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On the sidelines
Harding sees little playing time in season opener, but expected to be key in Fresno offense
Former Pitman High football standout Anthony Harding saw little time in Fresno State’s season opener Saturday night, but expect him to have a larger role in future games. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal
FRESNO — Anthony Harding had no reason to stay, so he disappeared into the night.
This was Saturday at Bulldog Stadium, where the Fresno State football team opened the season with highlight reel after highlight reel in a 51-0 thumping of the UC Davis Aggies in front of 37,267 fans, most of them decked out in red.
Harding got very little field time, so he figured that no member of the media would want to talk to him. He dashed home early, perhaps for the first time in a long time.
Bulldogs coach Pat Hill even said afterward that it was over by halftime.
“We just needed to finish the game and give other guys some playing time,” he added.
But Harding, a Pitman High product, had no carries to begin his senior season. He went in a couple times in the first half to make blocks, but he was of little use in a game where the Bulldogs put in four running backs — and all of them shined with a touchdown each.
And no, Harding wasn’t sick or injured or in trouble with the coaching staff, with all three being uncharacteristic for this durable and likable guy. Hill thought it was pointless to use someone as valuable as Harding in a game that wasn’t much of a challenge after two quarters.
“It’s very, very hard to take care of six running backs (on the roster),” Hill said.
But the longtime coach used all three of his quarterbacks in starter Ryan Colburn and backups Ebahn Feathers and Derek Carr. At the same time, no one thinks Harding will have a permanent seat on the bench. He’s too valuable, considering all the things he’s done since joining the Bulldogs in 2006.
Last season, he had a team-leading 822 rushing yards in playing all 13 games. He’s known as the workhorse who does the little things. He’s a reliable blocker, too, and the guy who always seems to be healthy all the time, which has been very beneficial in the past when his fellow backs — Ryan Mathews and Lonyae Miller, who are both more flashy — were banged up.
“I don’t need to be the man,” Harding told a local reporter before the season.
So he was fine on the sideline while watching the Bulldogs run amok all over the Aggies. Fresno State pounded out 310 rushing yards, as the four backs averaged at least 5.8 yards per carry.
Harding knows his No. 22 will be called soon, and often.
Next up is Wisconsin of the Big Ten on Saturday morning.
“Thank God Anthony is such a good person,” Hill said. “After UCLA last year, Anthony was our lead back. The year before, he was our lead back. He’s a great football player. Before this year’s over, Anthony Harding will be a big part of our offense. It’s hard to play them all, but I think our kids are very unselfish.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.