Fresno State coach Pat Hill has a solid reputation around the country. Still, some Fresno State fans question Hill's playcalling, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. And maybe fans aren't the only ones.
Here's the thing with sports and success. It's all relative. For instance, New Mexico State football fans would be head over heals to have a season or two that the Bulldogs are accustom to having. Fresno State fans are trying to catch the Boise State's of the world. In a nutshell, fans and programs are always looking to get to the next level. Who can blame them?
It is a fine line though. It's tough to win every year. Some years are better than others, some years are down. Does Fresno State lean on the side of caution on offense? Maybe. Probably. But you can't argue with Hill's success, can you?
The guy has won consistently at Fresno. He's recorded 85 wins in 11 seasons with the program. He's taken them to bowl games year in and year out. Fresno always has a solid batch of talent and moves players on to the NFL. Yes, Hill does run the ball a lot. That's his formula. Once again, the Bulldogs have a stable of running backs this year and they will lean on them now more than ever. Hill's philosophy is simple: Play well along the lines, run the ball well, get mistake-free football from the QB position and stop the run on defense. Is it flashy? No. Does it win games? Yes.
I think a lot of frustration comes from last year, when Fresno State was considered to be a WAC favorite, even possible a BCS bowl team, and failed to live up to the billing. It almost gave Hill the stigma of being a good coach who couldn't take his team to an elite level. Is it fair? I don't think so, and I don't think it to be true either. But when expectations are high and you fall flat, that can happen.
Last year was a disappointment for the program. The team actually got off to a nice start. Wins at Rutgers, Toledo and UCLA put them at 3-1, the one loss coming 13-10 to Wisconsin. Something happened during WAC play however. First off, the Bulldogs dropped the conference opener, at home, to Hawaii. Not a good start to league play at all. And they simply didn't play well against the conference's elite. They lost by three at Louisiana Tech, then came home the following week and fell to Nevada. At Boise State the last week of the season was tabbed as a possible conference decider prior to Week 1 of last season. It was anything but. Not only were the Bulldogs out of the race by that time, they got pummeled on the Blue Turf as well, a 61-10 loss. And then they lost the New Mexico Bowl to Colorado State. They finished 4-4 in the WAC and beat the bottom feeders. And they struggled in some of those games as well.
Right or wrong, this seems to be a big year for Hill. I still believe that he's a solid coach and someone who can get the job done. It's just how that old saying does — the grass is always greener on the other side. Taking Hill's success for granted could be a mistake by Bulldog fans.