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(All information as of July 1, 2006)
COACH AND PROGRAM
Fresno State has developed a pattern of behavior that keeps the Bulldogs from being best in show.
A good example of this recent path occurred over the final weeks of the 2005 season. Entering its California showdown against defending national champions USC, veteran head coach Pat Hill's team was 8-1 and riding a seven-game win streak.
The only blemish was a 37-34 loss at top-10 Oregon and that could just as easily been a win. Two months later, fellow Pac-10 program USC had as tough a time as Oregon ducking these determined dogs; finally winning 50-42 before 90,007 entertained citizens at the Coliseum.
But that disheartening loss started a four-game slide to close the season, costing the Bulldogs a league title, and leaving them on the low side of the Liberty Bowl scoreboard against recently departed WAC member Tulsa.
Things didn't go all that smoothly in the spring, either, with unusual weather forcing Hill to cut short spring workouts. Ever the optimist, Hill prefers to focus on the future by learning from the past. In hindsight, the Bulldogs put their hearts and souls into that game with the Trojans, even showed Texas the blueprint for victory in the 2006 title matchup.
They never recovered, losing 38-35 at Nevada, 40-28 at home versus Louisiana Tech and 31-24 to the Golden Hurricane in the Liberty Bowl.
On a positive note, it was Fresno State's seventh consecutive postseason appearance, the longest in the WAC. The Bulldogs have 11 starters on both sides of the football who have played in at least 30 career games. They should be poised to challenge for that elusive WAC title that has spent more time in Idaho than California since Boise State joined the league.
"We have a lot of quality players returning," Hill said. "This group of seniors have played a lot of games together and gives us a great core of players for next season."