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Thursday, September 02, 2004 - Page updated at 12:34 A.M.
By Bob Condotta
Think Fresno State and the average college football fan may immediately conjure up images of quarterbacks such as Trent Dilfer, Billy Volek and David Carr all in the NFL flinging the ball all over the place.
But that's not what UW expects to see Sunday when it opens the season against the Bulldogs at 2:30 p.m at Husky Stadium.
Instead, Fresno State has progressively become more of a running team in recent seasons, last year averaging 160 yards on the ground compared to 192 in the air. In 2001, Carr's senior season, FSU averaged 348 passing yards per game.
"They really like to run the football," said UW defensive coordinator Phil Snow. "That's (Fresno State coach) Pat Hill's personality."
UW coaches and players figure the running game will be a central part of Fresno State's strategy Sunday, considering the Bulldogs return all five starting offensive linemen from a year ago, and also add two-year starting left tackle Logan Mankins, who missed the 2003 season with a knee injury.
Fresno State also has two experienced running backs, including junior Dwayne Wright, who originally signed with Washington State. Wright gained 1,038 yards last season.
In comparison, the Huskies are especially young and inexperienced on their defensive front, potentially starting two sophomores, a JC transfer and a senior in Manase Hopoi, who is moving from end to tackle.
"I think their game plan is going to be to try to push us around up front," said UW senior safety Jimmy Newell.
Snow figures Fresno State's game plan will be copied after the one used a year ago by Cal when the Bears beat the Huskies 54-7, rushing for 381 yards and gaining a UW opponent-record 729 yards overall.
Snow said three of UW's four starters up front are pretty set Hopoi and ends Mike Mapuolesega and Brandon Ala. The other tackle spot, where Dan Milsten is listed as the starter, is apparently still up for grabs until the team completes practices this week.
The game will be the first UW has played on a Sunday. Interestingly, UW has played a game on every other day of the week, with most of the non-Saturday dates coming in bowl games. However, the Rose Bowl is generally not played on a Sunday due to conflicts with the NFL. The Fresno State game was moved back a day so it can be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net.
TE Joe Toledo (groin) is "still very questionable," UW coach Keith Gilbertson said.
The team will practice in full pads again today for the final time before the game.
Charles Frederick is expected to handle punt returns and will also return some kickoffs.
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