With the 2014 Trojan football team’s first game on the horizon, Daily Trojan sports editor Aubrey Kragen interviewed Fresno State Collegian sports editor Christopher Livingston to give USC fans a better picture of what to expect in Saturday’s game against the Bulldogs.
DT: How are you going to replace former QB Derek Carr, who led the nation in pass yards last year?
Collegian: There is no way to replace Derek Carr. He had one of the best seasons a Fresno State quarterback could have and left the school with 27 school records and 41 conference records.
What the Bulldogs can do, however, is try to balance their approach.
As of right now, head coach Tim DeRuyter has not announced who will start Saturday’s game; in fact, he has said that it will be a game-day decision. However, we will see both junior Brian Burrell, who saw action in five games as Carr’s backup last season, and incoming transfer Brandon Connette on the field this Saturday.
It is definitely a tough decision, and a big void that the Bulldogs will attempt to fill.
DT: The 2013 Trojans heard the phrase, “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any,” all too often at the beginning of last season. Do you have confidence that the current quarterback battle between Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette will turn out better than USC’s did?
Collegian: My opinion is that we will see something similar to how the Fresno State running back battle went last year, when we saw a balance of playing time between both Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller. Obviously, with Carr, the Bulldogs had more of an aerial attack and did not use the ground game as much.
Echoing that phrase, this year could be the return of a heavy ground game while the Bulldogs figure out who will be their consistent No. 1 signal caller. Chances are, the season could end with two quarterbacks still rated top of the depth chart. Will we see a total change in the depth chart by the middle of the season? I don’t doubt it.
DT: USC beat Fresno State 45-20 in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl to end the season. Do you think that will weigh on the Bulldogs at all?
Collegian: Absolutely not. Fresno State has a new look offensively heading into the season, and even the veteran leadership on the team will not dwell on the loss. USC is by any means a tough opponent, and Fresno State is up to the challenge of facing the Trojans again.
Fresno State has always had a philosophy of “one game at a time.” The loss at Las Vegas was a demoralizing end to an otherwise productive season, but now that it is a new season with a new squad, the focus is to be able to recover and press ahead.
Collegian: It will be a tough contest for the Bulldogs, no doubt. Even with “the cream of the crop” on the field, the Las Vegas Bowl turned out to be a sloppy contest for the team. With the season beginning against USC, add the fact that the Bulldogs are debuting a new core on offense, it looks like an uphill battle for Fresno State.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have more experience and are looking to be stronger in that category. With safety Derron Smith and middle linebacker Karl Mickelsen maturing, I do believe that defense will be the strong point for Fresno State this season.
As I said, the Bulldogs are up to the challenge and will not let the sting from a postseason loss get them down. But realistically, this is not the right time to experiment on offense. The question marks that surround the quarterback battle are too large to declare this an absolute victory for the Bulldogs:
Fresno State 17, USC 28.