It’s not possible is it, that Cody Wichmann, Austin Wentworth and Marcel Jensen had seen this play, the play in review, coming for the past year and a half?
Two spring practices, two fall camps, 19 football games over the past 18 months, and every once in a while they would drop a reminder on Pete Germano, Fresno State's defensive line coach and special teams coordinator, that, hey, we can block a field goal.
It happened more than once. It happened a lot. Germano: "They would come up to me every couple weeks and say, ‘Coach, you know. ... "
All three had been on field goal block unit in 2011, push guys in the line, the year the Bulldogs blocked 10 kicks, field goals or PATs. Wichmann had four that year, Jensen had three.
But new coaching staff, new approach, new scheme, so it just kind of sat there until Saturday, when there was 4:32 remaining on the game clock and with Fresno State and San Diego State tied at 28.
The Aztecs had the football and started driving, ripping off yards in meaty chunks -- first 7 yards, then 6, then 5, and then 7 more. They were down to the Fresno State 18-yard line and time was slipping away on the Bulldogs' undefeated season. By that point, everyone at Qualcomm Stadium could see it coming.
Somewhere in there, on the sideline, Wichmann looked at Wentworth and Wentworth looked at Wichmann, and said: They’re going to have to kick a field goal.
"We knew exactly what to do," Wichmann said.
They strapped on their helmets and tried to be as conspicuous as possible, which in the heat of the moment and with everything at stake, was not as easy as it might sound even for offensive linemen that go 6-6 and 311 pounds and 6-5 and 306 pounds. Jensen, the 6-6, 270-pound tight end, joined them.
"We were all standing there on the sideline and me and Cody and Austin, we just kind of grouped up and said, ‘Let’s see if they’ll let us do it,’ " Jensen said.
"We were trying to talk to Coach Germano for quite a while and we were on very thin ice," Wichmann said. "They obviously were focusing on the drive that was at hand."
Wentworth said Wichmann kept nudging him forward. "He kept saying, ‘Go ask, go ask,’ but we had to be careful here, you know, he’s locked into his defense. I’m not trying to get in trouble. But we were hawking him. We were stalking him and waiting."
Germano just happened to turn around. There they were. "I’m watching the play and the play is over with and all three of those guys are standing right there waiting for an opportunity but not wanting to interrupt me, and I looked at them and they said to me, ‘If you want us, we’re ready to do it,’ " he said.
Coach Tim DeRuyter and his staff already had started discussing options over their headsets during one of the San Diego State timeouts in the final minute, what they would do on what would be a game-winning field goal attempt. They needed a jumper after safety Derron Smith, who fills that role on the block team, got dinged during the Aztecs' drive and had to come off the field.
"I ended up grabbing Cel and at the time I was grabbing Cel to talk to him about being the jumper, I happened to look right past him and saw Austin and Cody with these big eyes and these big grins," assistant Jordan Peterson said.
"At first I thought, how dumb was I not to think of him beforehand?" DeRuyter said. "I looked at Marcel and said, ‘Absolutely. Let’s go.’ Then Cody and Austin came up and said, ‘Coach, we can get a push.’ "
The two linemen were not going to be left out. ‘’I saw Coach (Jordan) Peterson come up and grab Marcel and he’s like, ‘Marcel, we need you on this field goal block’ and I was like, ‘Wait, wait, wait a second, you have to take me and Austin in there with him.’ ‘’ Wichmann said.
San Diego State called time out with 3 seconds remaining to get its field goal team on the field. The Bulldogs’ unit, bolstered by the three offensive players, ran out to the 20-yard line and got lined up.
"Honestly, with 3 seconds left, going onto the field, and as I’m lining for the field goal block, I never even felt like our perfect season is going to end right here or all our hopes and dreams are over," Jensen said.
DeRuyter called his last timeout before the Aztecs could snap the ball, trying to ice kicker Seamus McMorrow, who had missed his first attempt of the season from 40 yards earlier in the game.
‘’You’re going out there thinking that this is the one play in this game that gives us a chance,’’ Wichmann said. ‘’Everything you have left, we were trying to empty everything we had on that one play.’’
The Bulldogs on the sideline, their dream season on the line, couldn’t help but watch.
‘’I couldn’t resist. I had to see if they were going to get it or not,’’ said long-snapper Dylan Detwiler, who knew all too well a lot could go wrong with the Aztecs’ attempt.
‘’I took a knee and prayed a little bit. I don’t really remember what was going through my head, but I was a little nervous and a little scared,’’ said defensive end Nikko Motta, one of the players who came off the field when Wichmann, Wentworth and Jensen went on.
It was not a long field goal attempt -- just 37 yards. But Germano said he knew they had a chance to get it. "I felt good because their kids have struggled. They’ve missed PATs; they’ve missed kicks. They’ve tried two different kids. They missed one early in the game," he said. "It’s been a bugaboo for them."
After the timeout, the Bulldogs did get it. The middle of the line cratered the Aztecs’ front, allowing Jensen to not only see the snap and McMorrow move to the ball but also to inch closer and time his jump.
He got up there. "I don’t know how high he jumped, but he was up there ... real up there," Detwiler said. "He was at least 12 feet in the air."
And he got it, just a piece. "Maybe three, three fingers," Jensen said.
But that was not the end of it. "I heard it hit his hands and I was looking for it to go left or right, but it kept going and I thought, ‘Oh, no, this thing is going to land on the crossbar and fall in,' " DeRuyter said.
"I think I had a heart attack in that 3-second window," Peterson said.
"When you’re watching, you’re pretty helpless," Detwiler said.
Wentworth hit the ground, not knowing. "I heard all the commotion and I heard someone say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. ... ’ And I just looked around, like, who’s saying that? Then I saw Marcel jumping in the air and as soon as I saw Marcel jumping I knew we got it," he said.
The ball fell short, just under the crossbar. The Bulldogs breathed again, then jumped around bit bit before focusing on finishing. They were going to overtime, where Fresno State would pull out a 35-28 victory to improve to 7-0, its dreams of an undefeated season, a second Mountain West Conference championship and berth in a BCS bowl game intact.
"When I saw it as it just got short, I was a little bit relieved," DeRuyter said.
Just a little? "Yeah, just a little," the coach said with a laugh.
"It’s funny, because the last two years really, just here and there the offensive guys, either Cody or Austin or Cel, one of those guys would say, ‘Hey, when are we going to get a chance?’ " Peterson said.
"But it was kind of a no-brainer. It was a 4 1/2-minute drive -- our D-linemen were already gassed. They were already emptying the bucket every single play stopping the run, and these guys were a little fresher and they’re just as big if not bigger than our D-linemen.
"When you turn on the film and watch that clip, it’s a phenomenal effort. Those guys were scratching and clawing and doing everything they could to get to that ball."
** Fresno State outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine had 4.5 tackles for a loss in the overtime victory at San Diego State, tying Martin Ifedi (Memphis) for the most in a single game in the FBS this season.
** In its 51-44 victory over Wyoming, San Jose State gained a season-high 642 yards and had three 100-yard receivers (Tyler Winston, nine for 171), Billy Freeman (six for 119) and Chandler Jones (four for 129) and a running back with 100 or more yards in Jarrod Lawson (25 for 128). It is the first time a MW team has had three 100-yard receivers, a 100-yard rusher and a 300-yard passer in the same game since Brigham Young in 2007.
** San Jose State trailed by 16 points three times against Wyoming -- and the Spartans also have trailed in all three of their October wins at one point. They were down 14-3 before coming back to win at Hawaii and also were down by seven points twice before coming back to beat Colorado State.
** UNLV is familiar with streaks -- mostly, losing streaks. But this season the Rebels have snapped a 23-game road losing streak and then beat Nevada on Saturday to end an eight-game losing streak to the Wolf Pack. The Rebels are now one win away from becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2000.
** At 0-7, Hawaii could be headed for its first winless season since 1998.
** The Bulldogs' Davante Adams caught two more touchdown passes in the victory at San Diego State, bringing his career total to a school-record 27 in just 20 games. He is third in the all-time in Mountain West play and just three away from the record held by Austin Collie (Brigham Young), who is followed by Jovon Bouknight (Wyoming). Collie played in 36 games, Bouknight in 47.
** Air Force started freshman Nate Romine at quarterback against Notre Dame, making the Falcons the only bowl subdivision team to start four different quarterbacks this season. They opened the season with Kale Pearson, went to Jaleel Awini and then Karson Roberts.
PILING UP THE POINTS
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr has thrown a touchdown pass in 27 consecutive games, the last 20 coming with the Bulldogs in the Mountain West Conference.
He is one game shy of tying the MW record for consecutive games with a touchdown throw, set by Andy Dalton (Texas Christian) between Oct. 17, 2009, and Jan. 1, 2011.
But the Bulldogs senior has been far more productive in his 20 games than Dalton was in his 21, or any of the MW quarterbacks who have had a touchdown pass in at least 15 consecutive games.
Player (school), Streak, TDs, TD/game
- Andy Dalton (Texas Christian), 21, 44, 2.09
- Derek Carr (Fresno State), 20, 62, 3.10
- Ryan Lindley (San Diego State), 17, 39, 2.29
- Lindley, 15, 29, 1.93
- John Beck (Brigham Young), 15, 39, 2.60
Colorado State followed up a victory at Wyoming with a win at Hawaii last week and, believe it or not, that is the first time Rams have won back-to-back Mountain West road games since 2002 when they won at Utah, Air Force and San Diego State over a span of five weeks.
It can't be that difficult in a conference that includes UNLV, New Mexico and a few other teams that have had trouble winning football games anywhere through the years, unless you're UNLV, New Mexico or one of those few teams that have had trouble winning games.
Coming into this season, the last time MW teams won back-to-back conference road games:
Team: Last, Opponents, Games
- Fresno State: 2012, Nevada, New Mexico, 0
- Boise State: 2012 Nevada, Hawaii, 0
- San Diego State: 2012, Wyoming, Boise State, 0
- Wyoming: 2012 UNLV, New Mexico, 0
- Nevada: 2012, UNLV, Hawaii, 2
- Air Force: 2011, Colorado State, New Mexico, 4
- New Mexico: 2007, San Diego State, Wyoming, 22
- UNLV: 2003, Wyoming, New Mexico, 36
- Colorado State: 2002, San Diego State, Air Force, 38
- Hawaii: n/a, 4
- San Jose State: n/a
- Utah State: n/a
They closed that season with three consecutive wins, beating New Mexico, Wyoming and Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl, and had won back-to-back games only twice since then.
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @rkuwada on Twitter. His "Mountain West: Week in Review" report runs on Wednesdays during the Fresno State football and basketball seasons. Read his daily updates at fresnobee.com/bulldogs.