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If things go bad in Fresno, Bulldog fans let you have it

By Ferd Lewis

LAST UPDATED: 7:07 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2012

FRESNO, Calif. » When things are going bad, one of University of Hawaii football coach Norm Chow's favorite lines is, "nobody is going to feel sorry for us."

It is a statement meant to rally the Warriors around themselves, which, given where they find themselves Saturday -- in Fresno State's unforgiving Bulldog Stadium as 33 1/2-point underdogs on the Las Vegas betting line -- would be a very good idea indeed.

If the 1-6 Warriors (0-4 Mountain West) didn't believe Chow before, they will, should they fall far behind and the ear holes in their helmets begin to burn.

For as much as Bulldog faithful recognize and can appreciate stellar play by both sides -- quarterback Colt Brennan actually had a "Colt cult" following here -- the more vocal portion revels in the struggles and failings of visiting teams like few other places. The deeper the misfortune, seemingly the greater the shared malicious enjoyment. Especially in the "Dog Pound" student section.

The folks who regularly inhabit this patch of ground and yell themselves hoarse might not be able to spell or pronounce it, but "schadenfreude" -- that German term for the "joy of harm" -- lives here at high decibel levels like few other outposts.

Nowhere else in the Mountain West Conference or, perhaps, on the West Coast, will you find a more boisterous or unforgiving following for its numbers.

"Our crowd, the 'Red Wave,' does an unbelieveable job of making it a very hostile environment," said Fresno State coach Tim De Ruyter. "Our crowd, the entire (San Joaquin) Valley, rallies behind our team. When they are excited, our guys feed off that enthusiasm."

UH not only stopped using the Bulldogs' on-campus practice field after taking abuse from adjacent fraternity houses in 2002, it ended the practice of coming in here before Fridays.

The pregame "Red Mile" -- actually a 168-pace walk from the visitors' locker room past the porta-a-johns through a milling crowd to the field -- is a gauntlet of trash talk.

"It was like nothing I'd seen -- or heard -- before," quarterback Tim Chang said of his first visit in 2000.

"It can be an intimidating place to be," June Jones has observed. Boise State running back Ian Johnson used to tell a tale of being flipped off by a 5-year-old and spat at by a grandmother.

And that was just the "welcome" before the game and at halftime.

Little else fires up the 30,000-40,000 on hand like a bad night for the visitors. Heaven help the opposing player who fumbles a couple of times, tosses multiple interceptions, gets tackled from behind or whistled for penalties because memories are long, voices robust and the curses often remarkably creative.

A couple of the longest nights UH has ever experienced came amid 51-12 (1998) and 70-14 (2004) performances here.

In most places, when a game gets out of hand, the stands tend to empty. At Sweeney Field if it is the visitors being thrashed, large numbers of fans will stay just to insult the losers as they slog back to the dressing room.

In 2000 after UH had absorbed a 45-27 loss, Fresno fans were particularly unrelenting. Finally, a member of the UH medical staff who could take no more, offered a parting thought to the tormentors. "You may have won, but we get to go back to Hawaii."

It was one of the few times a losing team has left here with the last word.

Reach Ferd Lewis at or 529-4820.

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