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Before the season began, this week's nonconference game between Fresno State and LSU looked like an intriguing matchup. In the preseason, it was circled as a chance for the strong, upset-minded Bulldogs to enter the spotlight and perhaps the discussion for a BCS bid heading into a Nov. 1 road date with Boise State.

Instead, LSU is a nearly five-touchdown favorite and Fresno State is as much a part of the BCS talk as Harvard. Since an impressive season-opening win over Nevada, the Bulldogs have lost five straight. Dating to last season, Fresno State has lost nine of its last 10.

The Bulldogs will make one major change this week. Sophomore Sean Norton was named the starting quarterback by coach Pat Hill. Norton came in for fellow sophomore Tom Brandstater last week against Hawaii and was impressive, completing 14 of 24 passes for 225 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

"Sean, in my eyes, has earned the chance to start this game," Hill said. "He has some magic about him. He's got a great assignment in front of him.

"Hopefully, he can go lights out every week. That's what you're hoping from your quarterback. We'll see what happens. I don't have a crystal ball."

Brandstater had started the team's previous six games, averaging 142 passing yards and throwing as many touchdown passes as interceptions (six). Hill said he isn't a fan of rotating quarterbacks, but he said Brandstater could see playing time against LSU.

"Depending how that game is going, Tommy's got to be ready to go," Hill said. "If we have to bring a guy off the bench to give us a spark, I will. But I'll say it again: I'm not big into two quarterbacks. I don't like rotating two quarterbacks. ... I think it's very important for them to get into a rhythm."


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Will sophomore Sean Norton be any more successful than predecessor Tom Brandstater? Norton's strong performance last week came when Hawaii was in control and not exactly playing ferocious defense. But Norton brought a spark, one that had been missing with fellow sophomore Brandstater.

  SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: After the Bulldogs allowed nearly 70 points to Hawaii last week, the prospect of Fresno's defense facing LSU is daunting. LSU is a 33-point favorite.

  QUOTE TO NOTE: "(Sean) came in and really took advantage of his time in the game. He just brought energy into the game. He's got a real game presence about him, and he's got a lot of electricity about him." -- Fresno State coach Pat Hill, to the Fresno Bee, on sophomore QB Sean Norton.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Fresno State at LSU, Oct. 21 -- No coach or program in the country has practiced the mantra of "any time, any place," more than Pat Hill and the Bulldogs. Even with Fresno's struggles, Hill doesn't regret the national exposure of playing one of the nation's top teams. LSU is 5-2, having lost close games to Florida and Auburn. QB JaMarcus Russell leads an offense that averages 417.7 yards per game. LSU has outscored its opponents by an average of 27 points per game, 35.6-8.6.

  PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Sean Norton –- Talk about a tough place for your first career start. Norton opens in front of 93,000 rowdy fans at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rogue. Norton looked strong last week and if he can just complete a few passes downfield, that's more than the Bulldogs had been producing. The team's two starting receivers won't play because of injuries, which won't help Norton's cause.

RB Dwayne Wright -– With true freshman Lonyae Miller coming off a strong game in the loss to Hawaii, Wright needs to bounce back from a nightmare effort that included two lost fumbles.

TE Bear Pascoe -– Showed the ability to stretch the field last week and could be Norton's No. 1 target in the early going.

  ROSTER REPORT: WR Paul Williams is expected to miss his third consecutive game with a knee injury, while Fresno State's other starting wideout, senior Joe Fernandez, is unlikely to travel to LSU because of a lingering bruised hip.

Previous Report: 10/16/2006




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