SAN DIEGO — SAN DIEGO —That was close.
A little too close.
Luckily for Fresno State, the 15th-ranked Bulldogs are getting used to withstanding late-game scares while preserving their undefeated season and hopes of a berth in a major BCS bowl game.
Fresno State held off San Diego State 35-28 late Saturday night thanks in no small part to a few big plays:
Bulldogs tight end Marcel Jensen, on special teams, blocked Seamus McMorrow's 37-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime.
Running back Marteze Waller gained all of Fresno State's yards in overtime, including a 1-yard touchdown run for the go-ahead score.
Safety Derron Smith, in the end zone, deflected the final pass of overtime to earn the victory before an announced crowd of 32,707 at Qualcomm Stadium.
"I'll tell you what, those are some good games for television but not once do the Fresno State Bulldogs think they're going to lose them," quarterback Derek Carr said. "There isn't a time when we sit there and think, 'We're 3 seconds from our first loss,' and I can promise you that."
"It's not a false belief or a false hope. We really thought they were going to block that field goal, and they did."
Four of Fresno State's seven wins have been decided in the final minutes, with two settled in overtime, including a season-opening win against Rutgers.
"One of these days we may get burned playing these things that close," Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. "But right now I'm really happy these guys have the resolve to get it done."
Fresno State did itself no favors, though, Saturday in the series that immediately followed after it built a 14-point lead with fewer than 10 minutes to play.
Back-to-back San Diego State touchdowns tied the score again at 28-28.
The Bulldogs offense struggled for much of the night.
Fresno State came in averaging 45.8 points and 555.2 total yards per game, including the nation's fourth-best passing attack with an average of 384.2 yards per game.
San Diego State's passing defense was ranked 109th, allowing 280.2 yards per game.
The Bulldogs finished with 341 total yards, including 298 passing.
The combination of San Diego State's pass rush that utilized linebackers blitzing up the middle caused Carr to scramble and throw on the run more than usual. San Diego State's secondary also played and won several one-on-one matchups downfield to take away the deep-ball attack.
But just when Fresno State seemed out of rhythm, the good old Carr-to-Adams combination started working again with top receiver Davante Adams winning some critical one-on-one matchups along the perimeter.
San Diego State claimed its first lead of the night, 14-7, on running back Adam Muema's 1-yard run that capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive.
The Bulldogs answered with an 11-play, 85-yard drive that ended with Carr connecting with Adams for an 11-yard touchdown with 1:50 left in the third. On the play, Adams set the school's career record with 26 touchdown catches.
On Fresno State's next drive, the Bulldogs got into a better rhythm, sprinkling in timely runs and quick slant passes. Fresno State took a 21-14 lead when Carr hooked up with Adams on a fade route for a 16-yard touchdown.
Linebacker Ejiro Ederaine extended the lead to 28-14 with 9:51 remaining on a bizarre touchdown via a 78-yard fumble return. The sophomore snagged the ball off the turf on a fumble by receiver Ezell Ruffin, who was lying on the ground after a catch. Ederaine took off running, but stopped and almost stepped out of bounds as he looked back at officials to figure out if the play still was live.
Ederaine then took off running again to complete the longest fumble return for a touchdown in school history. And the game seemed in Fresno State's control, at last.
San Diego State raced back to tie the score.
Aaron Boesch ran in from a yard out to reduce Fresno State's lead to 28-21 with 8:54 left. The Aztecs tied it on Chad Young's 27-yard run with 2:39 left in regulation.
The Aztecs converted an onside kick, catching the Bulldogs return team out of formation to set up Young's score.
Then with 3 seconds left, McMorrow lined up for the 37-yard field goal.
Jensen lined up behind Cody Wichmann and Austin Wentworth, who were responsible for pushing into the Aztecs' right guard. Then the 6-foot-7 Jensen reached out and made the block.
"Honestly I didn't feel like I got a good jump," Jensen said. "But I got good enough extension and long arms. Whatever I did, I got it.
"I was just exhilaration and excitement."
Fresno State started overtime with a 15-yard penalty. But Waller, who suffered a foot injury last week and whose availability was in question throughout practices leading up to the game, responded with a 26-yard reception on a shuffle pass.
Four plays later, he found the end zone.
And Smith closed out the night with a deflected pass that was intended for Aztecs receiver Dylan Denso.
"This team is resilient," Carr said. "This team has a faith that transcends all understanding. We believe in each other. We always think we can win."
Bulldogs celebrate as they leave the field after OT victory
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6362, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Banteola_TheBee on Twitter.