On Fresno State’s first offensive play from scrimmage, the timing of the play called was all mixed up. The running back ended up running into the quarterback, who, while fending off a tackle by his teammate, threw a lateral that bounced before it reached its intended target out in the left flat.
That actually happened. And the Bulldogs scored a touchdown on the play.
Jamire Jordan picked up the football and picked his way down the sideline 44 yards into the end zone and Fresno State – a team that had struggled to do right in a 1-2 start – scored on a play on which it had done about as much wrong as possible. The going got no more rational from there. The Bulldogs actually built a 31-point lead, matching their season-high in points in just one half, only to lose it, lead again, lose it, and go to two overtimes where they lost 48-41 to Tulsa on Saturday at Bulldog Stadium before an announced crowd of 23,273.
The Golden Hurricane (3-1) scored on their possession to start the second overtime, quarterback Dane Evans going 18 yards into the end zone on a third-and-3 play. Fresno State could not counter. Quarterback Chason Virgil misfired on a first-down pass, was sacked for a loss of seven yards on second down, threw incomplete on third and the Bulldogs’ last gasp fell incomplete.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily that we let off the gas, but our energy just kind of died down for whatever reason,” Virgil said. “We just have to stay focused a little bit. But we were still calling plays to go out there and try to execute and put points in the board. It’s not like we were just trying to be conservative or anything. We were still being aggressive, we just have to execute.”
Fresno State (1-3) had the first possession in the overtime, but on second-and-8 Virgil hit Aaron Peck on a slant and the ball was dislodged by two defenders and ruled a fumble – a close call upheld by video replay.
Tulsa then had a 42-yard field goal attempt to win, by Redford Jones, which missed wide right.
Earlier, Fresno State did enough wrong – and right, at times – to bolt to a 31-0 lead with still 10:16 remaining in the first half. But once there the defense gave up a score, the offense suddenly started to pile up three-and-outs and the Golden Hurricane, pushing tempo, got back into the football game.
Virgil evaded pressure and hit Jordan with a perfect 65-yard touchdown pass to get the Bulldogs out to that lead. But Tulsa came back and scored on a 23-yard pass from Evans to Justin Hobbs while the first defense, stellar to that point, was getting a breather on the sideline.
A three-and-out led to another score – Evans hitting Keevan Lucas for a 40-yard score when the defense was scrambling a bit against tempo at the snap.
A three-and-out led to another score – Evans hitting Lucas for another 40-yard score, this one on a fourth-and-6 play.
In less than five minutes, the Bulldogs’ 31-0 lead had become 31-21.
And they didn’t appear capable of mustering a response.
Virgil in the first half completed only 10 of 27 passes (37 percent). The run game was generating yards, but the Bulldogs converted only 3 of 11 third-down plays into first downs.
Fresno State started the third quarter with a drive, getting to the Tulsa 12-yard line with a first down. Virgil hit Peck for seven yards, but on the next two plays Virgil was hit for a 1-yard loss and running back Dontel James for a 2-yard loss and the Bulldogs had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Kody Kroening.
The Golden Hurriance came back to get within 34-28 on a 24-yard pass from Evans to Josh Atkinson on a third-and-8 play and then took a lead at 35-34 on a 2-yard run by James Flanders with 13:38 to go.
The Bulldogs had their chances in there, but the offense couldn’t get out of its own way.
After Tulsa cut the Bulldogs’ lead to six, Fresno State put together a drive into the red zone but a pass to Jordan at the goal line was tipped into the air and intercepted. The defense got the football back two plays later, cornerback Jamal Ellis picking off a pass by Evans at the Fresno State 30. Virgil and the offense went three-and-out, and Tulsa went ahead.
The Bulldogs got the lead back on an eight-play, 59-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard run by Virgil. But with 5:02 remaining, the Golden Hurricane was able to drive back and tie the game at 41 on a 28-yard field goal.
“It’s a game of inches,” Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. “They scored on a fourth-down play in the first half – you make a stop there, the points are off the board. We go down in the second half, the second drive, we get down inside the 10 and throw a ball that gets tipped. Give them credit, they did it. They intercept it and you take points off the board there. On the first series of the third quarter, they go for it on fourth down and we stop them, but we line up offside. There are three plays and there are at least 17 points that are either taken off the board or they don’t get because we get stops.
“We’re that close, but close doesn’t count. Close just gives you an opportunity to say ‘Hey, we have to fight that much more this week in practice.’ ”
Tulsa 48, Fresno State 41
FRE — Jordan 44 fumble recovery (Kroening kick), 13:34
FRE — Virgil 14 run (Kroening kick), 9:54
FRE — James 2 run (Kroening kick), 4:10
FRE — FG Kroening 25, 11:45
FRE — Jordan 65 pass from Virgil (Kroening kick), 10:32
TSA — Hobbs 23 pass from Evans (R.Jones kick), 9:04
TSA — Lucas 40 pass from Evans (R.Jones kick), 6:54
TSA — Lucas 40 pass from Evans (R.Jones kick), 4:26
FRE — FG Kroening 25, 8:16
TSA — Atkinson 24 pass from Evans (R.Jones kick), 5:07
TSA — Flanders 2 run (R.Jones kick), 13:42
TSA — FG R.Jones 37, 8:25
FRE — Virgil 1 run (Van Valkenburg kick), 5:06
TSA — FG R.Jones 28, 1:13
TSA — Evans 18 run (R.Jones kick), :00
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Tulsa, Brewer 46-252, Flanders 13-101, Lucas 2-8, R.Taylor 1-0, Evans 6-(minus 17). Fresno St., James 21-65, Virgil 19-47, Jordan 0-44, O’Neal 4-21.
PASSING—Tulsa, Evans 22-32-1-273. Fresno St., Virgil 21-45-1-276.
RECEIVING—Tulsa, Atkinson 10-107, Lucas 6-103, Hobbs 5-64, Brewer 1-(minus 1). Fresno St., KeeS.Johnson 7-80, Jordan 6-108, Peck 6-68, Olsen 2-20.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Tulsa, R.Jones 42.