLA in San Jose. The Bulldogs defeated the Bruins 17-9.
The 2004 season began for the Bulldogs much as the 2001 season had, with surprising upsets over BCS opponents in their home stadiums. The Bulldogs opened in Seattle against the Washington, a team with high expectations in its second year with head coach Keith Gilbertson. The Bulldogs came away with the win by a score of 35-16. The second game was against the Big 12 champions, the Kansas State Wildcats, who had beaten the #1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners to finish the previous year. The Bulldogs walked out of Manhattan with an unexpected 45-21 win, again earning the squad national attention and a ranking in the polls. Again, similarly to the 2001 season, the Bulldogs unexpectedly lost to Louisiana Tech, followed by two more losses, including to newly cemented rival Boise State. However, the Bulldogs found their redemptive qualities pervading in five straight wins by 40 or more points, including a 70-14 home rout over rival Hawaiʻi, to earn a bid to the MPC Computers Bowl. In the MPC Bowl, the Bulldogs won their third straight bowl victory against a BCS conference team, beating the Virginia Cavaliers 37-34 in overtime.
The 2005 season began with heady expectations which the Bulldogs largely lived up to for much of the season. The 2005 squad, after an early 3-point loss to Oregon in Eugene, rallied to win seven straight, including the first win at Hawaiʻi since 1994, and a redemptive home victory over Boise State, traveled to the Los Angeles Coliseum to face the #1 ranked USC Trojans, bringing with them an 8-1 record, a ranking of #16, and senior leadership and depth at key positions. The match up against USC turned out to be one for the ages as Fresno State quarterback Paul Pinegar continually drew against USC quarterback Matt Leinart, and Fresno State running backs Wendel Mathis and Bryson Sumlin exchanged touchdown runs with eventual Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. Despite taking a halftime lead and trading scores with the Trojans all night, at the end of regulation, USC's athleticism with Reggie Bush, the Bulldogs lost by a score of 50-42. The loss to the Trojans changed the character of the team, who proceeded to lose their next four games, including the Liberty Bowl against Tulsa.
The 2006 squad, weakened by key senior losses at quarterback, running back and on the defense, struggled with the schedule, opening the year 1-7 before winning three straight, only to close the season with the first loss to San Jose State since before the fall of the Soviet Union.
After a disappointing season in 2006, the 2007 Fresno State Bulldogs bounced back, finishing 9-4. They started strong against a weak Sacramento State team before losing a close game at Texas A&M in triple overtime. After another loss to Oregon, they won 8 of their final 10 games, including a victory over Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl.
On September 1, 2008, the Bulldogs opened their season with a 24-7 victory over Rutgers in a non-conference game. The Bulldogs would end the season with a 7-6 record, including a loss in the New Mexico Bowl against Colorado State.
The 2009 season begin with high hopes as Fresno State dominated its first opponent UC Davis. However,the Bulldogs would go on to lose three straight games against Wisconsin, Boise State, and Cincinnati. The Bulldogs would rebound to win their next five games, before falling to rival Nevada. The Bulldogs would also go on to beat Illinois, in one of the more memorable college football games of the year. The Bulldogs scored a touchdown with only seconds left. Down by one point, the Bulldogs decided to go for two rather than kick a field goal to tie it up. With time expiring, Fresno State QB Ryan Colburn was forced to throw the ball into the end zone. The ball was deflected by an Illinois player, and caught by Fresno State offensive lineman Devan Cunningham who barreled his way into the end zone for a two-point conversion. The Bulldogs won 53-52. This miraculous play has been dubbed by many as the "remarkable deflection". The Bulldogs would end the season at 8-5 including a loss to Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl. However, Ryan Mathews had one of his best seasons to date, rushing for 1800 yards, and scoring 19 touchdowns. Ryan Mathews declared his eligibility for the NFL draft, and was selected 12th over-all by the San Diego Chargers.
Much like the 2009 season, the 2010 season saw its share of highs and lows. The Bulldogs would start the season off with a victory over Cincinnati. However, they'd go on to lose against the upper half of the WAC conference and finish the regular season at 8-3. The Bulldogs accepted an invite to face Northern Illinois in the Humanitarian Bowl. It marked the third straight year that Fresno State would face a fellow non-AQ program in a bowl game. The Bulldogs would lose the game to Northern Illinois adding to its disappointing bowl record against other non-AQ programs.
On December 5, 2011, after finishing the year 4-9, Fresno State announced that Pat Hill had been fired as the head coach of the football program. On December 14, 2011, Tim DeRuyter, Defensive Coordinator and interim head coach of Texas A&M was introduced as the new head coach.
San Diego State
The Fresno State-San Diego State rivalry, also known as the Battle for the Oil Can, is arguably the Bulldog's biggest rival. This in-state rivalry dates back to 1923, with the Aztecs winning the initial meeting at home 12-2. Since then, the sides have met 51 more times, including every year from 1945–79, when the two competed in the same conference or were independents. After not facing one another between 1979-1991, the schools resumed the annual series from 1992–98, when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference. The two teams have met twice since then, in 2002 and 2011. With Fresno State joining the Mountain West Conference in 2012 and the addition of the divisional format, the Aztecs and the Bulldogs will compete on an annual basis once again. The two teams play for the Old Oil Can as a trophy. The name comes from a 1930s-era oil can hailing from Fresno that was found at a construction site at San Diego State. "The oil can likely came from a time when Aztec and Bulldog fans traveled to football games between the two schools via the old, twisting, precipitous Grapevine section of Highway 99 over Tejon Pass," said Jacquelyn K. Glasener, executive director of the Fresno State Alumni Association. "Cars in those days carried extra oil and water to be sure they could make it through difficult trips," added Jim Herrick, executive director of the San Diego State Alumni Association. Fresno State currently trails in the series 22-27-4.
San Jose State
The Fresno State–San Jose State football rivalry started in 1921. San Jose State led the series from 1949–2001, but Fresno State tied it at 32 games each with a victory in 2002, and recaptured the lead in 2003. The Bulldogs have maintained the series lead since 2003. The Bulldogs and Spartans played the first football game of the series in 1921. The football rivalry took a one-year break in 2012 after conference realignment temporarily separated the two schools, with Fresno State moving to the Mountain West Conference while San Jose State remained in the Western Athletic Conference. It resumed as a conference rivalry in 2013 when San Jose State joined the MW.
The Boise State-Fresno State rivalry originated in 1977. The Milk Can is awarded to each season's winner of the Battle of the Milk Can, a college football game between the Fresno State Bulldogs and the Boise State Broncos. The team who wins the Milk Can gets to keep it for a year. The trophy was created in 2005, but was not ready in time for the annual match in Fresno, which was won by the Bulldogs. It made its first appearance in 2006, when the victorious Broncos carried it off the field. The idea for a trophy as the prize for the newly arranged interstate rivalry was hatched by two separate dairy groups that decided to get involved with their local football programs. California (No. 1) and Idaho (No. 4) are two of the nation's leading dairy producers. The South Valley Dairy Group began raising money for Bulldog football in 2001; the Bronco Dairy Boosters began contributing to Boise State in 2005. Two dairymen and friends in these organizations, Dan Van Grouw of Meridian, Idaho (in the Boise metropolitan area) and Roger Fluegel of Visalia, California (in Fresno State's home of the San Joaquin Valley), put forward the idea of a traveling trophy and began the administrative process. There was positive feedback from the teams, coaches, and fans, but an "administrative changeover" kept the trophy off the field for the 2005 game, though the Bulldogs' 27–7 victory is the first listed on the can.
The rivalry with Hawaii has increased greatly in recent years, with both teams being the oldest members of the WAC contending regularly for the conference championship. Coaches from both schools have accused each side of various episodes of poor sportsmanship over the years, and both schools have some of the nation's rowdiest home fans. The rivalry has featured some lopsided results, including a 70–14 Fresno victory over Hawaii in 2004 and a 68–37 Warriors victory in 2006 over Fresno. In 2007, allegations that Fresno State fans were physically and verbally abused by hometown Hawaii fans circulated the internet and television media added to this rivalry.